Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, better known as Balasaheb Deoras, was a strong nationalist icon, the man behind the rise of Jansangh (precursor of present-day Bharatiya Janta Party) and expansion of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh work across Bharat.
Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, popularly known as Balasaheb Deoras, was the third Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS). He was amongst the first batch of swayamsevaks who had joined the first RSS shakha started by Dr. Hedgewar at ‘Mohite Bara’ in Nagpur. (Though the RSS was founded in 1925 on the occasion of Vijayadashami, the first daily Shakha started a few months later in 1926). Balasaheb was groomed by none other than the founder of the RSS himself. This is probably one of the reasons that millions of swayamsevaks who had never seen Dr Hedgewar found a reflection of the RSS founder in Balasaheb.
The Deoras family originally belonged to Chennuru village in Adilabad (Andhra Pradesh). The village was on the banks of the Godavari river. According to ancient Indian history, one of the greatest sages, Agastya, had come to this village and set up his Ashrama there. The village was historically a centre of cultural, religious and spiritual activities. There is an ancient temple of Lord Shiva in this village. The common belief is that the sage Agastya set up the ‘Shivlinga’ in this temple. This temple was destroyed in the 14th century when Muhammad Tuglak invaded it. Famous King Krishna Dev of the Vijaya Nagar empire is known to have rebuilt this temple. The village still has Agastya Kunda(pond), revered as a pilgrimage place.
There were six families with the surname ‘Devraju’ in this village. More than 200 years ago, one of the Devraju families shifted to Nagpur, and over a while, the surname ‘Devraju’ changed to ‘Deoras.’
Balasaheb was born to Dattatreya Deoras and Bahinabai. He was deeply influenced by his mother, who was known as ‘Parvatibai’ after her marriage. His father initially didn’t like Balasaheb, and his younger brother Bhaurao were getting inclined towards dedicating their lives to the organizational work of the RSS. Both were brilliant students, and Dattatreya wanted Balasaheb to take up the Indian Civil Services examination.
Balasaheb was born at Karanja in Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh) on December 11, 1915. Balasaheb was the eighth among nine siblings. Bhayyaji and Parvatibai had four sons and five daughters. His family and friends used to call him ‘Bal’(child in the Marathi language) at home. That is how he got the name Balasaheb Deoras. Balasaheb’s younger brother Bhaurao (another RSS stalwart who dedicated his life to the cause) was born on May 19, 1917.
By the time RSS was founded in 1925, the Deoras family had shifted back to Itwari Mohalla in Nagpur. Balasaheb was studying in sixth grade when he joined the first RSS shakha. His enthusiasm was infectious, and he brought in many of his friends to the RSS shakha, where Shamrao ji Gadge was their instructor(Gana shikshak). This bunch of young school-going boys used to play games and listen to the tales of bravery told by Gadge. After some time, Balasaheb made his younger brother Bhaurao join the RSS. They were always together and very close to each other.
Once Balasaheb told his mother, “My friends from RSS will come for having a meal at our home. But I want them to be treated like me whatever their caste is. They should be served food in the same utensils which are used for other members of the family. I do not want any kind of discrimination on the basis of caste.”
His mother agreed, and from then onwards, no questions were asked in the Deoras family about the caste of swayamsevaks who visited and had food at their home. It was an uncommon practice in the country during that era when caste-based discrimination was rampant.
In July 1931, Balasaheb finished his Matriculation and entered Morris College at Nagpur. The classes were held for three to four hours every day. Balasaheb devoted most of his time after the classes to the RSS work. He used to meet much youth in his college and their friends and motivated them to join the RSS. As the number of Shakhas expanded, in 1932, he was asked to look after Itwari Shakha along with Martand Mulmule and Bhaiyyaji Khandwekar. Within six months, he was responsible as ‘Mukhyashikshak’ of this Shakha.
In 1935, Balasaheb finished his graduation. Philosophy and Sanskrit were his core subjects in B.A. After finishing graduation, he took admission in the Law College at Nagpur.
In 1937, Balasaheb was asked by Dr Hedgewar to be ‘Mukhyashishak’(Chief Instructor) of the RSS training camp at Pune. In those days, the duration of the camp used to be of 40 days. He had taken the final year examination of L.L.B. before he joined the camp. The camp went off very well, and as it was drawing to a close, he received a telegram from Nagpur informing that he had passed the L.L.B. in the first division.
When he returned to Nagpur, he was made ‘Karyavah(in-charge)’ of the main Shakha in Nagpur. Dr Hedgewar had done this with a purpose. He knew that the organization needed many full-time workers (‘Pracharak’). Balasaheb Deoras was the ideal person to prepare youngsters to take up this cause. He had once told Dr Hedgewar, “A ‘model’ Shakha is that from where large number of youth come out ready to serve the society by devoting all their time.”
During his tenure as in-charge of Nagpur, Balasaheb displayed his exemplary organizational skills. He is known to have started 15 new shakhas simultaneously. He ensured a steady flow of full-time workers who should be available to take the RSS’ work to other states. This helped Dr Hedgewar to focus on the expansion of the organization.
In 1938, on behest of Balasaheb, the first morning Shakha of RSS was started in Mohite Baada at Nagpur where relatively older swayamsevaks started coming. Tatyaji Baviskar was the karyavah of this ‘Prabhat’(morning) Shakha, and Baburao Maagh was the Mukhyashikshak.
The idea of starting a morning Shakha came up as Balasaheb noticed that several RSS workers couldn’t find time to attend its evening Shakha as they worked in offices or other business and trade establishments for their livelihood. To keep them engaged with the organization, the morning Shakha was introduced. Over the years, the ‘Prabhat Shakha’ played an important role in consolidating the RSS’ network. The activities designed for the ‘Prabhat Shakha’ are relatively less arduous physically than the one planned for the evening Shakha, as relatively older swayamsevaks attend the ‘Prabhat Shakha’.
Balasaheb can be credited with starting the ‘Ghosh’(band ) of the RSS and the recital tradition of ‘group songs’. In the Vijayadashami festival of 1937, around 2000, swayamsevaks sang five such group songs in Nagpur, which thrilled all those present there. Balasaheb had himself picked up these songs and ensured that the swayamsevaks had practised enough.
Balasaheb’s sharp organizational and extraordinary motivational skills ensured that by the early 1940s, RSS Pracharaks had started work in Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala Sindh, Gujarat, Central India, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Kashmir and even Nepal. Madhavrao Muley went to Punjab, Yadavrao Joshi to Karnataka, Dattopant Thengadi was in Kerala, Rajpal Puri established the RSS in Sindh, Madhukarrao Bhagwat went to Gujarat, Bhaiyyaji Daani was in Central India, Eknath Ranade and Prahladrao Ambekar in Mahakaushal, Mukundrao Muknje in Utkal, Gajanan Joshi in Bihar and Narharai Parkhi, Raja Deshpande and Yadwadkar took RSS to work forward in Andhra Pradesh. Vasantrao Oak was in-charge of Delhi, and Bhaurao Deoras was steering the RSS’ work in Uttar Pradesh. All of them had come out of Nagpur Shakha, which was looked after by Balasaheb.
From 1942 to 1947, more than 1000 youngsters decided to become RSS Pracharak and fanned out across the country. There was demand from all parts of the country to start RSS Shakhas as Hindus realized that it was the only organization that was working on the ground to protect them from the onslaught of goons of the Muslim League and other Islamic fundamentalists who were trying to intimidate Hindus in their campaign to divide India and have a separate religion-based state named ‘Pakistan’.
In 1946-47, four thousand swayamsevaks from all over the country attended the RSS training camp. It was the highest ever number. In April 1947, around 10,000 swayamsevaks attended a mega training camp at Vidarbha. Balasaheb was instrumental in organizing this camp, and he was personally present there to ensure that the camp was a success. As soon as the camp ended, he travelled to Delhi and Punjab. The situation was quite volatile in Punjab, and Balasaheb’s visit played a crucial role in giving direction to the swayamsevaks, who played a stellar role in protecting and bringing Hindus to safer places as Muslim mobs attacked Hindu habitats, burnt houses and establishments, raped Hindu women killed innocent Hindus including women, children and even infants.
Meanwhile, despite being advised to rest, Guruji had continued to tour the country extensively over the next three years. His health condition worsened in 1973, and on June 5, 1973, his soul left the mortal body. Balasaheb was in Andhra Pradesh attending a training camp of the RSS. He reached the RSS headquarters at Nagpur on June 6 at around 12:30.
Guruji had written three letters and handed them over to Akhil Bharatiya Vyavastha Pramukh Pandurangpant Ksheersagar on April 2, 1973. These were related to the future arrangements, and the latter was instructed to open them after Guruji’s death. Balasaheb was 58 years old when he was entrusted with this responsibility. He had diabetes and was not in the pink of health.
Balasaheb was initially not very comfortable when he started getting addressed as Param Pujniya (Most revered) Sarsanghchalak Shri Balasaheb Deoras.”. He relented as everyone agreed that the expression of Param Pujniya is not meant for an individual, but it is meant for the designation of “Sarsanghchalak.”
The Indira government imposed the internal emergency on the night of June 25, 1975, and on July 4, 1975, the Congress government at the Centre banned the RSS. Balasaheb was arrested much before on June 30, 1975, and kept at Yervada jail in Maharashtra.
On March 21, 1977, the ban on the RSS was lifted, and the RSS chief was released from jail. As soon as he came out of the jail, Balasaheb resumed his nationwide tour. His message was clear that there should be no vindictiveness. “The credit for the victory has been given to the RSS. It is time for us to be large hearted. We need to bring change in the hearts of those who did not treat us well,” said Balasaheb while addressing a mammoth gathering at Nagpur in March 1977.
On March 11, 1994, he announced the name of Rajju Bhaiyya as the new Sarsanghchalak. This was a path-breaking announcement as a new Sarsanghchalak was appointed for the first time by another outgoing Sarsanghchalak brings alive. This tradition continued after that with Rajju Bhaiyya stepping down and handing over the reigns To KS Sudershan, and the latter passed on the baton to Mohan Bhagwat.
Balasaheb couldn’t travel much during his last years due to ill health. But he remained active and played the role of a mentor. Balasaheb Deoras passed away at Pune (Maharashtra) on June 17, 1996.
Source: ‘The Saffron Surge: Untold Story of RSS Leadership” by Arun Anand