Dr. Hedgewar had firm faith in principles of Hinduism and followed most of the rituals while he was in jail. He carried Yagyopavit (holy thread) on his body as per Hindu traditions. When he was asked to remove Yagyopavit by jailor citing jail rules, he straight forwardly refused saying “I will not remove this. It is my religious right. You have no right to interfere in my religious matter.”
Supervisor of the jail was an Irish man. He was so much impressed by the firm resolve and courage of Dr. Hedgewar that he permitted Dr. Hedgewar to wear holy thread. Courageous behaviour of Doctor ji motivated other Satyagrahis of the jail. They all started agitation unitedly demanding all facilities as per jail manual. Result was that all Satyagrahis were given the status of political prisoners.
Staunch Patriotic Zeal during Rigorous Imprisonment
Several of his young colleagues had also landed in the same jail while participating in a Non-Cooperation Movement. Among them were Congress leaders Bapuji Pathak, Raghunath Ramchander, Pandit Radhamohan Gokule etc. and a young Nationalist Muslim of around 22 years, Qazi Imanullah. He after participating in Khilafat movement had landed in the same jail to serve one-year rigorous imprisonment. The staunch devout Muslim used to recite Quran very loudly early in the morning. This disrupted the sleep of other political prisoners. Even after much persuasion by all he did not relent, Pandit Radhamohan, another prisoner, also started reciting from Ramcharit Manas loudly. Deafening loud sound of Pandit ji convinced Imanullah to recite in a humble tone. Seeing the dedication and devotion of this young Muslim to his religion, Dr. Hedgewar would always greet him with his sweet smile. Soon after, he became an admirer of Doctor ji.
In jail all political prisoners were given different jobs. Weaving of ropes, grinding of pulses and grains, farming activities and book binding jobs were given to them. Dr. Hedgewar was given the job of book binding which involved preparing pulp, sticking and cutting of paper, due to which his hands had several wounds. He suffered all these pains and tortures smilingly, driven by the love and devotion to his mother land. He termed these sufferings as syllabus of a freedom fighter. He believed that it was not possible to pass the examination without studying this syllabus. Dr. Hedgewar was an important member of Congress committee’s Central Province unit during those days. He was a respected Satyagrahi and he hated small petty quarrels. He continued with his assigned job with full devotion. He would politically train other prisoners while doing his assigned work in jail. He would discuss Independence, Savdharam and Satyagraha. He would even teach his companions about the armed revolution without any fear. He would recall the glorious lives of great Hindu icons and great historical personalities to his companions to arouse the patriotic feelings and sense of pride in them.
On the suggestion of and with inspiration from Dr. Hedgewar, jailed Satyagrahis decided to observe ‘Jallianwalabagh Day’. When everyone agreed to strike work on that day, Imanullah refused to join the strike. He would always shout ‘Khilafat Khilafat’ and he would not participate in any festival or joint community activity. But Doctor ji’ s affectionate behaviour made him to join other prisoners. At that time political as well as non-political prisoners were given the same food and clothing, as per jail rules. But after the 60 days of hunger strike of Amar Shaheed Yatinder Nath Sanyal, a separate class of political prisoners was formed.
Dr. Hedgewar questioned the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation Movement?
During the one-year rigorous jail term, Dr. Hedgewar received the news that Gandhiji all of a sudden had withdrawn the country wide Non-Cooperation Movement against British rulers. Doctor ji was shocked and deeply hurt by this decision at that stage when the agitation was in its final leg and on its peak. There was no wisdom in Gandhiji’s taking this unilateral decision without consulting those leaders who had worked day and night for the success of the movement. Dr. Hedgewar had a lot of questions in his mind. Was there lack of discipline or dedication among the workers? Or the efficiency or credibility of leaders of movement led to the collapse of movement? What did Gandhiji get by withdrawing the agitation by blaming some isolated incidents of violence?
The Non-Cooperation Movement was well on its track of non-violence as per wishes and planning of Gandhiji. On 5th Feb 1922, a crowd consisting of victims of police brutalities torched the local police station and 12 policemen were killed in the violence in a place called Chauri Chaura in UP. Within one week of this incident, Gandhiji withdrew the movement. Gandhiji expressed his state of mind in the following words – “God has warned me third time about the rationale on which the community Non-Cooperation Movement can be seen as rational and justified. The environment of non-violence is not conductive in India at this moment.” (Gandhiji had accepted the fact in his outpouring that discipline, dedication, consistency, and commitment to goal are the basis of a strong organization.)
A Deep Analysis While in Jail
Dr. Hedgewar was released on 12th July,1922. He was welcomed by Congress leaders like Dr. Munje, Dr. Pranjpe with garlands and showering of flower petals. Several welcome arches were raised on the way to his house. Dr. Hedgewar after his release further intensified his involvement in freedom struggle. Maharashtra Saptahik Pater, a weekly published from Nagpur wrote “Nobody has doubt about Dr. Hedgewar’s patriotism, selflessness and his firm target oriented approach. But all these qualities were moulded in the hot furnace of sacrificing spirit. We wish these qualities are used for the Nation hundred times more.”
A welcome programme was organised in Chitnees park. A welcome resolution was proposed by Dr. N B Khere which was passed unanimously. After this Congress leaders like Hakim Ajmal Khan and Rajagopala Chari welcomed Doctor ji. At the end, Doctor ji spoke briefly in calculated words of wisdom. “We should set our target which is best and supreme while we are working for our country. No target less than complete freedom should be our target. It may not be appropriate to discuss means but we should aim at the target. We should not worry even if we have to sacrifice our lives to achieve complete freedom. This struggle has to be driven by high ideals and with cool mindedness.”
After spending one year in prison doing hard labour, Dr. Hedgewar was free physically but his mind was not free from different concerns and plans. Doctor ji’s main concern was how to free Bharat Mata from the chains of British rule. A successful soldier who had fought for freedom of his country was now a commander to lead the fight and meet the challenges ahead. His deep analysis and thought churning process during his one-year rigorous imprisonment helped him in laying the foundations for his visionary thinking, future planning and strategy.
……………….to be continued
(Writer is senior journalist and columnist)