Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remembering Vasudev Balwant Phadke

Vasudeo Balwant Phadke

Vasudev Balwant Phadke (Marathi: वासुदेव बळवंत फडके) is widely regarded as the 'father of the armed struggle' of Bharat's independence. He preached that 'Swaraj' was the only remedy for their ills. He can, with justice, be called the father of militant nationalism and Hindutva in Bharat. What the Bharatiya Sepoys tried to do in 1857, followed by the Marathas in three bitter wars and then the Sikhs in 1840, but failed, one man attempted - to take on the mighty British Empire single handed. In true Hindu spirit he took a vow to stir armed rebellion and destroy the British power in Bharat and re-establish the Hindu Raj.

Vasudev was born on 04-11-1845 in Shirdhon village of Panvel taluka based in Raigad district in Maharashtra state in a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family. As a child Vasudev preferred learning skills such as wrestling and horse riding over high school education and dropped out of school. Eventually he moved to Pune and took up a job as a clerk with the military accounts department in Pune for 15 years.

Vasudev came into the limelight when he got complete control over the city of Pune for a few days by catching the British soldiers off guard during one of his surprise attacks.

Phadke was moved by the plight of the farmer community during the British Raj. Phadke believed that 'Swaraj' was the only remedy for their ills. With the help of the Ramoshis, Kolis, Bhils and Dhangars communities in Maharastra, Vasudev formed a revolutionary group called ‘Ramoshi’. The group started an armed struggle to overthrow the British Raj. The group launched raids on rich English businessmen to obtain funds for their liberation struggle.

The British Government offered a bounty for his capture. Not to be outdone, Phadke in turn offered a bounty for the capture of the Governor of Bombay, announced a reward for the killing of each European, and issued other threats to the Government. He wrote in his diary, "I wished to ruin the British. From morning to night, whether bathing, eating or sleeping, I was brooding about this and hardly slept in doing so. I learnt to fire at targets, ride a horse, wield a sword and exercise at the gym. I had a great love for arms and always kept two guns and swords".

Phadke began to cut the communications of the British and raid their treasury. His fame began to spread. For some time he kept up a heroic unequal struggle with the British and their Pathan underlings under Abdul Haque. Eventually after a fierce fight he was captured in Hyderabad on 21st July 1879. He was charged with waging war against the British Government. Realising that he was far too dangerous an individual to be allowed to remain in Bharat, he was transported for life to a prison in Aden. He was fettered and placed in solitary confinement. Nevertheless on 13th October 1880, undaunted, he escaped. Unfortunately, he was shortly captured again. To protest against the atrocities that he was subjected to, he went on a hunger strike; he died on 17th February 1883.