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Seven Days in a forest

Seven Days in a forest

Author: M G Vaidya
Publication: Tarun Bharat
Date: November 25, 2001

(The following a gist of the article in a free translation form.)

Mananiya Shri M. G. Vaidya, now the Spokesman of RSS had been to Jashpurnagar in Chhatisgarh State for the annual meeting of Sangh Pracharaks in November.  The journey is through forest area. They were only for seven days in this area populated by forest-dwellers or tribals.  A brief account of their exhilerating experience and what they saw there.

Jashpurnagar is situated at such a location that whatever way you take, it is not easy to reach there. Shri Vaidyaji along with others left Ranchi for Jashpurnagar at 8.30 a. m. In an hour, they reached their first stop, Gadaha Toli, a place only 5 Kms off the main road but far away from the civilisation represented by the main road. About 250 people had gathered for the programme of Ekal Vidyalaya operating there. There is a school but it does not function.  Out of the two teachers, one does not come at all. The other is a lady who comes but has no students. Students go out to pastures to graze their cattle. The school schedule is not being changed to suit their timing. The Ekal Vidyalaya is run between 6 to 9 p.m. in the evening where they. come to learn.  A youth of 20-22 yrs old who has learned upto 9th standard works as the teacher. There is no electicity and all the work has to be done under the light of hurricane lanterns

No. of students - 50 with equal number of boys and girls. Their programme began. Reciting from memory by the students was remarkable. First they said Omkar and Gayatri Mantra thrice clearly. This was followed by the Aarti "Jaya Jagadish Hare". They sang one song in their dialect and one in Hindi. Programmes of students followed. The appreciation and pride for the children's achievement, was overflowing on the face of the elders present.  What the students knew was very little but the others did not know that even. 50 years have passed. Teachers are appointed and paid, school has its own building, but there is no education. On this dark background, this small beginning assumes great importance  of a bright dawn for the villagers.

Their next stop was a Students' Hostel run by Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, at Gamla 15 Km away from the district place. Along with the hostel, a Saraswati Vidyamandir is also conducted both having been started in 1997. Advancing progressively, one standard every year,  this year the school has reached 5th Standard.  The hostel accommodates 20 students out of which 7 are orphans.  In Vidyamandir, there are 87 students. Education as well as accommodation in hostel is totally free. The atmosphere here was quite different charged by Sangh system.  The students demonstrated their skill in physical training including Niyuddha (Judo). Girls' performance of their dance was a treat.  Very reassuring experience.

We reached Jashpurnagar at 6 p.m. Jashpurnagar is a District recently carved out of original Raigad District. In this faraway area surrounded by Jungle and huge hills, Sangh work is excellent. It was here that Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram   (VKA) was launched in December 1952.  Now VKA has spread all over India. In 1977 it was renamed All India Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram  .  Here, VKA has curbed the Christian Missionary activities drastically and has created an awe about itself among them.

The history of the growth of VKA here is  interesting. Ramakant Keshav alias Balasaheb Deshpande, a swayansevak from childhood and an advocate from Nagpur enthusiastically participated in 1942 freedom struggle, was arrested on the charge of treason but acquitted in appeal. After independence, the CM of Madhya Pradesh, Ravishankar Shukla visited this part but he was shown black flags by people due to the provocation by the Christian Missionaries and slogans of "Zaarkhand Zindabad" were raised. Subsequently Government established a Tribal Welfare Centre. Balasaheb was appointed as Tribal Development Officer in which capacity he arrived at Jashpurnagar. All around were schools run only by Missionaries. Balasaheb started Government schools and in two years there were 100 Government schools. Thakkar Bappa, the great Gandhian tribal activist visited and praised his work.  In 1952 General Elections were held. This part by then had become Christian majority area and due to vote bank politics, Balasaheb was transferred.

He discussed the situation with Shri Golwalkar Guruji and under his guidance, resigned from Government service and commenced practice in Tehsil of Jashpurnagar as an advocate.  Side by side, he continued his work among the  tribal people. Sangh sent him Shri Morubhau Ketkar, a Pracharak to help him. Then came the launching of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram   in due form in December 1952. Hostels and schools formed the medium of work.

At that time, His Excellency, Late Shri Vijaybhushansinha Judeo was the prince of the Jashpur State. Although the state had merged in Chattisgarh, privy purse was continued. Rajesaheb gave two rooms in his palace for VKA. His acquaintenance with Deshpande and Ketkar became intimate and he realised the importance of their work.  During a desultory conversation, Rajesaheb asked Balasaheb, "How much portion of his income a married man (head of family) should give to good work?" Balasaheb replied, "According to our Shastras, a married man should give tenth part of his income to good work". "Okay," Rajesaheb replied, "from next month, one tenth of my privy purse will be given to Kalyan Ashram". Balasaheb and Morubhai were astonished.

This help continued till the privy purses were discontinued and with that help, the work of Kalyan Ashram took a good shape.  Further, when the Privy Purses were stopped, Rajesaheb gave 150 acres of his own land to Kalyan Ashram. The buildings of the office of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram   and its School are today standing on this land.  One of them is dedicated to late Shri Deshpande, while the other to Shri Ketkar. There is a separate building for hostel. The crops of grain, vegetables etc. which the Ashram grows on the rest of the land, is used towards consumption by the students of the hostel and workers of the  Ashram. The balance produce brings in some cash income for the day-to-day affairs of the Ashram.

Today, Raje Vijaybhushansinha Judeo is no more.  His grandson Raje Ranvijaypratapsinha Judeo is the prince. The uncle of the present prince Dilipsinha Judeo who is the member of the Rajya Sabha, is an active worker of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram   He has a special interest in bringing back into Hindu fold the people who were converted to Christianity due to missionary activities. During the Ghar Vapasi Ceremony he personally washes the feet of those who come back to Hinduism with all unction. All those Ghar Vapasi people are moved to tears by this act of respect and love by Dilipsinha, also known as Kumar Saheb.

The popularity and deep love for the Vanavasi people of the Prince Raje Ranvijaypratapsinha Judeo was evident. After our Pracharaks' meeting, there was a programme of visiting a forest place named Kavai, 70 Km away from Jashpurnagar.  Rajesaheb was with us.  He is a young person of 30-32 years with a handsome personality.  When we reached the place, it was about 12.15 in the noon.  Vanavasi men came and touched Rajesaheb's feet and Rajesaheb held everyone of them close to his heart showing his love for them. Adult women touched his forehead with their forehead and felicitated him.  It was a unique experience to see the deep respect commanded by this king without kingdom and power as well as his own love for the people.

At exactly 12.30 p.m. groups of dancing and singing Vanavasi folks arrived for our Welcome and on the rhythm of  their Dholki and dance-songs we walked to the dias. Rajesaheb delivered his opening address followed by the speech of Jt Secretary of the All India VKA, Kripashankar Sinha which was full of wit and vigour. Others who addressed the meeting were local Sarpanch who spoke in their dialect, Jagdishprasad Uranv, All India President of VKA and the eminent leader of Gharvapasi - Swami Amaranand Maharaj.  Shri Suresh Soni, All India Prachaar Pramukh explained the activities of Sangh.

Shree Ram underwent punishment of dwelling in forest (Vanavas) for 14 years suffering all hardships. Vaidyaji's Vanavas of  only seven days was a pleasant one. They stayed in Jashpurnagar a city like any other with cement concrete buildings, electricity etc. But the area all around was surrounded by huge verdant hills.  Their visit to those forest places like Gudaha Toli, Kavai etc. gave them a close glimpse of the life our Vanavasi brothers and also an inkling of the transformation that is taking place in it. It also brought to mind the great sacrifice of the of the VKA activists who have stood firmly in this area against all odds for the last half century and yet achieving great success. The darkness is receding in all this area brightened by the influence of VKA and Sangh. All the three MLAs and the MP belong to Bharatiya Janata Party. The most important feature of this movement here is that this "Gharvapasi" programme (Coming back to Hindu fold), is now being implemented by Vanavasi people themselves.

Mananiya Vaidyaji and others with him came back with the memory of those seven golden days still lingering in their minds.
 


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