Swatantrya Veer Savarkar takes huge liberties with truth — matching its 'hero'

Timed to premiere with the Lok Sabha poll schedule, the propaganda film extolling the original Hindutva icon has... flopped

The film 'Swatantaraveer Savarkar’ portrays the life journey of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (photo: @RandeepHooda/X)
The film 'Swatantaraveer Savarkar’ portrays the life journey of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (photo: @RandeepHooda/X)

Ram Puniyani

Randeep Hooda's Swatantrya Veer Savarkar is not just economical with the truth but takes creative liberty to another level.

For one, it claims that Bhagat Singh called on Savarkar and told him that he wanted to translate his book, The First War of Independence, from Marathi to English!

It was indeed a book that revolutionaries liked. However, the fact remains that the book was written in Marathi around 1908 or so, and was translated into English a year later — while Bhagat Singh was born in 1907 and never met Savarkar in his lifetime!

The film also depicts Savarkar boasting that India would be free and independent by 1912 (which would be 35 years before we actually got our independence, so a brave boast). The fact is that Savarkar was in the Andamans from 1910 and had started writing mercy petitions to the Crown. He had written three of them by 1912.

In these petition letters, he had sought pardon from the British Raj for his earlier ‘revolutionary’ actions and pledged to serve the British loyally if he were released. And in this at least he stuck to his word like gospel, for that is exactly what he did after he was released in 1924.

Meanwhile, our freedom struggle had already picked up steam by 1920, when the Non-Cooperation Movement, preceded by Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India in 1915 and the Champaran satyagraha, rallied the people to the cause of freedom.

The film goes on to question why no Congressman was sent to the Cellular Jail in the Andamans, why they were only sent to jails in mainland India.

Well, with thousands of Indians actually incarcerated in the cellular jail, this may not even be factually true.

In any case, after 1920, the anti-British freedom movement followed the path of non-violence and became a mass movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress — there was little excuse given to the British if they were to preserve any sense of honour, even in their own eyes.

Still, for those who participated in civil disobedience, different sentences were awarded — such as simple imprisonment in jails — versus those handed out to the more militant freedom fighters and politically sensitive prisoners. It was death by hanging for Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru as they were accused of involvement in acts of violence. However, as non-violence was the basic creed of the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, his followers were neither sentenced to death nor sent to the Andamans.

The film, meanwhile, goes on to argue that the country got Independence not through non-violence but through violence. However, after Bhagat Singh and his comrades were hanged, there was no major violent movement in India.

Savarkar’s 'Abhinav Bharat', meanwhile, had abandoned its anti-British stance with Savarkar’s mercy petitions.

Subhash Bose, who formed the Azad Hind Fauj, was killed in 1945 and the soldiers of the Fauj were imprisoned in Red Fort, in Delhi.

It was the Indian National Congress which formed a committee to defend these soldiers, by the way. Jawaharlal Nehru took the lead to form a committee for the release of these 'prisoners of war'.

There are also claims in the film that it was Savarkar who advised Bose to form the rebel army and fight the British. This too is contrary to known facts.

Netaji, after quitting the Congress, had made up his mind to fight the British through might of arms with the help of Germany and Japan; but even as Bose was fighting against the British and Allied troops, Savarkar was urging the Hindu Maha Sabha to encourage the Hindus to join the British army!

Here's what the 'Veer' offered as logic, per the Wire:

Addressing the Mahasabha’s Calcutta session, Savarkar urged all universities, colleges and schools to 'secure entry into military forces for youths in any and every way'. When Gandhi launched his individual satyagraha the following year, Savarkar, at the Maha Sabha session held in December 1940 in Madurai, encouraged Hindu men to enlist in 'various branches of British armed forces en masse'.

About Savarkar, Subhash Chandra Bose himself wrote: 'Savarkar seemed to be oblivious of the international situation and was only thinking how Hindus could secure military training by entering Britain's army in India.' Bose concluded that '...nothing could be expected from either the Muslim League or the Hindu Mahasabha'. This too is easily available in the public domain — for instance, here.

Bose, in an address to Indians via Azad Hind Radio, would go on to say, "I would request Mr Jinnah, Mr Savarkar and to all those who still think of a compromise with the British to realise once and for all that in the world of tomorrow, there will be no British Empire." Now here was a prophetic voice, truly.

Chandra Kumar Bose, great nephew of Netaji, after watching the trailer of the film told Hooda, “Please refrain from linking Netaji with Savarkar. Netaji was an inclusive secular leader and patriot of patriots.”

(The author is a former IIT, Bombay professor of biomedical engineering, author and human rights activist)

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines