Mumbai: Congress MP Rahul Gandhi defended his remarks about VD Savarkar – that ‘he wrote mercy petitions to the British and accepted pension’ and that he did so ‘because of fear’ – and said ‘I am very clear he helped the British’.
“I have a document that comprises Savarkar’s letter to (the) British in which he has stated ‘I beg to remain, sir, your most obedient servant’. This is not written by me… but Savarkarji. Let everyone read this document,” Gandhi said.
“I am very clear that he helped the British,” he said, brandishing the letter he said Savarkar wrote to the British; sections of which were highlighted in blue.
“Savarkar signed this letter whereas Mahatma Gandhi, pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were in prison for years… did not write any letter. I believe Savarkarji signed this letter because of fear,” the Congress leader said.
Gandhi – criticized by Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis – also invited the BJP leader to ‘see this letter’ and offered to send him copies.
Fadnavis had accused Rahul Gandhi of ‘shamelessly lying’. “… want to know how many Congress leaders went through suffering like Savarkar for 11 years. Despite such prolonged torture, he sang (the) song of freedom,” he said.
The (latest) controversy over Savarkar’s place in history broke after Gandhi’s comment in Maharashtra’s Washim – at an event honoring tribal leader Birsa Munda.
Gandhi claimed Munda as the Congress’ ‘idol’ and said, “… for the BJP and RSS, Savarkarji, who wrote mercy petitions to the British and accepted pension, is an idol’.
The comment triggered furious responses from the ruling BJP and the Shiv Sena faction led by chief minister Eknath Shinde and to calls that the Congress’ yatra be stopped.
To that Gandhi today dared the state to halt his march. “People should be allowed to speak openly… if the government wants to stop ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ then let them try,” he said.