Thousands of leaders participated in India‘s freedom struggle but not many of them are as controversial as Savarkar is. Bharat Ratna was being conferred rarely in the past but things have changed dramatically in recent times. Political parties try to manipulate the sentiments of people by taking populist decisions. Sometimes they also try to emulate each other by honoring their idols and kin.
We must also understand that Bharat Ratna has not been always awarded in a just manner. The contribution of our late prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi towards the development of our country cannot be dwarfed by any means. However, these leaders were awarded the highest civilian award when they were in power. So we can safely say the act of using awards for self-glorification is not new in India.
Rajagopalachari was the first Indian to be honored with Bharat Ratna whereas the latest induction in this list was Nanaji Deshmukh, a social worker and former member of Rajya Sabha. When Nanaji Deshmukh was given this award, some said that it was because he was closely associated with RSS but we cannot undermine his contribution towards the development of rural India.
Similarly, nobody can deny that Savarkar has been one of the dynamic leaders in the history of India. However, is his nomination fair to the other freedom fighters of India is the question that many of us will ask ourselves today?
The criteria that make an individual worthy of this award have to be more rigid and complex. Where Mother Teresa got the award for her extraordinary contribution towards humanitarian work, Lata Mangeshkar and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi received this award for their outstanding contribution to music. Even Sachin Tendulkar who is considered to be the god of cricket in India got this award after much speculation and criticism.
The Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi has already declared that Savarkar’s views reflect pure nationalism. Some of the nationalists who favor pluralistic views say that freedom fighters like Ullaskar Dutta who did not plead for mercy when they were jailed, are more worthy of this award. Moreover, Savarkar preached the philosophy of Hindutva throughout his life. We all know that BJP accepts this as the nation-building policy today. Therefore, it is not hard to see that their decision to propose his name for Bharat Ratna comes from political patronage.
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Does it fit our democratic values that thrive on inclusiveness or is this a new way to acclaim people who did not believe in the fundamentals on which our nation was built? Questions like this will arise when political parties will continue to stoop down lower in the name of nationalism.