Gandhi and Savarkar shared goal of independence, differed on means

Synopsis: How Gandhi and Savarkar shared similarities and dissimilarities for the same cause.


The Indian freedom struggle consisted of different ideologies and viewpoints, encompassing the right, left and centre. It was a broad socio-economic, cultural movement to shape the idea of India, besides politically freeing India.

There were reformists, revolutionaries, constitutionalists, loyalists, progressivists and even regressive personalities.

What are the parallels between Gandhi and Savarkar?

Religious identity: Both were conscious of their Hindu identity and were orthodox Hindus.

On language: Both advocated for Hindi as a common language for the unification of Bharat.

Social reformers: Both opposed untouchability. For instance, Savarkar was engaged in social reform project in Ratnagiri. He worked to uproot the caste system, advocated inter-caste dining, inter-caste and interregional marriages, widow remarriage, female education and temple entry for all castes.

Even Gandhiji was for reforming Hinduism from within and eradicating caste-based differences.

As authors: Both were authors and wrote extensively on contemporary political and social issues. Both wrote books in the same year, 1909. Gandhi’s “Hind Swaraj” and Savarkar’s The “Indian War for Independence” on the 1857 uprising.

Partition: Both were against the idea of dividing India.

What were the differences in their opinions?

State: Gandhi championed the cause of Ramrajya-an ideal state where equality and justice prevail. For Savarkar, it was the Hindu Rashtra in which anyone who is born in the motherland and loves his country is a Hindu irrespective of their religion.

For him, Hinduness was not sectarian or religious, but a cultural identity emanating from a shared history and bloodline.

Complete independence: Savarkar was unambiguous in his conception of independence — complete independence. Gandhi developed the idea of complete independence gradually. The resolution for complete independence moved in 1927 Madras session was even opposed by Gandhiji.

Uprising of 1857: Savarkar hailed 1857 as the first war of independence. Interestingly, Karl Marx also called this the first war of independence in his articles in the New York Tribune. Gandhi did not have any clear enunciation of the uprising of 1857.

Means vs Ends: For Gandhi, the end had to be justified through the means. Non-violence, Satyagraha, “changing the mind of the oppressor” was essential.

For Savarkar, the goal of complete and immediate independence was more important than the means.

On religious rituals: Gandhi was more assertive — he described himself as a Sanatani Hindu and cow worshipper.

Savarkar was more progressive in his approach — he was averse to the ritualistic aspects of the Hindu religion.

In conclusion, any freedom struggle has two aims. One is to achieve independence from colonialism; the other is seeding and nurturing the ideas and values on the basis of which nation-building is to be done. Irrespective of the differences, the two great personalities gave their contribution for the same purpose of “Bharat”.

Source: This post is based on the article “Gandhi and Savarkar shared goal of independence, differed on means” published in “Indian Express” on 18th October 2021.

Print Friendly and PDF