In my last post, I had taken a look at Savarkar’s arrest in England, his epic escape at Marseilles, and subsequent arrest.
July 22, 1910
Savarkar reached Mumbai, and was immediately sent to Nasik jail. The Secretary of State for India granted permission for a trial, even though many well meaning British people protested it would not be a fair one. They were given the promise that Savarkar would be restored to France if the situation demanded it so. By now Savarkar’s escape at Marseilles had made him a legend of sorts, and the fellow prisoners, applauded him loudly at the trial. Savarkar rejected the jurisdiction of the Government, saying he was entitled to asylum and protection of French law. Even the accused stated, they had confessed to the Magistrate under torture or extreme stress.
The court however was adamant in convicting Savarkar, and they choose Abhinav Bharat as the alibi. Various secret activities of Abhinav Bharat, and it’s political activities were taken into consideration during the trial. Savarkar was accused of trying to wage war against the state, through Abhinav Bharat, on the lines of the Russian Revolution. The fact that Abhinav Bharat had bomb storehouses at Bassein, and factories in Mumbai, made it easier for the court to prove the charges of waging a war against the State. And not content with this, the Court also convicted Savarkar with the assassination of Jackson, the collector of Nashik. So effectively on the basis of very flimsy evidence, Savarkar was sentenced twice. On December 23, 1910, Savarkar was condemned guilty and sentenced to transportation for life, seizure of all property. In spite of the fact, that his case was still sub judice in the International Court at Hague.
It was a very hasty prosecution by a kangaroo court, on the basis of very flimsy evidence. For starters the British Government had a written agreement with France to refer Savarkar’s case to International Court at Hague. Many in France, supported Savarkar’s return to the country, and most nations were in uproar against the British action. Savarkar in the meanwhile managed to send out an account of his escape and re arrest at Marseilles, through his friends, embarrassing the British even more. Finally Hague had it’s say, and the trial began on February 2, 1911. However with the then French Prime Minister, M.Briand, siding with the British, the court annulled Savarkar’s right of asylum, and ruled in favor of the British. There was widespread condemnation from the world press, and M Briand became deeply unpopular with the French people for his act.
Though the British managed to convict Savarkar, a severe blow was dealt to the Empire’s prestige. As he was convicted twice, it meant Savarkar would have to spend the next 50 years of his life in imprisonment. And this is when he began to compose poems, to cope with the long period of jail, and also what he felt was a small debt to India. He wrote poems on Guru Gobind Singh, and another on the crucifixion of Christ. When an officer taunted him that he would be free only in 1960, Savarkar shot back “But is the British Raj itself going to last for fifty years?”.
It was at Nashik, that Savarkar met his wife Mai once again, a remarkable woman.
She had to travel on horseback from Trimbakeswar to Nashik along with her brother to meet her husband in prison. Even worse, fearing the wrath of the British, none of her friends gave her shelter, and she had to spend all the night in heavy rain at a temple in Nashik. She finally met her husband, and they spent around 45 minutes together. When Veer Savarkar was sentenced to life at Cellular Jail, she accepted her fate stoically. However when she saw him in chains at the Dongri prison in Mumbai, she became emotional and almost broke down. It was then Veer Savarkar advised her.
“If the Almighty shows compassion, we shall meet again. Till then, if you are ever tempted by the thought of an ordinary family life, remember that if producing children and collecting a few twigs to build a home is to be called married life, then such a life is led by crows and sparrows as well. But if a nobler meaning is to be given to married life, then we are blessed to have lead a life fit for human beings. By breaking our hearth and utensils, golden smoke may ensue from thousands of homes in future. And did not plague render our homes desolate when we were building them? Face the odds bravely.“
To which Mai replied-“We are trying to do just that. As far as we are concerned, we have each other. If you take care of yourself, we shall feel fulfilled.”. Savarkar reassured her that he would take care and walked around with the manacles raised.