About the Book
My Transportation for Life is the first hand story of sufferings and humiliation of an inmate of the infamous Cellulor Jail of Andmans the Legendry Kala paani. The physical tortures inside the high walls are made all the more insufferable by the sickening attitude of the men who mattered native leaders back home. It is a running commentary on the prevalent political conditions in India and a treatise for the students of revolution.
The story of the publication of the Book 'My Transportation for Life' originally written in Marathi, is as tortuous and yet as significant as the story o the toils and tortures suffered by its illustrious author.
Many minor freedom fighters have come out with the colorful versions of their internment in jail making the most of what a little they endured there, but Swatantrya Veer V.D. Savarkar in spite of his exceptionally heroic struggle against his most inhuman incarceration and the beastly treatment meted out to him and his co convicts in the Cellulor jail of the Andamans. Was reticent to breathe out a word about it all. For he often wondered if it would be proper and decent to do so, whether it would not bounce back upon him with the charge of boastfulness or whether by doing so his extraordinary sacrifice and infernal sufferings in the Andamans might not appear more theatrical and sham than real wrong to his co sufferers who bravely laid down their lives on the altar of freedom without having the slightest chance of uttering a single word about anything whatsoever.
Granting that a loud and 'heartrending cry or wail is a natural concomitant or consequence of every agony whether it be the dying screech of helpless and hapless bird in the jaws of a hawk or, may be, the national lament of the French people at the sight of the dead body of their beloved Emperor Napoleon brought to Paris from St. Helena it was still felt unworthy of expression in as much as whatever was worth telling about in the story of the Transportation for Life could not be clearly told because of the stringent government conditions laid down on his release, while whatever little could be written down was bound to be colourless and shallow because of the incoherence that must necessarily creep in the narration. Would it not therefore be proper, he felt, to wait till such an auspicious day dawned when he would be able to open out his heart without any let or hindrance? But supposes, such a day never dawned! How would his total silence, he wondered ever affect the course of the world? On the contrary, he felt this slip shod and inconsistent narration of his turbulent and tumultuous life in the Andaman Jail might smack of self eulogy.
But constant requests and exhortations by his admires far and near and the thought that even this incoherent account of his epic struggle might prove edifying and useful to at least some of the readers and might justify, even if partially, the3 cause for which, and the way in which, he and his compatriots fought and suffered and died, made the author Veer V.D. Savarkar relent a bit and the said 'My Transportation for Life' was published in the weekly 'Kesari' of the celebrated Late Lokmanya Tilak in a series during 1925-26.
But even that brave national periodical found it difficult to publish the whole account of the 'Transportation For Life'. So the second part of the story had to be published in another weekly, viz 'Shraddhanand', from 20th January 1927 onwards, and eventually the whole work was brought out in May 1927, for the first time.
The author, Swatantryaveer V.D. Savarkar, as is well known, was implicated by the then Government of India in the Jackson Murder Case of 1909 under Section 302 and 109 of the Indian penal Code and was sentenced to the First Transportation for Life on 30the January 1911, condemning him in all to rigorous imprisonment for 50 years only to be realesed in 1960. The terrible Jaws of Cellulor Jail of the Andamans swallowed V.D. Savarkar on 4the July 1911. But instead of the Jaws of the Cellulor Jail, Andaman, crushing its prey to death, the Cellulor Jail itself had to be closed for the Life termers from India because of the incessant organized agitational movements launched by V.D. Savarkar on various issues breaking down in its wake the tyrannical Jailor. Veer V.D. Savarkar was consequently transferred to the inland jails of Calcutta, Ratnagiri and finally set free on two conditions.
Although it seems that the book was First published in May 1927 there was no notice given in the weekly Shraddhanand about this publication till the 23rd of June 1927, when for the first time were announced the Centers at Bombay, Akola, Nagpur and Amravati where the copies of the book were made available. Maybe, the copies were ready and secretly sold before that date. Within less than three years i.e. by the beginning of 1930 the first edition of the book seems to have been exhausted. For a notice inviting publishers to bring out the second edition of the book as also of the same author's poems and life appeared in the issue of Shraddhanand of 29thh March 1930.
Soon a Gujarati translation of the book was published and pop came the government ban on the book on 17th April 1934 under rule 19 of the press Act (Emergency powers) of 1931. The ban however was condemned by various newspapers. The Kesari of 20the April 1934, for instance, said that the book was widely read by the Marathi speaking readers for so many years before the ban and yet the peace and order situation in the country was not endangered, and that about three years had elapsed since the passing of the Act under which the book was banned. If the book, the Kesari argued, was not deemed to be transgressing the Provisions of this Act for such a long time, how could it become so very dangerous all of a sudden during the previous week? Only nine days after the ban, i.e. on the 26th of April 1934 a British Officer was shot at Dhobe Talao, Bombay by a young fiery worker in Veer Savarkar group at Ratnagiri, lat Shri Wamanrao Chavan and within twenty four hours Swa. Savarkars house at Ratnagiri was searched! This attempt at the Life of the British Officer appears to be a violent reaction against the ban.
Immediately following the ban on the book, the office of the Prasthan publishing House which had published the Gujarati version of the book was raided and the Gujarati copies were confiscated. Similarly the printer and the publisher of the Weekly, prajabandhu, Indranandan Balvantrai Thakor, was served with a notice to pay a security deposit of two thousand rupees.
Thus the ban which was put on the book, not immediately after the publication of the Marathi edition, but after that of the Gujarati one. Gave cause for doubt in the minds of many as to who should haves complained to the Government about the dangerous nature of the book. Was it someone, who had been denouncing, all along, the revolutionaries, condemning Shivaji and Rana Pratap as misguided patriots because of their recourse to arms, handing over Pruthvising and other revolutionaries to the government and who in the name of Hindu-Muslim unity was trying to appease the Muslims ad nausea?
In 1937 late Shree Narayan Rao Savarkar applied as the Publisher of the book. For the lifting of the ban; so also did various other individuals and institutions, but in vain. In August 1937 late Shree V.V. Sathe a social worker in Pune took out a procession in support of the hunger strike started by the prisoners in the Andaman Jails. When, at the end, the procession was converted into a mass meeting in front of the famous Shanwar Wada, Pune, he declared that he would read out a passage on page 191 of the proscribed 'My Transportation for Life' (Marathi) by Veer V.D. Savarkar, in protest against the unjustified ban. The book was immediately snatched away from his hands by the then Sub Inspector of police, Shree Devulgaonkar. But soon he and many others in the meeting started singing "Dhanya Shivaji to Ranagaji Dhanyachi Tanaji" also a prescribed ballad by Veer Savarkar, while on the Government side it was given out that the demand was under consideration, which actually meant nothing, and nothing was done.
Once again in 1945 when the Congress Government took over, the demand was renewed with greater vehemence. Some even declared to publish these proscribed books and sell them openly defying the ban. The ban was finally lifted on the 22nd of May 1946. However, ban or no ban, Veer Savarkar's books were surreptitiously published and widely read, although secretly, The second regular and lawful edition of the book was published in 1947, as the Fifth Publication of the Hindu Rashtra Granthamala By M/S. Parchure Puranik Ani Mandali.
On the 30th of January 1948 Gandhiji was assassinated and Veer Savarkar was maliciously implicated in the conspiracy by the first Free Indian Government only to be acquitted honourably. But people were naturally afraid of buying his books for fear of the Governmental reprisals. So the book came to the foot paths of Bombay to be sold at a meager price of a rupee or so. But this adverse circumstance helped the sale and the book soon came to be sold at its originally printed price.
Besides the Gujarati version of the book, the Kannad and English versions also came soon. The present English translation of the book was made by Prof. V.N. Naik. M.A., Principal, Narayan Topiwala College, Mulund, Bombay, and was published in 1949 by Sadbhakti Prakashan, Bombay, and is now going into its second edition; but these too had to face the same Gandhi Murder turmoil and hence the Hindi version of the book could not then be brought out, which however was subsequently published in 1966 by the Prithviraj Prakashan, Nagpur. An abridged edition of the book was also published serially in Hinduwani. Even the Sahitya Academya, a central Government sponsored organization, announced its intention to publish the book in the all fourteen Indian Languages, but the project seems to have aborted somehow. The reason? Who should know except the Government!
In 1963 the book was published in the first volume of the Samagra Savarkar Vangmaya and again in a separate book form in 1968 by M/s. G.P. parchure prakashan Mandir. This edition was supplied with ample foot notes by shree Balarao Savarkar, because the author could not give expression to many of his thoughts, writing as he was under severe restrictions before his release.
Besides being a heart rending tale of inhuman tortures and indignities heaped on Veer Savarkar in different jails of the Andaman, Ratnagiri and yervada, it affords a practical demonstration of a heroic struggle given relentlessly, defiantly and with indomitable courage over thirteen long years when utter despair and abysmal gloom haunted him day in and day out. The most astonishing fact is that in spite of the utter ruination of his most promising young age in the hellish darkness of the dungeons of the Andamans and the total frustration of the causes for which he fought and bled and suffered and in the absence of the slightest ray of hope, the author could maintain, when other co convicts couldn't and when the temptation to end his life was working heavily on him, the rare equanimity of mind to compose thousands of lines of finest poetry, to think and philosophize, so deeply and thoroughly on so many complex problems that were then, and are still, pestering our motherland and find practical solutions for them which, which, however loth our rulers might be to acknowledge, will have to be worked on as the situation gets more and more complicated and adverse. One wonders how very vast was the scope of his ideal and how entirely he had thought of the many sided uplift of his mother land! Truly has the poet said:
'Stone Walls do not a prison make nor Iron bars a cage'
For the indomitable spirit of such a prince of patriots, who was at once a visionary and a stern man of action. Even in the extremity of bondage he did not waste a single minute of life without working for the salvation of his motherland. The more the pity that this thorough bred exceptionally gifted, son of our mother land has so far been neglected so foolishly by us. But this neglected is, I am afraid, bound to cost us dear. Let us hope wisdom will at last dawn on us in the near future.
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