Babasaheb Apte by C.P. Bhishikar, Babasaheb Apte Samarak Samiti, 123 pp, Rs 50.00
ON September 2, 2003, the birth centenary of Babasaheb Apte, the first Pracharak of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), was celebrated with great fervour all over the country.
?Babasaheb, won'tyou take tea if revered Shri Guruji tells you to do so?? He quipped, ?If Guruji asked me, I would drink not just tea, but even poison.?
The book under review is a biography written of Apte, the RSS stalwart, by C.P. Bhishikar who was associated with the Sangh. He was editor of Tarun Bharat, a newspaper published from Pune. He wrote this book not only out of love for Apte but also to share how Babasaheb spent his entire life in the expansion and consolidation of Sangh work and in enlisting dedicated workers for the organisation. Apte'stravels, meetings, speeches and discussions have gone unrecorded. But the author has culled this information from available recollections and articles and speeches of others.
Babasaheb joined the Sangh in 1926 but no one can say much about his pre-Sangh personal life because of his silence on the subject. ?For him the Sangh Karyalaya was his house, Sangh Swayam-sevaks were his family, and Sangh work was his household function.? But through other sources, it has become known that he was born in Yeotmal in Vidarbha on April 29, 1903. He was not a very healthy boy and instead of playing and romping, loved reading books. When he was eight he read Aesop'sFables and could answer any question related to the stories after reading the book once only.
When he was 12, Umakant (as he was named then) learnt that Lokmanya Tilak'strain would be halting at Karanja where Umakant studied. He wanted to hear Tilak'sspeech but the headmaster closed the gate of the school. While relating this incident, Babasaheb told the author, ?This insufferable insult made me introspect at that young age. At the end of it I was furious with myself. Severely scolding myself, I said to myself. ?What else could be expected of such a weak will? Patriotism needs courage. Those who serve the country face up to adversities, overcome them, and then alone can they forge ahead… I must have courage, determination, will power?. For this I thanked the headmaster in my mind.?
In 1919, his father died suddenly; his mother, however, made him continue with his education. After matriculation, he became a teacher to support the family. He became popular as Apteji and always tried to instil patriotic values in the minds of his students. Then came the day of August 1, 1924, when he organised a cultural programme on the occasion of Tilak'sdeath anniversary. When the news of the fucntion reached the government, they pulled up the headmaster who in turn reprimanded Apte. Apte promptly submitted his resignation, saying, ?I would like to tell you that I have absolutely no desire to work in a school where even the mention of a great patriot like Lokmanya Tilak is forbidden.?
At 21 years of age he left his mother and young siblings to reach Nagpur, where he joined the press that published a magazine called Udyam. He rented a room and began to collect bright boys to form the Vidyarthi Mandal, telling them inspiring stories of armed revolutionaries.
In 1925, Dr Keshav Hedgewar visited the school and so inspired was Apte by him that the entire Vidyarthi Mandal joined the RSS. Soon Dr Hedgewar and Apte?one 36-year old and the other 23?became close to each other. After 1926, Babasaheb through discussions with Dr Hedgewar leaned all about Sangh'soverall stand?Hindu rashtra, Hindu sanskriti, Hindu dharma, the triumphs and defeats of Hindus, the ills besetting Hindu samaj, the rationale of the slavery of Hindusthan as well as the process of creating centres of strength though shakhas for the emancipation of Hindus.
He merged with the Sangh and became its first Pracharak, who was ever willing to work wherever Dr Hedgewar asked him to, notwithstanding the difficulties. Once he asked a Pracharak in Bengal, ?Have you learnt Bengali?? When the latter refused, Babasaheb was displeased and remarked,?It'speople like you who have given English all this importance and made it indispensable. You think it'snot at all necessary to learn the local language.?
Once riots erupted in Gorakhpur which had a large Muslim population. When Babasaheb reached there the Hindus asked him for help. His immediate reaction was, ?What is the use of this organisation if the Sangh won'taccept the responsibility of protecting the Hindus in this hour of calamity?? He asked the Hindus who had approached him to set up defence committees and instructed the Swayamsevaks to ?stand shoulder to shoulder?.
Once in Nagpur the Prant Pracharaks invited him to tea which he refused as he did not take tea. The others too threatened not to have tea. Babasaheb retorted, ?How nice! I would be very happy if all of you stay away from tea at least for a day!? They said, ?Babasaheb, won'tyou take tea if revered Shri Guruji tells you to do so?? He quipped, ?If Guruji asked me, I would drink not just tea, but even poison.?
He was obsessed with Sanskrit and said it was wrong to think that Sanskrit was used only to express religious and spiritual thoughts. ?Sanskrit must be given undisputed status in the Indian education system, and an honoured place in the life of the people.?
This book should be read by those who have not heard or read about Apte, especially the present-day youth who can learn what utmost devotion to a cause and selfless service mean.