By Tom Treanor
Muslims ”will have the position of negroes in your country” is only one of the many things Hindu ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar says to his American interviewer Tom Treanor. Charming man, wasn’t he? There are many attempts currently to portray Savarkar not only as a nationalist icon but also as a modernist who supported social reform, but a read through of this 1944 interview of Savarkar by the seasoned American war correspondent Treanor should disabuse anyone of that notion.
Treanor talked to him when he was perhaps the only Hindu political leader to not be in jail (having asked the British for a pardon so he did not have to serve his 50-year prison term and the “prodigal son” could return to the ”parental doors of the government”). Here is Treanor writing on meeting Savarkar in an excerpt from his posthumously-published book, One Damn Thing After Another: The Adventures of an Innocent Man Trapped Between Public Relations and the Axis:
“Would you wish that I should confess to you everything?” asked old man Savarkar, head of the Hindu Mahasabha. I hadn’t meant to ask the old man an awkward question. I thought it was a matter of record. I thought he’d been convicted and served his term. He’d already said they wanted to hang him but that he’d gotten out of it with a sentence of 50 years.
But that was for something else, apparently. It was to my question whether he had actually thrown the bombs which killed the high government officials in England that he said: “Would you wish that I should confess to you everything?” He intimated it was some other fellows but he wouldn’t say who. That was a long time back, war. At the beginning of the century when Savarkar was sowing his wild oats as a terrorist. It was a story-book time when Indian revolutionaries threw bombs with fuses that they lit with a match. That was Savarkar’s time as a revolutionary in London and later in India.
That was when some of his fellow terrorists (“But not me,” said Savarkar. “I was a hundred miles away.”) threw a bomb at a viceroy, Lord Hardinge. “Did it hit him?” I asked. “It knocked him off an elephant,” said Savarkar without exhibiting either contentment or regret. “Did it hurt him?” “I suppose so. He was six months in hospital with his spine.” Them were the days. But that sort of stuff isn’t done to viceroys any more. That was before Mr Gandhi introduced his specialty of attacking viceroys by swearing off food.
Savarkar is quite a sight to Western eyes. He’s a leading politician at the head of the Hindu Mahasabha, an organisation dedicated to giving India to the Hindus and taking it away from the British and Mohammedans. If Savarkar has his way, the Mohammedans will get what is known in the trade as sweet damn-all. It’s the sort of attitude which makes Mr Jinnah argue for Pakistan, which is the plan to allow the Mohammedans to secede from the Hindus. I will give you an idea. “How do you plan to treat the Mohammedans?” I asked him. “As a minority,” he said, “in the position of your Negroes.” “And if the Mohammedans succeed in seceding and set up their own country?” “As in your country,” said the old man, waggling a menacing finger. “There will be civil war.”