Bhonsala Military School (BMS) in Nasik, facing the accusation of being a training ground for right-wing terrorism, has received support from unexpected quarters — veteran Congressman Vasant Sathe, who was in the inaugural batch of the school founded in 1937 by Hindutva ideologue B.S. Munje.
“It’s absolutely wrong to say that any such training is being imparted there,” Sathe told Hindustan Times. He said military training at BMS prepared students for a career in armed forces. Over the years, the former Union minister has kept contact with BMS that is also the alma mater of a couple of retired three-star generals and service men in other ranks decorated for their bravery.
In the context of the Malegaon blast case — in which the school’s Commandant Col. (Retd) S.S. Raikar has been detained for questioning by the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) — he maintained terrorism must not be countered by terrorism at the expense of innocent lives.
“It’s a viscous cycle that will only aggravate the problem,” cautioned Sathe. He said terrorists had to be dealt with without a bias for and against communities. “They are criminals and must be treated as such,” he added.
Arguing that an elementary knowledge of chemistry was sufficient to make explosives, Sathe averred that as a school, BMS never taught bomb making. “Military education there is about physical fitness, marksmanship, trekking, horse riding, swimming and other activities commonplace in regular schools,” he said. “The horses we rode were gifted to the school by the Gwalior royalty,” he said.
Sathe conceded, nevertheless, that the ethos BMS inculcated in its students was based on Veer Savarkar’s pre-Independence philosophy of militarising the Hindus and Hinduising the military.
“Savarkar disagreed with Gandhiji’s non-violent struggle for independence. He felt military action alone would drive out the British colonial rulers,” he said, adding, “Gandhiji met Savarkar after his release from jail, but couldn’t reach a confluence of opinion.”
The Congress leader was witness also to a tussle for the school’s control by its military and scholastic wings headed by a designated principal and a captain with a military background. The scholastic wing walked away with the honours eventually. But the unseemly face-off was reason enough for Sathe’s father, a civil judge, to pull him and his brother Madhav out of the school for further education in Nagpur.