National : Memories of forgotten heroes to come alive in Pune’s Chapekar Wada

By Quaid Najmi

Pune, Aug 21 : Over 15 years after the famed Chapekar Wada was rebuilt at a cost of nearly Rs 50 lakh, the next phase of a museum dedicated to little-known or forgotten heroes of India’s Independence movement will come up here.

While a section of the museum is ready, the next phase will see a memorial dedicated to the dare-devil Chapekar Brothers, which is slated for a tentative inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December, according to Chapekar Smarak Samiti (CSS) member and 2021 Padma Shri awardee, Girish Prabhune.

The Chapekar Wada is the ancestral home of the young trio of Chapekar siblings — Damodar Hari (29), Balkrishna Hari (26) and Vasudev Hari (19) — who were hanged for shooting British officer W. C. Rand and his military aide on June 22, 1897, during the diamond jubilee celebration of Queen Victoria’s coronation.

The attack place was near the present-day Savitribai Phule Pune University campus, and while the army aide died on the spot, Rand succumbed on July 3, 1897, and the trio were hanged on different dates in April 1888 and May 1899.

The Chapekars idolised another stalwart, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who always wrote strongly in favour of the revolutionaries in his ‘Kesari’ newspaper, naturally earning the ire of the British Raj on several occasions.

The white rulers slapped sedition charges on Tilak (1897, 1909 and 1916), and though defended by Bombay’s stalwart Barrister Muhammed Ali Jinnah, he faced prolonged jail terms, including the historic six-year term in present-day Myanmar’s (Burma) Mandalay Jail (1908-1914).

By 1997, the Chapekar Wada was practically crumbling and the CSS took up the redevelopment work in 1998 and it was completed in April 2005, at a cost of around Rs 50 lakh with help from the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and other philanthropists.

It comprises the old dwelling of the Chapekars at Chinchwadgaon, and now the CSS has bought over the adjoining plots to construct a six-storey memorial, museum and other attractions there, said Prabhune.

“Besides the most prominent names, there are many lesser-known or forgotten heroes of the freedom movement who were also beaten, tortured, jailed, hanged or martyred for the cause of Independence, all over India, and many were dumped in the dreaded Cellular Jail (Kala Paani) in Andaman and other prisons. The Chapekar Wada memorial and museum expansion work is part of the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence,” Prabhune said.

While the Chapekar brothers’ memorial work, including their statues, is in full swing, it is expected to be unveiled by the Prime Minister after four months (December 2022), and the other museum portions will be fully operational by end-2024, he added.

The new building will house an auditorium, a research centre, digital literature, rare photographs, films of around 2,500 such forgotten liberation heroes, a few statues, their biographical depictions and the current whereabouts of their descendants, a sound-and-light show, etc., at an estimated cost of around Rs 50 crore.

“We hope to cover the country’s history of more than five centuries with major uprisings starting from the Battles of Panipat (1526, 1556, and 1761), the Battle of Plassey (1757), the Indian Uprising (1857), and so on,” said Prabhune.

It will attempt to explain how the huge ‘Akhand Bharat’ extending from the modern-day Myanmar to beyond Afghanistan was successively beaten, starting with Alexander the Great (327-324 BC), the Mughals starting with Emperor Babur (1526), then the British Rule (till August 15, 1947), and the systematic division of the ancient India by the Britishers with different provinces which are now independent nations.

The Chapekar brothers had little formal education but compensated by keeping company of spiritual men, scholars, royalty and even freedom fighters to enrich their knowledge.

Now, their renovated abode Chapekar Wada, along with the upcoming memorial and museum, will serve to inspire and educate future generations on the contributions of many other little remembered heroes of India’s Independence movement.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

–IANS

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