Tej N Dhar?
Rashtramrit Ke Paanch Kalash. Harindra Srivastava; Pp 720 (HB); Rs 1501.00?
Harindra Srivastava has firmly established himself as a researcher, writer and a crusader of sorts. He has spent long years doing research and collecting valuable information about two of his favourite revolutionaries, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Subash Bose, in various parts of the world, and spun very interesting and absorbing narratives about them, which are not only engaging but also raise interesting and even provocative questions about the turn of events in pre-Independence times of our country and issues related to historiography.
Five of his books on them in Hindi and English were launched as a set at India Habitat Centre by Lal Krishna Advani, the then Deputy Prime Minister of India, on July 2, 2002, because July 2 is a special day in the lives of the two titans, as Srivastava calls them. On this day in 1911, Savarkar started his two life imprisonments in Andaman and on this day in 1943, Bose landed in Singapore to take over the command of the INA. Srivastava’s new book Rashtraamrit Ke Panch Kalash is a crisply edited compilation of previously published five books in Hindi on them.
Srivastava considers Savarkar and Subash true and staunch nationalists, the two glowing eyes of Mother India, and his books on them the urns of nationalist nectar, the result of his passionate involvement with their lives and their contribution to the evolution of the Indian polity, though both of them were marginalised in the evolving national discourse during pre-Independence times, because of their views and actions, which clashed with the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, who managed to dominate the political scene of the country.
The three books on Savarkar differ in their scope and orientation. Kaljaye Savarkar was actually written for the National Book Trust, as a part of its series on important national figures, but could not be published by it because by the time the manuscript was ready, the government at the centre had changed. This in itself shows how controversial Savarkar can be! The book is in the shape of a well rounded portrait of Savarkar, narrating his life from his birth to the extraordinary manner in which he brought his life to an end. He was born in Nasik, grew up under the strong influence of his parents, and at the tender age of fourteen vowed to free his motherland from the cruel hands of the British. In 1901, he organised a small band of youngsters to hold meetings against the British rulers, in which he urged people not to take part in any celebrations held in their honour. During his college days, he inspired a host of people to form a group of revolutionaries, and organised campaigns for burning of foreign clothes long before calls for the same were given by known political leaders. He went to London on a scholarship to work for the liberation of his country from there. He became a disciple of Shyamji Verma and within a short time took virtual control of India House. Under the influence of Mazzini and Garibaldi, he looked at the history of his own country from a perspective that was revolutionary in its import, and inspired young men like Madan Lal Dinghra to kill those who caused pain and suffering to their people.
He wrote a book on the happenings of 1857, and made all the people of the world see that it was not a mutiny, as the British historians had called it, but India’s War of Independence. The activities of the residents of India House extended gradually to smuggling arms into India, which led to bomb blasts in the country. This was used as an excuse for arresting Savarkar and carrying him to India for his trial. He jumped from his ship near the French coast, but was eventually tried and sentenced to two life imprisonments in Andamans. After he was shifted to Ratnagiri, he devoted his energies to social work, organising community festivals and dinners and ensuring that the Hindu temples were thrown open to all members of the community so that the divisive barriers within it could be destroyed for ever.
Apart from providing interesting information about the two revolutionaries, which makes them very readable, the tone of Srivastava’s books distinguishes them from routine historical accounts. Inbuilt into them is his appeal to readers, even to historians, to rethink on what happened during the pre-Independence times and why the turn of events acquired the shape that they did. Implicitly, he also urges us to rethink on versions of history that project Gandhi and Nehru as key players in the freedom movement of the country and belittle or ignore the contribution of revolutionaries like Savarkar and Bose.
(‘Vishram’, 225 C, Mainwali Colony, Gurgaon, Haryana-122001)?