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Greatest Hindu of the Age: Dr KB Hedgewar


RSS Sarsanghachalaks found prominent place in Organiser, either in the form of writings about them or writings by them. Dr Hedgewar’s role during the Freedom Struggle, his association with revolutionaries and Satyagrahis and his thinking behind the foundation of the RSS was brought to the public glare through writings of people who had experienced his exemplary and visionary leadership –– By Eknath Ranade

“ Doctorji is coming within short time,” informed enthusiastically somebody who had come almost running to our houses. The message instantaneously created a pleasant stir in the family. All, young and old, actively engaged themselves in the preparations to receive Docotorji. Surprised to notice the joy and enthusiasm with which the whole houses was surcharged, my curious eyes were now and then watching the door eager to find out who the Doctor was. This was in the year 1926 and I was hardly 12 years old then. The schools were closed for the vacation and I was enjoying the holidays with my brother-in -law. Shri Anantrao (Anna) Sohoni who was a close friend and colleague of Doctorji. I myself through swept by that wave of delight and enthusiasm, did not, and possibly could not, understand the significance of the whole thing. A few minutes later, from the sound of footsteps and the merry laughs I could gather that the enthusiastically-awaited Doctor had arrived. He was accompanied by at least a dozen young men. When the party entered it appeared as if joy and festivity, inspiration and activity-nay—Chaitanya itself—had filled the house.

I Remember

Though I kept frequently peeping into my brother-in-law’s room where all of them were lovingly and jovially chatting over tea, I was too shy to face the Doctor and his blessed companions. Though I have, today, only a very faint recollection of those early days of mine, this incident is so vivid in my memory that the boisterous chit-chat and his hearty laughs on that day still seem to resound in my ears. Today when I try to look back and recollect the series of happy accidents and events which brought me more and more to him till I surrendered myself, imperceptibly however, to the great ideal as it unfolded itself through Doctorji’s life, my heart is filled with joy and gratitude for the blessed hand of providence in bringing me into contact with the greatest Hindu of this age.

Little Record

Doctor Keshav Raoji Hedgewar came of a Telugu family which though later domiciled in the Central provinces, originally belonged to the village Kandkurti of Hyderabad State. To write about Doctorji’s life is, for obvious reasons, really a very difficult task. From whatever little is known about his early life it is pretty clear that temperamentally he was a revolutionary and not a parliamentary politician. The organisational skill which he exhibited at Nagpur and Culcutta, long before he started the magnificent organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, was definitely of a different order. He resorted to pen and paper only when he had to. The outer decorum was of no importance to him, so much so, that when he founded the organisation the RSS, the search for an appropriate and suitable name from the same could not in the least, come in the way of actually starting the work to which the famous name Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was given at later as much as six months later.

According to him even the lists of Swayamsevaks were superfluous. His was a singular technique, lively and powerful at the same time. The mutual close contact of Swayamsevaks being the real basis of the system of his work he could easily dispense with the usual procedure of maintaining lists and records, files and registers. It was only long after, when the work assumed wide proportions and advanced beyond the range of memory of one man that he resorted to some kind of paper work. The only record of many if multifarious activities, therefore is in the form of men he inspired and the works he moulded.

Shadowed Since Boyhood

Especially about his pre-sangha activities little is known to the outer world and it is not even certain whether any light can even be thrown on that part of his adventurous life. It is a hidden treasure known only to those few companions of his who might still be living. Even the records of the so-called efficient intelligence department of the foreign regime which kept shadowing him since his high school days is, fortunately or unfortunately, unable to supply any authentic information about those activities.

The department, once he causality told us, had been striving its utmost to implicate him in some conspiracy or the other—the usual tactics the department follows as the last resort. He once narrated the incident of one Maharashtrian gentleman, especially deputed by the department to do that nefarious job joined the National Medical School, Calcutta where Doctorji had been studying those days. The gentlemen sought entrance into the lodge managed by Doctorji and his associates. Doctorji, suspecting his intentions however, readily accommodated him. Doctorji’s colleagues were very much disturbed over the entry of that government informer but were later satisfied to learn the plan Doctorji had in his mind in allowing him in the lodge. The result was that instead of the man spying over the inmates of the lodge was himself being shadowed day and night without his knowledge. Ultimately the man in question had not only to leave both the lodge and the medical school but had to give up very department which dismissed him for his inefficiency.

Though it is not possible, today, to study the course of his life since his very childhood, day to day, month to month, or event to certain glimpses of his early life it would be enough to give some event, till he founded the RSS.

A Revealing Incident

When this child, instead of remaining content with toys and sweets or Gillidanda and marbles, aspired to capture the Nagpur Fort of Sitabaldi from the British hands and started the military manoeuvres by actually undertaking to dig an underground passage upto the Fort till at last the master-plan was exposed—not to the Britishers of course,—but to the elderly persons in the family who could not but punish the General and his little Guerilla army for having damaged the room. The child had already chosen Shivaji as his hero and ideal and that explains the system clearly discernible even in his fantastic and childish actions.

Why Poona: Why Calcutta

It was but natural, therefore, that this boy, accepting the challenge of the school authorities dancing to the tune of the Britishers, should have organised a revolt in the school by leading the ‘Vande Mataram’ movement. The consequent rustication of Keshav provided further opportunities for him to get himself more equipped to complete the stupendous task God had ordained for him. The rustication ultimately carried him to Poona, the hot-bed of politics, and the seat of Lokamanya Tilak, the “Father of Political Unrest” as he was rightly called.

After matriculation from the national High School Poona and a couple of years’ subsequent stay there, his choice of Culcutta (Kolkata) as his next field of activity was not without significance. If we take into consideration the then- existing political situation and the political currents in the country it becomes crystal clear why, of all places, Calcutta should attract this young man. Surely it was neither any special liking for the subject of medicine nor mere college education that prompted him to shift to Culcutta. From his own utterances, it can be gathered that he came in contact with many eminent personalities of Bengal belonging to different political schools. Here, as also previously at Poona, he studied the different schools of thought from very close quarters-nay-he actually participated in their programmes.

Feeling the Pulse

By the time he returned as a duly qualified doctor to Nagpur in 1916 he was quite a grown up youth fresh from the college but rich in experience. If one minutely studies the activities of this non-practising doctor for several years that followed it can be noticed that he was intently absorbed in contacting eminent persons and promising youths, obviously of course, to form a strong nucleus of resolute workers in the province of CP. How to throw away the foreign yoke? That was the one question which kept him constantly thinking. He moved from place to place, person to person, but could not get satisfaction or peace of mind. There was, however, one man who was for him at once the source of inspiration and of peace. He was Lokamanya Tilak. His death in the year 1920 gave him a rude shock from which Doctorji never recovered. Even in the almost delirious state during the week prior to his death he was many a time heard expressing sorrow over Tilakji’s untimely death. In later years, I often heard him say spontaneously, “how fortunate it would have been had Tilakji been living for guiding our organisation and to see its present progress.”

1921 and After

In the year 1921 Gandhiji had already ascended to political leadership of the country. Doctorji took part in the non-co-coperation movement of 1921 and was sentenced for a term of one year. The non-co-operation agitation, the Khilafat Movement, the Mopla atrocities, subsequent Muslim riots, the political lull and sense of frustration in the people, and steadily growing influence of the Gandhian technique were special features of the period that immediately followed.

It is evident, Doctorji reached certain conclusions during this period. He had lived with revolutionaries, he had worked in the Congress and he had contacted and discussed with the then-thinkers and leaders of the country. Not only that, having himself been brought up in poverty he had opportunities to mix with the common strata of the society as well, and so he could closely study the people. He was aware of the potentialities of our race as well as degeneration that had set in due to foreign rule. He had clearly noticed where the strength of the Britishers lay and had unmistakably located the weak and vulnerable points in their administrative machinery.

In quest of solution he had laboured hard in practically all the fields. The long and labourious search for the way-out ultimately proved fruitful. The solution was found out, the riddle solved. The doctor completed his diagnosis. He calculated what freedom would cast. He resolved and his mind became steady. He chose the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami an founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the year 1925. From here starts the second phase of his life.

Courtesy: Organiser

This Article First Published On 25.03.2020