Really, he was a towering personality and the man with wonderful memory power. I met Dr Nityanandji for the first time in 1990 while, as a cub reporter, working on a story on Makhti Project that he had started some years back in Jaunsar area of Dehradun. After a long gap when I met him in 2013 in Dehradun, he, despite being unwell and unable to see due to some problem in the eyes, not only recognised me within seconds but also recalled some of the points that we had discussed during the first meeting in 1990.
It was because of such a sharp memory, caring attitude and saintly personality that Dr Nityanandji was revered by lakhs of Sangh workers and people from different walks of life as a role model. This reverence and affection was seen on January 9 when thousands of people thronged Dehradun Sangh Karyalaya where his body was kept for last darshan. Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat also visited the Sangh Karyalaya to pay his tribute. At Khadkhadi Ghat in Haridwar where he was cremated the next day, thousands of people paid their respect. The last rites were performed by a swayamsevak, Ramesh, who served him for almost three decades. Former Chief Ministers Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Dr Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ and other dignitaries also paid tribute to the departed soul.
My ‘Charchagat Shikshak’: Mohan Bhagwat
In his tribute Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat said the work for which Nityanandji dedicated his whole life should be taken up with more vigour by every swayamsevak in order to pay a befitting tribute to him. He was a great disciplinarian, but at the same time with an extremely sensitive heart. He added that Nityanandji was his ‘Charchagat Shikshak’ (Incharge of discussion group) during the third-year OTC in Nagpur.
Dr Saheb, as he was affectionately called, had not been keeping good health for about three years. That is why he was shifted from Maneri (Uttarkashi) to Dehradun in 2013. Maneri had been his karmabhoomi for over two decades. That is why his ashes were immersed in the Bhagirathi in Maneri on January 13. Ever since the devastating earthquake of October 20, 1991 that killed thousands in and around Uttarkashi and destroyed 20,000 houses, he had moved to Maneri to help in reconstruction work. He established Uttaranchal Daiviya Aapda Peedit Sahayata Samiti for the purpose. In Maneri, he displayed exemplary spirit of selfless service to the local populace, who now feel bereaved and orphaned after his demise.
Born in Agra in 1926 Nityanandji came in contact with RSS Pracharak Shri Narhari Narayan in 1940 and became a swayamsevak. He was inspired by Shri Bhaurao Deoras and Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya to become a Pracharak. Finally, he became a Pracharak in 1944. He was the only brother of two sisters. Pressing financial needs of the family compelled him to return. He had to sell off their small ancestral house in Agra to meet family’s needs. Thereafter, he took to teaching career. In 1965, he came to Dehradun as Head of the Geography Department at DBS PG College, a post he held till retirement. Simultaneously, he plunged himself in the Sangh work, his first love. He was Prant Karyavah for 20 years of western UP which then included the present Uttarakhand.
As a geographer of international repute, his research papers and articles were published in the Annals of Association of American Geographers magazine. He wrote his monumental work The Holy Himalaya—Geographical Interpretation of Garhwal while in 18-month captivity during the Emergency. He was a member of National Science Congress. He also penned a number of books on history. In 1980, he formed Garhwal Kalyan Sansthan to spread literacy. His incessant work in the field of education, particularly in and around Jaunsar Babar, has been immortalised in the folklore of the region.
Dr Nityanand had a decisive, though unpublicised role in the formation of Uttaranchal in 2001. He persuaded the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee to understand that the mountainous region could not be developed while remaining part of a gigantic State like UP and without development, the migration of Garhwali populace from their native places could not be stopped. The experiment of organising Pravasi Panchayats by him proved to be a milestone in reconnecting the people of Uttarakhand back to their respective villages and joining hands for development. “He shaped the lives of thousands of RSS workers and created a path for future generations,” said BJP Rajya Sabha MP Shri Tarun Vijay in his tribute.
It is believed that if you want to know the Sangh, look at the conduct of a swayamsevak. In that sense Dr Nityanand was the real embodiment of the Sangh ideology.
(Pramod Kumar with inputs from Ajay Mittal)