Sunday, August 6, 2017

RIP Bhiku Daji Bhilare - the man who saved Gandhiji's life in 1944. By Subhash Gatade

For a section of people - whose number is diminishing fast - it is a moment of nostalgia when idealism was in air and sacrificing oneself for the cause of emancipation of humanity was looked at with respect, whereas for a larger section which is being intoxicated with glories of our ancient past, there is a feeling of indifference to say the least.

Bhiku Daji Bhilare (Born on November 26, 1919) who died at the age of 98 years rather proved to be an exception. Not only thousands of people from all walks of life and various political streams participated in his cremation, the mainstream media also reported it. It may be mainly because of this member of the Rashtra Seva Dal in his youth, who was active in the "parallel government" in Satara district run by revolutionary Nana Patil and others, had mainly devoted himself to social-political service, after representing Jawali assembly constituency in the state legislature for 18 years.

Of course, not very many people know one of his brave acts - saving Gandhi’s life, at a very crucial juncture in the nation’s history when independence was approaching and Gandhi was to play an important role in the unfolding developments. It was the year 1944 when Gandhi was visiting Panchagani, a hill station near Pune (May 1944), where a young crowd of 15-20 young people came in a chartered bus. They had organised a daylong protest demonstration against him but refused to talk when Gandhi invited them when the said attack occurred.

Gandhi’s great grandson Tushar Gandhi, in his book, ’Let’s Kill Gandhi,’ has mentioned the incident. He tells us how during that prayer meeting, Nathuram Godse dressed in Nehru shirt, pajama and jacket, brandishing a dagger had rushed towards Gandhi. “Godse was overpowered by Bhilare Guruji and Manishankar Purohit. Two youths accompanying Godse ran away,..
“(In) July 1944, after his release from Aga Khan Prison Camp in May 1944, Gandhi contracted malaria and was advised to rest by Physician... He retired to Panchgani, a mountain resort near Poona (now Pune), where he stayed at Dilkhush Bunglow. A group of 18 and 20 men reached Panchgani and held a day-long protest against Gandhi...When Gandhi was informed about the demonstration, he contacted the leader of the group, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, for discussion. Nathuram rejected the invitation and continued the protest”

The incident was rather engraved in Bhilare Guruji’s memory- as he was affectionately called later - who had talked about it and written about it at many places: "Everyone was allowed to attend Mahatma Gandhi’s prayer meetings in Panchgani. That day, his associates Usha Mehta, Pyarelal, Aruna Asaf Ali and others were present for the prayers. Godse rushed up to Gandhiji with a knife saying that he had some questions. I stopped him, twisted his hand and snatched the knife. But Gandhiji let him go."

The transformation of Bhilare Guruji in a ’youth icon’ finds mention in the reminiscences of senior freedom fighters as well. N D Patil, a freedom fighter himself and who led the ’Peasants and Workers Party’ - who himself is in his 90s, - told in an interview to a leading daily how
"The news of Guruji saving Gandhiji from Godse spread everywhere in Satara. I was 15 then. Many of us students went on our cycles to meet Guruji. He had become an icon for us. He lived a simple life throughout and followed Gandhian principles," he said. (

Perhaps it may be sign of fatigue or the changed political ambience in the country, while the media did provide details about Bhilare Guruji and his later life, it did not deem it necessary to elaborate further on the assassination attempt of the Mahatma undertaken by the Hindutva Supremacists.
Question remains why did Nathuram Godse and his gang of fanatics tried to attack Gandhi ?

“... our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former (the RSS), an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhiji’s assassination) became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure.”
(Sardar Patel’s letter to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, July 18, 1948)

Very few people know the animosity of the Hindutva fanatics towards Gandhi which was evident in the four attempts on his life before Nathuram Godse’s final attempt. (Chunibhai Vaidya, a leading Gandhian from Gujarat, talked about a total of six attempts. Apart from the details of various attempts mentioned below he talks about an attempt on his life in September 1946 too.)

In fact, the attack in Panchgani was not the first time that they had tried to kill him... read more:

Also see