Nation turns 75: Pune’s magnificent contribution to India’s freedom struggle
Areas like Ganeshkhind road, Sadashiv peth, Narayan peth, Deccan are witness to the beginning of the freedom struggle
Pune as a city may be changing along with the times, making way for two tier flyovers, metro and high-rise buildings, but as India celebrates its 75th year of independence, this once quite place played a major role in the freedom struggle.
Historian Mandar Lawate said that although the city has upgraded itself, it still owes a lot to the freedom fighters who gave this city its foundation.
Areas like Ganeshkhind road, Sadashiv peth, Narayan peth, Deccan are witness to the beginning of the freedom struggle.
It was at Ganeskhind road – currently being used by commuters to reach Aundh, Baner, Balewadi - where the Chapekar brothers shot the British official W C Rand.
“The city’s peth areas were where the fight for freedom began. It was in 1817, when the Union Jack was unfurled at Shaniwar wada, it was time for the Punekars to release their pent-up anger against the Britishers,” said Lawate.
The sparks of uprising were seen in 1857 when Vasudev Balwant Phadke who lived in Narsingh Temple at Sadashiv peth, learnt weapon training at Khunya Murlidhar temple and began addressing people against the usage of English language.
Freedom fighters like Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak as well as Gopal Jrishna Agarkar lived in Tambat Ali in Shaniwar peth. Tilak later shifted to Vinchurkar wada, and then in Gaikwad wada which is now known as Kesari wada in Narayan peth. This was where he started Kesari newspaper, a mouth piece for Swaraj. The British kept a close watch on Tilak’s home and visitors.
The Gaikwad wada was also the seat of Tilak’s political activity, like deciding to celebrate the Ganesh festival and Shivaji Jayanti on a public scale to lift the people’s morale and reaffirm their sense of identity as Indians. It was also the venue for crucial meetings with like-minded intellectuals. Now, this place is testament to the powerful play of this newspaper and its editor.
The Phadke temple, Sinhagad road, bears testament to Vasudev Balwant Phadke’s firebrand revolutionary tactics. Phadke formed a group called Ramoshi consisting of the Ramoshi, Koli, Bhils and Dhangar communities of Maharashtra. The group started an armed struggle to overthrow the British. They would raid rich Englishmen to fund their activities. Built by Haripant Phadke, a general in the Peshwa’s army, the temple served as a convenient front for various activities of the Ramoshi group be it hiding their weaponry or training aides in the usage of arms.
The Chapekar brothers who lived at Nagnath paar, are famous for their plan to assassinate General WC Rand at Ganeshkind. Chapekar along with their friend Mahadev Ranade planned the assassination at Khazgiwale wada behind Nutan Marathi school in peth area and later executed it.
During this time, the students also got involved where VD Savarkar, who was then studying at Fergusson college, was inspired and participated in burning of foreign clothes in bonfire near Vimlabai garware school.
In 1905, the vicinity of Vimlabai garware school witnessed a huge bonfire of British cloth and goods. Tilak and Veer Savarkar began the cause of Swadeshi goods in the city. The message was loud and clear – “Be Indian, buy Indian, and contribute to India’s growth”.
In another vicinity of the Nutan Marathi Vidyalay, Mahatma Gandhi’s clarion call in August 1942 about Quit India (Chale Jao Andolan) took a violent turn in Pune.
“For the first and last time in the city’s history, tanks and machine guns were used by the Raj on unarmed citizenry. Several innocent lives were lost in the firing,” said Lawate.
While at Faraskhana, Bhaskar Karnik, an employee of the Khadki ordnance factory, would smuggle bombs out of the factory, which were subsequently converted into time bombs by his team. The goal was bombing the capitol talkies in the cantonment area of the city, frequented by Englishmen. On January 26, 1942, they managed to achieve it.