K B Hedgewar History
THE FOUNDER Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was born on Varsha Pratipada, the Hindu New Year Day, 1st April 1889, at Nagpur. Even as a child he started questioning how a handful of foreigners could for so long rule over a vast and ancient nation like Bharat. No wonder that he threw away the sweets distributed on the occasion of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria's coronation. He was eight years old at the time. When studying in high school he started participating in nationalist activities, and, in fact, unfurled the banner of independence during Dusserah at Rampayali in 1907. The intensity of his urge to free the Motherland grew steadily. In 1908, he was expelled from school for leading the students in raising the 'seditious' cry of 'Vande Mataram'. He had to move to Pune to complete his matriculation. Hedgewar opted for a medical course in Calcutta, chiefly prompted by the prospect of getting first-hand acquaintance with the underground movement. He soon became a core member of one of the leading revolutionary groups called Anusheelan Samiti, and also plunged himself into various social-service activities. When the river Damodar was in floods in 1913, he rushed to join the relief team. He returned to Nagpur in 1916 as a qualified doctor. However, he did not (indeed never intended to) practise medicine despite dire poverty at home. Remaining a bachelor, he preferred to become a physician to cure the ills of the nation. By then, he had established active contact with stalwarts like Lokmanya Tilak, Dr. Munje and Loknayak M.S. Anay. He worked in responsible positions in the Congress and Hindu Mahasabha, till the early 1920s. Hedgewar's public speeches of those days were sheer fire and brimstone. It was not long before he had to face court-trials. In one such trial, he defended himself declaring, "The only government that has a right to exist is a government of the people. The Europeans and those who call themselves the government of this country should recognise that the time for their graceful exit is approaching. " He was awarded one year's rigorous imprisonment. After release from prison, Dr. Hedgewar, while continuously immersed in various social and political activities, intensified his quest for an understanding of the true nature of our nation for whose freedom the struggle was being carried on. Political emancipation from the foreign rule alone could not provide the cure for all the nation's ills. Bharat is not a nation born recently. It has not only been a nation for millennia, but also had made phenomenal progress in science, commerce, arts, technology, agriculture and other spheres, not to mention philosophy and the spiritual domain wherein its achievements continue to elicit wonder- ment to this day. It is also a fact of history that the cultural empire of Bharat extended to the whole of South-east Asia for over four centuries. Equally, it is a sad fact of history that social disunity and dissension have been the cause of Bharat's politicial subjugation by alien invaders. The 800-year-long resistance of the Hindus to Islamic rule had its own lesson for the British. Seeing that physical repression would not be of much avail, the British, through subtle and not-so-subtle ways, attempted to sub-vert the Hindu mind itself. They did succeed in part; and a Westward-looking social segment was created, mainly through enforcing the new system of education tailored to generate armies of clerks and 'brown sahibs'. Needless to say, in such an environment, a cleavage developed between the society and its cultural roots and legacy. The nation's identity became eroded. It was to such a national self-oblivion that a cure had to be found. The Congress leaders' policy of appeasement of the Muslims was but one symptom of the malaise. It is an irony of history that - even after paying the ultimate price of vivisection of their cherished motherland - the Hindus have been treated as second-order citizens by successive governments of post-in- dependence Bharat. This was indeed foreseen by Dr. Hedgewar. Years of thinking had convinced him that a strong and united Hindu society alone is the sine quaiwn for not only the all-round prosperity but for the very survival of Bharat as an independent sovereign nation. Social cohesion alone could ensure national integrity. Dr. Hedgewar's response to this challenge was the founding of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925. The sweep and amplitude of one great mind can be fully grasped only by minds with a like vision and imagination. Thus, even in the early days of the Sangh, it drew praise and approval from eminent stalwarts including Mahatma Gandhi, Savarkar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Madan Mohan Malaviya and others. The first Shakha of the Sangh was started with a handful of youth at Nagpur. Gradually, Shakhas sprouted in other provinces. Soon, there were vast numbers of 'Pracharaks' (whole-time social workers totally dedicated to nation-building activities) working for fulfilment of the Sangh mission. Dr. Hedgewar toiled night and day to lay a secure foundation for strengthening and growth of the Sangh. That tremendous work spanning fifteen years did take its toll, and Dr. Hedgewar succumbed to illness on 21 June 1940 - at the comparatively young age of 51.