Bhaskar Rao: A Mahatma of our times

This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of Bhaskar Rao, the first Prant Pracharak of Kerala and former national organising secretary of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. "He was a mahatma to Bharatvarsh that we see in the personalities of Mahatma Gandhi and Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya," veteran journalist and former Member of Parliament Shri Tarun Vijay reminisces about his life and contributions
Tarun Vijay

It's difficult to imagine that such a simple, yet stronger than the steel man was amidst us just a few years before. He was a source of strength for thousands of RSS workers who were facing the brutal attacks from the CPM goons, he was a brother to innumerable families who sought his advice and help for matters that included education, medical treatment, marriage, mutual discords and even buying a new house !! He never taught Sangha through books, never discussed shakha when visiting a family, but remained a dear sahēādaran, chettan, jeshtan, aniyan,anujan…… all those who were ready to live and sacrifice their lives for Bharath Mata.
He was a living embodiment of Dr Hedgewar’s ideals and represented the old school of pracharaks carrying forward the legacy of Dattopant, Seshadri ji, Yadavrao Joshi ji and Suryanarayan Rao.
Such threads of warmth and a Hindu family affinity he had woven that each one of us thought- I am very close to him. And he was close to every one of us- equally.
We would often say- if some one hadn’t seen Deendayalji, he could well imagine how he might have been after seeing Bhaskar Rao ji.
He was born in Yangon on 5th October 1919, where his father Dr Shiv Ram Kalambi was a popular medical practitioner and a RSS Swayamsewak. His mother Smt Radha Devi was instrumental in giving Bhaskar the intrinsic values of a Hindu family. Unfortunately his both parents died too early forcing Bhaskar to return to Mumbai with his uncle and pursue studies. He did graduation from St Xaviers College and took LLB degree from Bombay university.
But the destiny had a different field reserved for him. He felt the plight of the Hindus who were struggling for the independence from the British yoke on one side and the attacks of the Islamists and Christian evangelists on the other. He decided to be a pracharak in the RSS and was sent to Kerala in 1946.
It was the most difficult time for the Hindu consolidation in Kerala those days. Muslim intransigence and offensive against the Hindus was on a rise, Christians were forcibly trying to take over many Hindu shrines and their zeal to convert Hindus was unstoppable, Hindu society was deeply divided in caste and community segments, the influence of Sri Narayan Guru, Mahatma Ayyankali, saved Hindus to a great extent,still the flood of assaults on the Hindus was continuing . RSS had hardly twenty shakhas in the entire Kerala region as it was known then as Travancore-Cochin or Thiru-Kochi (1949–1956), originally called United State of Travancore and Cochin. The Malabar area was a Muslim hub of Jihadist activities, which was the first Muslim majority district carved out by the Communist government led by EMS Namboodiripad ( Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad).
The Hindus in Kerala needed a strong helping hand to regain confidence that was shattered by the barbaric Moplah violence about which Dr B.R Ambedkar had written , " The Hindus must have the courage and the faith to feel that they can protect their religion in spite of such fanatical eruptions. A verbal disapproval by the Mussalmans of Mopla madness is no test of Mussalman friendship. The Mussalmans must naturally feel the shame and humiliation of the Mopla conduct about forcible conversions and looting, and they must work away so silently and effectively that such a thing might become impossible even on the part of the most fanatical among them. My belief is that the Hindus as a body have received the Mopla madness with equanimity and that the cultured Mussalmans are sincerely sorry of the Mopla's perversion of the teaching of the Prophet”—-B. R. Ambedkar, Ambedkar, Bhimrao. Pakistan or the Partition of India. Chapter 7).

Bhaskar Rao ji with Shri Tarun Vijay, and his mother in their Dehradun house- where an idea of
Vanavasi hostel took shape. Behind are his Kalyan Ashram workers ( extreme right Dr Tapu Mohanty, editor, Van Swar)
The Kerala that was nourished with the noble teachings of Sri Narayan Guru and Mahatma Ayyankali, had received a brotherly hand of strength and wisdom by stalwarts like Dattopant Thengadi, Madhavan ji, Sukumaran ji, Ranga Hari ji, P Parameswaran ji , Sethu Madhavan ji and many more. K. Bhasakar Rao, or K Bhaskaran or simply Bhaskarattan, had a huge challenge before him to prove worthy of this Sangha legacy , tackle the situation and hold the flood of assaults on Hindus as well as keep the morale of the society high. His focus on the low income groups, making new Sangha swayamsewaks among fishermen, poor artisans, farmers, rickshaw drivers, teachers and students was a big success. RSS grew leaps and bounds in rural areas and among the poorest of the poor sections.
It drew the brutal ire of the communist leadership that saw they’re losing ground in a big way . The long list of the martyrs of the Sangh is a testimony to the bewildered CPM leadership that found refuge in killing the young RSS workers. It goes to the credit of Bhaskar Rao that he remained an unwavering source of solace and strength to the bereaved Sangha families as well as creating a new generation of Swayamsewaks who won’t be fearful of CPM violence.
When I look at his early years it surprises how a young lad in his twenties would decide to give his life for the society, in-spite of having a LLB degree in his pocket in those days when being a solicitor meant a high profile rich life.
Yes, he was in that dreamy eyed age when he left home in Mumbai and joined the ranks of the sangha workers in south- learnt Malayalam and became one with the new environment he was asked to adopt. Consolidating the Hindu society, encouraging dharma and powering cultural threads among the new generation was his main task and soon he became a highly respected household name among the RSS cadre. His simplicity, unassuming nature, an extraordinary ability to bring out the best from the most ordinary and often ‘rejected and dejected’ youth- was his forte.
He worked to eliminate the caste barriers and took strong stand to help and support intercaste marriages. The one quality that endeared him to thousands was his transparent behavior that made innumerable swayamsewaks like us to feel he belongs to our family and we can discuss any personal problem with him. He listened carefully, and he advised in most trying situations, often bringing peace and resolving domestic conflicts too.
Bhaskar Rao is the creator of the Veer- Kerala that will not yield before the violence of the anti Hindu forces, keep the fire of Dharma intact with Ahuti of their lives, defeat the foreign funded agencies of the Islamists, proselytizer zealots, insanely brutal Communists democratically and keep on working to build the edifice of a humane, tolerant and a civilized Hindu society , dedicated to Bharat Mata.
The second avatar
His life’s second avatar was to join India;’s largest tribals service organization Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram in 1984. The Kalyan ashram saw best of the service projects, new hostels, medical centres, schools, and late evening literacy classes for tribal farmers under his guidance. I was a full time worker of the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram during his tenure and had the privilege to seek his guidance and received his affection as a worker.
When he saw my mother was having a difficult time in Dehradun, as she was alone and had seven eye problem that made her helpless, while I was in Dadra Nagar Haveli, he, sent a few tribal students from Assam to be with my mother and also study in local school. The idea later grew into a bigger separate Vanavasi school and hostel thats was inaugurated by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee . He helped and encouraged all, and each swayamsewak never ever felt as if his help is like a ‘burden’.
He was kind, soft spoken, suave and too humble.
It certainly was a new challenge for him when he was asked to work among tribal people, as organizing secretary of the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram , which is running thousands of schools, colleges, hostels, all over India- in specifically tribal pockets. It was a new world for him— as tribals form a very distinct fabric of the Indian milieu , brilliant and yet clouded by various inhospitable factors that make them vulnerable to exploitation by the rich urban traders, miners, bureaucrats and of course foreign funded conspiracies of proselytization.
It is often ignored that though the tribals form just eight percent of Indian population, more than ninety eight percent incidents of insurgency, terrorism and foreign controlled activities like conversion through agencies inimical to India’s growth occur in the tribal region alone.
Very soon Bhaskar Rao grasped the situation and he focussed on giving quality education to the tribal students so that they become aware of their environment, are able to understand the threats and reduce their vulnerability to fall prey to exploitative forces. You can’t awaken a person who wont understand what exploitation means and neither can you teach religious texts to a hungry boy.
Give them good education, nourish their body and the soul and you will see that you have turned him into a brilliant, awakened patriotic Indian , he would say. Good education is the key to not only prosperity and health but also to produce patriotic Indians who can contribute enormously to the growth of motherland.
He said that the education must be such that it must inculcate values of love for motherland, dharma and culture- and they must understand that a conversion to an alien faith not only makes them alien to the very heritage of their ancestors but also cuts all threads that form their cultural and civilizational fabric. First make tribal youth understand what are the values that define his being, his existence, his tribal social world- then he would stand tall and protect his dharma and culture.
Great ideas were so beautifully explained by him that there was hardly any need for further elaborate or get into a reactionary, offensive mode.
He was everything to us. He was a mahatma to Bharatvarsh that we see in the personalities of Mahatma Gandhi and Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya.
(The writer has worked as full time worker in Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram between 1981-86, Former Editor, Panchjanya)