Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray (File Photo)
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday said Pakistan would not have come into existence had Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar been the country's Prime Minister at the time, and demanded that he be awarded Bharat Ratna. Thackeray was speaking at the launch of a biography titled "Savarkar: Echoes From A Forgotten Past".
"Savarkar must be awarded the Bharat Ratna. We don't deny the work done by (Mahatma) Gandhi and (first PM Jawaharlal) Nehru, but the country saw more than two families being born on the political scene," Thackeray said. "I would have called Nehru as Veer (brave) if he had survived jail for 14 minutes against Savarkar who stayed in prison for 14 long years," Thackeray added.
Taking a swipe at Rahul Gandhi, who has in the past taken jibes at Hindutva icons including Savarkar, Thackeray said the former Congress chief should be given a copy of the book. Thackeray told the author of the book, Vikram Sampath, that he would buy copies and ensure that every school and college in the state stocks it in libraries, adding it should be compulsory reading for MPs and MLAs too.
Sampath said Savarkar's story deserves to be "written, heard and read", claiming the latter's life was an "addiction" for him ever since a controversy erupted in 2003-04 over the removal of a plaque at Andaman's Cellular Jail. He said Savarkar’s name gets dragged into heated political debates often, from Rahul Gandhi’s “defamatory” remarks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying homage to the freedom fighter at Cellular Jail.
Incidents like dropping of the honorific prefix "Veer" from his name, as was done in textbooks in Rajasthan, to opinions on his mercy petitions to the British, all show great interest in the man, Sampath said.
Speaking on his book, Sampath said it is the first of two volumes and covers the period between 1883 to 1924, from Savarkar's birth at Bhagur in Nashik district to his days as a firebrand student leader in Pune’s Fergusson College, as well as his fight for freedom that ended in a life sentence in the infamous Cellular Jail. Savarkar was conditionally released from jail in 1924.