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Nanaji Deshmukh: 'Dynamic Pracharak' Who Gave India the First Shishu Mandir Gets Bharat Ratna

Nanaji Deshmukh: 'Dynamic Pracharak' Who Gave India the First Shishu Mandir Gets Bharat Ratna

Nanaji, a Maharashtrian Brahmin, established India's first Saraswati Sishu Mandir at Gorakhpur in 1950. He was born in Kadoli, Maharashtra, on October 11, 1916.

New Delhi: Just this week Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was made the general secretary in charge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh – that’s where Nanaji Deshmukh, prominent RSS ideologue, is credited with spreading the Sangh ideology by initiating the education movement to strengthen the organization, and, quite importantly, influence the mind of the youth.

Nanaji, a Maharashtrian Brahmin, established India's first Saraswati Sishu Mandir at Gorakhpur in 1950. He was born in Kadoli, Maharashtra, on October 11, 1916.

In his congratulatory tweet for Nanaji, the PM noted the late leader’s “stellar contribution towards rural development”.

But there’s more.

East UP and Chitrakoot

In his book, ‘Religion, Caste Politics in India’, academic Christophe Jefferlot has mentioned about Nanaji, calling him "An exceptionally dyanmic pracharak”, who went to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. Nanaji initiated the first component of this new front of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1952, and it was called Saraswati Shishu Mandir, which was later brought under Vidya Bharti in 1977 in New Delhi. The Sangh leadership felt “that in addition to the ABVP and shakhas network, pracharaks start educational movement. It started under a very evocative name – Saraswati Shishu Mandir,” writes Jefferlot in his book.

According to his followers, Sangh had no funds to help him meet day-today expenses. On his Eastern UP tour, he stayed in a dharmashala, which he kept changing as no one was allowed to stay there for more than three days consecutively. After changing multiple dharamshalas he was given shelter by Baba Raghavdas. In return, Nanaji cooked meals for him. Nanaji’s groundwork was of great help in organizing Bharatiya Jana Sangh at the grassroots.

Atul Jain, director of Deendayal Research Institute, says that Nanaji was an MP from Balrampur, so it was his locus standi to work in that region, but what became his most important model was established in Chitrakoot. “The Chitrakoot Model is about integral humanism and about holistic and inclusive development,” said Jain. Nanji established Chitrakoot Gramodya Vishwavidyalaya in Chitrakoot, India's first rural university and was its first Chancellor.

The JP Movement and Sangh Man

The Jana Sangh became a force to reckon with in Uttar Pradesh and by 1967 BJS became the part of United Legislature Party Government headed by Chaudhary Charan Singh. “Nanaji played a crucial role in evolving the alliance as he enjoyed good relations with Charan Singh and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia. He was successful in bringing leaders of different political background on one platform to give Uttar Pradesh its first non-Congress government,” mentions the website dedicated to him chitrakoot.org.

He was the general secretary of the Lok Sangharsh Samiti, while rallying forces behind the JP Movement. He stood with social activist Jayprakash Narayan and fought with him in his agitation for ‘total revolution’. He also took lathi blows for him and worked to get funds. During this agitation he was arrested in a raid.

Among other movements, he participated in the Bhoodan Movement launched by Acharya Vinoba Bhave. Credited with exemplary work in the field of education, health and rural self-reliance, Nanaji was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1999 in recognition of his services to the nation.