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Book Review: Burning for Freedom: “O Goddess of Freedom, Life is to Die for You, Death is to Live Without You!” by Anurupa Cinar

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Burning for Freedom by Anurupa Cinar tells the life story of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (May 28, 1883-February 26, 1966). Savarkar, a Brahmin Hindu, was a key freedom fighter who helped liberate India from being under British rule. He is responsible for creating a secret revolutionary society known as Abhinav Bharat whose influence spreads throughout India. Savarkar’s efforts caused him to be imprisoned by the British for many years at the brutal Cellular Jail. During his time spent there Savarkar was treated inhumanely, like many of the other political prisoners who were also imprisoned there.

Refusing to be beaten down and give up on India gaining her freedom, Savarkar could not be defeated. He felt that while India was under the rule of the British Empire, his people were enslaved because they had no constitution or rights with which they could be protected.

While fighting for the rights of the Hindus Savarkar felt that Gandhi showed more compassion and interest in protecting the rights of the Muslims. Gandhi’s ineffectual efforts in trying to shame the British government into giving the Hindus their freedom worked against them. It galled Savarkar that Indians were expected to meekly accept being enslaved by the British. Hindu scriptures say, “Nonviolence is the highest principle, and so is violence in defense of the righteous.” It appears that Gandhi only focused on the first part, and not the second.

After being released from Cellular, Savarkar’s rights were very limited and the government still tried to control him. He managed to have a family and remain in close contact with those who shared his beliefs. After his ill treatment while imprisoned, he never was fully able to regain his health. When Gandhi was assassinated, a physically-weakened Savarkar was implicated and once again imprisoned, only this time under a free India. Released after a period of time due to lack of evidence, he was able to live his life until old age.

It fascinates me that Burning for Freedom, taught me about a man who died one year and one day before my birth. Even though he played a huge role in helping free India from the British rule, I had never heard of him. I had heard a great deal of Gandhi, yet only in glowing terms. Burning for Freedom opened my eyes to the fact that popular history can be created to fool the public and appease governments.

Cinar did a very extensive job of researching information on Savarkar’s life. She includes several pages of references to support her evidence. She also wrote this book in an easily readable and compelling format that includes some fictional characters to help round out the story. I really appreciate the opportunity to read Burning for Freedom so that I can see history from another perspective. I highly recommend it to people who enjoy fiction and seeking out the truth.

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