Balwant Phadke, forgotten freedom fighter from Maharashtra

Happy Independence Day 2023.

freedom fighter Phadke.
Above image: First Day Cover & a commemorative postage stamp issued by #IndiaPost on Father of Armed Struggle 'Vasudev Balwant Phadke' in 1984......................

The great rebellion of 1857-58 having been crushed with the establishment of the British Raj under  Queen Victoria after 1858 the British regained their lost prestige in the subcontinent and became the sovereign masters of India with more vigor and vitality to have a firm grip on the nation.  

As for the unfriendly princely states during the rebellion, they were relegated to the backstage while the friendly states regained their status, but  as their vassals with yearly dole, trimmed land and a fancy title.  A big gap  was created  between the educated classes and ordinary people. Nobody understood  the plight of the ordinary masses,  who were caught in the midst of a tangled web of casteism, superstition, ignorance on one hand and indifferent Raj on the other side.  The entire nation was a victim of racial disparity, exploitation and repressive rule by the British but they did them with subtilty. 

In such a chaotic situation with looming darkness over the future, there arose a galaxy of men  who strived hard to free the Indians from the iron shackles put on the colonial power. One  Balwant Phadke,  a forgotten freedom fighter, stood the ground firmly and  gave his voice in favor of the poor people during  the dark phases of our history. 

Balwant Phadke (4 November 1845 – 17 February 1883), an ardent freedom fighter and a staunch revolutionary, was very much moved by  the plight of the farming community consisting mostly peasants and decided that India's freedom from the exploitative colonial rule was the only answer  to free the farm people and others from the pangs  of poverty and pain, and lack of sustained livelihood.  

B. Phadke, patriot.

Unmindful of Gandhiji's call for non-cooperation and non-violence to free India,  Phadke chose a different path - an armed struggle to drive the racially biased British out of india. In order to instil fear among the colonial officials,  he, with his band, launched raids on the rich European business men in order to get funds to fight against the unjust colonial rule. 

1984 Postal stamp in honor of Phadke,

 Above image: Born into a Hindu Brahmin family in Shirdhon, a small village in raigad district, MH, Phadke  graduated from the University of Bombay in 1862.  Known as the father of Indian Armed rebellion. An epitome of patriotism and inequality, he spent much of his life to the cause and betterment of poor communities. To him the colonial economic policy was impoverishing india to a large extend. With a bulky body firmed up through years of physical activity and rugged face, his persona will never fail to get one's attention. A man with searing intent he had intense aura about him like a cult figure. His is autobiography ais the first-ever Marathi work about a revolt against the unjust and disgusting British rule in India............

Patriot V.B.
Soon Phadke began to hog the limelight in Pune and the neighboring places when he successfully caught colonial soldiers off guard during a planned attack.   

Hailing from Maharashtra, at school he gave more importance to physical skills like wrestling, etc and after studies, had a long stint - about 15 years in the accounts department of the military. His association with a prominent social worker and freedom fighter  Lahuji Raghoji Salve,  a dali from mang community helped him understand the value of freedom from foreign rule. Accepting Salve as his mentor, he not only improved his wrestling skill from him but also   along with him Phadke worked hard to bring the Mang backward  community, belonging to  un untouchable caste to mainstream  freedom movement.

Inspired by another popular freedom fighter Mahadev Govind Ranade's speeches on the Indian economy and exploitation of our natural resources for the development of England, Phadke in 1870 took part in a public agitation in Pune to address the grievances of many communities who had suffered as a result of unjust policies of the British India government. With a view  to educating the youth he founded  an institution called the Aikya Vardhini Sabha (AVS). While working for the government, the denial of leave to attend his dying mother impacted him very much. Now he became more resolute to see the end of British rule in India. This incident changed his life and his goal.  

Being one of the the earliest persons to graduate from a British-established institution in the Bombay presidency in 1860, Phadke co-founded the Poona Native Institution (PNI) along with fellow social workers  which was later renamed as the Maharashtra Education Society (MES). Subsequently, he started Bhave School in Pune. Today, the MES has over 77 institutions across Maharashtra and it was singular achievement for a man whose patriotic zeal took him to a greater height. .

Quite furious over the deposition of the then   ruler of Baroda, Malhar Rao Gaekwad in 1875 and improper handling  of the severe famine by the colonial government,  Phadke toured the Deccan region and gave speeches, urging people to strive hard for freedom. 

With no response from the educated classes, the apathy of the government further pushed him to form an insurgent group  comprising some communities. Their aim was to collect money by attacking the  government treasuries and feed the people affected by famine.  The people supported him in his cause and now with a few hundred men he cut off the  government communication lines to steal the treasuries.  Such  daring raids in areas  near Shirur and Khed talukas in Pune became sensational and further  made many successful raids to lay his hand on the cash.

The death of his supporter  Ramoshi, Daulatrao Naik who stole more than one lakh rupees on a treasury raid  in the Konkan area, forced Phadke to move south. He recruited  500 Rohillas to make more raids on the government offices. His followers were from the lower caste communities and most of his raids on the government treasuries were to feet the poor people as the famine situation persisted for a long time.   His subsequent raids on the govt offices were not effective. His announcement of bounty for the capture of English men did not go well. 

While at large in the state of Hyderabad  under the Nizam, he was caught by the British police who had been tailing him for some time. Before his capture  at the Mallikarjuna temple in Kaladgi, where he had been staying  incognito  there was an exchange of fire between him and the forces.

 Caught on 20 July 1879 Phadke was taken to Pune. Upon court trial, he was sentenced for life and  transported to jail at Aden in Yemen. On 13 February 1883, he tampered with the door hinges and escaped from the prison. After recapture Phadke   went on a hunger strike and died on 17 February 1883.  In 1984, The Indian Postal Service honored Phadke  by issuing a 50 paise stamp. A chowk in South Mumbai near Metro is named after him.


In August 1947 the partition was so much mismanaged by the British  about fifteen million people had been uprooted and over 5 million were dead in the cross border violence. ''The comparison of the Partition to the Holocaust is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Partition of India on the basis of religion (Theocracy's)  was no less a tragedy than Holocaust"

An economic study (covers 2000 pages) conducted by Utsa Patnaik for the Columbia University Press concludes that the British took 45 trillion pounds out of India in 200 years of rule. Nobody in the government seems to contradict these findings, hoping that people would forget.


Winston Churchill, Former UK PM.

Above image: Winston Churchill: Famous   India baiter and racist who hated Gandhiji to the core and called him half-naked fakir.  In 1943 when Bengal was reeling under severe famine and people dying in thousands, Winston  the then prime minister, had no remorse.Wantonly, he diverted the  ships laden with food grains  from Australia anchored at Calcutta to  Europe to strengthen the buffer grain stock.

Justifying the genocide against the Red Indians of America and the Aboriginals of Australia,  Churchill  said, “I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia.”

British museum  London,where  Indian loots are on display

 Mumbai near Metro Cinema is named in his honour