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My Thoughts on the Veer Savarkar Movie

Ashwini Javlekar

I very recently watched a movie, called Veer Savarkar. It was about a freedom fighter who helped India gain its independence (1947). Before this movie, I don’t think I ever realized how many people sacrificed their lives to help India become a free country. Of course everyone has heard of Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh, but there are so many others who sacrificed themselves for India. Veer Savarkar, for example, dedicated his whole life to India. His wish was that India would become an independent, republic, united, and that there would be a common language and script.

For having these admirable dreams, he was punished by the British government several times. He was constantly being watched, because the British had labeled him as a firebrand, a troublemaker. True to his title, ‘Veer’, Savarkarji repetitively did things to anger the British. Being a prolific writer, he wrote over 40 books, several of which were translations of books on revolutions into Marathi, and one book that stated that the Mutiny of 1857 was actually a struggle of independence. Savarkarji was staying in London at the time of the publication of a few of these books, on a scholarship to a British law school. However, after some time he was to be transferred back to India to go on trial without a jury or any representation, because the British were afraid of what such an influential man might convince other Indians living in the area to do. However, on his way there, he jumped out of the ship and swam to France. He tried to seek refuge from a few French soldiers, but was denied it after the soldiers were bribed by his British guards. This attempt to escape further angered the government. As their last hope, they sent him to Kala Pani, a jail in Andaman, from which few were released alive. Here, he was treated cruelly and unjustly. He was called obscenities and went through prejudice. One of the most vindictive types of punishment that was forced upon him was to work on an oil wheel, which was normally run by oxen. Out of the ten years he spent there, he was often kept in complete isolation. It was a miracle that he was allowed to leave the jail before he died.

Not only did Savarkarji go through many hardships, but so did his family and friends. His wife and sister-in-law sold their only jewelry to help publish the books written by Savarkarji that inspired so many people. His older brother, Ganesh, and younger brother, Narayan, were thrown in jail for helping him, while many of his friends were killed. Once all three of the brothers were in jail, their wives were thrown into the streets. It takes an extraordinary amount of selflessness to sacrifice your life for your country. In the movie, Veer Savarkar said to his wife: I know that you are unhappy, but is it not acceptable for a few families to suffer for the good of a whole country? It is people like this, that don’t receive credit for their indirect help in freeing India.

I believe that Veer Savarkar’s thoughts on the Hindu caste system and formation of India were very logical and practical. I remember that at the end of the movie, Veer Savarkar had an important conversation with Mahatma Gandhi, during which I learned what both people thought of various topics. One subject was the caste system. Gandhiji talked to Savarkarji about the Shudra caste, and informed him that he wanted them to be called Harijans. Savarkarji thought it was pointless to change the name given to the people of the caste, because although it was kind, it still set them apart. He asked: Aren’t we all Harijans (children of god)? I agree completely with this. If you want to demolish the caste system, you cannot give people of the lower castes different, kinder names and say you are helping them, especially if the names can apply to people of all castes. If you rid yourself of all biases and think about it, Savarkarji’s idea of calling the people of the shudra caste ‘Harijans’ was correct.

Another topic was the nonviolent way of approaching the British. Gandhiji’s famous statement, if someone hits you on one cheek, offer the other because it will decrease the hatred they have for you, was another thing that came up. Savarkarji told him that this idea wouldn’t work for the demons and barbarians that they were facing. The basic laws of nature are survival of the fittest. I believe it is good to be peaceful, but you shouldn’t loose you self-respect trying to promote nonviolence. A phrase that Savarkarji said that I found interesting was: how can you afford to have another Jalianwala bagh (an infamous massacre), while trying to practice nonviolence?

I think that we, Indians, have forgotten how much we owe to people like Veer Savarkar. It is because of these freedom fighters that we can enjoy traveling to India, watching Bollywood hits, and go shopping, without having to listen to someone call you a bloody dog. We owe our self-respect to people like this. We need to be constantly reminded that these people are the ones who have built up our country to what it is today. I know that I would not have survived a life under the harsh rule of the British. I simply don’t think I would be up to the challenge to being physically and emotionally offended day after day.

It is important we remember the people who got us where we are today.

(Ashwini Javlekar is 13-years-old, and in 7th grade at the Gibbons Middle School in Westborough. )

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