Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338

E-mail- dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com;dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net

 

 

Amravati and Mahatma Gandhi

 

Mahatma Gandhi had a closer relationship with Amraoti. Mr. Yadwarkar Patwardhan was his closed associate. He worked in his guidance. He was sub-editor of Young India in 1920. Mahatma Gandhi gave him tribute too. He wrote some important letter from Amraoti like Agatha Harisson and Efy Aristarch. He wrote two letters to J.C. Akante, Morshi Amraoti and Wamanrao Joshi Amraoti.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Yadwarkar Patwardhan of Amraoti who worked as sub-editor on the staff of Young India for over a year without any honorarium. Yadwarkar Patwardhan of Amraoti was unknown to fame, but was no less devoted a servant of the nation than many who work in the limelight of public gaze and command the plaudits of overgenerous and often even unthinking crowds. Patwardhan was a graduate in law of Bombay University but never practiced the profession. I had the privilege of first knowing him in 1915. He was constantly at the Ashram. I was struck by the beauty of his character, his simplicity, his self-effacingness, his utter humility, his constancy and his devotion to the work entrusted to him. He laboured for Young India over a year without any honorarium as Sub-Editor. He attended the Congress and was preparing to go to Sholapur and work there for non-co-operation. But God had willed otherwise. He was ailing for some time; but we had all hoped that he would soon recover. He had a sudden relapse however during the Congress week and never left his bed. He died with the last verses of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita on his lips. Thus die many a Hampden, the real dumb makers of a nation. I knew Patwardhan to be ‘a gem of purest ray serene’. His friends knew his worth. May God grant peace to the noble soul?”1

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have lost two co-workers within only a few months. Both of them were devotees of God. Both were servants of the people. Their service was invisible. One was Vrajlal Bhimji. He went down into a well to take out a pitcher which some children had thrown into it. He got exhausted while climbing up with the help of the rope, slipped and so died. The other friend, Patwardhan, was running a temperature. He used to work on Young India, living on his own money. In the meantime he fell ill. He went to his brother’s place at Amraoti for recovery. Believing he had recovered, he came to Nagpur at the time of the Congress and had a relapse. This time the fever proved fatal. No one was present by his side except his close relatives and two or three friends. Thus Patwardhan passed away on the last Ekadashi day. I have seen very few workers like him or Vrajlal. It was not their wont to make speeches or thrust themselves forward to offer their services. But it is through workers like them that the people progress. Patwardhan truthfulness, humility and single-minded devotion were incomparable. He was a B.A., LL.B. of the Bombay University, but he never practiced as a lawyer. He joined the Ashram in 1916 and trained himself to do silently whatever work fell to his lot. He had been thinking of going to the Sholapur district after the Congress was over and working there for non-co-operation. Describing his last moments, a friend writes: When we arrived, he was at his last gasp and had not much consciousness. But, after a while, i.e., at about nine or nine-thirty, seeing him speaks a little, I said: “Sircar (Patwardhan pet name), be absolutely peaceful.” To this he replied quite distinctly: “I am all peace.” After a few moments, he said: “Nothing else is real; there is only one Real.” He had passed the stage of delirium. Everybody saw plainly that he was thinking on nothing else but Sat-chit. A few moments later I asked: “Shall we recite Sthitaprajna?”4 Showing the happiness within, he himself started. Then follows a description of how Patwardhan and others recited this part of the Gita more than once. There is nothing here which suggests death. All signs point to his having attained immortality. Patwardhan co-workers may, through selfishness, mourn over his death. His memory should teach them to be more devoted to their work. Patwardhan lives in his death. Though dead, he is serving the cause of freedom. There must be many such silent workers in India. Who will take note of them? And where is the need to do so either? True saints always serve unknown to others. It cannot be that there have been only five Pandavas. There are five Heroes of the Mahabharata. They were Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva are in the world other devotees like Arjuna, warriors like Bhima and votaries of truth like Yudhishthira. They do not know what fame is. They do not desire it. May Mother India produce many more workers like Patwardhan?”2

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The Committee further reports that Dr. Patwardhan of Amraoti, President of the Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal, which has 4 branches in the town besides the Central Gymnasium which alone has a daily attendance of about 1,000 boys, and which has about 50 branches throughout Berar, has addressed a letter to the Secretary, Anti-Untouchability Committee, in the course of which he says: Boys of the so-called untouchable classes are admitted to our gymnasiums along with the boys of the so-called caste Hindus on terms of absolute equality, and no distinction whatever is made as to their instruction or treatment.... These are encouraging events. All the parties concerned deserve congratulations. But for the ready atmosphere Advocate Silam could never have carried the whole of the Munurvar community with him. Dr. Patwardhan letter does not surprise me. He is an old worker in the field, and it would have been surprising indeed if he had been found behind the times. Let us hope that before long temples and institutions shutting their doors against the suppressed classes will be among the exceptions and not the rule as they still unfortunately are today. The appeal made by the Munurvars to the suppressed class for internal reform is quite relevant. The two movements, internal reform by the latter and repentance by the so-called ‘touchables’, should go hand in hand.  Yadwarkar Patwardhan of Amraoti, who died in January 1921.  Ganesh Krishna Khaparde (1854-1938); lawyer, orator and public worker of Amraoti; member of the Council of State under the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. He did not favour Gandhiji’s non-co-operation programme.  Lala Bhagwandinji has been tried and, having declined to defend himself, has been sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment with hard labour. I have not seen the charge-sheet against him, but this I know that he was Superintendent of the Swaraj Ashram at Nagpur and was doing excellent work. Now the Government has directed its attention to Mr. Wamanrao Joshi of Amraoti. Mr. Joshi is a selfless and enthusiastic worker possessing considerable influence in his district. It seems to be the intention of the C. P. Government to cut off ‘tall poppies’. But I hope they will find that there are more tall poppies than they can conveniently cut off.”3

“Mahatma Gandhi delivered speech in public meeting. I have visited many places throughout the length and breadth of this country and such big meetings are to me the manifestations of the grace of God. I believe that with God’s favour only can we conduct such huge assemblies. With His grace also I have taken up the Harijan work. It is a religious work and should therefore be done with truth, peace and sacrifice. It could not be done otherwise. If we want to expiate for the injustice done to the Harijans and if we want to atone for the wrongs we, the savarna Hindus, are still doing them, we must treat them as we treat other savarna Hindus. I would like to tell you all that, unless we behave with them on equal terms, there is no chance of our improvement also. I visited the Harijan quarters with the help of Dr. Patwardhan, and have also seen other work here, and have now heard the address read out to me by the local Municipal Committee. If the Municipality of this place could not do anything in this matter, it is not to be blamed. I have seen many other municipal committees and the conditions are just the same all over. But I must say that now even the Western scientists after their research have come to the conclusion that if we leave out any particular section of our society out of our fold, we are sure to go down economically. After these 25 years of observations, my belief strengthened that wealth should always go hand in hand with religion. There should be harmony between religion and wealth. I have come to realize from my Harijan work that one who tries for wealth in accordance with religion gets both. I believe it to be the duty of every savarna Hindu that he should try to take up the Harijan into his fold. If we do our duty towards the Harijans, all of us Hindus, Moslems, Parsis, Christians, will live peacefully. To my mind there is no better way to unity of these people than Harijan work. Now I must tell you what every one of you can do in this respect. The Harijan movement is a great yajna and each of you can put his little bit in it. Those who have money can give it for this cause. Those who have the leisure and intelligence to spare can teach the Harijan boys and give them lessons in personal hygiene and cleanliness. The Congressmen are doing this work at present. But I want that non-Congressmen also should undertake this work. It is the religious duty of every one of you to do this work. I do not value politics as much as I value this work. Politics is nothing to me. It is my belief that if we do this work with religious fervour everything will be obtained. I am not travelling with any other intention in this work. And when I see people assemble in such large numbers to hear me, I hope they will stand by me in this work. In July last the Harijan Sevak Sangh was started and some of you must have taken the vow to wipe out this curse of untouchability. It is the birthright of the Harijans to make use of public institutions and to enter into the temples. But as long as there is a single soul boycotted as being a Harijan, I shall not regard untouchability as being wiped out totally. It is up to you, therefore, to change your hearts and consider the Harijans as your brethren. The Harijan Sevak Sangh is composed of people of different schools of thought but they can do this work together. The workers in this field should not aspire after any kind of honour or title. They should not have the slightest tinge of personal interest or selfish motive. This work should also be free from any sort of political meaning but I do not value political things as much as this. The Harijan work is for the purification of the Hindu religion. I have great hopes in this matter. I have always been an optimist and my optimism in this case is increasing every day. But even if I fail it remains my duty to continue this work. Very few sincere workers have so far come forward. I, therefore, pray to God that He should give you all the necessary strength and guidance to do your duty in this respect. I must remind you of the pledge given last year in your name. You will remember that a meeting of representatives of Hindus was held in Bombay in September last year, Pandit Malaviyaji being in the chair. Among other things they resolved that untouchability, being a blot on the Hindu religion, had to be removed and that Harijans were entitled to the same public utilities, and in the same manner, as caste Hindus. There was in that resolution a special reference to Hindu temples, and legislation was contemplated if it was found to be necessary for attaining the end. It is, therefore, the bounden duty of every caste Hindu to fulfil the pledge by throwing open to the Harijans temples, wells and other institutions precisely on the same terms as they are open to caste Hindus. We are the cause of the degradation to which the Harijans are reduced. We must spend money if the wrong is to be redressed. He who will give to the cause will gain. We may not be satisfied; therefore, with giving out of superfluous cash, we have to give even if we have to stint ourselves. Some of us will have to give our all for Harijan service. It gladdens me to find both Congressmen and non- Congressmen working together in this movement. Since questions are being asked as to how far Congressmen can join this movement, I would like to reiterate what I have said before. The Congress adopted removal of untouchability as an integral part of its programme in 1920. It is, therefore, the duty of every Hindu Congressmen to fight untouchability and help Harijans in every way open to him. But, if the movement were confined to Congressmen alone, it could not make the headway we all desire. Every savarna Hindu has to do his bit in the movement. But whilst every Congress member is expected to fight the evil, he or she is not expected officially to join the Harijan Seva Sangh. If they are active civil resisters, they ought not to hold office in these organizations. And no Congressmen who believe in and wants to offer civil resistance need in any way feel constrained to suspend or give it up altogether. The case is wholly different with those who feel the call to give up civil resistance for the sake of Harijan service or who have lost faith in the former. In this movement of self-purification as in Satyagraha there is no room for camouflage. Harijans have complained that some self-seekers have crept into the movement. In a purely religious movement there is no room for such people. Only those can or should take office that have the spirit of service in them. Some of the ladies of this place have offered me ornaments and the little children have given me a little silver casket which I wish to put for auction. I shall accept money from you all, be it even a cowrie but it should be given with a pure heart. I assure you that it will make you happy and will be helpful to the Harijans.”4

 

References:

  1. Young India, 12-1-1921 113
  2.   Navajivan, 16-1-1921
  3. Young India, 13-4-1921
  4. Hitavada, 23-11-1933, and Harijan, 1-12-1933  

 

 

 

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