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Tribute to Dattopant Thengadi Ji – A stalwart thinker, organizer and visionary

Dr. Manmohan Vaidya
Sah Sarkaryavah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

The time when the late Dattopant Thengadi Ji set the foundation stone of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, communism was at its pinnacle across the world. Starting a grassroots national labour movement rooted in the pure Bharatiya Darshan and building it brick by brick amidst odds was a lofty task then. It called for conviction, devotion, and persistence on his part. When I try to grasp the frame of mind he would’ve had then, I am reminded of this allegory:

The spring breeze was still a distant memory.
Mango flowers had yet to appear on the trees.
Just then, a tiny creature stepped out from his warm earthly dwelling.
Indifferent to the rouge winter winds shaking his little frame, he began his walk.
“Stay put,” his well-wishers tried convincing him, they warned him of the impending dangers.
He, however, didn’t heed a single piece of advice.
At long last, after an arduous march, he reached the Mango Tree.
Taking a brief glance at the tall tree trunk he proceeded onto a steep upward climb.
Perched on one of the tree branches, a parakeet was intently watching his moves.
Bending his neck, he finally asked, “oh earthly creature, what brings you here, in this cold weather?”
“Mango nectar,” pat came a reply.
Laughing hysterically, the parakeet thought to himself, “he sure is the king of fools.” “My bird’s-eye view has inspected each cranny. There isn’t a hint of Mango here, Silly,” he smirked.
Steadying his wobbly steps the little creature retorted “You might be seeing what you see, but when I get there the Mango will surely appear.”
The response of that creature is like that of a yogi. One who does not wallow in self-pity; who doesn’t fear unfavorable circumstances. Without a trace of even a band of color on the horizon, he believes the promise of the inevitable dawn. He doesn’t doubt that each step of his walk is consequential and will bear fruits. No matter how much the clever and the wise try to beat sense into him, he remains true to the music of the drummer deep within. His heart resounds the verse “absorb yourself in ‘Hari,’ find Hari in everything that absorbs you.”

It is for all to see, as of today Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh is the largest labour organisation in Bharat.

No matter how accomplished one is, an able organizer is open to his co-worker’s thoughts and suggestions and promptly accepts the appropriate ones in the interest of the organisation. Thengadi ji was such a gifted organiser. When the decision to take up some organisational activity among workers(trade unions) was made, the nomenclature contemplated was – “Bharatiya Shramik Sangh”. Yet the discussion that ensued among the karyakartas illuminated the fact that the group of the society that this organization will work with will find the word ‘Shramik’ too difficult to comprehend. People of some states might not be able to even pronounce it. Therefore in place of ‘Shramik,’ the colloquial ‘mazdoor’ should be used. This suggestion was duly accepted and the organization came to be known as ‘Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.’

Working in an organization entails the journey from ‘me’ to ‘we’. This transition is not easy for any extraordinarily adept person. Usually, such a person is a shadow of his ego. This ego crops up from time to time. Sages,  the realised souls have illustrated the irony of the ego when they said, “it is that evil which spares the ignorant and throttles the knowledgeable.” However, safeguarding oneself from such self-criticism is necessary for those who work within, for or with an organization. Thengadi ji had mastered this art. Even in a casual dialogue, while expressing an opinion, offering an insight or a solution he used ‘we’ and not an ‘I’. Elevating one’s sense of self so thin so as to integrate all the people that one is associated with is requisite for an organizer and Thengadi ji was a prolific organizer in this sense.

Another noteworthy quality of Thengadi ji was that he was warm and friendly to all co-workers, their designation and qualification notwithstanding. Placing his hand on their shoulders, he would promenade with even an ordinary worker, making the worker indistinguishable from him. These gestures put the workers seeking his counsel at  great ease. Forgetting that they were speaking to a national leader or a renowned thinker of the international stature, they came to see him as their own family elder or a wise community member. While doing so, no artificial efforts were required for Thengadi ji, it used to be effortless and natural.

He was also very well-read person with an in-depth understanding. Oftentimes while in a conversation, he would refer to texts from many books and mention anecdotes of several political leaders. But one trait of his that shines bright in my memory is when a novice karyakarta like me would narrate an anecdote or say a joke that was originally told to us by him, he would listen to it sincerely. Such patience is extraordinary. Many senior karyakartas too are often tempted to dismiss a conversation by saying “I know that.” But Thengadi ji listened to each word intently, as if hearing it for the first time. Not only that, he would go a step further and mindfully reflect upon that remark and unmistakably add a new anecdote or joke thereon. Deep connection with  ground-level co-workers is indeed a sign of a great leader.

Despite the temptation, intention and efforts to broaden work undertaken, avoiding needless hurry is also the quality of an excellent organizer. Parampujaniya Shri Guruji would often say “Dheere-Dheere Jaldi Karo” (hasten slowly). One must not be in a haste. A friend of mine was a senior leader  in Shri Sharad Joshi’s ‘Shetkari Sanghatana-’ a farmers’ movement in Vidarbha region. Eventually, he got disillusioned with the movement and came in contact with my younger brother who was also an agriculturist at the time. In view of Kisan Sangh’s recent commencement, my brother deemed connecting this farmers’ leader to the organization appropriate. He introduced that man to me. Thengadi ji was overseeing the operations of the organization in those days, therefore I approached him with this proposition at Nagpur. Thengadi ji was familiar with this person. I was optimistic that the association of an established leader will aid the momentum of Kisan Sangh’s work and Thengadi ji will welcome him in the organization. However, no sooner had I finished drawing the backdrop and pinning my suggestion on top he declined it. I was baffled. Later Thengadi ji explained to me that he rejected this leader because Kisan Sangh was a small organization then. He was afraid the organization would not be able to absorb a leader of that man’s stature and he, in turn, would engulf the organization, diluting our efforts. He didn’t want that to happen. To which I said, “if Kisan Sangh doesn’t absorb him then BJP will assimilate him in their party and give him a ticket to contest the elections.” Unphased Thengdi ji calmly responded, “BJP might be in a hurry, we are not.” His lucid and confident response was enlightening and it was then that Shri Guru ji’s words, “hasten slowly” had a new-found meaning for me.

Besides a great organizer, Thengadi ji was also a philosopher. Depths of Bharatiya philosophy would subtly unravel in one’s dialogues with him. The domination of communist thought on the labour movement was such that their thought-process and terminology managed to percolate among almost all labour organisations of that era, becoming apparent in their slogans. At that time he replaced communism-oriented slogans with slogans that were pertinent reflections of Bharatiya Darshan. “Udyogon Ka Rashtriyakaran – Nationalisation of industries” was replaced with “Rashtra Ka Audyogikaran – Udyogon Ka Shramikikaran aur Shramikon ka Rashtriyakaran” means “Industrialisation of the nation – Nationalisation of labours – Labourisation of industries(worker-centric culture in industries)” Inconsiderate and unreasonable slogans that intensified the strife among workers and employers like, “Hamari Mange Puri Ho – Chahe Jo Majboori Ho (fulfil our demands, no matter whatever be the constraints)” were replaced with “Desh ke Liye Karenge Kaam – Kaam ke Lenge Poore Daam  (we will work for the nation and will also take the due compensation for the same)”
In the form of these minor changes, awakening the spirit of patriotism.

Besides Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh and Kisan Sangh, Thengadi ji was instrumental as a key participant in setting a foundation for many other organizations. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Prajna Pravah, Vigyan Bharati are a few among those. His essay on Bharatiya Kala Drishti (Indic perspective on performing arts) became the intellectual foundation of  Sanskar Bharati.    

Walking in the midst of a stalwart thinker, organizer and visionary like Thengadi ji, witnessing the seemingly mundane yet exceptional activities like the manner of his speaking, his style of conducting himself and being blessed with his guidance are moments of bliss and a great honor for me.  My humble tribute on the auspicious occasion of his birth centenary.

Lets Rise Above Political Differences and Make Nation Invincible – Mohan Bhagwat

Our association with elections are only till the point of JanJagaran ( awareness ) and motivating people for voting.  The nation is bigger than political machinations. Elections have a peculiarity that people call each other names and bring each other down. It is important that the nation overcomes that temporary phase and we work towards consolidating society, character building in society and make our society invincible said Dr. Mohan ji Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh in the Tritiya Varsh Sangh Shiksha Varga Samarop program ( valedictory program of the 3rd year training program of RSS ) .


The Saga of Sacrifice of Arjun Tirki , 9th grade student in the 1971 war

Translation of excerpt from Dr. Mohan ji Bhagwat’s speech :

Swayamsewak should also understand that by doing simple tasks whole heartedly in the daily shakhas they will become fully developed individuals who consider the whole society as their own, without any animosity towards others in their mind and they will do whatever is required in the interest of the nation, without any hesitation. This is a well-known fact. Swayamsewaks of the Sangh are doing various duties all over the country. Over one lakh seventy thousand social service activities are conducted by Swayamsewaks in distant areas, where there is a need, like forests, mountains and rural areas, working along with the society, spending their own money and effort and without taking any monetary help from the Government. They have entered into many sectors of the society and there they have done many praise worthy tasks. The swayamsewaks are the first to arrive whenever there is a minor or major crisis and they are always prepared to work for the welfare of the country and if necessary, to sacrifice their lives.

This incident was during the 1971 war with Pakistan, when Bangladesh was not yet created.  When the Pakistani soldiers were entering the West Bengal border, a vanvasi boy called Arjun Tirki, studying in ninth standard, who was the mukhya sikshak of the shakha, noticed this and ran to the BSF camp and told them that the Pakistani soldiers were entering and asked the BSF soldiers to come quickly. There were only three or four people guarding the post and a whole Pakistani regiment was coming. The BSF jawans gave gunpowder boxes to the boy and asked him to take the boxes to the post said that  they would be following. The boy delivered the boxes to the four soldiers and stayed with them. During the fight he was shot and became a martyr.

There is a memorial in a village near Raigunj dedicated to Arjun Thirki. He was a true swayamsewak of the Sangh. It is easy to sing the song ‘O mother may your glory remain forever, though we may or may not be here for four days’, but to become ready for this it is necessary to have dedicated practice every day. With this practice Swayamsewaks with strong qualities having an understanding of the clear meaning and respect for Hindutva in the mind, having the strength to protect Hindutva with body mind and intellect, with strong intention to take the whole society with them and walking along side with the whole society, will be developed or created.


Rajju Bhayya – Nuclear Physics Professor who became Sarsanghchalak

Prof. Rajendra Singh (29 January 1922 – 14 July 2003 ), popularly called Rajju Bhaiya, was the fourth Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh between 1994 and 2000.

He worked as a professor and head of the Department of Physics at Allahabad University but left to devote his life  for the Sangh in the mid-1960s. Rajju Bhaiyya was acknowledged as an exceptionally brilliant student by Sir C. V. Raman, the physicist and Nobel Prize-winner, when he was his examiner in M.Sc. He also offered Singh a fellowship for advanced research in nuclear physics.

He joined Allahabad University after majoring in Physics to teach Spectroscopy. He taught at the university for several years, where later he was appointed head of the Physics Department. He was also considered an expert in nuclear physics which was very rare those days in India. He was a very popular teacher of the subject, using simplicity and clear concepts.

With the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh :

Singh was active in the Quit India Movement of 1942 and it was during this time that he came in contact with the RSS. From then onwards the Sangh influenced his life. He resigned from his university post in 1966 and offered full-time services to the RSS as a ‘prant pracharak’ of  Uttar Pradesh, . He was later entrusted with responsibility of  Sar Karyavaha (General Secretary) in the 1980s. In 1994, he was nominated to succeed BalaSahebji  Deoras as Sarsanghchalak.

While in Uttar Pradesh, he worked with Lal Bahadur Shastri, Chandra Shekhar and V.P. Singh. Murali Manohar Joshi was also one of his best students.

Rajju Bhaiyya shared an excellent rapport with political leaders cutting across ideological lines besides academicians, social workers and intellectuals. He abdicated the post of Sarsanghchalak on account of his failing health in February 2000 and nominated the K. S. Sudarshan ji for the post.

During emergency he went underground and toured whole India. He was also responsible for organizing human rights convention presided by Justice VM Tarkunde in Delhi in 1976. He was also responsible for setting up friends of India Society International.

One of his most important beliefs was: “All people are basically nice. One should deal with every person by believing in his goodness. Anger, jealousy, etc. are the offshoots of his past experiences, which affect his behavior. Primarily every person is nice and everyone is reliable.”

Rajju Bhaiyya was a firm believer in the concept of Swadeshi and empowering rural economy. Initiating the rural developmental activities, he had declared in 1995 that the utmost priority should be given in making the villages hunger-free, disease-free and educative. Today, there are over 100 villages where the rural development work done by swayamsevaks has inspired the people of surrounding villages and their experiments are being emulated by those people.

Addressing the Vijayadashami festival at Nagpur in 1995, Singh remembered Mohandas K. Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri. He challenged the way in which the central government was working on fulfilling the dreams of these two statesmen.

Rajju Bhaiyya wanted to establish a memorial named after Bismil in Delhi, the capital of India. He died on 14 July 2003 at Kaushik Ashram in Pune, Maharashtra.

Writer – Anonymous

Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh

The Govt of Bharat has announced Bharat Ratna for Nanaji Deshmukh ( posthumously )  on Jan 25th, 2019.  Here is a  brief note about him.

Chandikadas Amritrao Deshmukh ( Nanaji ) was born on October 11,1916 in a modest Maharashtrian family at Kadoli, a small town in Parbhani district. He had a burning zeal and desire for education and knowledge that he did not shy away from working as a vendor and selling vegetables to raise money for paying his tuition fee & realising his objective.

Nanaji was deeply inspired by Lokamanya Tilak and his national thoughts. He showed keen interest in social service and activities. His family was in close contact with Dr. Hedgewar who was a regular visitor to the family of Nanaji. He could discern an immense hidden potential in Nanaji and encouraged him to attend RSS shakhas.

In 1940, after the death of Dr. Hedgewar, many youngsters inspired by him joined the RSS in Maharashtra. Nanaji was among those enthused youths who joined the RSS devoting their whole life in service to the Nation. He was sent to Uttar Pradesh as a Pracharak. At Agra he met Deendayalji for the first time. Later, Nanaji went to Gorakhpur as a pracharak where he took great pains to introduce Sangh ideology in the eastern UP. It was not an easy task at that time as the Sangh had no funds to meet even day-today expenses. He had to stay in a Dharmashala but had to keep on changing Dharmashalas as no one was allowed to stay there for more than three days consecutively. Ultimately, he was given shelter by Baba Raghavdas on the condition that he would also cook meals for him.

Within three years, his hard work bore fruits and almost 250 Sangh Shakhas cropped up in and around Gorakhpur. Nanaji always laid great emphasis on education. He established Bharat’s first Saraswati Sishu Mandir at Gorakhpur in 1950. It reflects Nanaji’s love for education and knowledge.

In 1947 two journals “Rashtradharma” and “Panchjanya” and a newspaper called “Swadesh” were launched by those inspired by Sangh.  Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was assigned the responsibility of the editor and Shri Deendayalji was made the Margdharshak with Nanaji as the Managing Director. It was a challenging task as the organization was hard up for money to bring out the publications, yet it did never dampen their spirits and these publications gained popularity and recognition.

Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination led to imposition of ban on the RSS and publication work came to a grinding halt. A different strategy was adopted keeping the ban in mind and Nanaji was the brain behind underground publication work by the RSS those days. When the ban was lifted and it was decided to have a political organization, Jana Sangh came into being. Nanaji was asked by Shri Guruji to take charge of Bharatiya Jana Sangh in Uttar Pradesh as party Secretary. Nanaji had worked as RSS pracharak in Uttar Pradesh and his groundwork proved of a great help in organizing BJS at the grass roots. By 1957 BJS had established its units at each and every district in Uttar Pradesh and credit for this goes to the Nanaji who had extensively traveled all over the State.

Soon, BJS became a force to reckon with in Uttar Pradesh. In 1967 BJS became the part of United Legislature Party Government headed by Chaudhary Charan Singh. Nanaji played a crucial role in evolving the alliance as he enjoyed good relations with Charan Singh and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. He was successful in bringing leaders of different political background on one platform to give Uttar Pradesh its first non-Congress government.

A political giant, like Chandra Bhanu Gupta, had to face one of the biggest challenges of his life when Nanaji outwitted him not once but thrice. On one occasion, he planned a strategy to defeat the Congress nominee and CB Gupta’s favorite in Rajya Sabha. When CB Gupta himself contested elections from Lucknow in 1957, Nanaji crafted an alliance with socialist groups and helped Babu Triloki Singh in registering an impressive win over Gupta. Shri Gupta faced another embarrassment when he was again defeated at Maudaha in Uttar Pradesh.

In Uttar Pradesh BJS gained strength from Deendayalji’s margdarhsan, Atalji’s oratory skills and Nanaji’s organizational work and it emerged as an important player in the State politics. Nanaji always shared good relations not only with his party colleagues but also with his Opponents. Shri CB Gupta, who suffered many humiliating, defeats at the hands of Nanaji, yet he continued to have great respect for him and called him ‘Nana Phadanvis ‘. His relations with Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia changed the course of Indian politics. Once he invited Dr. Lohia in BJS karaykarta sammelan where he met Deendayalji for the first time and this association brought the BJS closer to socialist parties in exposing the Congress and its misrule.

Nanaji actively participated in Bhoodan Movement started by Vinoba Bhave. By spending two months with Vinoba he was inspired by the success and appeal of the movement. When Jai Prakash Narayan gave the call for” Total Revolution” he responded by giving total support to this movement. When the Janata Party was formed Nanaji was one of its main architects. Janata Party stormed into power by sweeping off the Congress and Nanaji was elected from Balrampur parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh. When he was offered ministerial berth by the then Prime Minister, Shri Morarjee Desai he politely refused it. For him politics was never a career but a mission. He was not the person who would stick to politics or office come what may. Of his own volition he announced his retirement from politics in presence of Jai Paraksh Narain and since then never looked back.

Nanaji later devoted his entire time to Deendayal Research Institute that he himself established way back in 1969. He established Chitarkoot Gramodya Vishwavidyalaya in Chitrakoot, Independent India’s first rural university and was its first Chancellor.

Nanaji later devoted his entire time to Deendayal Research Institute that he himself established way back in 1969. He established Chitarkoot Gramodya Vishwavidyalaya in Chitrakoot, Independent Bharat’s first rural university and was its first Chancellor. Hon’ble Dr. Abdul Kalam was greatly inspired by the work done in rural development in Chitrakoot.

On 27th Feb 2010, Nanaji left his body at the age of 94.

Source : Deendayal Research Institute

Also read about the extensive work done by him for #Graama #Swaaraj https://arisebharat.com/2009/09/29/nanaji-makes-gramswaraj-a-reality/