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Savarkar (1883–1966), Sedition and Surveillance: the rule of law in a colonial situation
Available online: 12 Feb 2010
To cite this article: Janaki Bakhle (2010): Savarkar (1883–1966), Sedition and Surveillance: the rule of law in a colonial situation, Social History, 35:1, 51-75 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03071020903542286
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Social History Vol. 35 No. 1 February 2010
Savarkar (1883–1966), Sedition and Surveillance: the rule of law in a colonial situation1
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INTRODUCTION On 20 July 1910, The (London) Times reported a daring escape attempt by a young Indian law student who was being extradited to India for trial on a charge of treason and abetment of murder. En route to India, the ship in which he was being transported docked in the port of Marseilles. He jumped out of an open porthole and swam to shore in the hope that he might be handed over to the French authorities. Apprehended as soon as he reached the shore, he was returned to the British detectives in charge of him. Had he been any other student, it is unlikely that he would have received much attention in Britain’s most prominent national newspaper, but he was no ordinary student. His name was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a young Indian nationalist, uncompromising in his conviction that armed struggle was the only way for India to free itself from British colonial rule. At the time of Savarkar’s arrest, the main voice of anti-colonial nationalism in India was that of the Indian National Congress (INC), founded in 1885.2 A moderate body in its early years, the mission of the INC was largely deﬁned by leaders such as G. K. Gokhale who worked with the British to achieve greater participation in affairs of state. However, a number of young Indian nationalists became increasingly impatient with the INC, which in 1907 divided into two factions. The factionalism concerned different approaches to the protest against the
1 I would like to thank Janet Blackman, Partha Chatterjee, Valentine Daniel, Mamadou Diouf, Nicholas Dirks, Saurabh Dube, Michael Hassett, Rashid Khalidi, Elizabeth Kolsky, Adam Kosto, Claudio Lomnitz, Mark Mazower, Mae Ngai, Keith Nield, Gyanendra Pandey, Susan Pedersen, Sheldon Pollock, Anupama Rao, Satadru Sen, Dorothea von Mucke and the reviewers of Social History for their critical comments and suggestions. 2 On the Indian National Congress, see N. R. Ray, Ravinder Kumar and M. N. Das, Concise
History of the Indian National Congress 1885–1947, ed. B. N. Pande (New Delhi, 1985). See also Richard Sisson and Stanley A. Wolpert (eds), Congress and Indian Nationalism: Pre Independence Phase (Berkeley, 1988); Edwin Hirschmann ‘White Mutiny’: The Ilbert Bill Crisis in India and Genesis of the Indian National Congress (New Delhi, 1980); and D. A. Low (ed.), Congress and the Raj: Facets of the Indian Struggle, 2nd edn (Oxford and New Delhi, 2004).
Social History ISSN 0307-1022 print/ISSN 1470-1200 online ª 2010 Taylor & Francis http://www.informaworld.com DOI: 10.1080/03071020903542286
op. Indian nationalist activity in London revolved around a ﬁgure named Shyam Krishnavarma. passim. Swadeshi Movement in Bengal. His afﬁliation with the extreme wing of Indian nationalism. 1 partition of Bengal in 1905 by Lord Curzon. Krishnavarma had founded a monthly called the Indian Sociologist which published critical essays about the colonial government in India. cit.. See also Dhananjay Keer. 35. not merely because it provided the historical backdrop for the spectacular emergence See Sumit Sarkar.52 Social History 3 vol. At the historical moment when J. the most important concerning the differential use of sedition law between the metropole and the colony. Mill’s On Liberty made it a citizen’s right to be critical of the government. A letter from India Ofﬁce. Savarkar was an undergraduate college student in India when the Swadeshi movement commenced. stated that the Director of Criminal Intelligence was in contact with Scotland Yard about the activities and movements of the students in India House. 6 See Arvind Godbole. Bengal’s partition was widely seen as a colonial attempt to divide and rule on communal grounds. Krishnavarma owned a house in Highgate – called ‘India House’ – which was turned into a mess-cum-hostel for Indian students studying in England. and spearheaded a nationwide agitation called the Swadeshi (self-rule) movement. agitated for the complete withdrawal of Britain from India. and Chitragupta. ‘Mitra Mela’ (‘Society of Friends’). many of whom were drawn to the activities of anarchists. 1926). Sareen.6 As a result. Veer Savarkar (Bombay.4 In 1905. Conﬁdential. and he had come to the attention of the nationalists with his ﬁery speeches against partition. Life of Barrister Savarkar (Madras. London. op. in particular chap. 35 : no. The Pune police in India had informed ofﬁcials in England of his arrival.5 These young revolutionaries were placed under intense surveillance and viewed by the British as extremely dangerous. Moderate nationalists in the INC favoured a regionally restricted peaceful protest. 37. following the Irish example and in the context of the partition of Bengal. no. 7 . 28–55. Ase Ahet SavarkarI (Pune. however. IOR/Home Political/A. and Russian and Italian nationalists. cit. 1903–1908 (New Delhi. 2. During those years. 1973). S. as they questioned the fundamental legitimacy of colonial rule. He had also started a secret society called the ‘Indian Home Rule Society’ which. 1979). See also Godbole. They were opposed by the ‘extremists’ who denounced partition in the strongest terms. when he arrived in England in 1906 to study for the bar at Gray’s Inn. in his home town of Nasik. 19. was apparent even earlier when as a high school student he had organized a secret revolutionary society. it also acquired a prominence it no longer had at home. This raised the issue that the real danger posed by revolutionaries lay in a violence that was far more rhetorical and symbolic than physical. Revolutionary nationalism is an important (and largely ignored) feature of Indian nationalist history. and when sedition law was increasingly unusable in Britain. R. Scotland Yard took over the surveillance. in the British colony of India sedition not only became the legal means by which anti-colonial nationalist conspiracies were prosecuted. and the use of dangerous words as evidence of conspiracy. Oriental and India Ofﬁce Collections (hereafter OIOC). he was a well-watched ﬁgure in the secret world of colonial surveillance. and as soon as he set foot in the UK. the Viceroy of India. on 10 September 1909. 20. It soon became a hotbed for young Indian revolutionaries. 3 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 British Library. 2005).7 This surveillance raises several questions. Whitehall. December 1909. 4 See T. 5 Keer. and to break the back of a revolutionary nationalism that had gathered momentum in the previous decade. Indian Revolutionary Movement Abroad (New Delhi. 1950).
nor anarchism or nihilism. ranging from Savarkar’s call for armed rebellion to Gandhian non-violent noncooperation. and leaders of so-called conspiracies had to be implicated primarily by proving that the conspiracy lay in the particular use of words. what we see is the emergence of sedition law as both the chief weapon of the colonial state and the offence with which generations of Indian nationalists would be charged.9 Leaders of conspiracies were rarely those who pulled a trigger. The connection between surveillance and sedition law reveals a great deal about the precision with which a case was developed against anti-colonial conspiracies. or lost eyes. the word itself became the evidence of a crime. or were duped by bogus European revolutionaries. Sedition as a criminal offence was introduced into the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1870 as the offence of ‘exciting disaffection’ against the colonial government. Seditious words were. of which Savarkar became the leading exponent.February 2010 Savarkar. It was Indian disaffection with colonial rule. To continue to believe such an argument is to mistake the symptom for the cause. but they could provoke others to do so through their words. had to worry about guns.. a propaganda apparatus that ensured a constant supply of fresh recruits to the cause. sedition – the incitement to disaffection – was much harder to control or contain. Both sets were placed under surveillance to monitor not just what they were doing. Sedition and Surveillance 53 of a nationalist movement based on Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience. I offer the following argument. 40–3. a developing technology of state control that placed an increasingly large number of young revolutionaries under systematic monitoring. But student revolutionaries were often amateurish and more often than not their planned attacks came to nothing. bombs and political assassinations. and nationalists such as Savarkar. of course. As a way of rethinking the causal relationship between sedition and terror in the Indian colonial context. For that reason. writing and speaking. 9 I am grateful to Partha Chatterjee for this insight. written by someone who knew him well during his London days. cit. While violent acts could be pre-empted and violent offenders could be put away. At the same time. op. the second and perhaps more important weapon of the colonial state in India was sedition law. The real terror was neither guns and bombs. in Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 8 See Chitragupta.8 What was far more of a threat was the seditious potential of revolutionary rhetoric. Chitragupta describes the numerous times when young revolutionaries blew off their own hands. but also what they were thinking. Here I will examine a prior question. focusing on how the colonial state’s response to revolutionary nationalism gave rise to two principal colonial weapons against all anti-colonial nationalism. Historians of Indian nationalism have usually argued that sedition law was introduced into the Indian Penal Code by the British as a way of warding off the threat posed by groups such as the Wahhabis. The colonial state. Sedition law in India was not put in place to avert terrorism. The possible connection between British colonialism and the speciﬁc brand of secular Hindu political fundamentalism Savarkar exempliﬁed is a critical question for colonial historiography. in effect. . Since control of dangerous words fell under the purview of sedition law. This is the earliest known biography of Savarkar. Related to this surveillance. Some of these revolutionaries were learning about guns and bombs while others were engaged in ﬁery nationalist rhetoric. student revolutionaries. The ﬁrst weapon was surveillance. Perhaps the most lasting legacy of revolutionary nationalism (and its successful suppression by the British) was a militant and masculinist Hindu nationalism.
except in a few cases pertaining to Irish agitators. including even the harbouring of negative feelings against colonial rule. 1967). 1 England. ‘The white terror in India’. which included abetment to murder. mystics. a diverse group comprising intellectuals. The spread of western attitudes among the small but growing middle class in urban colonial India only made matters more urgent. extending from bombs and political assassinations to discursive challenges in books and pamphlets. which was a left-driven criticism of English colonial sedition laws. this group reacted by turning away from the industrialized and mechanized materialism of the West and towards traditional Hindu religion and ethics. By the time Gandhi was tried for sedition in 1922. After the 1857 Rebellion. philosophers. wrote a proscribed pamphlet. Savarkar was less a skilled revolutionary warrior than a rhetorical revolutionary – i. August 1910. as in the case of revolutionary nationalism. The Extremist Challenge: India between 1890 and 1910 (Calcutta. To say this is by no means to ignore his gun-running or his romance with violent revolution. and Leonard Gordon. when they were not. for the colonial state. The Religious Roots of Indian Nationalism: Aurobindo’s Early Political Thought (Calcutta.e. His lasting impact on the Indian political scene had more to do with changing the terms and scale of the discourse of Indian history and. the British Raj as well. Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 Guy Aldred.11 The group’s ideology came to be known as ‘extremism’ by both the colonial regime and a moderate Indian nationalism. I argue here that the most important concerned the charge of sedition. by extension. and support for an Indian revolutionary nationalist. But of the charges Savarkar faced at the time of his arrest. sedition was both the signature colonial problem and the means by which most forms of anticolonial nationalism were checked. 11 . the parameters of this law became wider and wider. it became a key issue. treason and conspiracy.10 While sedition had a long history in Britain. In response to the diffusion and deepening of the colonial apparatus in India. See also David Johnson. Sedition not only seemed to gain a new lease on life under conditions of colonial occupation. and with each judicial interpretation and each trial of an anti-colonial nationalist. suppressed outright. the modern history of sedition was in fact inextricably linked to colonial rule. See OIOC/EPP/1/3 (Proscribed Publications in European Languages). and tool.54 Social History vol. The sole successful prosecution for sedition in Britain after 1896 involved a critique of British colonialism in India. 10 See Amles Tripathi. Sedition law was widely used in India to arrest and convict revolutionary nationalists. sedition had become a catch-all category encompassing all anti-colonial expression. It emerged from the anguished belief that despite India’s ancient culture and civilization her heirs had allowed themselves to be defeated by a foreign country with a far inferior civilization. for it highlighted some of the most salient colonial contradictions revolutionaries and revolutionary nationalism posed to the state. sedition as a criminal offence had become unusable in British common law. The anglicized and deracinated Indian became a ﬁgure of ridicule at the same time as the immediate withdrawal of the British from India was being advocated. an anarchist and communist. novelists. reformers and spiritual leaders from around the country cultivated a distinctly Hindu anti-colonial nationalist discourse that combined inward spiritual development with external political freedom. As the surveillance documents show. poets. a seditionist. 1974). 1974). 35 : no. Bengal: The Nationalist Movement 1876–1940 (New York. It is with this historical genealogy of colonial sedition that we return to Savarkar and his designation as a revolutionary nationalist. As a result.
For Aurobindo’s view of the triumvirate of Bankim. Devoid of any conviction that independence from British rule could be acquired by gentlemanly negotiation. 1. Legacy of the Lokamanya: The Political Philosophy of Bal Gangadhar (Bombay. 1956). and Dayananda Saraswati (1824–83) in Punjab were key ﬁgures. G. and from the more immediate historical past the courageous guerilla chieftain Chattrapati Shivaji. On Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya. Revolutionary nationalists combined what they had read about European nationalism. 2nd edn (Calcutta. F. Tilak (1856– 1920) in Maharashtra. G. While each such strand differed in its approach to Hinduism. This potent mixture of Hindu devoutness. anarchism and nihilism with a Sanskritic concept of duty (dharma) taken from a section of the Mahabharata called the Bhagavad Gita. chap. Inﬂuential and stirring as it was. who rebelled against the might of the Mughal Empire. The extremist wing of the INC dissented sharply from what they saw as a far too moderate criticism of colonialism. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (Minneapolis. The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India (New Delhi. History of the Arya Samaj: An Account of Its Origin. Bipin Chandra Pal (1858–1932) from Bengal and B. From its founding in 1885. 1967). Doctrines. V. T. 14 The INC extremists were led by Lala Lajpat Rai (1865–1928) from Punjab.13 To this mix they added the ﬁgure of India as a chained and captive mother beseeching her sons to rescue her. see J. and Theodore Shay. they chose instead guns. When Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915.14 The tension between moderate and revolutionary nationalism was resolved only when Gandhi ﬁnally assumed control over the nationalist movement.February 2010 Savarkar. 1978) and Shri Ram Sharma (ed. G. Lokmanya Tilak (New Delhi. 13 See Sudipta Kaviraj. 1995). all of them rejected the idea of the Victorian civilizing mission. 1956). Sedition and Surveillance 12 55 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 Extremist thought in colonial India had several regionally distinct genealogies. 1947). and Activities. the nationalist milieu was very different from what it had been either during the last quarter of the nineteenth century or the ﬁrst decade of the twentieth. nationalist duty and anarcho-terrorist tactics made up Indian revolutionary nationalism. Stanley Wolpert. G. Gandhi would pursue a different model of popular mobilization than that of either the parliamentarian The poet and novelist Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya (1838–94) and the philosopher Swami Dayananda (1863–1902) in Bengal. Tilak and Saraswati. and physical and emotional strength. Dayananda Saraswati: 12 His Life and Ideas (Delhi.). the Indian National Congress (INC) bore a different agenda than that imagined by the extremists. social and legal – could be derived. with a Biographical Sketch of the Founder by Lajpat Rai (Bombay. and it was the INC that became the dominant mouthpiece of nationalism in India. S. Tilak (1856–1920) in western India. Tilak and Gokhale: Revolution and Reform in the Making of Modern India (New Delhi. . using instead an idealized ancient (if also modern) Hindu India as the source for imagining a different future. Tilak. On Dayananda Saraswati. Indian rejuvenation was conceptualized in the language of vitality. Tilak and Dayananda Saraswati. and they laboured to move the INC in a different direction. see Ram Gopal. Jordens. neither extremism as an ideology nor revolutionary nationalism as a tactic became the dominant mode of Indian nationalism. or the divine teacher of duty (Krishna from the Mahabharata). and the texts (and languages) used as the source of an argument. Chiplunkar (1850–82) and B. such as the exiled leader (King Rama from the ancient Sanskrit epic Ramayana). Many young men across the country were inspired by such a vision. Extremists – paciﬁst and militant – idealized an ancient Indian polis as the source from which all modern Indian political conceptions – ethical. They used inspirational ﬁgures from India’s literary past. see Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya. the means by which to attain independence. bombs and political assassination as the means by which to convince the British to leave. see Partha Chatterjee. 1995). on B. B. 1961).
Napoleon Bonaparte and. Indeed. In this sense the Mitra Mela was a consciousness-raising society. and that he alone was born to lead. and history could only be the history of a nation. In 1899. His older brother Ganesh (Babarao) married a young woman named Yashoda Phadke. As a political act. in part because he realized it would be more difﬁcult for the British to suppress a movement based on nonviolence.19 In Savarkar’s memoirs. R. 18 17 . There are few original documents concerning this society because the members destroyed them all to prevent them falling into the hands of the British.56 Social History vol. and using these festivals to rouse people to anticolonial sentiment. Nevertheless. this vision was far more threatening than his romance with weapons of individual destruction. 140–5. 122–5. even among villagers. Savarkar recounts. vol. 1 moderates or the revolutionary nationalists (to whom he was opposed). 15 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 SSV. along the way. these early days of political activism are described in a manner that makes clear that he believed he could single-handedly change the direction of Indian history. 1970). He had the foresight to persuade other members of the Mitra Mela to eschew liberal politics.18 The society met in the attic of a friend’s house in Nasik. hereafter SSV. 35 : no. holding more lectures than anything else. both his father and his uncle succumbed to the plague which had moved into Bhagur. but not by reading only the canonical western writers. Bharatiya Swatantryache Ranazhunzhaar: Abhinava Bharat Smarak Chitraprabodhini (Pune. His populist agenda was to produce through such an education a speciﬁcally Indian nationalist and historical consciousness. Savarkar was aware of the need to have the concept of history become all-important to everyday people. 1. and she all but raised Savarkar and his younger brother (Narayan). He insisted that members read works dealing with major historical ﬁgures. 19 SSV.16 Savarkar and a couple of his friends founded a secret society called ‘Rashtrabhakta Samuha’ (‘Patriots’ Society’) in 1899 which became the ‘Mitra Mela’ (‘Society of Friends’) a year later (1901). op. 16 Wolpert. Date. vol.17 It was as the Mitra Mela that the society came to the attention of the police. 20 ibid. cit. Education was the means by which to radicalize society. 1. 2000). could only be waged by turning history and historical words into a weapon. study a little bit of Spencer and Mill. his mother died of cholera.. 1 of Samagra Savarkar Vangmaya (Bombay. into a middling Brahmin family in what is today the modern Indian western state of Maharashtra in a small village (Bhagur) near the city of Nasik. and its main activities consisted of organizing public festivals in opposition to the ban on organizations. 1957) as well as Savarkar’s memoirs in Marathi to compile this brief sketch of his life. 28–9. Politics. THE CASE OF SAVARKAR Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born on 27 May 1883. But before him. the British would use against him some of the very tactics they had developed – both legal and extra-legal – in their programme against the early revolutionary nationalists of the ﬁrst decade of the twentieth century. they had to deal with Savarkar. See S. Garibaldi. in particular vol. biographies of Mazzini. The plague years (1896–9) were tough years for the Deccan and they were made worse by insensitive colonial actions.15 When he was nine years old. they would treat Gandhi as if he were the worst terrorist of them all.20 The late nineteenth century in Maharashtra was a time in which there were active debates about history. the role it played in the life of a nation and its use as a corrective to colonial I have used Dhananjay Keer’s Veer Savarkar (Bombay.
organizing weekly lectures on nationalism. i.. part II. Henry Mead. VII. 3 (1976). 3. 3 (History). in order to make his powerful argument that ‘the nation ought to be the master and not the slave of its own history’. ‘Is it possible?’ he asked. vol. Meadows Taylor and George Trevelyan. After leaving college. op. By the end of the year he had started a secret. 193–208. K. cit. he translated Mazzini’s biography into Marathi. 2 (1973). In 1901 Savarkar married. and Richard Tucker. most of which were educational and literary. Chiplunkar. especially the Boers. The ﬁftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the 1857 Rebellion. something he said that English writers were too prejudiced to accept. 22 23 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 Keer. As a student activist. Reprinted in SSV. Almost as soon as he arrived. Savarkar wrote patriotic poetry as a high school student. No stranger to these debates. 24 Author’s introduction. 321–48. Within six months of his arrival. both Hindu and Muslim. He wrote short descriptions of political and social life in London which he sent to the Marathi magazine Kaal. 3 (History). Sedition and Surveillance 21 57 denigrations of India’s past. I am citing here page numbers only from the original English translation of the book. In response. using English primary sources precisely to highlight the ideological biases in the imperial perspective on the subject. He studied the writings of international anarchists and anti-colonial nationalists. revolutionary society called the ‘Abhinava Bharat’ society. he argued that the revolt of 1857 had reﬂected the uniﬁed (Hindu and Muslim) nationalist desire of India to free itself from the oppressive yoke of British rule. 10 May 1907. X. Savarkar wrote editorials for a Bombay weekly called Vihari. vol. Savarkar wrote and distributed a ﬁercely patriotic leaﬂet. chap. he organized the ﬁrst bonﬁre of foreign cloth in 1905. The list of authors whose books he consulted included Alexander Duff. was observed in London as a day of thanksgiving in honour of the ﬁnal British victory over the rebels. 1909). 24. The entire text in Marathi can be found in SSV. 25 ibid. .23 Over the next two years (1908–9). It was the ﬁrst systematic analysis of the Rebellion as a failed war of national independence. and the social controversies of the late nineteenth century in Pune involving caste and gender. ‘Oh Martyrs!’ commemorating the leaders of the rebellion as Indian martyrs which attracted police attention both in India and in England. Modern Asian Studies.. Kaye and Malleson (all six volumes of their canonic history). the economic motives of 21 See Prachi Deshpande. ‘Hindu traditionalism and nationalist ideologies in nineteenth-century Maharashtra’. extolling the ﬁgure of mother India. He argued that a nationalist ideology was the motivating factor behind the 1857 Rebellion. Savarkar completed his own monumental history of the 1857 Rebellion. ‘Can any sane man maintain that all embracing Revolution could have taken place without a principle to move it? Could that vast tidal wave from Peshawar to Calcutta have risen in blood without a ﬁxed intention of throwing something by means of its force?’25 Savarkar proceeded to discount all the usual colonial arguments about the causes of 1857: the greased cartridge. 2007).22 In 1906 he left for London to study law at the Inns of Court. Attuned to nationalism as a historical force around the globe.24 The 484-page book contained detailed accounts of historical events such as the Siege of Delhi. as well as analytical descriptions of many of the Rebellion’s leaders. He wrote his work in Marathi. part II. he embroiled himself in various anti-colonial nationalist activities. See also Mahadev Apte ‘Lokahitavadi and V. Creative Past: Historical Memory and Identity in Western India. the following year he went to Ferguson College in Pune. The Indian War of Independence (London. Modern Asia Studies. spokesmen of change in nineteenth-century Maharashtra’. 1. 1700–1960 (New York. among others.February 2010 Savarkar.
by turning the argument around as he did. I am grateful to Dorothea von Mucke for this insight. 46. The book did not call for widespread revolution or for anarchist violence. he was almost ignoring or 26 27 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 ibid.58 26 Social History vol. 76. In his rewriting of the history of 1857. In chapter after chapter. The addressee of his book was the Indian nation. Works of history have not. demonstrated that she could be uniﬁed once again in her struggle against foreign rule. 1857 was an example of native ingratitude for the beneﬁcence of colonial rule. 5.. Its true political potential lay not in its inaccuracies or passionate rhetoric. or the fact that it would stir the natives to action. But in another sense. His semantic transvaluation would alter the terms of Indian historical discourse once and for all. He not only reconceptualized the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ of 1857 as an Indian national (uniﬁed) and nationalist (ideological) rebellion. The hermeneutic innovation of his 1857 book was to broadcast the importance of history for the nationalist expectations of its readers. 73. as he recognized it had done for England. 7. having skewered English scholars for their unacknowledged nationalism. He identiﬁed the ideological underpinning of English accounts of 1857 as British nationalism. He castigated English writers for not acknowledging the nationalism of their scholarship. he asserted that India had always been a nation and that the events of 1857.. he was going to pay them back in kind by setting in motion an Indian nationalist rewriting of both British and Indian history. for being ﬁlled with contempt ‘for the Hindu and Muslim faiths – the two principal religions of India’. the Rebellion’s eventual failure notwithstanding. He called English historians to task for not recognizing Indian nationalism even when a rebellion confronted them as evidence. He was going to do the same for India. by and large. as he also put it. In a crucial sense. By exploding the scale of the argument. In one sense. ibid. he did so in the most extreme historical detail over close to 500 pages. 47. In the dominant English historiography of the time. Savarkar intended to give India a history of her own. Savarkar not only took on the big guns of English historical authorship but also a popular English understanding of the event. 35 : no. 5. He also indicted the British for conspiring to ‘trample the Hindu religion and the Muslim faith’ or. The successful suppression of the Rebellion was also claimed in several pulpits across England as an instance of God’s grace shining on the British Empire. Savarkar had added another entry to an already long list of publications. restricted to a small section of the army which spread irrationally in a limited part of the country. but because it lacked a clear sense of the future. Finally. In his Introduction to the book he made clear that ‘history’ did important work for a nation and a national community. to change the subject of history from the colonial state to a national state. writing a work of linear history using English language sources was the perfect example of the success of the civilizing mission. 28 . Instead.28 Savarkar was claiming that Indians were not and had never been an infantilized population that needed shepherding into the modern world by their British overlords. the annexation of Oudh. he was also the proverbial asp in the bosom. he noted that 1857 had ushered in a new era – in particular the end in perpetuity of Hindu–Muslim enmity – and he imagined a future for India with two distinct religious communities bound together in an unshakeable unity. ever had much autonomous success in fomenting revolution against the state. He challenged the diminishing of the Rebellion as a contained and containable mutiny. he wrote. chap. With the authorship of the book about 1857.27 The Rebellion failed not for lack of planning. 50. 1 the elite.
poetry. While in London he started a periodical called Tarvaar (‘Sword’) and wrote nationalist editorials in it. Savarkar and other members of India House were already under surveillance. Kanhere implicated. however.31 When caught. Koregaonkar. might more accurately be termed a literary ﬁgure rather than a revolutionary in the classic sense of the term. satires and pamphlets. along with a few pistols for political assassinations. One of those pistols was used by seventeen-year-old Anant Kanhere to assassinate a colonial ofﬁcial in Nasik. 1. 31. Koregaonkar names himself and a W. and how easily Anant Kanhere. Phadke as the two translators of Savarkar’s book. is the attention the members of India House paid to a work of history. turned informant for the government. and while he had grandiose plans.. novels. 31 . Savarkar. This is conﬁrmed by Keer. he could not provide much detail about where guns were to be acquired or how bombs were to be placed. Switzerland and Germany for military training. What stands out. He was able to provide some information about Madanlal Dhingra’s plans to assassinate an English ofﬁcial. He did. being only seventeen. a polemicist. In his statement to the police. Savarkar’s friends at India House translated the manuscript into English and in deﬁance of the ban used their contacts in Germany to have it published in 1909. whether in India or in England. Savarkar’s younger brother was also arrested in connection with a different conspiracy case in the same year.29 In the same year. Bhat. V. Foreign Conﬁdential. Savarkar’s actual revolutionary acts were signiﬁcant. op. 30 SSV. from Koregaonkar’s statement to the police we get the sense of a romantic revolutionary but also a rhetorician. But very little in his statement was new to the police. make copies of bomb manuals which he sent to India. Sedition and Surveillance 59 bypassing the British altogether and appealing directly to the national community he knew was buried in there. In the absence of other information about Savarkar’s activities. Marathi devotional works and modern writings in Europe on the subject of nationalism. 1950) for a candid account about the revolutionaries and their activities. As a result. 1910. prose. Savakar’s older brother and some family friends were arrested and sentenced to transportation for life in the Andaman Islands. one of his two trusted translators. As it turned out. plays. He despatched a few friends from India House to Paris to learn about bomb-making. who was also a member of India House. both of Savarkar’s brothers were arrested. a voracious reader of a vast range of literature from the Iliad and Odyssey to Sanskrit epic literature and commentaries. the Savarkar family. however. as well as contributing to Irish periodicals about Home Rule. vol. among others. cit. somewhere underneath colonial rule.30 Over the course of his life he wrote editorials. and about the translation and distribution of Savarkar’s 1857 book. In his statement. For this reason. M. speeches. a speech-maker and an historian. but not nearly as widespread or as successful as colonial ofﬁcials or subsequent hagiographers have made them out to be. Back in England. It was only a matter of time before Savarkar was brought under control. 144–6. Despite the close Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 OIOC. R/1/1/1076. however. as Koregaonkar’s statement suggests. while he notes the desire on the part of India House members to spread revolution all through India. gave up all members of the group. was his writing. Small wonder that the manuscript of this book was sent to Scotland Yard by an informant and the work was banned before it was even published. Abhinava Bharat athava Krantikarakanchi Krantikarak Gupta Sanstha (Mumbai. but for what exactly? So far the mainstay of his revolutionary activity.February 2010 Savarkar. for sending India House members to Belgium. 29 See V. they never materialized.
Savarkar was certainly not the only Indian nationalist to advocate violent resistance to the colonial state by means of political assassinations and ﬁery rhetoric. there were at least three informants – H. his literary output and consequent ideological reach were much more dangerous. as was Sukhsagar Dutt. which was approved because ‘it gave him better opportunities of mixing with the Indians and getting information. Aiyar (New Delhi. The ﬁrst was letters he had received or written. for my argument. While four rather weighty charges including treason and conspiring against the government of the king were laid before Savarkar. 1912). if those were the activities that alarmed the colonial government it could have arrested him at any point during their ﬁve-year surveillance. and not making sensational statements in order to magnify his usefulness’. Sir Curzon Wyllie. 1. V. Dutt wanted to take a science course. His passage. included surveillance documents and the testimony of informants. C.32 What is far more apparent was that he could inspire others. truthfully. and publications such as bombmaking manuals. The second. S. My intention here is neither to downplay Savarkar’s role in revolutionary terrorism nor to trivialize political assassinations. it is not clear that he even knew how to ﬁre a gun. fees for admission to the bar and the price of law books were all provided. New Delhi). He claims he turned informant to pay off his family debt. . A. Sukhsagar Dutt was the nom de plume of Sajani Ranjan Banerjea. 1980) for a biographical account of the surveillance on India House. and in the building of the case against him it was the words themselves that became the evidence of a conspiracy. Although he wrote with great passion against the disarmament of India. even when in the name of anti-colonial nationalism. Madanlal Dhingra. mainly to and from family members. no. in July 1909. His expenses and education was paid for by Scotland Yard (OIOC/IOR/L/ PS/8/67. Yet the colonial government did not simply arrest him for attempted violence. and there is little reason to suspect that Savarkar was anything more than an amateur in his bomb-making proﬁciency and his ability to acquire guns. P. as was a monthly allowance of £20 for the 45 months of his employment. 34 Home Political/Branch A/December 1909. Even more importantly. See also R. tanks and even submarines. Koregaonkar. to pick up guns and bombs. through his words. Conﬁdential (National Archives. Even as Savarkar was engaged in reading or smuggling bomb-making manuals and guns into India.60 Social History vol. 35 : no. V. one of the members of India House. evidence was gathered from two main sources. In India House. 37. Sukhsagar Dutt and Kirtikar – who were spies for the English authorities. He reported to a Superintendent Quinn on the ‘seditionist movement’ and was deemed very useful because he was assessed as having ‘the great merit of reporting. the charge that sticks out is that of sedition. and had a naive romance with guns. 210. who was engaged by the Director of Criminal Intelligence as an informant from October 1909 until June 1913. vol. The sedition for which he was arrested 32 33 SSV.34 The placement of these agents suggests that Savarkar was inserted into a complex web of surveillance whose span extended to Europe and India as well as England. and the science course is one that appeals to Indians with extremist tendencies’ (my emphasis). Savarkar knew about one. suspected another. but Tirumalachari was also under surveillance. It was a web of surveillance from which he was never to escape. 32. Tirumalachari) to convey misinformation to Scotland Yard.33 Savarkar attempted to place his own double agent (M. assassinated a British MP. 31. But it is important to put Savarkar’s real political role in revolutionary terrorism into a larger perspective. but it was the third who gave him up. 1 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 scrutiny. Padmanabhan. To arrest Savarkar. and more important.
Indeed. 157.35 The next note is in 1902. 38 Godbole. and unlike other fulminations we are accustomed to here’. 24. It might be possible to take some action in England to stop the printing of these pamphlets.. when it was reported that he had written ‘a rather objectionable essay on ‘‘Why festivals of Historical persons should be celebrated’’’. D. the Home Department in India noted that it was quite possible that the leaﬂet had been written in England because ‘[t]he phraseology is better than usual. Savarkar. 8. 41 ibid. Two days later. on 8 June 1908. Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 1908 1908 . 37 Home Political/Deposit/December (National Archives.40 On 15 June 1908. 39 Home Political/Deposit/December (National Archives. C. The type of the leaﬂet is similar to that of the Indian Sociologist. Savarkar distributed his leaﬂet. it was noted. in which the author notes that there was always a Scotland Yard policeman hanging about on the street outside India House. . J. New Delhi). op. The revolution would be preceded by ‘a reign of terror inaugurated by the assassination of high Government ofﬁcials.’39 The Indian Sociologist was the mouthpiece of Shyam Krishnavarma and the India House group in London. 40 ibid. New Delhi). SURVEILLANCE The ﬁrst indication of Savarkar’s activities from the police history sheet on him concerns an anti-colonial speech he made at Fergusson College during his ﬁrst year there (1901).38 Less than a month later. see Y. Phadke. Sedition and Surveillance 61 took place four years earlier.37 On 10 May 1908. Shodh Savarkarancha (Bombay. Scotland Yard was alerted. 36 For the surveillance game that Savarkar played with the colonial police. When Savarkar left for London. where and by whom it was published.. ‘possessed neither religious nor moral scruples and was a ﬂuent and ﬁery speaker’. 1935). 1984). Savarkar’s surveillance shows us the emphasis the colonial police placed on his long history of writings rather than his short history of gun-running. See also David Garnet. . The ‘reign of terror’ about which the colonial government was concerned never happened.36 The correspondence between various colonial policemen and ofﬁcials from the Home Political File of the year 1908 reveals the extent of their surveillance. 8 June 1908. it was claimed that ‘Vinayek advocated the speedy emancipation of India from British control by the direct method of revolution’ and took for its model ‘the secret organizations of the Russian Nihilist’. The Police Commissioner’s ofﬁce 35 Savarkar Police History Sheet (Calcutta. The Golden Echo (London. The unspoken fear in all the surveillance documents is that sedition and its effects were the real threat the colonial police had to contain.’41 The local and central Police Departments were in on the act as well. ‘By the Lieutenant Governor’s direction I send you in original a copy of the pamphlet which was received from England..February 2010 Savarkar. . 1953). European and Indian’. cit. Everything about this essay was noted. Furthermore. when Savarkar was a college student in Pune – not for anything he wrote or said in London. in large part because of how well the terrorists were monitored. June 1908. the Home Department received a conﬁdential letter from the government of UP. and by which Government Order it was proscribed. Stevenson-Moore of Criminal Intelligence wrote that ‘Home Department should see the leaﬂet ‘‘Oh Martyrs’’ which apostrophizes the mutineers of 1857 and prophesies a revolution in 1917. and to illustrate this I turn now to the story of the surveillance of Savarkar. ‘Oh Martyrs!’ in India House to an assembled gathering.
’45 Excerpts from this essay had been cited as evidence in the full text of Savarkar’s trial judgment. Evidently it is a copy of the same to which his Honour referred in his speech on the political situation. however. Madan Mohan Malaviya. ‘Apart from the offences he is at present charged with. These were dangerous words indeed. that he advocated a deﬁant stand being made by the extremists should Government prevent the holding of the Congress at Nagpur in December last. W. who would emerge as the leader of the Hindu nationalist party. 42 Home Department/Political/60-A. and as I thought it was not necessary to send it to Government as the contents of it are already known to them. saying: ‘Nothing has been discovered which throws any light on the book we are searching for..’42 In June 1908. he noted: ‘Vinayak has repeatedly asked his brother to send him the Bande Mataram essay.46 On the basis of a letter asking for an essay. wrote to the District Magistrate. See also Keer. In March 1909. take immediate action. referred to in the attached copy of the Panchnama. during which time the government carefully. but even some nationalists who were willing to turn him in for his writings. 1 noted that an ‘Inspector Favel has returned from Nasik and brought with him the papers etc. Hose: I enclose a most seditious leaﬂet which I received yesterday with the English mail. developed its case. Referring to translations of eight of Savarkar’s letters to his brother. 43 ibid. op. 35 : no. New Delhi). 44 Home Department/Political/60-A.44 The web of surveillance around Savarkar included not just local and international police. in Allahabad. He wrote to J. it was considered legal to have his domicile in England searched. Madan Mohan Malaviya made no mention of Savarkar’s violent activities. S3 (National Archives. 65. 46 ibid. the correspondence seized in his house after his arrest fairly indicates that he has been conspiring with others to subvert British rule in India. 173 have been kept here in the custody of the Nasik police and two brought to Bombay. 45 Home Department/Political/60-A. New Delhi). 23 August 1908 (National Archives. The government did not. sent warning of the pamphlet to the UP government. I was going to tear and throw it away as I did not wish that it should fall into the hands of any person. S21 (National Archives.62 Social History vol. Savarkar’s home town. whose address is India House London thoroughly searched for incriminating documents in English and Marathi’.’ The letter went on to state about Ganesh Damodar Savarkar that.’ But the police were after more than this.’ From all this. and stealthily. New Delhi).43 Two months later. only of his seditious leaﬂet. Savarkar was not arrested for another two years. so that the Government may take such further steps as it may deem proper to prevent the circulation of such poisonous matter. the family home was searched for suspicious literature. He wrote further that ‘VDS is a well-known rank extremist and it will be observed from one of his letters to Ganesh. the suggestion was made that ‘Govt may be moved to ask the Home authorities to have the belongings of VDS. Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 . But it struck me that I should yet inform you that this incendiary leaﬂet is still being mailed out to this country. 175 (written out) copies of the life of Marzani were seized in the search. cit. the District Superintendent of Police in Nasik. They reported disappointment about not ﬁnding anything about Savarkar’s 1857 book. 1908–9. Savarkar’s brother was arrested on the charge of waging war against the king and sedition.
1910 (National Archives.. Perhaps it is worthwhile having this considered and orders issued?’54 The government was considering whether the sweep of sedition law could be extended to the possession of a book. op. The tangible evidence the colonial government had against him was his own words in a leaﬂet. 1909–22 (National Archives. 1 (National Archives. Home Department/Special/60-A. Sea Customs Ofﬁcers.49 Savarkar was in England under close watch. it was pointed out.51 The matter was referred to the Director of Criminal Intelligence. 53 See Godbole. as Koregaonkar would reveal in his role as informant. New Delhi). Stevenson-Moore. and of founding a secret society. 23. 58.53 Towards the end of the year.52 As it turned out. New Delhi). 29 (National Archives. 11. no. C. 48 47 51 Home Political/A. paper. back in India. 5. a memorandum was circulated on the anti-British agitation among the natives of India in England. But even if the colonial government was going to use the Sea Customs Act. while his other brother (Narayan Damodar Savarkar) was under surveillance. nos 23–7 (National Archives. Could letters showing his connection to his brother sufﬁce? Or would the fact that he distributed seditious leaﬂets work?48 While the government had clear evidence to justify arresting his brother – including bomb-making manuals – so far Savarkar was only guilty of association with his brother.47 We also know that there were three moles in India House. ﬁgure or article is prohibited. no. 55. 54 Home Department/Political/60-B. and the Deputy Inspector General of Police. See correspondence between the DIG Police (Mr Guider) and the Director of Criminal Intelligence on the question of the legal justiﬁcation for Savarkar’s arrest. August 1909. A proposal was made that they add the term ‘seditious’ after the word ‘obscene’ so that the terms of the Act would now read: ‘By section 18(c) of the Sea Customs Act the bringing into British India of any obscene and seditious book. they needed to amend it.’55 However. New Delhi). worked to put a case together that would force Savarkar’s extradition from England. J. cit. a pamphlet and a book. 153. A telegram from the Bombay government proposed banning the book under the terms of the Sea Customs Act. doubtless wondering about how to make more indictments. In July 1909. New Delhi). who agreed that it was a good idea even though he didn’t believe the ‘London Extremists’ were doing very much with the book.February 2010 Savarkar. ‘whether a prosecution for sedition would stand in the case of a man in whose box a copy of the book might be found on landing in Bombay. the Director of Criminal Intelligence. the Bombay government was working out the details: ‘I think that the Customs might be warned to test for fake bottoms in the boxes of Indian students returning from Europe’ and.50 But what was blinking quite conspicuously on the colonial radar screen was Savarkar’s book on the 1857 Mutiny. painting. op. 52 ibid. 19 (National Archives. In addition. 50 Home Political/Deposit/October 1909. 55 Home Political/Deposit/May 1910. cit. New Delhi). could not possibly adjudicate about what was and what was not ‘seditious’. one of his brothers (Ganesh Damodar Savarkar) had been sentenced to transportation for life in the Andamans. 19. and the discussion moved to passing a Garnet. Sedition and Surveillance 63 We know from David Garnet’s ﬁrst-hand account of being grilled by Scotland Yard that there were always watchers around India House. New Delhi). Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 . 49 Home Political/Deposit/July 1909. pamphlet.. no. drawing. The subject of discussion was how to justify his arrest and whether the evidence was strong enough to do so. representation. they were busy translating the work into English and arranging for its international distribution.
If the Indian Ofﬁce laid this information before the proper authorities. All telegrams containing any reference to Savarkar were scrutinized for any clues about his movements or plans. or to or from Bombay. in whose possession was found a voluminous typed document giving detailed instructions as to the manufacture and use of bombs. New Delhi). The colonial authorities in India were keen to arrest him and took pains to alert the authorities in England about their wishes. . their hesitation should give way to decision presuming the student in question is Savarkar. and it was noted in the police history sheet that ‘In 1909. stating that the Benchers have postponed the call to the bar of VDS and Harnam Singh (National Archives. 1935). 57 Home Department/1909/Telegrams 135. We know that Savarkar has been manager of the India House and also that he has had some examination before him. 1 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 new Press Act. Savarkar’s book might well have occasioned the passing of a new Press Act in 1910. there was little about its distribution that seems to have been unknown to the police. but to prevent him from speaking or writing ever again. In light of these events. all that the British authorities had to do was correctly to identify Savarkar as the author of a ‘violent essay’. besides the draft of a most violent essay in praise of various Bengal murderers.64 Social History vol. The Press Act in India was designed to monitor local newspapers to ensure nothing critical of the British government was printed. and the effect would be excellent. It occurs to me that it might be worth while writing to the India Ofﬁce to tell them that you have papers showing a close connection between Savarkar and his brother who has now been committed for trial on charges of waging war and sedition. Savarkar’s book was carefully watched as it made its way across Europe and then on to India. no. Telegram to Secretary of State. And it was not just setting out to arrest Savarkar. Telegram 136 from Secretary of State. New Delhi).57 They postponed his call to the bar and. 58 Home Political/Deposit.58 In other words. All telegrams arriving from or despatched to Europe. the Benchers at the Inns of Court were planning to prevent Savarkar from getting his law degree. Vinayek published an English translation of ‘‘The Indian War of Independence of 1857’’ and printed 3000’ copies but that it received a small circulation owing to its prohibition under the Sea Customs Act. What emerges from the historical record is a world of extreme secrecy. between 13 December 1909 and 13 January 1910. of cat and mouse intrigue. informants and double agents. 12. Once that was done. 35 : no. Alongside the banning of his book and the monitoring of his work. the colonial authorities even stripped him of his bachelor’s degree. The banning of the book by using the Sea Customs Act appears to have been successful. moles. For all that Savarkar’s friends were trying to camouﬂage the book.56 The 1857 book remained banned until two years after Indian independence. May 1910. regarding VDS. responsibility for his surveillance moved back and forth from Bombay to London. 15 May 1909. once he was arrested. The colonial government was like a patient if somewhat disconcerted bird of prey setting a trap. ‘which contain or are suspected to 56 Savarkar Police History Sheet (Calcutta. his relationship to his brother was enough to suspect him. 1 (National Archives. From the moment Savarkar set foot on English soil.
62 On the basis of these speeches. As soon as Savarkar returned to London from Paris. but written in a mildly confessional tone for harbouring some initial (and short-lived) sympathy for the Indian nationalist cause. New Delhi). 61 . Get Orders for Director General of Telegraphs instruct cable companies for scrutiny by Vincent of wires sent last 30 days and for retention of any suspicious. To this end. who would go on to become a novelist and member of the famed Bloomsbury Group. 62 Garnet. the only crime the colonial authorities could come up with was the charge of sedition based on speeches he had made as a college student in Pune.59 It was noted that ‘Bombay at last sanctioned Savarkar’s case. only charging him four years later while he was in England.’61 But why the Fugitive Offenders Act (FOA)? On what grounds could he be considered a fugitive? We shall come to this presently. Garnet recalled that. David Garnet. 60 Home Department/Political/1910. At the same time. cit. He had arrived like any other Indian student. dated Nasik. was condescending in its descriptions of Indians. ‘Director of Criminal Intelligence should see after issue with as little delay as possible.’60 Finally the trap was sprung. no. to study law. Telegram nos 31–2 (National Archives. but he left for Paris sixth. became friends with members of India House. he was arrested as a fugitive. But the colonial government in India did not do so. New Delhi). the Bombay government issued a telegraphic warrant for his arrest under the FOA of 1881. D. yet it was important for the colonial authorities to use the FOA and try Savarkar for sedition in India. given the severity of sedition law in India. The FOA presumed that the suspect in question had been guilty of a crime and had ﬂed to evade arrest. eventually alighting on speeches Savarkar had made four years earlier. At the time. Notes of the Criminal Intelligence Ofﬁce. 13 January 1910 (National Archives. for two reasons. He had not been previously charged with a crime. including delivering seditious speeches in India from January to March 1906 and in London from 1908 to Home Political/A/ February 1910. The Golden Echo. I believe he intends to discuss with the Bombay authorities the possibility of framing a charge under section 121-A against V. Savarkar shall be disclosed to the Deputy Commissioner of Police. May 1910. Sedition as a criminal offence was all but obsolete in British common law at the time. Sedition and Surveillance 65 contain references to the movements or plans of V. or ﬂed either India or England. evidence of crimes committed’. 153. the authorities needed to ‘dig up or manufacture. His memoir. Bombay’. And so Savarkar was apprehended as a fugitive and arrested on ﬁve charges. 59 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 Home Political/Deposit.. A young English student. and it would have been much more difﬁcult to secure a conviction in London. op. Savarkar was still in London when Anant Kanhere assassinated the collector of Nasik. a conviction was much more likely to yield a harsh sentence. D. had his sedition seemed dangerous. Yet the only way he could have been extradited to India was to produce charges of an unresolved crime in India.February 2010 Savarkar. Savarkar and obtaining his surrender under the Fugitive Offenders Act. it was not as a fugitive. Telegram from the Director. But when Savarkar came to England as a student. 1 (National Archives. Sedition was one thing in metropolitan England and quite another in colonial India. New Delhi). or evaded arrest. on 13 March 1910. to try him in India. Savarkar was under surveillance and could easily have been charged and arrested there. It also provides ﬁrst-hand information about Savarkar in London. CI. The trumped-up nature of the charge was apparent to all his supporters.
by deﬁnition. Macaulay’s draft for India remained untouched. op.. as we have seen. which meant that hereafter British common law would remain traditional and uncodiﬁed. 35 : no. 1 1909. Codiﬁed law would bring white miscreants and criminals under its purview and. as Elizabeth Kolsky has demonstrated. 2009). Savarkar was taken to Port Blair to serve out his sentence in the cellular jail. The chief law and order problem confronting the East India Company (EIC) from the late eighteenth century until about 1860 was the lawlessness and rampant savagery of a varied group of white non-ofﬁcial Britons and EIC army personnel. The result was the 1857 Rebellion. this posed an untenable racial problem for a supposedly impartial and fair colonial legal apparatus. but it was left out of the 1861 Indian Penal Code (IPC). 72. Macaulay’s 1837 draft Code became law. He was extradited to India.66 In the meantime. However. For the next thirty years or so. was not granted the same status in India as it had in England. cit. codiﬁcation in India posed its own and particularly colonial problems. with colonial law-makers arguing that the only way to resolve the chaos of the different legal systems in India (Hindu and Muslim) was to codify Indian law. . and tried twice by two separate courts for separate offences. SEDITION LAW As a criminal offence. The 1870 amendment ﬁrst introduced ‘exciting disaffection’ against the government as a criminal offence. two years later. The question of codiﬁcation in England was eventually settled in Blackstone’s favour. The reasons for such an omission. In July 1911.64 In his second trial in the Bombay High Court. in particular the chapter on Blackstone and codiﬁcation (Oxford. in 1861. The IPC had been drafted in its entirety in 1837 by Thomas Babington Macaulay while he was serving as Law Member of the Governor General’s Council.. It is with this new 1898 amendment that sedition law comes into its own in colonial India. and when the IPC was re-enacted in 1898 section 124-A replaced the crime of ‘exciting disaffection’ with ‘sedition’. ten years later the rise of revolutionary activity in India prompted an amendment to the IPC.66 63 Social History vol. across one part of the country there had been growing sentiment against colonial occupation. 1991). the surveillance focused almost entirely on his writings. However. 65 Michael Lobban. 1760–1850. The original draft of the Code contained a section (113) that had a provision for sedition. op.65 But what prevailed in the metropole did not extend to the colonies. the new amendment Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 Keer. in 1870. Godbole. Codiﬁcation. Tradition. which was brutally suppressed by the EIC over the course of two years. which concerned the different legal and political climates in England and India at the time. however. he was convicted and given the maximum sentence of two life-terms on the Andaman Islands. sedition came under the jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 64 63 66 Elizabeth Kolsky. While it embodied one aspect of the law of seditious libel taken from English law. The territories of the EIC were annexed by the Crown in the wake of the Rebellion and. cannot be explored in this article. The Common Law and English Jurisprudence. while the debate about the codiﬁcation of law raged in England. cit. Colonial Justice: White Violence and the Rule of Law in British India (Cambridge. 40. would have to address the problem of colonial judges adjudicating differentially between white settlers and native subjects. while important.
in what context. XXXVII. On the development of seditious libel in England. heresy. whether spoken or written. the charge of sedition became increasingly unusable because it depended entirely on the jury’s ability and willingness ﬁrst to interpret the offence as seditious and then to deliver a conviction. any meeting that took as its intent the task of spreading sedition. were of far less concern than their potential effect to incite anti-government feeling. could be better controlled by subsuming it under the law against unlawful assembly. of either rousing people to insurrection or instilling terror in them. 662–765. or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards her Majesty or the Government established by law in British India shall be punished with transportation for life. on the other hand. As Michael Lobban has argued. Scandalum Magnatum and Tudor felony statues.69 As sedition increasingly became linked to the question of public order. and only then did the law of seditious libel come to prominence. and how they were received. with the expansion of the public sphere and public debate on political issues in nineteenth-century England.February 2010 Savarkar. or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt. in that it anticipated possible defences. 661 (February 1985). with subjective interpretation on the other. was seen as an unlawful assembly. The last of these criteria became ever more important. or for a term which may extend to three years. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. 69 Michael Lobban. in effect.67 The terms of the 1898 IPC. c. avoided the thorny questions of fact and interpretation of seditious content. As a law. as well as the political sensitivity of sedition trials. it became increasingly unusable. 2002). or by signs. P Gupta and P. to whom. it was quite another to have those views inﬂuence others to action that might bring the lawful government into ‘hatred and contempt’. ‘Sedition’ was a matter for the jury to determine since it addressed the question of the state of mind of the seditionist and the purported effect the alleged sedition had on a group of people. . X. ‘From seditious libel to unlawful assembly: Peterloo and the changing face of political crime. while still on the books as a misdemeanour. Stanford Law Review. read as follows: whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read. Sedition. ‘libel’. In the process. the Crown was compelled to abandon other forms of control over the press such as treason. it became easier simply to stop depending on a jury to determine seditious intent and sidestep the whole issue. something English juries were increasingly unwilling to do. The actual words themselves. see Philip Hamburger ‘The development of the law of seditious libel and the control of the press’. 157.68 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 By the second decade of the nineteenth century. or by visible representation. on the one hand. libel. was a matter of law which could be ruled on by the judge. It was permissible to hold personal political views in opposition to the government (disapprobation). not something present in the 1870 iteration.70 I am grateful to Philip Hamburger for this clariﬁcation. 1770–1820’. Sedition and Surveillance 67 was much harsher than the previous one. Sarkar. Lobban argues. 70 ibid. seditious libel on account of the technical difﬁculties related to case presentations gave way to an easier and more usable legal instrument that. in England. Hamburger argues that over the course of the seventeenth century. Given the technical difﬁculties involving case presentation. ‘offending words’ were being scrutinized almost entirely in contextual terms – where the words were uttered. section 124-A. K. Law relating to Press and Sedition in India (Bombay. 307–52. not least because defence counsel argued hard to protect the rights of the free-born jury to determine such matters. 68 See H. 3 (Autumn 1990). argues that sedition all but vanishes from English common law because of the dispute between 67 judge and jury about the determination of ‘seditious libel’ which brought together the legal question of fact.
54. Sedition trials per se were no less politically explosive in India than in England. intention and implementation. In his judgment. and sedition became increasingly important as a means by which to contain anti-colonial nationalists across the generations. In the wake of the subsequent sustained Irish bombing campaign between 1881 and 1885. Fenians were more likely.. sedition became the pre-emptive as well as the ex post facto legal mechanism that allowed the colonial state. a special force was created within England – the ‘Irish’ branches of both the Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard – to monitor suspicious political ﬁgures. The commonality of perception of Irish and Indian anti-colonial activity is hardly coincidental. and even arrested. albeit sporadically. i. chap.’72 Irish nationalism was murder. 45. These juries were not reluctant to convict. Outraged by the lone execution. writing or language that might produce it. 73 For details on the creation of the Criminal Investigation Department and its connection with the Special Irish Branch of the Metropolitan Police.D. representation and reality.68 Social History vol. See R v. as in England.. under which it was a felony. c. 35 : no. The legal deﬁnition of sedition made no real separation between word and deed. not politics. 2. a large group of people was monitored. to be prosecuted under the 1848 Treason Felony Act. As in India. or as terrorist acts. see Hassett.71 The actions of Irish nationalists (or English anarchists. None the less. but the outcome could be guaranteed because the juries could be counted on to convict. but the charge of levying 71 war required an actual act of hostility. punishable with life imprisonment. to plot or plan such an act. 72 M. The rescue attempt failed because Dublin police intelligence and informant testimony had alerted the London police to the plans ahead of time. ibid. and sedition as it was later used in India. The ﬁrst act of ‘terrorism’ on English soil was the failed attempt by a group of Irish Fenians in 1867 to rescue their comrades from Clerkenwell prison in the City of London. they were seen instead as the callous and dastardly actions of murderous thugs. Jury convictions were not difﬁcult to secure in colonial India. The new Statute allowed people to be prosecuted without actually engaging in any acts of hostility. In India. to levy war against the king. English anarchists and Indian nationalists.e. 1 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 Towards the end of the nineteenth century the concept of sedition was still used in England. I am immensely grateful to Michael Lobban for pointing me to these cases. in anticipation of a dangerous act. but juries in India were three-quarters white European and one-quarter native Indian. convicting them for sedition was difﬁcult and other means were used. and for clarifying the difference between sedition used in Irish trials. and one of them was executed. 2007). Sullivan (1868) 11 Cox CC 44. Open University. including Irish nationalists. and mainly to deal with the phenomenon of Irish nationalism. Queen Victoria made her views on Irish suspects clear: ‘They should be lynch-lawed and on the spot. however. . to proscribe all thought. E. At the same Alexander Sullivan was prosecuted and convicted for seditious libel in 1868 for articles he had published in November and December 1867 about the execution of three Fenians.73 Within this web of police surveillance. Hassett. In India things were different. for that matter) were not regarded by the police or the government (at least not overtly) as signs of a new anti-colonial political language. parts of Clerkenwell prison were blown up and twelve people died as a result. England and Europe. chap. The IPC still required a jury conviction for sedition. 4– 5. it was treason to imagine the death of the king. ‘The British Government’s Reaction to Mainland Irish Terrorism. 2. closely allied to and frequently preceding treason by a short interval. and the ‘Fenian Ofﬁce’ of Scotland Yard. Six conspirators were arrested. He also wrote that the tendency of sedition was to invite people to insurrection. which went back and forth between Ireland. But while Irish nationalists could be monitored. Justice Fitzgerald noted that sedition was a crime against society. Under the old 1351 Statute. 1867– 1979’ (Ph.
G.February 2010 Savarkar. could one monitor ‘feelings of ill-will. On the last day of Tilak’s trial. 75 .Tilak. In this case the test was whether the writer intended to excite feelings of disaffection [deﬁned as want of affection] towards the Government in any way by anything he wrote. ‘The authorities’. he was arrested again. . the judge was being perfectly consistent with the legal deﬁnition of sedition as it was laid down in English common law. great or small.) What instructions could be given to the average policeman? The entire population of the country could potentially be guilty of sedition. In his defence. whether an editorial article. but he was simultaneously expanding the parameters of the term beyond its original meaning. and an article in his Marathi newspaper. It was not action but feeling that was the test. . . in April 1908. . for instance. he said. a poem. ever irrepressible and out of jail at that point.’ Tilak argued that such a report was simply untrue and gave clear reasons for why that was so. . intense or mild’? (My emphasis. feelings of ill-will. B. ‘The trial of Mr Tilak’. while the bombs in Europe are the product of hatred felt for selﬁsh millionaires. because of its association with illiberalism. . In this second trial. meant hostility or ill-will of any sort towards the Government. . Kesari. At the moment of its demise in England. great or small. The Bengalis are not anarchists. he made much of a European jury’s inability to understand the nuances of a language they did not know. 124. sedition also allowed for a post-event round-up and arrest of everyone even remotely connected with the actual act. The lack of discrimination in the law did not pass without comment by prominent nationalists such as Tilak.74 In this clariﬁcation. There is an excess of patriotism at the root of the bombs in Bengal. as we see in his second trial for sedition. intense or mild and any attempt to excite such feelings brought the offender within the section. One of Savarkar’s heroes. This trial was occasioned by an incident from the other side of the country. Furthermore. sedition was reborn in India with colonial occupation as the midwife. Tilak. but they have brought into use the weapons of the anarchists. . G.75 Two weeks later. How. mistakenly killing two Englishwomen who were using it that afternoon. 15 September 1897. Khudiram Bose hurled a bomb at a District Judge’s carriage. . Tilak spoke explicitly of a political language that borrowed from international anarchism. wrote that the bomb was a product of the ‘exasperation produced by the autocratic exercise of power by the unrestrained and powerful white ofﬁcial class’. was charged with sedition in 1897 (the year before the new amendment was enacted) for writing a poem praising the Marathi chieftain Shivaji for his bravery in resisting foreign rule. the judge was reported as clarifying that disaffection . Noorani. In Calcutta. The anarchist in America who murders a millionaire for the only reason that he is The (London) Times. . Sedition and Surveillance 69 time. on the grounds that their rhetoric had clearly been the cause of incitement of the natives to agitate against the government. . Indian Political Trials: 1775– 1947 (New Delhi. he argued that repression bred violence and the way to eliminate such bomb throwing was for the government to grant selfrule to the people. . that is all. 1976). 74 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 A. ‘have spread the false report that the bombs of the Bengalis are subversive of society. or a disquisition concerning some hero.
No distinction was made between actual acts of violence and inﬂammatory rhetoric or mild criticism. it was much harder to prove. 1 a millionaire is one man. the latter only for ‘all are guilty’. In the ofﬁcial correspondence. it was clear that Savarkar was a threat. the reach of the colonial state was now virtually limitless since it allowed for no distinction between politics and generalized ill will. Furthermore. Tilak was suggesting. ‘The trial of Mr Tilak’. and the pathological subjects of empire. In insisting on the speciﬁcity of the colonial situation in India. there was the simultaneous production of an elaborate mythology about how much the Indians wanted and loved English rule. mild or strong. sedition became the umbrella term under which nationalists of all stripes were placed under surveillance. with no room for equivocation. This proof could only be acquired through surveillance which aimed at eliminating guesswork about the actual intent of the seditious material. and made no distinctions between generalized resentment and anti-colonial politics. upon hearing a seditious pamphlet read by its author the assembled audience rushed off to burn a government building. This contradiction was resolved by making distinctions between the normative subjects of empire. 77 . But where the offending material was underground literature. arrested and tried. On the one hand. 76 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 I am grateful to Satadru Sen and Elizabeth Kolsky for this insight. 22 July 1908. 35 : no. small or great. the case could easily be made for intention to insurrection. while the exasperated Russian patriot who throws a bomb in despair because the Tsar’s ofﬁcers do not grant the rights of the Duma in Russia is different. given the judge’s clariﬁcation in Tilak’s trial that ‘disaffection’ meant feelings of ill will. And sedition.77 At the same time. On the other hand. such as that written and surreptitiously published by ﬁrebrand nationalists like Savarkar.70 Social History vol. sedition law itself suggests that the colonial regime could not fail to recognize that Indians across a wide spectrum resented and even despised colonial rule. for instance. Tilak used the idea of sedition to suggest that the issue was not so much the means of resistance (which can be graded or calibrated) but the fact of resistance (which can only be deemed true or false) to colonial rule.76 Sedition in India. sedition could be immediately apparent. Sedition was patriotic anti-colonial nationalism. Since colonial sedition law made the boundary between non-violent words and violent actions porous. the problem had instead to do with the state in question. Indian extremists were engaged in politics at several levels. thereby. could not be reduced to an anarchist politics that was critical both of capitalism and of the state. but there was also some uncertainty about the nature of the threat. No one should forget that the bombs in Bengal do not belong to the ﬁrst category but to the second. who were disloyal. became the colonial ﬂashpoint that it did precisely because it posed a fundamental challenge to colonial legitimacy by holding it to its own standards of certainty. The latter were ‘extremists’ or ‘anarchists’ or ‘terrorists’ and colonial sedition law was both part of the mechanism of that resolution and its product. ‘A case should be put up against Savarkar even The (London) Times. If. it could spread itself far and wide. Yet some proof was needed in court. The former would allow for ‘splitting’. On the one hand. the potential expansion of sedition law into the unfathomable and invisible sentiments of colonized subjects also brings out one of the many instances of the colonial government straddling an uneasy line. As a result. who were loyal.
not on abetment of murder. for every one assassination committed by the revolutionaries. .80 His major crime. despite their conversations about bomb manuals. they wanted to nail Savarkar the ﬁrst time. In the text of Savarkar’s trial judgment. 14 January 1911.81 Thus the case against Savarkar was made by treating speciﬁc and particular words as evidence of a conspiracy. As evidence of this crime. they may have carried their assassination plans to fruition. but most of the time the groups lacked any real training to carry out their schemes. but not much that was concrete enough for a court of law.’78 Much was known about him. Text of the judgment’. But they also wanted to nail him on conspiracy charges.. In the ofﬁcial correspondence there was also caution.February 2010 Savarkar. leaving behind many careless clues that led to their eventual capture. Besides. passages from the conﬁscated pamphlet entitled ‘Bande Mataram’ were quoted: Terrorize the ofﬁcials. New Delhi). 81 82 ibid. If he is convicted of being a member of a conspiracy the second conviction is by no means unprovable. 157. and for that all they had were his words. Political effect of second trial would be most unfortunate as vindictiveness of Govt would be alleged. not risk the political fallout of a second trial.. 1910 (National Archives. English and Indian. effect might actually be to induce clemency at a second trial. The persistent execution of the policy that has been so gloriously inaugurated by Khoodiram Bose. terror and pistols. 80 The (London) Times. 269. 271. Sedition and Surveillance 71 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 though its [sic] not very strong. The colonial state altered legislation with great speed. In any event. the Sea Customs Act 78 Home Department/Political/Notes.82 On occasion. that ‘there is chance of acquittal on charge of abetment of murder whereas in all probability sentence on conspiracy charge will be transportation for life which would be probably maximum on conviction on other charges. This campaign of separate assassinations is the best conceivable method of paralysing the bureaucracy and of arousing the people. as the earlier section demonstrates. Kanailal Dutt. and the collapse of the whole machinery of oppression is not very far. If such a sentence now given. The initial stage of the revolution is marked by the policy of separate assassinations. op. Garnet. and the intrusive scope of a number of Acts (the Arms Act in 1878. 60-B. 79 ibid. and other martyrs will soon cripple the British Government in India. the colonial state upped the ante and showed great efﬁciency and speed in suppressing a wide variety of activities that in today’s terminology would be called ‘insurgency’. 159. was to have been ‘occupied with other associates at the India House in manifolding a number of typed copies of a work dealing with the preparation of bombs and dangerous explosives suitable for anarchical outrages’. published in The (London) Times.’ it was noted in a conﬁdential telegram to the Secretary of State in London. cit.’79 In other words. as the text of the judgment put it. ‘The Savarkar case. revolutionary groups were amateurish and often incompetent. If he is acquitted of course the whole petition drops. Savarkar’s role in the actual violence was not the major concern of the colonial state. ‘It should be clearly understood. he was described as ‘the leader of a group of ardent revolutionaries’ and accused of ‘despatch[ing] to India inﬂammatory pamphlets styled ‘‘Oh Martyrs!’’ in praise of those Indians who fell on the rebel side during the Mutiny’.
CONCLUSION Unlike Tilak and Savarkar. the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh and the repression directed at the non-cooperation movement. Tried in 1922 on the charge of inciting ‘disaffection’ against the ‘British government by law established’. As a result. 1908 (National Archives. 1 in 1898. he argued. titled ‘Disaffection – a virtue’ (15 June 1921). Gandhi brought the question of sedition and terror full circle. ransacked student belongings upon their return to India from abroad. lamenting that Indians were not ready for the challenge of non-violence. 35 : no. Gandhi famously called off the campaign. the Mahatma himself. that began in 1919 and continued until 1922. he had lost all ‘affection’. the Press Act in 1910) was expanded to shut down or monitor the activities of suspicious young students. ‘Tampering with loyalty’ (29 September 1921). deliberately aims at the overthrow of the Government and is therefore legally Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 Home Department/Special/71. honed through his work over many years in South Africa. Gandhi’s shrewdness shows in his completely literal reading not only of sedition law but the assumptions that underlay it. But. and was actively encouraging other Indians to follow suit.). Mohandas Gandhi had no fondness for extremist ideology or tactics.’84 In a second article. Indeed. after the Rowlatt bills. as demonstrated by his actions during the Boer War and the Zulu rebellion. no affection could be extended to it. ‘[S]edition has become the creed of the Congress. he went a step further. though a religious and strictly moral movement. intercepted letters and monitored all communication in student hostels. 84 . and prompt response to sedition. The Historic Trial of Mahatma Gandhi (New Delhi. he was quite clear that violence was not part of his agenda. The government conﬁscated student knapsacks. wrote that ‘I hold it to be the duty of every good man to be disaffected towards the existing Government. Gandhi readily accepted that maintaining ‘affection’ for the government was the right thing to do. Gandhi had successfully led a movement using his technique of non-violent resistance. 83 Mulk Raj Anand (ed. we have all the more reason to rethink the relationship between sedition and terror. if he considers it as non-cooperators consider it evil.’ he wrote. When he embarked on what he called a ‘non-cooperation’ campaign across all of India. as a result. 15. By 1922. Non-cooperation. after a violent attack on a police station. If sedition was the crime of harbouring and attempting to spread ‘disaffection’ against the government. he claimed that he had in the past felt a great deal of it for the British Empire and government. adding that ‘every non-cooperator is pledged to preach disaffection towards the Government established by law. Unlike Tilak (whom he admired) and Savarkar (whom he did not).83 Given the colonial state’s efﬁcient surveillance. But the colonial government had lost its conscience and. And it is with this as background that it becomes especially important to note that the same sedition law that was given its new colonial form in relation to revolutionaries and terrorists was also used to target the leader of non-violent nationalism in India. Gandhi took the lion by its whiskers and in the ﬁrst of four articles that would be cited as seditious. 1987). New Delhi). he no longer had any affection left for a government that was ceaselessly oppressing the people. Gandhi accepted the rule of law and repeatedly claimed that non-violence was the ﬁrst and last article of his creed.72 Social History vol.
ibid. No sophistry. Introductory remarks by Mahatma Gandhi before reading his statement. but I have to discharge that duty knowing the responsibility that rests upon my shoulders. .February 2010 Savarkar. 39.. have emasculated the people and induced in them the habit of simulation. 18. In typical Gandhian fashion. I know I was playing with ﬁre. . . ‘We ask for no quarter. In my opinion the administration of the law is thus prostituted consciously or unconsciously.88 Since the law was corrupt. 45. ‘I came reluctantly to the conclusion. ibid. he did not indict the British indiscriminately and admitted that I am satisﬁed that many Englishmen and Indian ofﬁcials honestly believe that they are administering one of the best systems devised in the world and that India is making steady though slow progress. we expect none from the government. the law itself in this country has been used to serve the foreign exploiter. no jugglery in ﬁgures. he felt he needed to explain why he had made the move from affection to disaffection.’ Gandhi conceded that the government had the right to change its policy when its very existence was under threat. so long as we remained non-violent. . The charge was sedition on the basis of four of his articles in Young India. He gave his occupation as weaver and farmer. The change came after the Rowlatt Act and Jallianwala Bagh. can explain away the evidence that the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye . . .89 85 86 88 89 Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 ibid.. We did not solicit the promise of immunity from prison. . and the deprivation of all powers of retaliation or self-defence on the other.. On 18 March 1922.’86 Sedition and disaffection were now to be embraced as the creed of non-cooperation. They do not know that a subtle but effective system of terrorism and an organized display of force on the one hand. . 19. the Government established by law in British India is carried on for [the] exploitation of the masses. We may not now complain if we are imprisoned for sedition.87 But in his statement. but he also made clear that neither he nor the other non-cooperators were asking for any special dispensation. 87 ibid. . ibid. and in his introductory remarks acknowledged that he had no desire whatsoever to conceal from this court the fact that the preaching of disaffection towards the existing system of government has become almost a passion with me. despite his earlier history of raising a volunteer ambulance corps in London to support the war effort. . for the beneﬁt of the exploiter. Gandhi was tried in Ahmedabad.’ he said in court that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before politically and economically . Sedition and Surveillance 85 73 seditious in terms of the Indian Penal Code. sedition and disaffection were the only conscionable form of resistance. offered no defence. 46. It is the most painful duty with me. .. I ran the risk and if I was set free I would still do the same.
but in doing so they allowed Gandhi to become a symbol of the illegitimacy of colonial rule in India. Gandhi took on the actual charge of sedition. ‘The section 124-A. including colonial administrators and all earlier forms of nationalist thought. 35 : no. . so long as he does not contemplate. were linked to terror and violence. all their claims in India to fair play. The British could therefore no longer claim the right of affection on the part of the ruled. Lastly. into a different domain of non-violence and political legitimacy. But that has not been my main interest in this article. whose system of rule and law had lost all legitimacy. . he was also conceding the concerns previously held by the British about a ﬁgure like Savarkar. I have no personal ill will against any single administrator. under which I am happily charged. he said: Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. I consider it a privilege. In invoking the category of ‘terror’ alongside sedition. there is obviously some relevance to contemporary times and the post-9/11 obsession with terrorism as an isolated and inexplicable activity.90 With these words Gandhi brought sedition and disaffection. Gandhi turned the tables on all of them. promote. 1 In other words. I have studied some of the cases tried under it. as we have seen. He used the language of sedition and disaffection to demonstrate that the English had abandoned all claims to rule – indeed. is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. has done more harm to India than any previous system. India is less manly under the British rule than she ever was before. In so doing. both of which. Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 90 ibid. . captured in the surveillance. much less can I have any disaffection towards the King’s person. while at the same time taking sedition law literally – demonstrating that words were indeed more powerful than the sword. or incite violence. that his writing was more dangerous than his gun-running. is a terror produced and generated through the constitutive condition of colonial occupation. therefore to be charged under that section. Not only was Gandhi promulgating a method more powerful than that of the extremists before him. If Tilak had preached violent rhetoric and Savarkar had engaged in violent sedition. .74 Social History vol. Perhaps the British were right to treat him as the ultimate terrorist. and I know that some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it. But I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a Government which. Gandhi redeﬁned the ideas of sedition and terror. justice and freedom.’ In the passage most germane to our concern here. Holding such a belief I consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system. En passant we may also note that the colonial occupiers in the case of India were the very same English who were seen as the champions of free speech and liberty in Europe. in its totality. If one has no affection for a person or system one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection. But the section under which [I am charged] is one under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. the real terrorists in India were the British. The terror of sedition.
when examined in a historical arc that moves from Savarkar. and indeed ﬂourished. His embracing of sedition was not a form of terror they wanted to broadcast. From this point onwards. to Gandhi. shows us that it is no accident that sedition law survived. But because Churchill spoke for the imperial establishment. After his 1922 trial. the militant nationalist. in a colonial situation long after it had been abandoned as a relevant legal option for the home country itself. the colonial administration learned that letting Gandhi speak was a major mistake.February 2010 Savarkar. the British were keen to prevent Gandhi from speaking again. a more powerful indictment of British colonialism than anything Gandhi himself might have said. Columbia University Downloaded by [Princeton University] at 20:05 28 March 2012 . in retrospect. Sedition as both offence and symptom. they imprisoned him without a trial. the opposite. Sedition and Surveillance 75 Winston Churchill’s judgment that two men – Hitler and Gandhi – had been the most dangerous for the twentieth century becomes.