24 June, 2021

Of Rage, Courage And Democracy

What does fearlessness have to do with ­democratic citizenship—and the formal rights ­entailed in it? A contrastive reading of Savarkar and Gandhi offers us cues.

Photograph by AP
Of Rage, Courage And Democracy

As the influence of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in Indian public life has risen, so has the insistence on his honorific, Veer—heroic, brave, courageous or warrior-like. When a plaque was put up in the Andaman Cellular jail, it was to Veer Savarkar. When roads are renamed, they are usually to Veer Savarkar, rarely to V.D. Savarkar. Nor is it only Savarkar’s admirers who are taken by the honorific—now newspapers and other media sources use it too. Savarkar has ­become inseparable from his honorific.

We do not know much about how the honorific originates. Its earliest confirmed use, Niranjan Takle notes, was by a journalist in the 1920s. That Savarkar himself may have played a role in coining and popularising the honorific cannot be ruled out. Soon after his release from prison, the book Life of Barrister Savarkar was published. Its author is identified simply as Chitragupta; only many years later did people learn that Savarkar himself was its author. That book, available online, glows with rapturous admiration for Savarkar, for his valour and bravery. What...

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