Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar: Born patriot and amazing organisational craftsman
Pratipada, the first day of the year in the Hindu calendar is a day of special significance, akin to the New Year Day in the Gregorian calendar. Pratipada is also the first day (tithi) of the Shukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha, waxing and waning moon fortnights, respectively.
It is said in the Brahma Purana that on this date (on the Pratipada of the month of Chaitra), the beginning of creation began and so did from this day the sequence of calculation of time began. The Brahma Purana says:
Chaitra Maase Jagadbrahma Samagare Prathameani.
Shuklapakshe samagre tu sada suryodaye sati.
Although many important events have taken place on this day, a special event took place on this day in the year 1889 which has majorly impacted the history and normal life of India in the 20th and 21st centuries. On this auspicious day of Shukla Pratipada of Chaitra month in the year 1889, the great patriot and organisation craftsman Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was born.
The boy Keshav was born in 1889 to a very ordinary family in Nagpur. His father’s name was Baliram Pant and his mother’s was Revati Bai. Being a child born to a simple family with humble background, hardly anyone at that time would have realised that this child would infuse a new revolution in the social life of the people and to the future of India.
Born Patriot: Dr.Hedgewar was a born patriot, to which some of his childhood events bear testimony to. The first was on June 22, 1897, when Keshav was just eight years old. The birthday of Queen Victoria of Britain was being celebrated with gaiety all over India. Sweets were distributed. Keshav also got sweets in the school. But as soon as the boy Keshav came to know that this sweet was being distributed to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria of Britain, he threw the sweets on the garbage pile and said, “I do not consider her the Queen of my country.”
Yet another such incident took place in 1901. Keshav was then 12 years old. Edward King ascended his throne as the new king of England. On this occasion, celebrations were held everywhere. A fireworks programme was held at the Empress Mill complex in Nagpur. When his friends urged Keshav to attend the fireworks programme, the boy Keshav replied, “Why should we rejoice when a foreigner becomes a king?” And the boy Keshav refused to go to join the fireworks.
Another incident in Dr. Hedgewar’s childhood deserves mention. The Flag of Britain—Union Jack—used to be hoisted at the Sitabardi Fort in Nagpur. The boy Keshav disliked it. He wanted the saffron flag, the symbol of Hindavi Swaraj, to be hoisted in its place. The boy Keshav in consultation with his friends worked out a plan to carry out the change of flags. The idea was to dig a tunnel and reach the fort and on reaching there, they must replace the ‘foreign Union Jack’ on the fort with their “saffron flag”. So, Keshav along with his associates started digging the tunnel, but when his school teacher came to know about the plan, he dissuaded Keshav and his friends from doing it.
These three events of Dr. Keshava Baliram Hedgewar’s childhood clearly point towards the patriotic path that this child prodigy will tread, and also make others follow this path of patriotism.
Amazing Organisational Craftsman: Dr. Hedgewar was a wonderful organisation craftsman. This is undeniably true as the history of the evolution of the organisation that he founded reveals. Ever since the institution, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was founded by Dr. Hedgewar, this organisation has never looked back. And today the RSS is the largest disciplined socio-cultural organisation not only in India but also in the world. In the words of Dattopant Thengadi, one of the senior pracharaks of the RSS and the founder of dozens of organisations such as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Grahak Panchayat, Dr. Hedgewar’ sorganisational ability was “amazingly incomparable.” He further adds, “Yet if the contemporaries want to compare the Sangh with an organisation established at the same time, one can do so with the Communist Party (CPI) for comparison because these are two contemporary organisations.” But the comparison ends there. After 98 years, the RSS has reached the pinnacle of glory and the other contemporary organisations are left far behind in history.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was established by Dr. Hedgewar on the auspicious day of Vijayadashmi in 1925 in Nagpur and the CPI was founded by Lenin on October 17, 1920 in Tashkent. The CPI was then a five-year-old organisation as compared to the Sangh. The founder of the CPI was Lenin, a world-renowned personality, whose influence was felt worldwide. On the other hand, Dr. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, was hardly known, even outside Nagpur. At that time, let alone the whole world, he was just a name in the province of his work. In the case of CPI, the strength of organisational skills were accepted globally, and in the case of the RSS, the identity as a promoter was not yet recognised. Within just five years of its establishment, on December 25, 1925, the CPI held its all-India convention in Kanpur, which was attended by thousands of delegates, and this brought the CPI nationwide fame. On the other hand, the Sangh, had not yet gained its fame. Forget about the country, it had not even gained popularity in the province of Vidarbha, Nagpur where it was founded, or its surrounding regions. Only about two or three localities of Nagpur were familiar with the Sangh. And even in these areas, people considerd the RSS to be one of the many akharas operating in Nagpur at that time. The shakhas of the Sangh, founded by Dr. Hedgewar, were also counted among such akharas hardly making any difference in the society.
As time passed, the period of the fifties was considered to be a golden period for the Communists. The Second War was over. One-third of the world was ruled by the Communists. Because of this, the Communists also had gained tremendous reputation and following in India. The prime minister of the country was also influenced by the structure of the communists. For all these reasons, there was a great amount of attraction among the people, especially the youth, towards Communist ideology. One can say that there was a favourable situation for the Communists to increase their work.
On the other hand, around the same time, the then Union government imposed a ban on the RSS and its activities came to a standstill. The ban, albeit unjust, was a terrible blow to the growth of the RSS. The overall mood of the country soon after the tragic Partition was not in favour of the RSS and its idea of Hindu Rashtra and Hindu unity. There were even instances of socially influential people preferring not to publicly identify themselves as Hindus.
The first Prime Minister of independent India reportedly used to call himself an accidental Hindu. In such a situation, one can guess how difficult it would have been to instill self-respect and keep the organisation going. The RSS survived the ban, which was lifted unconditionally, and burst forth with renewed vigour and confidence. The organisational template provided by the visionary founder Dr. Hedgewar stood as a pillar of strength and helped the RSS tide over every form of resistance and grow into a huge organisation.
In comparison, the much-acclaimed Communist party split into two and again into many factions. The ideology was considered archaic and untenable as a political and social model. It was discarded in the country of its origin and other countries which had political dispensations influenced by Communist ideology gave it up and adopted other means of socio-political approach.
Meanwhile, the RSS charted a growth path based on its principles and hard work. It kept aloof from political activities and concentrated only on Hindu unity and laid emphasis on socio-cultural activities. The Hindu society is now in a mood to feel proud to be a Hindu. Hindu society is assertive. The RSS has grown from strength to strength. This was the strength of the template that the great visionary Dr. Hedgewar gave 98 years ago.
By Arvind Singh
(The author is the managing editor of the magazine Manthan.)
Contact Facebook/Twitter: @arvindvnsingh
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