Dattopant Bapurao Thengadi was a saint, visionary, nationalist, economist, social scientist, philosopher and above all a very close leader of the poor. The kind of impact he left on the social and economic life of Bharat was unique and set the tone for generations to come. Some of the hallmark qualities of his lifestyle are simple living, in-depth study, deep thinking, clarity of thought, courage of the conviction and missionary zeal for the goal. Each person from all walks of life used to think that he is only one step ahead of them, which is the best example of his successful leadership. He is the founder of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and many other organizations for the benefit of the society. He started Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh from scratch and worked for 49 years to make it the world’s largest trade union, which proves that he is one of the best organisers.
He is a great scholar having thorough knowledge on of Capitalism, Socialism and Communism. After the BMS was started, the communists said, “Work of a trade union is not as simple as playing on the ground with a half-pant. You have started BMS only to oppose us.” Then Thengadiji said, “I am asking my friends, to wrap a blanket and sleep, the internal contradiction of communism will finish that thought; before 21th-century communism will die its own death.” And that is what happened. He wasn’t an astrologer yet he could foresee future and thus, was a visionary.
In 1984 Hyderabad Conference of BMS, he said, “Due to foreign law and entry of multinational companies our indigenous companies and mines will be auctioned by foreigners. At that time we will have to fight against them instead of remaining silent spectators. The unholy allianc of our government, the capitalists and the intellectuals will also help the foreign companies. When such a situation will arise, we will have to follow the principle of “Indraya takshkaya Swaha.”
In the year 1986, non-trade items came to GATT for consideration, the foreseen situation started to become clearer. Hence, he laid down the foundation for Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and announced that exploitation based capitalist system will one day be shattered. America will face economic depression by 2020 and today even this forecast is slowly turning out to be true.
In his concluding speech in BMS Executive Committee meeting at Surat in 2004 he said, “This Government will go and for coming 20 years the pro-capitalist Government will rule over the country. During that time, the nation will face a harsh situation. At that situation, the BMS cadres should be educated properly and under the able leadership of Sangh, we have to fight against that and to bring out the mass out of that chaotic condition. Today, it is clearly visible, the country’s PSU, railways mines and many more are being sold. The country’s intellectuals, the Government and group of capitalists are involved in this process.
When he went to America for the last time, after the end of the event he went to Mexico. Many of his associates were surprised and asked “Thengdiji’s, there are no attractive places to visit in Mexico. Why are you going there? He didn’t answer it and left for Mexico. The Indian residents of Mexico, who went to welcome him to the airport asked, “Thengdiji, where should we go?” Thengdiji said, “I am to visit the worst affected village of Mexico due to exploitation by MNCs and foreign loans.” All of them were astonished. He visited same worst affected villages.
He was not only a friend of the poor, but also tried to save them from poverty. He thought about the exploited, victimised, marginalised and oppressed section of people not only in India but throughout the world. After seeing and watching the study of Thengadiji’s, I used to wonder how he found time to read after taking up so many works and busy time. For Thengadiji’s we thought each day was 25-30 hours and a year was 14-15 months for him.
Westernisation is not Modernisation
“According to Thengadiji, Westernisation is not modernization. But because of the Macaulay system of English education, the majority of Indians are thinking and believing that anything West is always best. To be modern our lifestyle and thought process should necessarily be western. However, this is only a mental blockade. We must come out of it at the earliest and be prepared to think free of western biases. We must accept that modernisation is not westernisation and westernisation is not modernisation.’
At the first all-India workshop of BMS on October 27, 1968, in Bhusabal, Maharashtra, he said, “If there exist different societies in different conditions in same time period, then there could be no one 'ism' for them. Similarly, one idea cannot be considered appropriate for one society over different time periods. Not a single 'ism' can be a universal remedy of all ills because time and conditions change and any ideology or 'ism' takes shape out of the knowledge pool of that time.'
He organised massive workers’ movements on the principle that class struggle be replaced with class cooperation. He believed in collective thinking, decisions and leadership. And it reflects all the organisation which was started by him. He worked with labour movements but never compromised on the idea of cultural nationalism and national reconstruction. In 2011, workers of the Communist, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) joined BMS in chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Matram at a workers' rally. The ideas that Thengadiji had sown, had come to fruition five decades later.
At the time of Thengadiji Mahanirvan, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said: I have had close relations with Dattopantji for the last 50 years. If one has to explain the personality of Dattopantji in one sentence, we can say that he was a dedicated Rashtrasevak. He lived his whole life like a karmayogi. The work he took up he aimed for it with full responsibility. He established a wide network of friends without compromising on his views and ideology. His thinking was not confined to labourers or economic issues alone, it involved the entire life of the nation and the world. His death is a personal loss to me. A strong pillar of our work is no more.”
(The writer is former national organising secretary of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh)