Modi's mentors: Inamdar, who shaped his ideas of Hindu-Muslim relations

Of all the men he has written about in admiration, Narendra Modi has referred most to this man, Lakshmanrao Inamdar, who set up the RSS headquarters in Ahmedabad. Much of Modi's daily routine (yoga, pranayam, exercise) has probably been inspired by Inamdar. On his death, Modi delivered a speech, which has unusually been attached to this biography Modi wrote on him. Modi also wrote a poem for him, titled The debt to the Rishi'. Modi's stark view of Hindu-Muslim relations appears to come from this mentor, affectionately Vakilsaheb.

'What is in a name?' Shakespeare has written, 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet'.

I would say Shakespeare is right, but not entirely. Names are important. For example Ravishankar Shivram Vyas. No particular meaning is attached to it. But if the same person were to be referred to as Ravishnakar Maharaj, the jungles would light up at the thought of this light of humanity. Similarly Amrutlal Vitthaldas Thakkar may be unknown, but not the beloved Thakkar Bapa.

Lakshman Madhav Inamdar is not famous in Gujarat but 'Vakilsaheb' is. And just as Ravishankar Vyas became Ravishankar Maharaj and Amrutlal Thakkar became Thakkar Bapa through their untiring work and dedication, so is the case with Vakilsaheb.

He was born in Satara district's Khatav village. The family name was Khatavkar but it became Inamdar. This happened through the gifts (Inam) the family got for its patriotic service to Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj - grandson of Shivaji - who gave land and the title of Sardar to the family.

A part of this land's revenue would come to the Inamdars, though in time the land went away but the title remained.

He was born on 21 September, 1917 on the day of Rishipanchami. He had seven brothers, of whom he was third, and two sisters. His father Madhavrao had six sisters of whom four were widows who had moved to their father's house with their children.

It was thus a huge family. Madhavrao was a canal inspector and would be transferred from one place to the other and so the family stayed in Khatav. For the children's education, Madhavrao had a place rented in Satara and Vakilsaheb went there after he was in the fourth standard.

Modi with his Muslim supporters. AFP.

Modi with his Muslim supporters. AFP.

Living with so many other children, from different families was in itself a pleasure. Knowing that one would have to sacrifice a little bit at all times prepared one for the life of the RSS, which sees all Hindus as a family.

As a child Vakilsaheb was quite physical and good at kabaddi and kho-kho. He won many awards for his manly skills and therefore lived up to his name, Inamdar.

He cleared his Inter in Arts and then enrolled for the LLB. In 1939 came the agitation in Bhagyanagar (Hyderabad). Let's understand what the issue was. India comprised of 500 or 550 states then. Hyderabad was one of them, a Hindu majority state ruled by a Muslim tyrant, the Nizam.

The citizens tried to rebel but the Nizam would always crush their uprising. Finally, Swatantraveer Savarkar began a peaceful agitation against the Nizam which was joined by the Arya Samaj. Youngsters came from all corners of India at Veer Savarkar's call including the lawyer and Hindu Mahasabha leader LB Bhopatkar. Some 150 youngsters joined him, including Vakilsaheb, who left his LLB course to participate in the Satyagraha.

The RSS has a tradition of 'prant-swayamsevak' under which a volunteer spends a year in another state. In 1943, aged only 25, Vakilsaheb arrived in Gujarat, in Navsari. The RSS has a song, 'Shapath lena to saral hai, par nibhana hi kathin hai (it's easier to make promises than keep them)'.

Once it so happened that a group of Swayamsevaks went for a swim and two drowned. Vakilsaheb was deeply saddened and felt he should have died instead of them. Offering solace to one boy's (also named Lakshman) mother, he said: "Your Lakshman is gone, but from today consider me your son." He kept his word to her by way of responsibility.

In 1952, he was given charge of Gujarat. These were difficult days for the RSS to expand. Economically it was tough, and many people felt "Well, we're independent now and it's our government in power. We don't need to do anything further."

In such circumstances, Vakilsaheb raised 150 shakhas in under 4 years and every year, in the Sangh-Sikhsha-Varg, 150 to 200 enthusiastic youngsters would enroll (AP: of whom Modi was one). He impressed many with his daily routine of exercise, meditation, pranayam, Gita-path and weekly fasts. He insisted on these, but there wasn't any other-worldly aspect to these, nor was he so inclined.

On his death, Sarsanghachalak Balasaheb Deoras said that he may have been born with some virtues, but others he inculcated through his perseverence.

And Vakilsaheb encouraged others as well. Once he had suggested someone to the post of a weekly publication's editor. The man demurred saying he had no experience. Vakilsaheb said to him: "That is true, but give it a go. If it works, then we shall have a flute but even if it doesn't, at least we have a bamboo." The man took it up and is today a fine editor.

Vakilsaheb's style was to speak to someone with the opening words "Bhala manas! (My good fellow)".

In 1982 or 83 he fell unwell. One Swayamsevak came to him and said that by the grace of god he had made some money and he wanted to donate it towards Vakilsaheb's health. The answer came that the RSS took good care of him and he had no need for that money, but if it had to be given it should be spent on medical aid for the poor. And so it was.

The RSS's strength lies in the fact that it is financially independent. Swayamsevaks give an annual offering that keeps the body going. Once a worker wanted to donate a fan to the local office. Most were happy but Vakilsaheb said this was not be a good precedent. The man who gave it would always feel entitled when he came there, and the worker in the office would always feel obliged. Vakilsaheb operated within the confines of this culture.

For 30 or 35 years Vakilsaheb toured Gujarat in trains and he would resemble a small town Gujarati merchant who spoke the language with a hint of Kathiawadi accent.

He carried a book or a newspaper and was always modest. It would be almost impossible to find a photograph of his and if one was insisted on, a 15-20 year old picture was produced. You would never ever find mention of his name in the newspapers either despite his high rank.

He inspired so many of us. If you were to find social workers today and asked them "Why did you let go of a career and do this?" They would say "We learned this culture in the Sangh-Shakha and besides, Vakilsaheb told us to. What's there left to think about?"

Updated Date: Feb 20, 2014 18:06 PM

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