In the protest rally held in New Delhi today by the Indian National Congress, the party’s former president Rahul Gandhi had begun his speech, saying, “I am not Rahul Savarkar but Rahul Gandhi,” in an apparent reference to that chapter of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s public life where he had apologised to the British Empire for his revolutionary activities. Rahul Gandhi said so in response to the demand by the BJP that he must apologise for his “Rape in India” comment made in Jharkhand.
While the BJP reacted to the speech by saying Rahul Gandhi could not dream of becoming a Savarkar, no matter how many rebirths his soul takes, what is more newsworthy is how today’s speech worked up Sanjay Raut, MP of Shiv Sena, an ally of the INC in the Maharashtra government. Raut said without naming Rahul Gandhi that his party respected “both Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru, but don’t insult Veer Savarkar,” ending the statement with a remark that things could get worse hereafter.
Raut tweeted: “Veer Savarkar is a role model for not only Maharashtra but the entire country. The name Savarkar is a matter of pride for the whole country. Savarkar sacrificed for the country. Every such person is revered. There will be no compromise in this matter.”
At the Congress’s Bharat Bachao rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, Rahul Gandhi had attacked the economic policies of the Narendra Modi government, saying that this government had brought down GDP growth “from 9% in the Congress era to 4.5%”. But before that, he had alluded to his “Rape in India” statement, saying, “I will not apologise for this. My name is not Rahul Savarkar but Rahul Gandhi and I will not apologise for the truth.”
Between 1911 and 1950, Savarkar had apologised to the British Empire on quite a few occasions (a copy of one of his letters of apology attached). The jury is still out on whether the mercy petitions were a tactical move to prevent incarceration, as in the Cellular Jail of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and thus stay relevant in the political movements of the time.
On 14 December, the INC No. 2 said in the rally, “My name is not Rahul Savarkar but Rahul Gandhi. I’ll die but won’t apologise. I will never apologise for the truth, I want Narendra Modi to apologise. His deputy Amit Shah must apologise. The economy of this country has been destroyed by (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. He lied in the name of black money.”
Reacting to the speech, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut wrote on Twitter in the Marathi language: “Veer Savarkar is not only a god of Maharashtra but also of the country. The name Savarkar is imbued with national pride and self-respect. Like Nehru and Gandhi, Savarkar made his sacrifice for freedom. Every such god should be honoured. Jai Hind!”