Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (pronunciation (help·info), Marathi pronunciation: [ʋinaːjək saːʋəɾkəɾ]; 28 May 1883 – 26 February 1966), known among followers by the honorific prefix Veer, was an Indianpolitician, activist, and writer. He developed the Hindu nationalist political ideology of Hindutva while imprisoned at Ratnagiri in 1922. He was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha.
Savarkar joined the Hindu Mahasabha and popularized the term Hindutva (Hinduness), previously coined by Chandranath Basu, to create a collective “Hindu” identity as an essence of Bharat (India). Savarkar was an atheist and also a pragmatic practitioner of Hindu philosophy.
Savarkar began his political activities as a high school student and continued to do so at Fergusson College in Pune. He and his brother founded a secret society called Abhinav Bharat Society. When he went to the United Kingdom for his law studies, he involved himself with organizations such as India House and the Free India Society. He also published books advocating complete Indian independence by revolutionary means. One of the books he published called The Indian War of Independence about the Indian Rebellion of 1857 was banned by the British colonial authorities. In 1910, Savarkar was arrested and ordered to be extradited to India for his connections with the revolutionary group India House.
On the voyage back to India, Savarkar staged an attempt to escape and seek asylum in France while the ship was docked in the port of Marseilles. The French port officials however handed him back to the British government in contravention of international law. On return to India, Savarkar was sentenced to two life terms of imprisonment totaling fifty years and was moved to the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
After 1937, he started traveling widely, becoming a forceful orator and writer, advocating Hindu political and social unity. In 1938, he was a president of Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in Mumbai. Serving as the president of the Hindu Mahasabha, Savarkar endorsed the idea of India as a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). He started his militarisation of Hindus from then in order to liberate the country and protect the country and Hindus in the future. Savarkar was critical of the decision taken by the Congress working committee in its Wardha session of 1942, passed a resolution which said to the British colonial government: “Quit India but keep your armies here” which was the reinstallation of the British military presence in India, which he felt would be much worse. In July 1942, as he felt extremely stressed carrying out his duties as the president of Hindu Mahasabha, and as he needed some rest, he resigned from the post, the timing of which coincided with Gandhi’sQuit India Movement.
In 1948, Savarkar was charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi; however, he was acquitted by the court for lack of evidence. Savarkar resurfaced in the popular discourse after the coming of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into power in 1998 and again in 2014 with the Modi-led BJP government at the center.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born on 28 May 1883 in the MarathiChitpavan BrahminHindu family of Damodar and Radhabai Savarkar in the village of Bhagur, near the city of Nashik, Maharashtra. He had three other siblings namely Ganesh, Narayan, and a sister named Maina. When he was 12, he led fellow students in an attack on his village mosque following Hindu-Muslim riots, stating: “We vandalized the mosque to our heart’s content.”