(This story was first published on 19 April 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s birth anniversary.)

The original Hindu Hriday Samrat – Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – is an icon for the BJP whose legacy is being resurrected through a concerted effort led by Prime Minister Modi himself. So what actually did Savarkar stand for and what keeps him relevant?

He first propagated Hindutva as a geopolitical concept, tying together an Indian’s identity to being Hindu. He wrote dozens of books on this and other subjects, 18 of which were banned.
Here’s a quick look at how Savarkar’s views align with how he’s invoked.

1. Savarkar On Cow Worship
Savarkar espoused the view in Vidnyan Nishta Nibandh, that the cow, like the peepal tree, should be cared for, as something useful to humans, which meant eating it as well if need be. He insisted that a superstitious mindset towards cows would ruin India’s intellect and that cows should be protected for their economic use to man, and not because of their ‘divinity’.

Savarkar went on to say:

When humanitarian interests are not served and in fact harmed by the cow and when humanism is shamed, self-defeating extreme cow protection should be rejected.

2. Savarkar on Intercaste Marriages & Relationships
Today, when Savarkar’s brand of Hindutva is being revived, it is important to note that within his Hindutva, he had a firm idea of an egalitarian, democratic society, as opposed to one where honour killings and ghar wapsis highlight hierarchies and fault lines. He extends this freedom to the commingling of all castes and classes that fall within his ambit of Hindutva. He says, “A Hindu marrying a Hindu may lose his caste but not his Hindutva.”

3. Savarkar on Rights of Muslims/Minorities
What place did Muslims occupy as citizens in Savarkar’s concept of Hindu society? He, in fact, was a proponent of them having their own schools, institutions, mosques etc, so long as Hindus back then didn’t end up replacing “Edward with Aurangazeb”.

For him, the Hindu majority will not and should not encroach on minority rights, as long as the Muslims “remain satisfied with the status they occupy”.

Savarkar is of the view that it would be preposterous to grant minorities equal rights which could act as a practical veto over the rights of the Hindus simply because they happened to be born inside Indian borders; for him that wasn’t ‘Swarajya’.

The Hindutva icon further said:

But in no case can the Hindu majority resign its right which as a majority it is entitled to. The Moslem minority has not obliged the Hindus by remaining in minority and therefore, they must remain satisfied with the status they occupy.

4. Savarkar on Hindutva
Savarkar’s definition of Hindutva espoused Hindu-Muslim unity, but as two separate states within one country: the country of Hindus or Hindustan. In fact, he was against the Partition, believing instead that Muslims should stay in India as Hindustani Muslims, just as they accept their minority status in Greece (Greek Muslims), Poland (Polish Muslims) and elsewhere.

5. Savarkar on an Exclusive Party for Hindus
As it became clearer that the British Raj in India would end with a partition, Savarkar said the choice was not between Gandhi or Jinnah or a Hindu Raj or Indian Raj, but only between a Hindu Raj and Muslim Raj. In The Basic Tenet of the Hindu Movement, he says:

There is every likelihood that there will ever continue at least for a century to come fanatical riots, the scramble for services, legislative seats, weightages out of proportion to their population on the part of the Moslem Minority and consequently a constant danger threatening internal peace. To checkmate this probability , a powerful and exclusive organisation of Hindudom like the Hindu Mahasabha, will always prove a sure and devoted source of strength, a reserve force for the Hindus to fall back upon…

Savarkar stressed that this should be so especially “if that party has extra-territorial affinities, religious or cultural, with alien bordering states”.

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