DOCTOR HEDGEWAR-Seer of the Hindu Nation

published on November 21, 2009

SAGA OF PATRIOTISM -Revolutionaries in India’s Freedom Struggle
Bharatamata Gurukula Ashram & Yogi Ramsuratkumar Indological Research Centre, SISTER NIVEDITA ACADEMY “Sri Bharati Mandir’, Srinivasanagar, Kithaganur Road, Krishnarajapuram, Bangalore 560 036, INDIA. (Phone & Fax: 0991-80-5610935, 5613716; Cell: 94482 75935 e-mail: [email protected] )

DOCTOR HEDGEWAR-Seer of the Hindu Nation

Founder of RSS

“Words fail to describe the depth of that pure and selfless love. The boundless affection of the mother’s heart, the sleepless care and diligence of the father and the inspiring guidance of the guru found their culmination in that single bosom. I for one feel it my proud privilege to worship him as my ideal. The worship of such a soul transcends the worship of an individual and becomes the worship of the ideal itself. He is verily my chosen deity”, says Sri Guruji Golwalkar, in a glowing tribute to Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the Seer of Hindu Nation, who lives today, along with him, in the hearts of millions of Hindus in the country and abroad who gather every day in the Shakas of Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh to offer their prayers to their Matrubhoomi, Hindubhoomi, Punyabhoomi, Karmabhoomi and Dharmabhoomi—the eternal Bharata Mata.

Birth and Childhood

Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was born on the auspicious day of ‘Yugadi’, on 1st April 1889, in an orthodox Brahmin family at Nagpur. His father, Balirampant, was well versed in scriptures and his mother, Revatibai, was a pious and devout lady. Right from the very childhood, Keshav’s life was a burning candle of patriotism. As a small boy he heard the story of Shivaji Maharaj in his history class and was very much inspired by the adventurous exploits of the hero, his patriotism and supreme dedication to the cause of Dharma. This spirit found expression in the acts of Keshav also when, at the age of eight, he threw away sweets distributed in his school to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and questioned his teacher how a handful of aggressors came to rule over this Hindu land. On another occasion, he admonished his friend for showing interest in the celebration at Empress Mills, Nagpur, when Edward VII came to the throne. The tender heart of Keshav could not bear the sight of Union Jack flying over Sitabuldi Fort in Nagpur and one day he gathered his playmates to dig “an underground channel” from his master’s house to the fort to pull down the Union Jack and hoist the Bhagava Jhanda.

Young Revolutionary

At the age of 13, Keshav lost both his parents who fell victims to plague on one and the same day. The life of misery, poverty and suffering which followed Keshav since then did not however deter him from the path of patriotism and dedication to the cause of Motherland. At the age of 16 he was busy participating in the nationalist activities organized by the Swadesh Bandhav Samity of the renowned revolutionary, Pandurang Sadashiv Khankhoje. One day he was rusticated from the school for raising the slogan of ‘Vande Mataram’ in the open class. Keshav got admission in the nationalist school, Vidya Griha of Yeotmal, but that institution was closed down soon by the alien government. Keshav went to Pune and after two months’ stay and study there, came to Amaravati and wrote the Entrance Examination of the National Council of Education (Bengal), Calcutta, of which Dr. Rash Behari Ghosh was the President. Successfully getting through the examination, he joined the National Medical College at Calcutta and came to stay in the Shantiniketan Lodge which was a haven of revolutionary youth working under the guidance of renowned revolutionary, Pulin Bihari Das. Keshav came into close contact also with another fiery nationalist, Shyamsunder Chakravarti. The renowned revolutionary, Nalini Kishore Guha, introduced Keshav and Narayanrao Savarkar, younger brother of Veer Savarkar, into the Anusheelan Samity, a secret revolutionary organization, and according to the practice of the organization, they were administered a pledge and given secret names. Keshav was given the name ‘Cocaine’ and he became well known among the revolutionary workers because of his fiery patriotism, courage, deep intellectual capacities and foresight.

Doctor of the Nation

After passing the L.M.&S. Examination in June 1914, Keshav completed one year apprenticeship and returned to Nagpur in 1915 as a doctor. But his mind did not turn to the direction of practice and earning livelihood. He wanted to diagnose the disease that had afflicted the nation and cure it, and with this determination in his mind he dedicated his life at the altar of the Motherland. Since his arrival in Nagpur, Dr. Hedgewar was busy organizing the revolutionary youth in Nagpur, with the help of Bhaoji Karve. Dr. Hedgewar kept close links with the revolutionary organizations in Punjab and Calcutta.

Preparations for Revolutionary Upsurge

 When the First World War broke out, the revolutionaries all over the country wanted to make use of the opportunity created by the difficult situation in which the Britishers were pitched against the Germans. The revolutionaries in India and abroad conceived a plan for a revolutionary upsurge in the country to throw out the Britishers. Dr Hedgewar also threw himself heart and soul into the endeavour. The revolutionaries under the leadership of Bhaoji Kavre and Dr. Hedgewar were collecting arms and money for the proposed uprising. Once, in order to secure arms for the Gadar soldiers spread in different parts of the country, Dr. Hedgewar put on a military uniform and under the guise of a military man, managed to get away with a stock of British guns kept in Nagpur railway station. He also entrusted to one of his trusted colleagues, Vamanrao Dharmadhikari, the work of receiving arms reaching Goa port in 1912 in a steamer sent by revolutionaries abroad. But the British Government got scent of the scheme and the ship was seized before it could reach its destination.

Analysis of the Causes of Failure

The defeat of Germany in the War foiled all the attempts of the Indian revolutionaries for a revolutionary upsurge inside the country. Dr. Hedgewar realized that the lack of discipline among the revolutionaries, want of proper organization to coordinate the different revolutionary groups spread all over the country and the absence of a political and national awakening among the common masses were the root causes for the failure of revolutionary upsurge. He also came to understand that mere acts of bravery and self-sacrifice on the part of a few daring and patriotic individuals will not bring independence to the country. With this clear realization, Dr. Hedgewar diverted his attention to the national movement launched by the Indian National Congress.

In the National Movement

Dr. Hedgewar’s sterling character, unstinted devotion to the cause of the country, undiluted patriotism, self-effacing sacrifice and amiable nature made him dear to all the leaders of the nationalist movement in Central Province and he soon rose to a top position in the Congress organization. At that time, the Congress in Central Province was in the hands of staunch supporters of Tilak. The extremist and nationalist leaders in the Congress were all looking with apprehension at the all-out support given by Mahatma Gandhi to the Khilafat movement in an attempt to exploit the discontent among the Indian Muslims against the British who were enemies of the Khalif of Turkey, the religious head of Muslims. Dr. Hedgewar, with his deep foresight, understood that this sort of appeasement of Muslim communalism, though intended to win them over to the freedom struggle, would in the long run sow the seeds of separation in the hearts of the Muslims and result in the disintegration of the country. And his fears did prove to be true in the long run.

With Sri Aurobindo

During the year 1920, the Congress session was to take place at Nagpur. Dr. B.S. Moonje and other nationalist leaders of the Congress in the Central Province wanted a staunch extremist to preside over the Congress session. Lokamanya Tilak had passed away in the month of July that year. Hence they decided to approach Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, who was at that time in Pondicherry, and request him to re-enter the political arena and preside over the session at Nagpur. With this end in view, Dr. Moonje and Dr. Hedgewar visited Pondicherry in September 1920 and stayed there for five days, But their efforts to persuade Sri Aurobindo Ghosh to come back to active politics proved futile.

On 26th December, 1920, the Congress session began with Sri Vijayaraghavachari as President. A significant even took place in the session. Sri Bade moved in the AICC meeting a resolution for cow protection. In the name of maintaining Hindu-Muslim Unity, Gandhiji not only opposed the move, but even forced Sri Bade to leave the meeting and brought the meeting to an abrupt end. This incident did create a lasting impression on the mind of Dr. Hedgewar about the disastrous consequences of the slogan of Hindu-Muslim unity and the Muslim appeasement policy of Gandhiji and the Congress.

Arrest and Imprisonment

In spite of his fears and apprehensions about the path which the Congress had taken under the leadership of Gandhiji, Dr. Hedgewar, as a disciplined soldier in the nationalist movement, did participate in the non-cooperation movement launched by Gandhiji. He undertook a tour of the Central Province, carrying the message of struggle for complete independence. His fiery speeches and the massive response he received from the people forced the British Government to arrest him. A case was filed against him in May 1921, on the charge of making seditious speeches. In the course of the trial, the statement made by Dr. Hedgewar  provoked the magistrate to remark: “This statement is more seditious than the speech.” Dr. Hedgewar was sentenced to one month’s rigorous imprisonment.

Diagnosis of Nation’s Illness

Dr. Hedgewar came out of the jail on July 12, 1922. By then the non-cooperation movement had come to an abrupt end due to the Chouri-Choura incident. Dr. Hedgewar was keenly observing the developments in the national scene. He had now become the Joint Secretary of the Congress in Central Province. However, his mind was deeply agitated over the sight of growing Muslim communalism in the country and consequent demand for separation on the part of the Muslims. The eruption of Muslim fanaticism in Nagpur and the consequent Dindi Satyagraha, in which the Hindu leaders of the C.P. Congress participated, all proved beyond doubt that unless the Hindu society, which was the mainstream of national life since times immemorial, was well organized and strengthened, the nation had no hope of redemption from slavery and bondage and even if freedom came in the way unexpectedly in the present condition, it would come only with disintegration of the country and utter ruin. This point of view started finding expression in the words of many other nationalist leaders of that time, like Swami Shraddhanand, C.R. Das, Lala Lajpat Rai, the renowned revolutionary Lala Har Dayal and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.

In January 1925, when the C.P. Congress Committee organized a tour of Swami Satyadev in the province, Dr. Hedgewar accompanied him and wherever Dr. Hedgewar spoke, he stressed the need for strengthening the Hindu society. He made it clear that the Hindus who considered the good of the country as their good, who worshipped this land as sacred Bharata Mata and who had no extra-territorial loyalty, could alone be the solid base on which our national edifice could be built.

Birth of R.S.S.

When this idea of Hindu consolidation took possession of Dr. Hedgewar’s mind and he was fully convinced of the absolute necessity of this task, he set at work his plan of action. He founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the auspicious Vijayadashami day in the year 1925, by organizing a group of young men at his residence. His plan of action was to bring together the people of all sections, castes, creeds, ages and strata of society, as children of the same Mother; make them sing and play together, and inspire them to come forward in love and discipline to bring glory to the nation. Accordingly programmes were chalked out for the physical and intellectual development of the Swayamsevaks and to instill in them the spirit of patriotism, discipline and devotion to Motherland. The seed that Dr, Hedgewar sowed on that auspicious Vijayadashami day at Nagpur has grown into a big banyan tree and today it is covering the entire globe with its vast network of branches and ancillary institutions.

Dr. Hedgewar never wanted to keep the Sangh as a separate political organization and every effort of his was to bring under the fold of the Sangh, Hindus belonging to all shades of political opinion. Hence, even after the founding of the Sangh, Dr. Hedgewar continued his other public activities and with his commanding influence over the leaders of various sections in the nationalist movement, he was able to bring many of them closer to the Sangh and make them realize the importance of the Sangh and the great mission which was before it. On the occasion of the Vijayadashami celebrations of the Sangh in Nagpur, in the year 1928, Sri Vithalbhai Patel participated and blessed the work of Dr. Hedgewar. In the same year, when Dr. Hedgewar met Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at the Calcutta Session of the Congress, he placed before Netaji Bose and Babarao Savarkar who was present at the time of the meeting, his plan of work. Since then Babarao Savarkar was a constant companion of Dr. Hedgewar in building up the Sangh work. In the early part of 1929, when the renowned revolutionary, Rajguru, went underground after the murder of Saunders at Lahore, Dr. Hedgewar offered him protection at the farm of a staunch Sangh worker, Bhayyaji Dani, at Umred. However, in spite of the warning of Dr. Hedgewar, Rajguru went to Pune and there he was arrested.
Jangal Satyagraha

On the 9th and 10th October, 1929, a meeting of the Sanghchalaks of the R.S.S. took place at Nagpur and Dr. Hedgewar was unanimously elected as the Sarsanghchalak of R.S.S. to give it a proper shape and form to fulfil its role as a national organization. However, in the year 1930, Dr. Hedgewar received a call from Lokanayak Bapuji Ane to participate in the Jangal Satyagraha launched by him in protest against the forest laws of Central Province. When Bapuji Ane led the agitation in Pusad, Dr. Hedgewar led the Satyagraha at Yeotmal. Before entering the Satyagraha arena, Dr. Hedgewar took care to see that the energy of his organization which had a greater mission to perform was not frittered in mass movements like this and with this end in view, he handed over the responsibility of Sarsanghchalak to Dr. Paranjpe and participated in the Satyagraha movement in his individual capacity. Dr. Hedgewar was arrested and sentenced to 9 months’ imprisonment. He was released on 14th January 1931, and when he came out of the jail, he was happy to see that the Sangh work had grown considerably even in his absence. He again took charge as the Sarsanghchalak. In the month of April, Dr. Hedgewar visited Benaras and with the cooperation of Madan Mohan Malaviya, founded a branch of the R.S.S. in the Benaras Hindu University.

National Flag

There was much ignorance and misunderstanding about our national flag ever since the beginning of the national movement in our country. From 1906 to 1921, different organizations had adopted different types of flags as our national flag. In the Karachi session of the Congress, a seven member committee consisting of Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Dr. Hardikar, Kaka Kalelkar, Master Tara Singh and Moulana Azad was formed to recommend a national flag. This committee recommended an orange colour flag. The working committee’s approval was needed for the adoption of the flag. Dr. Hedgewar, who feared that this flag might not get the approval of those who were raising slogans of Hindu Muslim Unity, persuaded Lokamanya Bapuji Ane to strongly support the recommendation of the flag committee. He also went to Delhi, stayed in Bapuji Ane’s house and met other members of the working committee. But his efforts did not completely meet with success. The Congress adopted a tri-colour flag.
owever, in the place of red in the earlier flag, orange was selected and it was taken to top with white and green strips below. Dr. Hedgewar felt very sorry that though the saffron flag has been the symbol of our national culture and heritage since times immemorial, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had also adopted the same as its flag, the Congress chose a national flag suited to the interests of certain individuals and groups.

Expansion of Sangh Work

The Benaras Hindu University branch of the Sangh started growing fast and the number of Swayamsevaks attending the Shaka there, was day by day increasing. Some professors had also come into close contact and Sri Guruji M.S. Golwalkar was one among them. During the vacation in April 1932, when Sri Guruji Golwalkar came to Nagpur, he met Dr. Hedgewar for the first time. Dr. Hedgewar, who had already come to know about the qualities of head and heart of Sri Guruji from the reports of the Sangh workers at Benaras, was very happy over the meeting and he found in Sri Guruji the prospective leader of the Sangh. In the month of May when Dr. Hedgewar visited Lahore on an invitation from Babarao Savarkar to preside over the Akhil Bharatiya Tarun Hindu Parishad, he got an opportunity to place before the youth of Punjab and Sind the plan of work of the Sangh and soon the Sangh started spreading to those provinces also. In 1932, he  raveled all over Maharashtra, along with Babarao Savarkar, and in various parts of the province, the Sangh Shakas were set up.

While on the one side Sangh work was fast growing, impediments also came in the way. The Central Province Government issued a circular on 15th December 1932, prohibiting Government Servants from attending the Sangh Shakas. However, because of the personal influence of Dr. Hedgewar, this issue came up before the C.P. Council session which took place in March 1934. Several members of the Council strongly condemned the move of the Government on the floor of the council. Sri Baba Sahib Kolte moved a cut motion against the Government circular and it was carried. Thus in the storm created over the issue of the circular, the C.P. Ministry also fell.

Gandhiji’s Visit

In 1934, a winter camp of the Sangh took place in Sevagram at Wardha. One thousand five hundred Swayamsevaks participated in the camp which took place in an open ground near the Ashram where Gandhiji was staying. Seeing the disciplined manner in which the programme of activities of the Sangh were conducted, Gandhiji expressed his desire to visit the camp. As soon as the information reached the Sanghchalak, Sri Appaji Joshi, through Mahadeva Desai, Gandhiji was invited to the camp. On 25th December 1934, in the early morning, Gandhiji visited the camp and spent one and half hours with the Swayamsevaks. He was deeply impressed by their character, discipline and above all the unity which crossed all the barriers of caste and creed. He visited the camp hospital and the dining hall and when he found that the Swayamsevaks did not even care to know each other’s caste and lived like members of one family, he expressed his desire to meet the person who had built up this organization. Next morning, when Dr. Hedgewar visited the camp to participate in the concluding function of the camp, the information was conveyed to him and he accordingly called on Gandhiji in the night. Gandhiji spent an hour with Dr. Hedgewar discussing about the Sangh work. Being fully convinced of the sincerity, dedication, patriotism and devotion of the founder of the organization, he blessed the work of Sangh.

With Swatantrya Veer Savarkar

Swatantrya Veer Savarkar was released from Ratnagiri Jail in 1937. Dr. Hedgewar was immensely happy on the occasion for he was fully confident that Savarkar’s efforts were going to strengthen the work of rebuilding the Hindu Nation. In December 1937, when Savarkar toured in Vidarbha region, Dr. Hedgewar accompanied him. On 18th December, Savarkar was given a warm reception by the Nagpur Shaka of the Sangh. In March 1938, on the invitation of Veer Savarkar, Dr. Hedgewar presided over the Hindu Yuvak Parishad at Pune. In view of the growing work of the Sangh in U.P. and Punjab, a camp was held at Lahore in August 1938 and it was attended by the renowned revolutionary, Bhai Paramanand. In December, the Sangh camp at Nagpur was inaugurated by Veer Savarkar and he expressed the hope that the Sangh would emerge as a powerful force to fulfil the mission of rebuilding the Hindu Rashtra.

The Mental Agony

Years of hectic work and restless efforts started telling upon the health of Dr. Hedgewar. In the beginning of 1939, Dr. Hedgewar saw the symptoms of another World War. Dr. Hedgewar was deeply worried that the country had not risen to make use of this yet another opportunity to throw away the British regime from its soil. Though the Sangh work had spread in Vidarbha, C.P., Maharashtra and Punjab, in other provinces it had not spread enough. On the other hand his health was also dwindling day by day disabling him to speed up his work to make use of the situation. In the beginning of 1940. Trailokyanath Chakravarti, who was an associate of Dr. Hedgewar during his revolutionary career, had taken up, in consultation with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the work of organizing erstwhile revolutionaries to make one more attempt for an armed uprising in the country. He called on Dr. Hedgewar to seek the latter’s support for the efforts. But, Dr. Hedgewar had to explain the infant condition of his organization and his inability to participate in the effort. This worry worsened his physical illness.

Activity even during Illness

On January 31, 1940, Dr. Hedgewar went to Rajgir in Bihar for rest and treatment, but returned to Nagpur in the month of April. He participated in a meeting of all the Sangh workers in Maharashtra on 11th and 12th May at Pune. Sri Guruji Golwalkar, who had by then become the Sarkaryavah of the Sangh, was present on the occasion. Veer Savarkar also participated in the meeting on the first day.

During the month of May 1940, a camp of the Sangh workers from all over the country took place at Nagpur. Dr. Hedgewar had the opportunity to see that in his lifetime itself the Sangh had spread far and wide in the country. Workers had come to the camp even from the distant southern states.  Dr. Shyamprasad Mukherji visited the camp  on 20th May and on that night he called on Dr. Hedgewar to discuss the worsening situation in Bengal. Dr. Hedgewar explained to him that the only panacea for all the illness afflicting the nation was in organizing and strengthening the Hindu society.

On 8th June, the Sangh camp ended. But, on the next day, a special gathering of the workers was held in order to enable Dr. Hedgewar to meet the workers who had come from all over the country. On the occasion, Dr. Hedgewar expressed his firm conviction: “A day will come when the whole Bharatavarsha will be under the spell of the Sangh. Then there will be no power on earth which can cast an evil eye upon the Hindu race.”

Dr. Hedgewar’s health was fast deteriorating. He was admitted in the Mayo Hospital on 15th June for a thorough medical check up. On 18th June he was brought to the bungalow of Sri Babasahib Ghatate, Sanghchalak of Nagpur, where all facilities were made for his complete rest and treatment.

Netaji’s Visit

On 19th June, 1940, Dr. Hedgewar’s condition was very critical. It was at that time that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had come to Nagpur to participate in a session of the Forward Block.  Netaji was long awaiting for an opportunity to meet Dr. Hedgewar. On an earlier occasion, his attempt to meet Dr. Hedgewar could not materialize as the latter fell ill at Nasik. This time also, when Netaji came to meet Dr. Hedgewar at Ghatate’s bungalow, in the morning of June 20, he could not get an opportunity to talk to Dr. Hedgewar as the latter had just gone asleep. Not desirous of disturbing Dr. Hedgewar in his sick-bed, Netaji simply had his darshan and left the place after informing the workers attending on Dr. Hedgewar that he will come again to meet him. On that day, Dr. Hedgewar’s condition turned from bad to worse. The doctors attending on him decided to perform lumber puncture. Dr. Hedgewar knew that his end was nearing. Before undergoing the lumber puncture, he called Sri Guruji Golwalkar and some other important workers of the Sangh by his side and expressed his last wish that, after him, Sri Guruji Golwalkar should take over the responsibility of the Sarsanghchalak of the Sangh.

Unto Eternal Rest

The efforts of the doctors to save the life of Dr. Hedgewar proved futile. On 21st morning his temperature rose to 106o and the doctors gave up hope. Dr. Hedgewar breathed his last at 9-15A.M. on that day. A glorious life which, like a flame, burnt itself silently, but shed warmth and light all around, ebbed away. Though he left his mortal coil, his spirit still lives in the hearts of millions of Swayamsevaks all over the country and abroad, who march ahead on the path shown by him to attain the goal of Hindu Rashtra. His message to the dedicated Swayamsevaks of the Sangh echoes and re-echoes in millions of hearts: “The flower of youth should be offered at the feet of the Mother when it is in full bloom shedding its fragrance and beauty all round. After it has lost its beauty and fragrance, that dry and withered flower is unfit for worship”

Reminiscences of a Revolutionary

“Keshab Hedgewar, the President of the present organization ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ was formerly a member of Anushilan Samity. He was once a student of Calcutta National Medical School (now College) in 1913. Narayan Damodar Savarkar and a few other Mahratta were also reading in the same school as his fellow students. At that time, Nalini Kishore Guha, the author of the famous Bengali Book, Banglar Biplapbad, i.e., ‘Revolutionary Ideas of Bengal’, was also a student of that school. It was Guha who had recruited Hedgewar, Narayan D. Savarkar and other youths in the party.

“During the time I was underground, I had stayed in their mess on a few occasions. In 1940 when I appeared before Hedgewar, he could not recognize me at the first sight. Later on when I enquired of him as to whether he remembered his Kalicharan-Da of Bengal, he at once embraced me. I first enquired as to the actual numerical strength of volunteers in his party. He replied that it was about sixty thousand. I then immediately demanded that he was to dive deep into the coming revolution with his entire party members. He replied, “Among these sixty thousand there are many boys and raw members. Further I have not yet trained them up according to your plan. You too have, so long, not kept any relation with us. Now you come all on a sudden and ask to dive deep into coming revolution. But now is that possible?”
“I then told him that a golden opportunity had come to us and it was not to come for the second time in our lifetime. We must avail ourselves of that imperialistic war. He was only to organize a party with his selected and trusted volunteers for the purpose and the rest would follow suit out of excitement. After finishing my discussion with him I started for Benaras.”

—Trailokya Nath Chakraborthy in Thirty Years in Prison

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