Birth of Vasudev Balwant Phadke - [November 4, 1845] This Day in History

On 4 November 1845, militant freedom fighter Vasudev Balwant Phadke was born in Shirdhon, Maharashtra. This article will give important details about his life and accomplishments within the context of the IAS Exam.

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The early life of Vasudev Balwant Phadke

  • Vasudev Phadke was born into a Hindu Brahmin family in Shirdhon village, in Raigad district in present-day MahVasudev Balwant Phadkearashtra.
  • He was one of the earliest graduates of the Bombay University, graduating in 1862. After his education, he worked for some government institutions in Mumbai like the Grant Medical College and the Commissariat Examiner’s Office.
  • After that, he moved to Pune and took up a job as a clerk in the Military Finance Office.

Life as a Freedom Fighter

  • Vasudev Balwant Phadke was deeply affected by the plight of the farmers under the British regime. During the famines in Maharashtra in 1876-77, he toured the area and was horrified by the devastation and the apathy of the authorities to the people’s conditions.
  • He decided that the only solution to the problem was freeing India from British rule. Thus, he was one of the first proponents of Swaraj, long before the political leaders took up the cause.
  • He attended the lectures of M G Ranade and understood how British policies were draining the Indian economy. Phadke, along with Laxman Indapurkar and Waman Bhave started the Poona Native Institution in 1860. This was later renamed the Maharashtra Education Society. This society runs many schools and colleges to this day.
  • He gave emotional and inspiring speeches in Pune urging people for a rebellion for the cause of complete independence. But the people didn’t respond as he had hoped and so he planned to start a secret revolution.
  • He started building an army of revolutionaries in order to overthrow the British in an armed struggle. He is hence aptly called the ‘Father of militant nationalism in India.’
  • His army consisted of men from various castes – high and low, particularly from the communities of Kol, Bhil and Dhangar in Maharashtra. His army was created in February 1879. This was probably the first revolutionary army in India.
  • In May that year, Phadke issued a proclamation in which he criticised the economic policies of the British and threatened them. Phadke sent copies of the proclamations to various government officers including the Governor.
  • In order to raise funds for the military insurgency, Phadke and his men looted British establishments. The British were keen on capturing him and so offered a bounty for his capture. He was then forced to flee Maharashtra and took refuge in Shree Shaila Mallikarjuna in Andhra Pradesh. Here, he tried to organise a fresh rebellion with the help of Rohillas, Arabs and Sikhs from the Nizam’s army. However, he was betrayed and arrested in July 1879. He was tried at Pune, and then transported for a life sentence to Aden. In jail, he contracted tuberculosis and died as a result on 17th February 1883 aged just 37.

Legacy of Vasudev Balwant Phadke

Phadke was a pioneer in many ways in that he was one of the earliest to talk of complete independence. He was also one of the first revolutionary leaders of the country. In addition, he was one of the first leaders to use public speeches to motivate people and instil patriotism in their hearts, even before the trio of Lal Bal Pal.

Phadke became known as the father of the Indian armed rebellion in that he provided the inspiration for fellow freedom fighters. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s patriotic novel Anand Math incorporated various contemporary acts of patriotism performed by Phadke during his freedom struggle.

Also on This Day 

1884: Birth of Jamnalal Bajaj, independence activist and industrialist. 1915: Death of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, political leader and founder of the Bombay Chronicle. 1979: Iranian students overran the American Embassy in Tehran taking 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. 1995: Assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. 2008: Barack Obama was elected the United States President making him the first African-American President of the USA.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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