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The Gang of Murderers

Standing (L to R) : Shankar Kishtaiyya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa and Digambar Badge.
Sitting (L to R) : Narayan Apte, Veer Savarkar, Nathuram Godse and Vishnu Karkare.


Vinayak Damodar Savarkar also known as Veer Savarkar

Born in 1883 in a village near Nasik. After schooling, where he was described as average to poor, he nevertheless mastered ancient Indian History and Sanskrit classics. At sixteen he formed a revolutionary society to overthrow the British. In 1901 he left Nasik to join a college in Pune, he was sent off with a rousing function by leading men of the town.

In Pune he become a notable figure in political functions and came to the notice of the police. In his final year he flung himself into the nationalist movement, for these activities he was rusticated from his college and became the first Indian student to be thrown out of college for political reasons. But he was allowed to sit for his BA (Bachelor of Arts) exam. He passed the exam and then plunged into the freedom movement and became its foremost proponent. He advocated an armed revolt on the lines of the 1857-armed fight for freedom. He decided to go to England and become a barrister.

In England Savarkar joined Gray's Inn and four years later qualified to practice at the Bar. He started the Free India Society. From among the society he formed a core group of young men who like him, believed in using violence to gain freedom for India. They embarked upon the quest to learn the science of bomb making and for this they found a Russian revolutionist in Paris. Savarkar printed and circulated the manual on bomb making amongst his core group and other believers. Savarkar wrote about his ideology in a Marathi periodical Talwar (The Sword) and also the history of the War for Independence of 1857 in Marathi. The book was published in 1907 in English in Holland the book was banned before publication in India.

In 1909 Madanlal Dhingra, an active member of the Free India Society and a member of Savarkar's core group killed Sir Curzon Wylie, who was the prosecutor of the cases against Khudiram Bose and other revolutionaries of Bengal. Madanlal gave himself up to the police and was found to carry in his pocket a statement that he had killed Wylie 'to avenge the inhuman sentences passed by the British officials on Indian youths .... Whose only crime was that they had taken up arms to free their motherland'. Savarkar, sought an interview with Dhingra in jail and raised a fund for his defence, and openly opposed a resolution sponsored by other Indians in England to condemn the murder. For some time Savarkar moved to Paris to evade arrest but he did not adjust to life there and yearned to return to India. He knew that he would be arrested if he ever reached India. Being forlorn and homesick Savarkar decided to seek solace with his beloved, an English girl Margaret Lawrence.

Savarkar was arrested as his train reached Victoria Station, He was detained at Brixton Prison and was served a warrant of extradition, and the Indian Government wanted to prosecute him in India for waging war against the King. Savarkar was to be transported to India on board the SS Maurea under a constant guard supervised by a Scotland Yard officer and a Deputy Superintendent of the Bombay police. The SS Maurea made an unscheduled stop at Marseilles. Savarkar requested the use of the toilet and after bolting the door from the inside wriggled out of the narrow porthole and swam ashore, but was caught by a gendarme on shore and handed over to his escorts.

On reaching India, Savarkar was tried and sentenced to 50 years and was sent to the infamous Cellular jail at Port Blair, Andaman known as Kala Pani. He nearly died in the Andamans. Ten years later, his health ruined and close to a mental break down he was brought to a jail on the main land. After serving another four years he was paroled and confined to the district of Ratnagiri. It was here that Nathuram came under the influence of Savarkar and the unlettered carpenter became a fanatical follower of Savarkar. Savarkar now gravitated towards the Militant Hindu ideology and became a more and more rabid proponent of Militant Hindu's Militancy. Savarkar influenced almost the entire gang of Gandhiji's murders and they all joined him in the Hindu Mahasabha.

Savarkar was also a renounced Marathi Poet and literature. Inexplicably, when the Mahatma boycotted the British war effort ,Savarkar decided to help the British and the Hindu Mahasabha became the biggest recruiter of Indians into the British military. During this phase the British funded the activities of the Hindu Mahasabha. Narayan Apte was one of the leading recruiters for the British Military in Maharashtra for which he was awarded a permanent civilian commission. Savarkar tried to build up his party, Hindu Mahasabha, into a national organisation to challenge the Congress and the Muslim League. He only succeeded in areas with substantial Marathi populace, the cities of Pune and Nagpur became its principal centres.

The court acquitted Savarkar in the Gandhi Murder Trail but the fact remains that the gang of murderers visited Savarkar at his house in Dadar in Bombay frequently before going to Delhi for the first time and according to the testimony of Badge, the approver, Savarkar had blessed Apte and Godse 'Yashasvi Houn Yaa' (Return triumphant.... Or ... return after achieving success.) and had allegedly said in Marathi 'Gandhi chi shambhar warsha atha sampli' (Gandhi's Hundred years are over). Jimmy Nagarwala the investigating officer in the Murder inquiry always maintained that he believed that Savarkar was guilty of being part of the conspiracy to murder the Mahatma. In any case he was venerated as a God by the Gang of murderers.

-Tushar A. Gandhi.