Looking for the lost Lokmanya

Lokmanya Tilak’s 100th Death Anniversary

Photo Courtsey: mediaindia.eu

On June 04, 2013, Pranab Mukherjee, then President of India, inaugurated the new Maharashtra Sadan (House) in New Delhi. Among the dignitaries who attended the event were senior ministers of the time, such as Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Maharashtra Sadan which sprawls across 6.5 acres of land at Kasturba marg in New Delhi, was built under the stewardship of Maharashtra public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal, at a cost of Rs 150 crore.

It houses 139 residential suites, including one  dedicated suite each for the state Governor and chief minister, eight for state Cabinet ministers, 16 for ministers of state, six for state secretaries, 21 for members of the state legislative assembly and 80 for other guests.

One is greeted at the main courtyard by an imposing statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule’s statues on either side of it, followed by those of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, and former chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan. On June 29, 2013, noted philosopher and social historian, Dr. Sadanand More, wrote a scathing satire, in theatrical form, for Marathi weekly, Sadhana. He questioned why a statue of the iconic Lokmanya Tilak was not installed at Maharashtra Sadan.

Six years thereafter, on June 18, 2019, the Devendra Fadanvis administration announced a decision to make amends, and install Tilak's statue at the Sadan. It's been a year since weekly Sadhana welcomed the announcement. While the Fadanvis-led BJP-Shiv Sena coalition was in power in the initial six months, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combined at the helm in the latter half. What happened to the decision to install Tilak's statue is not known, but what is clear is that Tilak's centennial memorial year has come and gone, without any move on the statue. That, for you, is the destructive genius of all four leading parties in the state. This is why we re-run Dr. More's pointed and enlightening piece for our readers here today.
- Editor

The missing person's advertisement

Senior citizen Bal Gangadhar alias Lokmanya Tilak, is missing. He was last seen leaving his Gaikwad Wada residence in Narayan Peth, Pune. He said he was leaving for Maharashtra Sadan (New Delhi), but has not returned ever since, nor has he been spotted at the Maharashtra Sadan yet. Aged 60, Tilak is five-feet six-inches tall, has dark skin, and a sunburnt face. He is a little hard of hearing in the left ear. Tilak dons a Puneri pagdi and usually throws an 'uparna' cloth over his shoulder. He is in the habit of chewing raw betel nut (supari). 

If you spot an individual that answers to the above description, please contact the manager at Kesari Maratha Sanstha, Narayan Peth, Pune 30. The informant shall receive an appropriate reward. 

Dear great grandpa, ever since you left, the entire family, including the staff at daily Kesari and volunteers at the Kesari Wada Ganesh mandal, have been worried sick about you. Editor Sukrut Khandekar is bed-ridden. Please come back or get in touch with us as soon as you read this!

Your obedient great grandson,
Dr. Deepak 

A related news item...

Lokmanya Tilak goes missing

Pune: Failure to trace the whereabouts of the father of Indian unrest Lokmanya Tilak, who went missing three days ago, has cast a spell of anxiety over the city. Tilak's grandson, Dr. Deepak Tilak, told reporters today that he has lodged a formal complaint in this regard with the Narayan Peth police station. 

Meanwhile, state home minister R. R. Patil announced that he has dispatched a special police squad to trace Lokmanya Tilak's whereabouts at Maharashtra Sadan, New Delhi. Patil expressed concern over a rise in the number of missing senior citizens' cases. The state administration is considering a proposal to provide Z-plus security cover to senior citizens, he told reporters.

An editorial...

Lokmanya and Rajmanya

That a leader of international repute, such as Lokmanya Tilak, should go missing from the city, is doubtlessly incongruous with Pune's grand reputation. Reports suggest that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, and former chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan had received invites for the grand inauguration of the sprawling new Maharashtra Sadan state house in New Delhi. It was indeed a mistake on Tilak's part to leave for New Delhi, under the assumption that he too must have been invited, but that his invite may not have arrived due to some oversight at Mantralaya, or some delay in the postal department. The state government had made special arrangements, including security, to transport the five dignitaries to New Delhi. Since Tilak's name had been left out on purpose, who could have ensured his safe transit?

In this context, if the news item flashed by a New Delhi-based TV channel is true, it is indeed a cause for serious concern. The channel reported that on inauguration day, Tilak was turned away from the gates of Maharashtra Sadan as he did not have an invite. In our humble opinion, it was a mistake for the man who once roared ‘Freedom is my birth right and I shall have it!’ to assume that it is also his birth right to be invited to state functions. It is also presumptuous to think that if one is Lokmanya (approved by the people), one would automatically be Rajmanya (approved by the government). 

Far be it for us to offer any advice to such a senior leader (we are not that uneducated, you see). But moved by this incident, we beg your indulgence for our audacity in making the following unsolicited suggestion: The next time that senior Mr. Tilak feels moved to attend such a ceremony, he must make prior arrangements through his great-grandson Rohit. Since young Rohit shares the same astrologically auspicious letter ‘R’ with young Rahul Gandhi, it is not inconceivable that such arrangements could be made smoothly, with a little bit of help from Rahul. 

There is another point that we would like to make in the passing. Once upon a time, Tilak’s detractors tried to undermine him by calling him a leader of common tradespeople (such as telis and tambolis). Now we sense a move to paint him as an enemy of the same common folks. The time has now come for Tilak to contemplate if this is the real underlying reason why he was not invited to the Maharashtra Sadan. Also, around 1925, some stubborn and short-sighted followers of Tilak opposed the installation of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule's statue in Pune. We hope that the current episode is not a backlash for that past incident. Followers of Phule need not compete with the followers of Tilak in terms of mindlessness. The claim that Brahmins set the intellectual benchmark for the society is indeed debatable.  But just to prove the point, one need not compete with Brahmin mindlessness. That of course is our humble opinion as independent observers. 

Another news item

Statues speak out, mystery deepens

By our Staff Correspondent

New Delhi: While the failure of light and sound systems created a flutter at the grand inauguration of the ritzy new Maharashtra Sadan complex here recently, news of the disappearance of freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak in this context has sent shockwaves around the capital. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is said to have discussed the matter with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. The Prithviraj administration is said to have washed its hands off any blame for Lokmanya Tilak being denied entry. According to the sources, Chavan told Sonia Gandhi that Presidential security arrangements are entirely responsible for the fiasco. 

Meanwhile, photo posters of Lokmanya Tilak have been splashed across the walls of the national capital. Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit has appealed to citizens to help locate the missing icon of the Independence struggle.

A special police squad dispatched by Maharashtra home minister R.R. alias Aba Patil has also reached Maharashtra Sadan and conducted preliminary inquiries there. 

This newspaper has managed to lay its hands on the diary of Gopalrao Bhangre-Patil who heads the special squad. We reproduce the following excerpts from the diary. To what extent would these help the investigation, if at all, or would they make matters worse, remains to be seen.

Excerpt 1

"Ever since we arrived in New Delhi, we noticed one thing. The average man in New Delhi is familiar with the name Lokmanya Tilak. Yesterday, we visited the roads, bylanes, and residential areas named after Tilak, and scoured them for leads into the Tilak case. Honourable home minister Aba Patil has called twice to monitor the progress. He sounded worried about the upcoming monsoon session of the state assembly. If the case is not resolved before the session, the MLAs may give him a hard time."

Excerpt 2

"Reached Maharashtra Sadan at night. As people may feel pressured and may not speak freely if we went about in uniform, we milled about the Sadan in plain clothes. It has emerged that on June 4, an old man purchased a dozen betel nuts from the cigarette shop across the corner. We showed a picture of Lokmanya Tilak to the cigarette shop owner. He immediately recognized the old man. This confirmed that Tilak was here on inauguration day. I immediately called Honourable Aba Patil and apprised him of the same."

Excerpt 3

"Had dinner at Maharashtra Sadan around 9 p.m. The staff at the Sadan has been quite co-operative. Strolling around the courtyard after meals, we heard some guarded voices. We looked around but could spot nobody.  But we were sure we all heard the voices. We soon realised the statues had come to life and were speaking among themselves. It was unbelievable, but the entire squad could not be hallucinating. The voices were unclear, to begin with but we took down notes as best as possible.

Dr. Ambedkar: (Greeting Shahu Maharaj respectfully) Welcome Maharaj Sir... allow me to introduce Yashwantrao Chavan, the first chief minister of modern Maharashtra. (Chavan bows respectively thrice in keeping with historic traditions). Chavan was very young when I concluded my earthly journey. I hear he ran an excellent administration in the state.

Shahu Maharaj: Great! Nice building indeed that they have built here. By the way, Bhimrao, it's a pleasure to meet you. I heard you authored the Constitution of Independent India. Good job. You've indeed come a long way from Mangaon to New Delhi. You did your guru Jyotiba Phule proud.

Dr.  Ambedkar: Speaking of which, that's him right across. Jyotiba... your guru and mine!

Yashwantrao Chavan: We have been running the modern state of Maharashtra in the name of you three  – Phule, Shahu, and Ambedkar.. But our founding father, he too is here (pointing to the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj)

Jyotirao Phule: Kulwadi-bhushan Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosale, I bow to thee!

Shahu Maharaj: Accept my salutations too, Sire! A salute from the entire state!!

Shivaji Maharaj: Blessings be upon all of you! I am pleased to see that you have kept Maharashtra's winning traditions alive. But, gentlemen, I wonder what brings us here together today?

Yashwantrao Chavan: (offering a traditional triple bow again) Let me explain Maharaj, sir! I am Yashwantrao Chavan... the first chief.....

Shivaji Maharaj: I know you. Wasn't it you who installed my statue at the ramparts of Pratapgarh fort? I remember you invited Pandit Nehru for the inaugural! You have laid a solid foundation for a modern state. You also became Union defence minister and rubbed Pakistan's nose in the dirt. You do my legacy proud. Bravo!

Yashwantrao Chavan: With your kind blessings, Sire! So as I was mentioning... this is the Maharashtra Sadan. It has been specially built by the state government of Maharashtra, for the rulers of Maharashtra to stay, dine, and entertain, when they visit the national capital.

Shivaji Maharaj: Splendid! This construction reminds me of Hiroji Indulkar's work for me. (turns to Shahu Maharaj and says) Raje! Be sure to send ceremonial robes and rewards to the rulers of Maharashtra, on my behalf! But it still beats me, why on earth are we all gathered here?

Yashwantrao Chavan: Your Majesty! I am mortified to say this in your presence. But the rulers of Maharashtra have installed us here to represent Maharashtra's greatest heroes. I told them not to include me, but they wouldn’t listen, you see!

Shivaji Maharaj: No, the rulers did well to include you. I know of your achievements. (looks around) But...

Shahu Maharaj: But what, my Emperor?

Shivaji Maharaj: But how come our saints Dnyanoba and Tukoba are not to be seen? Do only five people symbolize Maharashtra's great heroes? I remember listening to Yashwantrao's speech on the four grand traditions of Maharashtra... and the heroes that represent them...

Yashwantrao Chavan: True, your Majesty! One of them is valour - it all begins with you!

Shivaji Maharaj: Let that be... speak of the others!

Yashwantrao Chavan: Jyotiba- who symbolizes an epic struggle for social justice and equality... (stops hesitantly)

Shivaji Maharaj: Do continue- why do you hesitate Yashwantrao?

Yashwantrao Chavan: Sant Dnyaneshwar represents our devotional tradition.

Shivaji Maharaj: There you go! It seems the devotional tradition and its saints have become a little inconvenient to modern Maharashtra. Maybe... But do proceed, which is the fourth tradition?

Yashwantrao Chavan: The fourth belongs to Tilak... to his selfless sacrifice and fierce patriotism. He stirred the entire nation to rise with unrest against the British.

Shivaji Maharaj: Oh yes, Tilak. Wasn't it he who started the public celebrations of my coronation and my birth anniversary - the Shiv Jayanti festival? Jyotirao, you composed the famous ballad (powada) in my praise... What are your thoughts on this?

Jyotirao Phule: It was Tilak who argued against the British on behalf of Shahu Maharaj's father- Shivaji Raje, the fourth. I prevailed upon Uravane Seth to deposit the bail amount for Tilak's release from Dongri. Remember, Shahu Maharaj?

Shahu Maharaj: I completely agree. We had our differences with Tilak but it was he who brought Maharashtra to the center stage at the national level. We often argued at public fora, but supported each other intrinsically behind the scenes. The day he breathed his last, I did not eat. Remember, Dr. Ambedkar?

Dr. Ambedkar: True, your Excellency! We must restrict our debates and ideological differences within the state. At a national level, we must all come together to protect the interests of Maharashtra.

Yashwantrao Chavan: Which is all true... but... the current political climate in Maharashtra...

Shivaji Maharaj: Ah Yes, I am aware. Bahirji Naik still sends me intelligence dossiers on my empire. I am aware of the entire Brahmin-versus non-Brahmin conflict in the state. But don't forget there were seven handpicked Brahmin ministers in my Cabinet. You are the rulers and you find these plain brahmins so hot to handle? It is for the ruler to take along every community and make use of their good qualities for the benefit of the state. What do you say, Babasaheb?

Yashwantrao Chavan: I too adopted that policy, your Majesty! I utilized the services of Tarkateertha Joshi, S.G. Barve, and Gadgil to lay the foundation of a modern Maharashtra. But my successors in recent times…

Shivaji Maharaj: Convey my message to your successors. This is not done. If I had discriminated against my people on the basis of caste, I would have never been able to build Swaraj (self-rule). Tell them to rectify their mistake expeditiously. Otherwise, I shall leave Maharashtra Sadan!!

Yashwantrao Chavan: Yes, your Majesty! I'll look into this right away.

Yet another news item

Special police squad recalled?

By our Staff Correspondent
New Delhi: The revelations in the diary pages of Gopalrao Bhangre-Patil, who heads the special police squad investigating Lokmanya Tilak's disappearance, have created a sensation across the board. Questions are being raised about whether Team Bhangre-Patil have been out of their minds (to report a dialogue among statues). To avoid further controversy, state home minister R.R. Patil is considering calling off the special squad, sources said. 

An announcement

(Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak is back home, safe and sound. Upon his directions, we print below his statement. The Kesari family is indebted to the innumerable fans of Lokmanya Tilak, for the love and support they extended during this brief absence - Editor, Daily Kesari)

I was not invited to attend the inauguration of Maharashtra Sadan on June 4, 2013. Nevertheless, as an alert journalist, I rushed to the Capital. It is also true that I was turned away at the gates of the Maharashtra Sadan. But being a journalist and a true Maratha, I am also a follower of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's guerrilla tactics. I managed to dodge the security and witnessed the grand inauguration ceremony at the Sadan. 

I hear some people are upset that my statue has not been installed at Maharashtra Sadan. To them, I must say that my participation in the freedom struggle was inspired by the work ethic enunciated in the Bhagwad Geeta. It encourages you to do your duty ceaselessly without any expectations of returns or outcomes. I did my job to the best of my abilities. India went on to gain Independence. Marathi-speakers were able to get a state for themselves. I am satisfied. Whether a statue of mine is installed or not, whether a university or road is named after me or not, does not change my satisfied state of mind. But I would encourage you to install statues of saints Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram at Maharashtra Sadan, as well as Mahadji Shinde, Sayajirao Gaekwad, and Vithhalrao Shinde. If Dnyanoba-Tukoba are unacceptable, Sant Namdeo Maharaj, who carried the flag of Maharashtra's Bhagwad dharma devotional sect to the Punjab, may be acceptable.

Yours humbly,
Bal Gangadhar Tilak

P.S.: It's true that I had my arguments with Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj. My followers need not feel compelled to repeat any of my mistakes.

- Dr. Sadanad More

(Translated by Sanjay Pendse.)

You can read Marathi article here: टिळक हरवल्याचा शोध

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