Free India Society

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

About: 

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born in 1883 in Bhagur village to father Damodarpant and mother Radhabai; he had two brothers, Ganesh and Narayan, and a sister, Mainabai. He was educated at the local Shivaji High School before he enrolled in the Ferguson College, Poona, in 1902. Here he involved himself in Indian nationalist politics before being expelled from college for his activities. He was permitted to take his BA degree and with the help of Shyamaji Krishnavarma attained a scholarship to study law at Gray's Inn in London.

He embarked for London on 9 June 1906 and arrived in London on 3 July where he immediately found lodging at India House in Highgate. He became a protege of the founder of India House, Shyamaji Krishnavarma. Savarkar soon founded the Free India Society, based on the thoughts of the Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini (Savarkar had written a biography of Mazzini). The Society held regular meetings every Sunday where they celebrated Indian festivals and patriots, discussed Indian political problems, and how to overthrow the yoke of the British in India. Savarkar also sent bomb manuals off to India. Savarkar advocated a war for independence and in 1909 his work The Indian War of Independence was published, but it was immediately banned by the British government. The militancy of Savarkar left him and Gandhi at odds when Gandhi visited the House in October 1906.

In early May 1907, Savarkar organized the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 at Tilak House, 78 Goldsmith Avenue, Acton, London. Students wore badges with the legend 'Honour to the Martyrs of 1857'. Skirmishes broke out and the press blamed Krishnavarma who subsequently left London for Paris and left management of the House to Savarkar. Savarkar aligned the cause of Indian independence with the Irish and other overseas freedom movements andnotably met V. I. Lenin.

On 1 July 1909, on the steps of the Imperial Institute in London, Sir William Curzon Wyllie was shot by Madan Lal Dhingra; Captain Cawas Lalkaka tried to defend Curzon-Wyllie and was also shot. Savarkar was not present but had according to some sources provided Dhingra with the revolver (Srivastava, p. 151). While most of the Indian community condemned Dhingra's action, Savarkar applauded it. Dhingra was sentenced to death. After the assassination, life became more difficult for Savarkar in London and he finally left London for Paris in early January 1910. Meanwhile, a warrant was issued for Savarkar's arrest in England. He returned to London on 13 March 1910 and was immediately sent to Brixton Jail. It was decided that he should stand trial in India, and on 1 July he embarked on the S.S. Morea. As the ship lay outside Marseilles, Savarkar escaped to French territory. The British tried to recapture him on French soil and the incident became a celebrated case in international law. He eventually arrived in Bombay on 22 July and was immediately taken to jail. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He arrived in the Andaman Islands in July 1911 where he stayed until 1921, when he was moved to Ratnagiri, Bombay Presidency, where he was imprisoned until 1924 and interned until 1937. During his imprisonment, he wrote Hindutva: What is a Hindu?.  After 1937, Savarkar continued his anti-Muslim, anti-British politics and became the ideological alternative to Gandhi's non-violence politics, as President of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha. He remained a huge political influence until his death in Bombay in 1966.

Date of birth: 
28 May 1883
Published works: 

The Indian War of Independence of 1857 (London: [S.I.], 1909)

Who Is a Hindu?, 4th edn (Poona: S. P. Gokhale, 1949) [1923]

An Echo From Andamans (Bombay: V. V. Kelkar, 1924)

Hindu-Pad-Padashahi; or, a Review of the Hindu Empire of Maharashta (Madras: B. G. Paul & Co., 1925)

Presidential Speech (Lahore: Central Hindu Yuvak Sabha, 1938)

Hindu Sanghatan: Its Ideology and Immediate Programme (Bombay: N. V. Damle, 1940)

Presidential Address at the 23rd Session of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Bhagalpur, 1941 A.D. (Poona: Maharashtra Provincial Hindusabha Office, 1942)

Hindu Rashtra Darshan: A Collection of the Presidential Speeches Delivered from the Hindu Mahasabha Platform (Bombay: L. G. Khare, 1949)

The Story of my Transportation for Life (Bombay: Sadbhakti Publications, 1950) [1927]

Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya, 6 vols (1963–4) [collected works, vols. 1–4 in Marathi, 5–6 in Eng.]

Historic Statements, ed. by G. M. Joshi (Bombay Popular Prakashan, 1967)

Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History [by] Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, trans. and ed. by S. T. Godbole, 1st edn (Bombay: Bal Savarkar; New Delhi: Rajdhani Granthagar, 1971)

Savarakara Samagra (Dilli: Prabhata Prakasana, 2000-)

Connections: 

Mirza Abbas (India House), M. P. T. Acharya (India House), Asaf Ali, Senapati Bapat (Pandurang Mahadev) (India House), Subramanya Bharati, Bhikaiji Rustom Cama, Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, Hemchandra Das, Sukhsagar Datta (Dutt) (shared a flat in Red Lion Passage), Madan Lal Dhingra, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, David Garnett, Komre Gavarkar, Campbell Green (a correspondent for the Sunday Chronicle; met Savarkar at India House), Shyamaji Krishnavarma, Lala Hardayal, Sikandar Hayat (visited Savarkar in jail),  B. P. S. Iyer, J. C. Mukharji (India House), I. G. Mukherji, Niranjan Pal, Bhai Parmanand (India House), W. P. Phadke, T. S. Rajan, Sardar Singh Rana (India House), Harnam Singh (met on the Persia going to London), M. P. Sinha, K. V. R Swami, Gyanchand Varma (India House), Hotilal Varma, Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie (met at the India Office)

Secondary works: 

Anand, Vidyasagar, Savarkar: A Study in the Evolution of Indian Nationalism (London: Woolf, 1967) 

Bakshi, S. R., V. D. Savarkar (New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1993)

Chaudhary, S. K., Great Political Thinker: Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (New Delhi: Sonali Publications, 2008)

Chitragupta, Life of Barrister Savarkar (Madras: B. G. Paul & Co., 1926)

Deshpande, Sudhakar, Savarkar: The Prophetic Voice (Pune: Dastane Ramchandra & Co, 1999) 

Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto, 1984) 

Garnett, David, The Golden Echo (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953)

Godbole, V. S., Rationalism of Veer Savarkar (Thane, India: Itihas Patrika Prakashan, 2004)

Gosain, Saligram, Stormy Savarkar: The Revolutionary Who Jumped the Ship (Delhi: Vijay Goel, 2005)

Islam, Shamsul, Savarkar: Myths and Facts (Delhi: Media House, 2004)

Keer, Dhananjay, Savarkar and His Times (Bombay: A. V. Keer, 1950)

Longuet, Jean, Mémoire Présenté à la Cour d'Arbitrage de La Haye au nom de M. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar par Me J. Longuet (Paris, 1911)

Misra, Amalendu, Identity and Religion: Foundations of Anti-Islamism in India (New Delhi; London: Sage Publications, 2004)

Noorani, Abdul Gafoor Abdul Majeed, Savarkar and Hindutva: The Godse Connection (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2002)

Sarkar, Sumit, 'Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar (1883–1966)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/47751]

Singh, K. Jagjit, Savarkar Commemoration Volume (Bombay: Savarkar Darshan Pratishthan, 1989)

Srivastava, Harindra, Five Stormy Years: Savarkar in London (June 1906-June 1911) (New Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1983)

Srivastava, Harinda, 'The Epic Sweep of V. D. Savarkar : An Analytical Study of the Epic Sweep in the Life and Literature of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar' (PhD Thesis - Nagpur University, 1989., Savarkar Punruththan Sansthan, 1993)

Trehan, Jyoti, Veer Savarkar: Thought and Action of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1991)

Vaidya, Prem, Savarkar: A Lifelong Crusader (New Delhi: New Age International (P) Ltd, 1996)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)

Archive source: 

Nehru Memorial Library, New Delhi

City of birth: 
Bhagur
Country of birth: 
India
Other names: 

Veer Savarkar

Locations

Red Lion Passage, London
WC1R 4SE
United Kingdom
51° 31' 8.8608" N, 0° 7' 1.1532" W
65 Cromwell Avenue, Highgate
N6 5HH
United Kingdom
51° 34' 12.9684" N, 0° 8' 29.1084" W
Date of death: 
26 Feb 1966
Location of death: 
Bombay
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
03 Jul 1906
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

3 July 1906 - 1 July 1910

Tags for Making Britain: 
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