Generations will remember Bhilare Guruji for saving Mahatma Gandhi in Panchgani in 1944. Mahatma Gandhi and several other leaders were arrested after All India Congress Committee passed the Quit India resolution post mid-night of August 8, 1942. Gandhiji was released from the Aga Khan Palace Prison on May 6, 1944. He had contracted malaria and went to Panchgani for rest on the advice of his physician. His wife Kasturba and secretary Mahadev Desai died in the Aga Khan Palace. It was in July 1944 that Nathuram Godse tried to attack Mahatma with a dagger. At that time there was no Pakistan and so no question of giving Rs 55 crore to Pakistan.
Bhilare Guruji passed away on Wednesday at the age of 98 in his village Bhilar in Satara district. He was a young boy when Gandhiji was resting in Dilkhush Bungalow in Panchgani. Bhilare Guruji and other youths were looking after Gandhiji. One day a group of 18 to 20 people came from Poona (now Pune) in a bus and held a day-long demonstration against Gandhiji. When Gandhiji came to know about the protest he invited the leader of the group Nathuram Godse for a discussion. Godse refused to meet him.
During the prayer meeting in the evening, Godse, dressed in a Nehru shirt, rushed towards Gandhiji with a dagger in hand. Bhilare Guruji and Manishankar Purohit, owner of Surti Lodge of Poona, overpowered the attacker. Panic resulted, but Gandhiji remained calm. He told Guruji to release Godse and asked Godse to spend 8 days with him so that Godse could understand his point of view. But, Godse refused to accept Gandhiji’s offer.
There are people who raise a question about the authenticity of the incident. But, the fact is Guruji saved Mahatma. There are records which prove that the attack on Mahatma took place and the attacker was Nathuram Godse. The news of Bhilare Guruji’s bravery spread immediately and he became a hero. Mahatma Gandhi’s great grandson Tushar Gandhi in his book Let’s Kill Gandhi: A Chronicle Of His Last Days, writes, ”Before leaving Poona, Godse had boasted to his journalist friends that some important news concerning Gandhi would soon reach them from Panchgani. Joglekar, a reporter working for Godse’s periodical Agranee, corroborated this fact. A David, the then editor of the Poona Herald, stated under oath, while deposing before the Kapur Commission, which was set up in the sixties to investigate the conspiracy behind Gandhi’s murder, that Godse had made an attempt on Gandhi’s life and he had also heard of his boast to fellow journalists about the planned attack. In a small news item, the Times Of India reported that a Poona-based editor had attempted to assault Gandhi. The police records show that there were day-long demonstrations against Gandhi at Panchgani.
The records also mention that Godse was held for trying to rush at Gandhi shouting slogans but does not state whether he was armed. Dr Sushila Nayyar, Gandhi’s physician and close associate testified before the Kapur Commission that one of the protesters was found to be carrying a dagger, but could not confirm whether it was Nathuram Godse. However, the two men who overpowered Godse, Manishankar Purohit and D Bhilare Guruji, testified to this attack before the Kapur Commission, and stated that they had caught and disarmed Nathuram Vinayak Godse, that day at Panchgani.
Bhilare Guruji was present when Tushar Gandhi’s book was released in Mumbai in 2007. A day before Bhilare Guruji passed away, I was talking to Jayant Diwan, who interviewed and documented many freedom fighters including Bhilare Guruji around ten years ago, about Bhilare Guruji. He had narrated extensively on the Nathuram Godse’s attempt on Mahatma and how they overpowered him.
Again, that was not the first attempt on Gandhiji. Nathuram Godse and his gang continued their efforts to assassinate Gandhiji a few more times till they succeeded on January 30, 1948.
Generations will remember Bhilare Guruji and Purohit for saving the apostle of peace in 1944. In today’s world full of hatred and war, one needs persons like Bhilare Guruji to save humanity.