Savarkar in London

Savarkar played a significant role in putting forth the case for India’s independence on the international scene. He fearlessly went to the enemy camp and carried out his revolutionary activities in the heart of the British Empire. Barrister Sardarsingh Rana (born 12 April 1870, in Katharia in Saurashtra) had announced three traveling fellowships of Rs. 2000 each. These fellowships were named after Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji and Akbar. Savarkar received the Shivaji fellowship on the recommendation of Lokmanya Tilak and Kaal editor Shivrampant Paranjpe. As had been decided, Tilak paid the first installment of Rs. 400. Savarkar was to initially leave India on 26 May 1907. However, this plan changed. Finally, on 09 June 1909, Savarkar embarked on S.S. Persia and reached London on 24 June 1906.

Savarkar came to London with the following aims in mind:

  1. To observe at first hand, the strengths of the British people which enabled them to rule over India and also to note their weaknesses and to think of ways of using them to achieve India’s freedom.
  2. To meet students from all parts of India. Such meetings were much more easier in London than in India. People back home looked to these men with admiration and expected direction and leadership from them. According to report ‘Indian Students in U.K.’ compiled by Secretary of State for India in 1907 there were some 700 of them in U.K at that time.
  3. To kindle the spirit of fighting among these youth for Indian independence.
  4. To meet professionals, Rajahs, merchants and rich people, who came to London and possibly, also visited Europe. Savarkar sought their assistance in the freedom struggle too.
  5. To establish contacts with revolutionaries of other countries like Russia, China, Ireland, Turkey, Egypt and Iran. He wanted to learn the art of making bombs from them, and put that knowledge and friendship into use for concerted attempts to overthrow the British rule. He also wanted to smuggle pistols and ammunition into India.

Savarkar carried out the following activities in London:

  1. He started regular Sunday meetings to discuss various topics related to India's future. These soon became popular among Indian students. Revolutionaries from other countries such as Egypt, Ireland, Russia, China and Turkey used to attend. Lenin was one of them. One of the topics of discussion was "Future constitution of India."
    These meetings were intended to increase one's knowledge of all current affairs. Savarkar was able to maintain this tradition even in the Cellular Jail in the Andaman Islands.
  2. Savarkar organized the days of the remembrance of national heroes such as Shivjayanti (birthday of Chhatrapati Shivaji) and celebrations of festivals like Diwali and Dassara. He also celebrated the golden jubilee of the 1857 War of Independence against the British in India House.
  3. Savarkar had started his secret revolutionary society called the Abhinav Bharat (similar to Young Italy of Mazzini) in India in 1905. Savarkar carried on the activities of the Abhinav Bharat while in London. Copies of bomb manual were printed in India House in London. One copy reached Lokmanya Tilak in Pune.
  4. Savarkar completed his biography of Mazzini in Marathi in September 1906. His elder brother Babarao published it in India in June 1907. A year later, the British proscribed the book. He wrote his famous book Indian War of Independence 1857 in Marathi. His friends in India House translated it into English. It was published secretly in Holland in 1909 and immediately banned in India. Savarkar's book served as a source of inspiration to Indian revolutionaries for next 40 years.

Sikhs are an important part of the Hindu society. In the Indian Army their percentage was quite high. Savarkar therefore learned Gurumukhi and studied the holy books, Adigranth, Panthprakash and Vichitra Natak. While in England, Savarkar prepared notes for his book 'History of the Sikhs' which he completed while in Paris.

Savarkar sent 43 newsletters from India House during the period from 17 August 1906 to 26 November 1909. These were related to politics and current affairs and were published in the Marathi newspaper, Vihari.

Three leaflets were printed in India House.

  1. Gurumukhi leaflet - This appealed to the Sikhs to revolt against the British.
  2. 'Oh Martyrs!'. This was addressed to the fighters of the 1857 war. Savarkar assured them ' your blood oh martyrs, shall be avenged. We will continue your fight and drive the British out of India.
  3. ' Choose, oh Indian Princes '

This was sent out to Indian Princes, Rajas and Maharajas after Dhingra’s martyrdom in August 1909. Savarkar appealed to them to join in the freedom struggle.

Chronology

1906

  • April
  • On the 14th, a protest meeting against the partition of Bengal was held at Barisal ( now in Bangladesh ). Police used brute force to disperse the gathering. Surendranath Banerjee was heavily fined.

  • May
  • 5th - A meeting to condemn the police action was held at Shyamji’s home by the Indian Home Rule Society. At this meeting, Vitthalbhai Patel (elder brother of Sardar Patel ) and Bhai Paramanand were present. Dadabhai Naoroji and Gokhale were invited but did not attend.
  • 6th - Similar meeting was held in Paris by Mr Banker, Mr Godrej, Barrister Rana and others.
  • Vande Mataram became our national anthem because it was banned in Dacca by Sir Banfield Fuller, Lt Governor of East Bengal

  • June
  • 9th – Savarkar left Bombay for London by S.S. Persia
  • 14th – Report on Savarkar by Special Branch, Pune was dispatched to London
  • 24th – Savarkar probably reached London.
  • 26th – Savarkar enrols with Grays Inn for his studies.

  • July
  • 18th – Savarkar called on Sir Curzon Wyllie, by appointment for obtaining an order for the House of Commons to hear the debate on the Indian Budget on 20th July
  • 20th – Debate in House of Commons on Indian Budget.
  • 22nd – Public meeting in Chandos Hall. Lecture by Barrister Parekh
    Subject – The Recent Persecution in Bengal. Social Democratic Federation arranged series of lectures. Parekh’s was one of them

  • October
  • Letter of R C Dutt
    Daily News/ Daily Chronicle/ Mirror / Telegrap
  • 20th – Gandhi reached London. He headed a delegation to protest against injustices suffered by Indians in South Africa. He met Savarkar in India House.

  • November
  • 23rd Dadabhai going to India to accept office of President of Congress Party.. Public celebrations in London
  • P M (Senapati) Bapat wrote a book India demands Home Rule. As a result Bombay university withdrew Mangaldas Nathubhai scholarship

1907

  • January
  • Suffragette movement – Daily News, Tribune,

  • February
  • Irish Home Rule movement

  • March
  • 14th - Morley sets up a committee for condition of Indian students in U.K.

  • May
  • Shyamji left London for Paris
  • 10th - Savarkar celebrated anniversary of 1857 War at 78 Goldsmith Avenue, Acton, London W3 (riots in Rawalpindi, Daily Graphic, Daily Telegraph, Evening News, Tribune)
  • Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh were deported to Mandalay (Burma). So strict was the security that the two leaders did not know that they were kept in prison in the same place, Mandalay.

  • August
  • Madame Cama unfurled Indian National flag in front of 1,000 delegates from all over the world at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany. Ramsey MacDonald was one of the delegates. He later became British Prime Minister. Others included Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg who was hanged during Communist uprising in the days of Weimar Republic.

  • November
  • 30th – Indian students in U.K. – report was published.

City Number of students
London 380 (320 studied Law)
Edinburgh 150
Cambridge 085
Oxford 032
Manchester 016
Birmingham 011
Others 016
Total 700

1908

  • February
  • Turmoil in Portugal. King and Prince killed, younger prince on throne.

  • May
  • Shivaji’s birthday celebrated in London. Programme arranged by Free India Society
  • 10th – 50th anniversary of the 1857 War was celebrated in India House, Dramas in English theatres

  • September
  • 21 Meeting in Caxton Hall to protest against the sentence of Transportation for 6 years given to Tilak

  • October
  • Board of Trade figures – effect of Swadeshi, Mill-owners want to reduce wages by 5%- labour unrest
  • Bipin Chandra Pal in London – news in papers

  • December
  • 20th – Annual session of Indian National Congress held in Caxton Hall – It was to be held in Nagpur, but Govt banned it there
  • 29th – Savarkar organised celebration of birthday of Guru Govind Singh, in Caxton Hall
    ( Times, Daily Telegraph, Mirror, Daily Express )

1909

  • February
  • 28 Babarao Savarkar arrested in Mumbai

  • April
  • 3rd Savarkar left India House
    • Standard – representative meets Savarkar
    • Sunday Chronicle – representative meets Savarkar
    • Also Daily Mail, Manchester Guardian, Dispatch also sent representatives to meet Savarkar.

  • May
  • On the 1st , Shyamji Krishnavarma was struck off the register of Barristers by benchers of the Inner Temple.

  • June
  • 8th Babarao sent to Transportation for Life and forfeiture of all his property.
  • Three days later, Viceroy Lord Minto sent a telegram to the Secretary of State for India, “ Ganesh Damodar Savarkar convicted under section 121 and 124A of the India Penal Code and sentenced to transportation for life and forfeiture of property.”

  • July
  • 1st Madanlal Dhingra shot dead Sir Curzon Wyllie
  • 5th Meeting in Caxton Hall to condemn Dhingra. Savarkar protests
  • 6th Savarkar’s letter of explanation published in Times (London) Daily Dispatch - news
  • In 1903, Shyamji had endowed a sum of 1,000 pounds to the Oxford University in memory of philosopher Herbert Spencer who died in that year. This was returned to him in July 1909. The once venerated Sanskrit scholar had suddenly become a persona non grata because now he was seeking independence for India.
  • 14th - At the end of all the farce the benchers of Grays Inn ruled, " None of the charges was proven. Savarkar is a permanent member of this society (Grays Inn) and would continue to enjoy the privileges of membership. There was still suspicion about him and, as such he would not be called to the Bar as yet. (What happened to the principle that an accused person is innocent unless proved guilty ? It was conveniently set aside by those who practised and taught law!! ) He may be called later, if his behaviour is satisfactory."
  • 23rd - Savarkar wrote in his newsletter, " When it became obvious that the evidence was collected by the Government of India, it was clear who was behind this episode."

  • August
  • On 3rd August Viceroy Lord Minto sent a telegram from Simla to India Office, " It is understood that Madanlal Dhingra is to be executed on the 17th August. If body cremated, undesirable that ashes should be sent to India."
  • The Times reported on 11 August 1909, “ The mail from India brings the following notification issued at Simla on July 23 – ‘ In exercise of the power conferred by section 19 of the Sea Customs Act 1878 ( viii of 1878 ) the Governor-General is pleased to prohibit the bringing by sea or land into British India of any copy of the book or pamphlet in Marathi on the subject of the Indian Mutiny by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar or any English translation or version of the same.’ Savarkar's book served as a source of inspiration to Indian revolutionaries for next 40 years ]
  • 16th Dhingra’s statement published as handbill in London.
    • Newspapers – Daily Mirror – "we challenge the police"
    • Times / Standard etc Check – American and Irish Newspapers for news.
  • 17th Dhingra was sent to the gallows at Pentonville Prison at 09:00 hrs

  • November
  • 5th – Queens Road Hall – meeting of Vijayadashmi. Gandhi praises Savarkar. This was the last newsletter sent by Savarkar

  • December
  • 21st Mr Jackson, Collector of Nashik was shot dead in Nashik by Kanhere.

1910

 

  • March
  • 13th – Savarkar was arrested at London (Victoria) station.
  • 14th – Savarkar was brought in front of Bow Street Magistrate.

  • July
  • 8th – Savarkar’s dramatic attempt to escape from S.S. Moria at Marseilles