Mumbai: Hitting back at Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut for his remarks on opponents of the Bharat Ratna honour for V D Savarkar, the Congress on Saturday said supporters of the Hindutva ideologue should visit the erstwhile Andaman Jail to understand the sacrifice made by those freedom fighters who never apologised to the British.
The Congress' reaction came within hours of Raut stating that those opposing the Bharat Ratna award for Savarkar should be made to spend at least two days in the erstwhile colonial prison to understand the hardships faced by him during his incarceration.
In a swipe, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the BJP can grant the highest civilian honour to Savarkar by virtue of majority at the Centre, if it is willing to ignore Savarkar's statements like calling B R Ambedkar a 'mathefiru' (fanatic) and Buddhists as "rashtradrohi" (pro-sedition)".
"Savarkar was different before 1911. The Congress is against his post-1923 ideology," Sawant said in a series of tweets.
"Savarkar had called Ambedkar a 'mathefiru', Buddhists as 'deshdrohi'. He had also criticised good deeds of Chhatrapati Shivaji," Sawant tweeted.
"Savarkar had also supported the movement opposing merger of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore with India," he stated.
Sawant said 149 persons were sent for "Kalapani" (Andaman Cellular Jail) during 1909-21, while the number was 30 during 1922--1931 and 386 between 1932 and 1938. "Many freedom fighters like Yogesh Shukla had served the jail sentence there (in Andaman) and later took part in the freedom movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi," he stated.
Taking aim at Savarkar, Sawant stated, "All those who served the sentence did so with pride and without seeking mercy. Such people should be given the Bharat Ratna". After his conviction for the murder of A.T.M. Jackson, Collector of Nashik district, Savarkar was brought to the Andamans in 1911.
A controversy rages on on whether Savarkar demanded clemency from the British for his early release from the cellular jail, notorious for its inhuman conditions.
"The freedom fighters who served their jail terms in the Andaman did not support the British. They did not take any honorarium from the British. If Savarkar supporters visit the cellular jail, they will realise the importance of sacrifice made by the great freedom fighters who laid down their lives without asking any pardon.
"Savarkar was different before 1911. The Congress opposes his ideology post 1923," the Congress spokesperson said.