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The Other Savarkar: Little-Known Facts About RSS Cofounder Babarao

The RSS and its ideology dominate politics. But Babarao Savarkar, who helped set it up, has been largely forgotten.

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(This piece is being republished from The Quint’s archives on GD Savarkar’s death anniversary, it was originally published on 16 March 2017.)

Hindu nationalist and freedom fighter, Ganesh Damodar Savarkar, died on 16 March 1945.

While Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is hailed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a freedom fighter and a Hindu nationalist icon, his older sibling GD Savarkar – or Babarao Savarkar, as he was known – who helped set up the RSS, has slipped into obscurity.

On his 72nd death anniversary, here are a few, lesser-known facts about the life and times of Ganesh Damodar Savarkar:

The RSS and its ideology dominate politics. But Babarao Savarkar, who helped set it up, has been largely forgotten.
Ganesh Damodar alias Babarao Savarkar. (Photo Courtesy: Hindujagruti.org)
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Fanning an Armed Rebellion

Babarao Savarkar single-handedly brought up his two brothers and younger sister, after they lost their parents when he was 20 years old.

The RSS and its ideology dominate politics. But Babarao Savarkar, who helped set it up, has been largely forgotten.
(From left) VD Savarkar, Narayanrao Savarkar and Babarao Savarkar. (Photo Courtesy: Savarkar.org)

Babarao Savarkar distributed weapons among the Indian youth, in a bid to fan an armed rebellion against the British Raj. He also collected money in order to publish the biography of the Italian revolutionary Mazzini.

The RSS and its ideology dominate politics. But Babarao Savarkar, who helped set it up, has been largely forgotten.
VD Savarkar (seated) with Lata Mangeshkar. (Photo Courtesy: Savarkar.org)
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According to the website, Hindu Janajagruti, Babarao was one of the first to declare that "Hindustan is a Hindu nation".

Abhinav Bharat Society

The RSS and its ideology dominate politics. But Babarao Savarkar, who helped set it up, has been largely forgotten.
The office of the Abhinav Bharat Society. (Photo Courtesy: Savarkar.org)

Along with VD Savarkar, Babarao co-founded the revolutionary group, the Abhinav Bharat Society, in 1904.

Five years later, AMT Jackson, the district magistrate of Nashik, was assassinated by Anant Kanhare. The probe into the plot, which would later be known as the ‘Nasik Conspiracy Case’, uncovered the existence of the Abhinav Bharat Society and the role of the Savarkar brothers.

According to the Bombay High Court’s website: “Among these thirty-eight persons, one was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. From the evidence, it was clear that Savarkar (with his two brothers) was the brain, leader, and moving spirit of the conspiracy".

Both Babarao and VD Savarkar were jailed for their role in the assassination.

The RSS and its ideology dominate politics. But Babarao Savarkar, who helped set it up, has been largely forgotten.
(Photo Courtesy: BJP e-Library)

Also in 1909, a member of the society, Madan Lal Dhingra, gunned down Sir William Curzon-Wyllie, the political aide-de-camp to the Secretary of State for India, in London. Dhingra was hanged later that year.

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Babarao’s RSS & Its Alleged Links With Gandhiji’s Murder

Babarao Savarkar is considered to be one of the five founders of the RSS. This fact finds mention in senior journalist and Union Minister MJ Akbar’s book, India: The Siege Within.

On page 306 of the book, Akbar writes: "The five friends who started the RSS were Dr BS Moonje, Dr LV Paranjpe, Dr Tholkar, Babarao Savarkar and Dr Hedgewar himself."

The RSS and its ideology dominate politics. But Babarao Savarkar, who helped set it up, has been largely forgotten.
MJ Akbar’s India: The Siege Within names Babarao Savarkar as one of the co-founders of the RSS. (Photo: The Quint)

Although Babarao Savarkar died in 1945, some of his associates – most notably his brother VD Savarkar – were linked by the government to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. The RSS, which Babarao had co-founded, also came under the shadow of suspicion and was banned.

VD Savarkar was cleared of charges relating to Mahatma Gandhi’s killing during the trial. The ban on the RSS, too, was lifted in 1949.

In 1952, seven years after Babarao’s death, VD Savarkar disbanded the Abhinav Bharat Society.

(This article was first published on 16 March 2017. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Ganesh Damodar Savarkar’s death anniversary.)

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