The history of India cannot be complete without mentioning the legendary Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. He is better known as Veer Savarkar, and he carved a reputable niche for himself as an activist and freedom fighter who fiercely advocated for India’s independence. He was an activist who came up with Hindutva, which is now the main form of nationalism in India. He also established himself as one of the leading figures of Hindu Mahasabha. He was the first person who eradicated the evil practices of untouchability in Ratnagiri. He even presented monetary incentives to parents and distributed chalk and slate to kids from lower castes to encourage them to seek education.
Veer Savarkar is a leader in many aspects, and here are six leadership lessons from his life.
- Vision: Great leaders are visionaries. They can see far into the future well beyond the abilities of others. This visionary zeal made Veer Savarkar become a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. He popularized the term Hinduness (or better known as Hindutva) even when it was very controversial. The essence of this move was to create a sense of Hindu identity that was predicated on India (Bharat). His Hindutva was free from Caste Discrimination and other indigenous practices that were breaking Hinduism. On Hindu festivals like Diwali and Sakranti, Veer Savarkar would visit homes accompanied by people from different castes and distribute sweets. His vision for united Hinduism is commendable.
- Passion for learning and teaching: To be a good leader, you must be well-informed and knowledgeable. Veer Savarkar stopped at nothing when it comes to education. He secured admission for himself at the Fergusson College located in Pune and finished his bachelor’s degree. He would later head to the United Kingdom to study law. However, education didn’t just mean entering a college and giving papers. Savarkar helped other students understand the struggles of Bharat under the British Occupation. In early May 1907, while in London, Veer Savarkar organized the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 at Tilak House, 78 Goldsmith Avenue, Acton, London. Students wore badges with the legend ‘Honour to the Martyrs of 1857’. This was the way Savarkar educated others.
- Resilience: Veer Savarkar was confronted with a lot of challenges, but he remained resilient. While in Pune as a student, he established a secret organization called Abhinav Bharat Society in 1904 with his brother, Ganesh Damodar Savarkar. He did not stop at this and went ahead to become a member of the Free India Society and the India House. He became an author of several books calling for the total independence of India from Britain. When he was ordered to be extradited to India, he attempted to orchestrate an escape and get an asylum in France when the ship was docked in the city of Marseilles. Even after undergoing nearly 15 years of worst imprisonment in the Andamans, Veer Savarkar focused on social reforms after his release and never gave up.
- Courage: Veer Savarkar was so brave that he confronted what was the greatest power on earth at that time – the British Empire. He boldly called for the total independence of India and even advocated for revolution. He insisted that India must become free. He published books that were so inflammatory and inciting that the British authorities banned them. These were books like the Indian Wars of Independence, which focused on the Indian rebellion of 1857. He opposed Gandhi (when even the British Government was not directly opposing him) and other tall leaders of the Indian National Congress to save India from Partition.
- Pragmatism: An excellent leader is a master of pragmatism as he or she knows when to be practical or when to be theoretical. Veer Savarkar was not the best friend of Muslims, but he knew when to team up with them to achieve the same goal. He demonstrated this in 1939 when he formed a collaboration with the Muslim League and other political parties to take power. Such coalition governments were formed in Sindh, NWFP, and Bengal. He even started his militarisation of Hindus to liberate the country and protect India and Hindus in the future. Veer Savarkar was critical of the decision taken by the Congress working committee in its Wardha session of 1942. The Congress passed a resolution which said to the British: “Quit India but keep your armies here,” which was the reinstallation of British military rule over India, which he felt would be much worse. Savarkar knew the British army’s presence in India is practically a must-lose situation, and so he opposed the move.
- Patience: Veer Savarkar went through a lot in life, from imprisonment on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to his extradition from the United Kingdom. However, he took everything in good stride and exhibited the highest levels of patience. He wrote numerous books and essays while in jail and didn’t lose sight of Hindutva.
Now You Know