Last Sunday, an armed procession celebrating the Hindu festival of Ram Navami destroyed a statue of the freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district. Nearly nine decades earlier, Azad was one of a clutch of Muslim leaders the police suspected may have been targetted for assassination by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s co-founder Ganesh Damodar Savarkar.
But Ganesh Savarkar, the older brother of Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Savarkar, failed to execute his plot. It is not clear why.
The plot was discovered by spies of the British colonial government and their reports about it are now part of the Delhi Police Archives. The first report was filed from the office of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Branch, Calcutta, on September 13, 1929, and was addressed to Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Branch, Bombay. It stated:
“I have just received reliable information that Ganesh Savarkar is implicated in a plot to murder some prominent Muhammadan leader either at Delhi or Bombay in retaliation for the assassinations of the Hindu leaders Sradhanand and Rajpal by Muhammadan fanatics. I am sorry that we have no further information about the proposed plot.”
Ganesh Savarkar had visited Calcutta to procure arms and “the sample of Bengal bomb” from “a prominent revolutionary”, the report added, but “to the best of our knowledge no revolver or explosives were made over to Savarkar by this group”.
Four days later, Additional Superintendent of Police, Criminal Investigation Department, Delhi, received a report from the Intelligence Bureau’s headquarters in Shimla. Referring to the September 13 report, it stated, naming several prominent leaders of the Indian National Congress, “It is possible that SH Damodar Savarkar’s intended victim may be Muhd. Ali, Dr. Ansari, Abul Kalam Azad and Mufti Kifayatullah, but perhaps you are in the best position to know which particular Muhammedan leader has come in for odium for his extreme separatist pro-Muhammedan or anti-Hindu activities in Delhi.”
In this report, Ganesh Savarkar was mistakenly identified as SH Damodar Savarkar, as the Intelligence Bureau clarified through a note dated October 2, 1929.
There are few other details in these reports about Ganesh Savarkar’s plot and why it failed.
Key RSS figure
Popularly known as Babarao, Ganesh Savarkar was one of the five people who founded the RSS in 1925, the others being KB Hedgewar, BS Moonje, LV Paranjpe and BB Tholkar.
Ganesh Savarkar played a critical role in expanding the RSS, particularly among the youth in Maharashtra, and fashioning the ideological moorings of what is generally considered Hedgewar’s organisation. But for his work, it is debatable whether the RSS would have even survived for long. He merged his Tarun Hindu Sabha as well as the Mukteshwar Dal into the RSS and accompanied Hedgewar, the first Sarsanghchalak, on tours of western Maharashtra, introducing him to Hindu fundamentalist leaders. Soon, because of his efforts, Pune became the hub of the RSS’ work in western Maharashtra.
It was Babarao’s Marathi essay Rashtra Mimansa, which, once published in English as We or our Nationhood Defined under the name of the second RSS Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar, became one of the foundational texts of the Sangh Parivar.
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