Savarkar: From Nashik to Andamans- Part 3 The Arrest and the Aftermath
Aftermath of Jackson assassination:
A number of arrests were made in connection with the assassination. Custodial tortures of the accused followed, but off the record, naturally. The accused were not allowed to see their lawyers. No newspaper took note of the custodial crimes. However, some Indian police officers sympathised with the accused. One Inspector Sadavarte assured Bhat and Patankar that their bomb factory at Vasai wouldn’t be reported if they handed over the smuggled pistols. And Sadavarte kept his word .
In spite of the inhuman tortures, the investigation authorities couldn’t implicate all of the accused in the assassination case. Therefore they instituted a fresh case, under IPC 302, against Kanhere, Karve, Deshpande, Soman, Wamanrao Joshi, D. P. Joshi and Ganu Vaidya. Kanhere, Karve and Deshpande were sentenced to death. They faced the gallows on April 19, 1910. Soman, Wamanrao Joshi and Vaidya were sent to life in exile. And D. P. Joshi was sentenced to two years of imprisonment . Subsequently, there was a crackdown on the rest of the members of Abhinav Bharat. The Special Tribunal had two cases before it: the first with Savarkar and 37 more co-accused and the second with only Savarkar as the accused.
Travel to Paris:
Soon after the assassination of Wyllie by Dhingra, the police kept a constant watch on Savarkar. A month earlier, his elder brother Babarao was sentenced to transportation to the cellular jails of Andaman. Later his younger brother Narayanrao too was arrested in connection with a bomb attack on Lord Minto. The following week, Babarao’s appeal was rejected, and his exile to the Andaman jails was confirmed. His property was confiscated. Savarkar had an attack of pneumonia at the end of the year (1909), and he was moved to the clinic of Dr Muthu in Wales . About the same time, Jackson was assassinated by Kanhere in Nashik. Savarkar thereupon moved to Paris. This was seen by the British authorities as a successful escape from his impending arrest following Jackson’s murder. A note written on 27th January 1910 by a member of the Viceroy’s Council, W. C. Woodman, reads: “It is significant that the members of this group seem to know precisely the legal value of the evidence against them. Against those who remain in London…the evidence is not strong, while the moment the evidence against Savarkar was complete, he escaped to Paris. The inference is obvious that they have a well-organised system of intelligence” .
By 1909, Paris had become the hub of Indian revolutionaries in Europe. The Indian community in Paris included wealthy pearl merchants, some of whom funded the revolutionary activities of the Indians. Stevenson-Moore, the Director of Criminal Intelligence, had written in 1909: “While we have succeeded in getting valuable information from Scotland Yard about the doing of anarchists in London, we have signally failed to obtain from that source any knowledge of their doings elsewhere” . The British officials did not receive much assistance from the French police in this regard. This was in part due to somewhat sour relations between Scotland Yard and the French police. And the French government would not risk a breach of their policy on political asylum. Lord Morley wrote the same year: “It occurs to some people that we might ask the French government to deal with Krishnavarma, who is deluging us with villainous leaflets. But it is quite hopeless…” .
Return to London and the arrest:
Savarkar stayed in Paris for two months. He wrote articles for Madam Cama’s Talwar, and tried to recruit members for Abhinav Bharat . He had learnt about the statements made by Chaturbhuj and Koregaonkar which ascertained his arrest. Those were the times of indecision for Savarkar. His fellow revolutionaries were sent to prison following the Jackson assassination. His family and relatives were harassed by the police. His elder brother was condemned to transportation, while his younger brother too was arrested. The chain of events turned him restless. V. V. S. Aiyer had written to him urging him to return to London. He finally decided to go back to London. Shyamaji Krishna Varma, Madam Cama and Sardar Singh Rana tried to persuade him to stay back in Paris, as they rightly feared the high risk of his arrest once he would set his foot in London. But Savarkar was resolute. He left for London on 13th March 1910. And as soon as he stepped onto the Victoria Station, he was arrested.
Savarkar was produced before the Bow Street Police Court the next day. Aiyer, Varma and Chattopadhyay started working on his defense. On 20th April, his bail was rejected, and he was transferred to Brixton jail. His British friend Guy Aldred underwent imprisonment in the same jail for publishing Shyamji Krishna Varma’s The Indian Sociologist. Savarkar’s friends went to see him in the jail. Niranjan Pal later wrote: “I asked Savarkar why he ignored our warnings and pleadings and left Paris knowing full well that a former comrade had turned an approver and a warrant for his arrest was awaiting in London… Therefore, had Savarkar wished it, he could easily have remained in safety and comfort in the French Capital as other Indian revolutionists were doing in those days. Instead he came to London to be arrested, because, he told me, standing behind the iron-bars of Brixton Prison, his shoulders were broad enough to bear the consequences. He had the courage of his conviction” .
On 12th May, the Magistrate pronounced that Savarkar be extradited to India. Savarkar’s counsel, Mr Vaughn made a Habeas Corpus petition on 24th May, and it was discussed before the Divisional Court on 2nd and 3rd June, before being rejected. Meanwhile, a handful of attempts were made by Savarkar’s fellow revolutionaries to rescue him. In one scheme, someone was to impersonate Savarkar while the latter escaped. But it was unsuccessful. In another such attempt to rescue, the police vehicle taking Savarkar to the court was to be attacked. Irish revolutionaries were to help in this matter. However, the vehicle attacked didn’t carry Savarkar, and consequently this attempt failed as well. David Garnett, in his autobiography, talks about one such endeavour to free Savarkar. Following its failure he met Savarkar. He writes: “The moment he (Savarkar) saw me he knew that the plan had miscarried. But as I told him the details, he was already trying to console me for my failure. There was not a single sign in him of reproach or bitterness, or even of shock… Then Savarkar said something like this: ‘You have done wonderfully and there was no reason why you should have done anything at all. Do not worry about me. I shall escape somehow. I have a plan worked out already in case your plan failed’ ” .
The famous leap into the sea:
Savarkar was to be taken to India in S. S. Morea. The journey started on 1st July. The British government feared any possible attempts by the Indian revolutionaries in France to rescue Savarkar, and hence it was decided that the ship would not have a stopover at the port of Marseilles. However, call it a stroke of luck, the ship had to be diverted to Marseilles because of some mechanical trouble with the engine. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London had already informed the French Director of the Sûreté Générale (General Security) in Paris, via a letter dated 29th June 1910, that S. S. Morea carried a political prisoner, so as to be watchful of any rescue attempts of Savarkar .
The ship docked at the Marseilles port on the morning of 7th July. A French policeman Henry Leblias came on board and assured all help to Inspector Parker: the London police officer in charge. Savarkar realised that it would be almost impossible for him to escape once the ship would leave Marseilles. It was a now-or-never moment. He made up his mind. It was the 8th of July. Savarkar told the guard that he had to use the toilet. He was taken to the water closet. As soon as he entered, he bolted the door. There was a small glass pane to the door to watch the man inside. Savarkar covered it with his dressing gown, which partially blocked the view of the inside. The guard outside was rather inattentive. Subsequently, Savarkar squeezed his body through the porthole and took a leap into the sea. The guards were alerted. Seeing Savarkar swimming towards the quay, they opened fire at him. As Savarkar heard the shots, he dived, and swam his way to the quay. He climbed up in the second attempt.
After mounting the quay, he ran ceaselessly with the police on his pursuit. He had not a penny on him, so he couldn’t board a tram or take a cab. Finally, he approached a French policeman. He spoke in broken French and requested the policeman to take him to the nearest Magistrate. However, the policeman didn’t take his request seriously, and by then the British police arrived on the scene and dragged Savarkar back to the ship.
Madam Cama and Aiyer had rushed from Paris to Marseilles. By the time they reached the quay, Savarkar was already taken back to the ship. Thus, another attempt failed. The ship set sail the next day. To calm his mind, Savarkar took to writing a poem: “Anaadi Mi, Anant Mi, Avadhya Mi Bhala” (Translation: I am anaadi i.e. without beginning. I am anant i.e. without end. I am avadhya i.e. I cannot be killed.)
Once the ship arrived at Eden, the passengers and luggage were transferred to S. S. Sasti. Savarkar was put in a tiny cabin. He was handcuffed all day every day. And as if that weren’t enough, the heat became unbearable. Savarkar went through an emotional turmoil, so much so that even suicidal thoughts crossed his mind.
S. S. Sasti finally reached Bombay. Savarkar was taken to the Victoria Terminus in a car and then to Nashik via train. He was kept in the police custody in Nashik before being transferred to the Yerwada Jail.
As Savarkar’s rescue attempt at Marseilles had failed, Madam Cama wired Barrister Baptista: “See immediately professionally Savarkar arriving Bombay Steamer Morea. French government demands his return. Choose your solicitor. Letter follows” . Accordingly, Barrister Baptista sent appeals to the police Commissioner and the Home Department for permission to meet Savarkar. The solicitors Daftary, Pereira and Dewan sent an application to the first Magistrate at Nashik . But all efforts proved unfruitful, following which the solicitors sent another application.
Following the preliminary hearing before the first Magistrate Montomery, the case was to be heard in the Sessions Court. Savarkar was transferred from Yerwada jail to Dongri jail. The case began on 15th September 1910 before a Special Tribunal comprising Chief Justice Basil Scott, Justice Narayanrao Chandavarkar and Justice Heaton. The court decided that all the accused including Savarkar would be tried together, despite the defense’s appeal against it. When the court asked Savarkar if he had anything to say, he stated that he went to France to get asylum and consequently the court had no jurisdiction over him, and that he therefore wished to not take part in the proceedings .
When the prosecution finished its Case in Chief, the accused were allowed to make statements. Savarkar maintained that the court had no jurisdiction over him and thus he declined to make a statement . The arguments for the prosecution began on 3rd December and ended on 10th December, followed by the defense’s arguments. On 24th December, the judgment was pronounced. Savarkar was sentenced to life in exile and his property was to be seized. Among other notable sentences were 15 years for Chandwadkar, 10 years for Marathe, Khare and Patankar and 7 years for Nagpurkar. Many more were sentenced from 5 years to 2 years. Three were awarded a sentence of 6 months, Savarkar’s younger brother Narayanrao was one of them. The accused raised slogans hailing the Goddess of Independence .
The second case against Savarkar began on 23rd January 1911. He again denied the court’s jurisdiction over him. The verdict came on 30th January, and he was sentenced to life in exile.
Meanwhile in Europe:
The Paris edition of the Daily Mail covered the news of Savarkar’s escape on 11th July, albeit very briefly. It caused a sensation, and the issue was picked up by the French socialist leader Jean Jaurès. The French MP and Deputy Mayor of Marseilles, Bernard Cadenat, dispatched a telegram to the French newspaper L’Humanite, which was published in the 17th July issue of the newspaper. The telegram read: “The Hindu Savarkar was taking a shower in his cabin. The porthole being open, he plunged into the harbor. The English detectives shouted “Stop thief!” as Savarkar swam to the dock. There, a sergeant of the maritime police stopped him and handed him over to the detectives, when he should have handed him over to the special commissioner of the port” . L’Humanite was run by Jean Longuet- grandson of Karl Marx. Longuet wrote in the same issue: “From the very specific findings made by Cadenat, it emerges, in effect, that the unfortunate Savarkar was handed over to his jailers only at the cost of a double irregularity, a double illegality… Faced with this twofold violation of Law and legal procedures, undoubtedly a single action is essential: the English authorities should be put on notice to bring on Savarkar French soil” .
The British government was severely rebuked by various media across Europe. The French press in particular was unequivocal about Savarkar’s arrest by the British on French land as being unlawful. L’Eclaire, Le Temps, Le Matin were amongst many French newspapers which protested against Savarkar’s illegal arrest . Guy Aldred had founded “Committee of Savarkar’s Liberation” and announced a “Savarkar Release Tour” . On 6th September 1910, at the International Socialist Congress session in Copenhagen, the British Labour leader Keir Hardie advocated Savarkar’s release back to France . The British authorities were divided in their opinions. Home Secretary Winston Churchill thought: “the petty annoyance of a criminal escaping may have to be borne” .
On 18th July, the French Ambassador in London Paul Cambon had requested the British government to hand over Savarkar to France considering the fact that the latter had been arrested on French soil . However, the British refused, and consequently, the two governments decided to take the matter before the International Court of Arbitration. The agreement was signed by Paul Cambon and the British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey. Jean Lounget appeared for Savarkar in the court. The question submitted to Arbitration was: “Whether, in conformity with the rules of international law, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was required to be restored by His Britannic Majesty’s government to the Government of the French Republic” . L’Humanite covered the case extensively and gave regular updates to its readers.
The Tribunal gave its award on 24th February 1911, a week after the proceedings began. Here is an excerpt from the award: “Whereas, while admitting that an irregularity was committed by the arrest of Savarkar, and by his being handed over to the British Police, there is no rule of International Law imposing, in circumstances such as those which have been set out above, any obligation on the Power which has in its custody a prisoner, to restore him because of a mistake committed by the foreign agent who delivered him up to that Power. For these reasons: The Arbitral Tribunal decides that the Government of His Britannic Majesty is not required to restore the said Vinayak Damodar Savarkar to the Government of the French Republic” . It is noteworthy that the British Indian court had already pronounced two sentences of exile for Savarkar even before Hague Tribunal case had begun. And that is why Savarkar had rejected, all through the proceedings, the jurisdiction of the British Indian court to try him.
The award met with an acute disapproval in France and the rest of Europe. L’ Humanite published an article the next day with a sub-headline: “In its rulings, the Court of Arbitration decided that Savarkar will not be returned. -Playing favorites?” . The Daily News wrote: “The judgement reduces the right of asylum to very narrow limits” . The British government however was unhindered by the criticism. Also, quite contrary to the European press which sympathised with Savarkar’s right to asylum, an Anglo-Indian newspaper called Savarkar a “rascal” . Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the Russian State Duma passed a bill that annulled the right to asylum on the very day that Hague judgement came! .
Transportation to Andamans:
Savarkar was made aware of Hague Tribunal verdict, and that his sentence of 50 years had confirmed. He was given an iron badge with the year 1960 carved as his year of release. Savarkar made an application that his two sentences be run parallely. However, the application was rejected. In June 1911, he was taken to Madras via train. And on 27th June, S. S. Maharaja started for Port Blair in the Andamans.
 Veer Savarkar: Father of Hindu Nationalism, Jaywant Joglekar
 Intelligence and Imperial Defence, Richard J. Popplewell
 Savarkar and His Times, Dhananjay Keer
 The Permanent Court of Arbitration: International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution, P. Hamilton
 L’Humanite, 4th August 1910. Originally in French, translated by Ms. Anurupa Cinar. Courtesy: www.savarkar.org
 Policing Transnational Protest: Liberal Imperialism and the Surveillance of Anticolonialists in Europe, 1905–1945, Daniel Brückenhaus
 Justification and Excuse in International Law: Concept and Theory of General Defenses, Federica Paddeu
 The Savarkar Case (Great Britain, France), Reports of International Arbitral Awards: UN, Volume 11, pp. 243-255  L’Humanite, 25th February 1911. Originally in French, translated by Ms. Anurupa Cinar. Courtesy: www.savarkar.org
Featured Image: scroll