In this era of technology and globalization we hardly remember or appreciate the efforts our revolutionaries put to give us our freedom. Though, an occasional blockbuster like Rang de Basanti instills patriotism but that too for a brief moment.
Gandhi and Nehru continue to be in limelight while other freedom fighters are secluded to the pages of History text books. Among all the revolutionaries, there had been numerous those whose contribution to the cause of India’s freedom was somehow neglected. These fighters with virtues of courage, commitment and conviction deserve more credit. Chapekar brothers are some of those less eulogized revolutionaries.
The Chapekar Family
The Chapekar trio consisted eldest Damodar Hari, Balakrishna Hari and youngest Vasudev Hari Chapekar. Their family belonged to Chinchwad, Pune in state Maharashtra. Due to poor financial condition of the household, the brothers didn’t have formal education. They used to accompany their father to perform Kirtans in their community. Constant company of kirtankars made them deeply religious.
The plot: Reason to take up arms
In 1896, Pune was crippled by a bubonic plague which had killed thousands of residents. To deal with the catastrophe, the British government appointed Special Plague Committee chaired by W.C. Rand.
Troops were mobilized and deployed in Pune for plague duty. But, instead of helping the people, their ways turned out to be harassing and oppressing for the locals. Forced entry into homes, mistreating women, insult of religious places by troops became common complaints which rand chose to ignore.
Hearing about the plight and oppression of their people, Damodar and Balakrishna decided to kill Rand. They carefully shadowed him for days to know his schedule and later hatched a plan to murder him on the day of Diamond jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria’s coronation. The plan worked and Rand succumbed to his injuries and died on but another British officer Lt. Ayerest was killed in cross firing.
Betrayal by friends and a few countrymen
Both the brothers fled the scene and disappeared. But, Damodar was arrested in October based on the valuable input from Dravid brothers. The brothers, who themselves were in prison on the charges of forgery, were acquitted of all charges and paid Rs. 10000 each by the Britishers. A year later Balakrishna was also apprehended after being betrayed by a friend.
Both, Balakrishna and Damodar were awarded death penalty and were hanged in 1898 and 1899 respectively.
Meanwhile, the youngest sibling felt deeply hurt by the betrayal of Dravid brothers (Ganesh Shankar Dravid and Ramchandra Shankar Dravid) towards his brothers and his country. He along with Mahadev Ranade and Sathe shot dead both the Dravid brothers in an act of revenge. Vasudev Chapekar and Mahadev Ranade were captured and sentenced to death in 1899.
The heroic acts of revolutionaries like Chapekar brothers and Vasudev Balwant Phadke became an inspiration for all future freedom fighters. It particularly inspired several groups in Maharashtra to fight for their freedom. But, all their courage and sacrifice seems to have been forgotten with an only saving grace being an upcoming movie on the life of Chapekar brothers. The low budget movie is an attempt to honor their memories.