India’s freedom fighters seem to have come from all walks of life and from many varied backgrounds. Of those freedom fighters one stands out as a man who had only one goal and only one vision. His fight centered not on the issue of whether to use violence or not in the struggle, nor was he too concerned about how the new India was to be governed. His goal in life was to see a free India by any means possible.
If bombs and guns brought him closer to that goal then they were good. If Gandhiji’s methods of non-violence brought India closer to freedom than the methods that Senapati Bapat espoused. He was born in Ahmednagar, a district of Maharashtra, on November 12, 1880. He was fearless as a child. Having once almost drowned in a nearby stream, he didn’t think twice of venturing into the stream again. He brought this same dedication and fearlessness to the aide of his motherland.
Bapat was educated in Edinburgh, Scotland, because he lost a scholarship he had received from the British Government, for expressing anti-British views at a meeting of the Independent Labor Party. Despite the loss of the scholarship he continued his studies abroad, and came home with preliminary knowledge of how to build bombs. Armed with this knowledge he planned to join other revolutionaries to use it against the British Government, not in an attempt to kill innocent victims, but to draw attention to the cause of freedom. There were others whose opinions differed, and soon a fatal bomb attack, in which he was accused of indirect involvement, resulted in his going underground. He took this opportunity to travel around the country he was working so hard to free.
During these travels the realization came to him that the vast majority of Indians had yet to realize that they were under foreign rule. Thereafter his focus shifted from overthrowing the government, to educating the masses regarding the foreign government. For four years he eluded the British officials and worked towards this new goal. The British government caught up with him because of a tip-off from one of his friends regarding his location.
This was to be the first of three trips to jail for Bapat. The second came shortly after his release when he went to fight for the rights of those whose homes were threatened by a Dam project. Bapat repeatedly stopped work on the dams by uprooting rail lines that were being planted to move lumber and equipment to use during construction. For this act he turned himself in and was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. His final trip to jail was a result of defying orders not to speak at a public gathering held by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.
On August 15, 1947 when India was declared free, Jawaharlal Nehru raised the Indian flag in Delhi for the first time. Senapati Bapat was given the same honor in Pune. After independence Senapati Bapat took an active part in political life. He passed away on November 28, 1967 at the age of 87.