Pandurang Mahadev Bapat, popularly known as Senapati Bapat, was a figure in the Indian independence movement. He acquired the title of Senapati, meaning commander, as a consequence of his leadership during the Mulshi satyagraha.
He was born in a Marathi Chitpawan family in 1880 at Parner (Maharashtra). He was educated at Deccan College and then travelled to Britain on a government scholarship in order to study engineering.
During his stay in Britain, he was associated with India House, spending a majority of his time learning bomb making skills instead of pursuing his official studies.
He became associated at this time with the Savarkar brothers. Bapat, who had considered blowing up the Houses of Parliament in London, took his skills back to India and passed them on to others.
While in hiding after the Alipore bombing of 1908, Bapat travelled the country and discovered that the majority of the Indian population did not realize that their country was under foreign rule. At this point, his focus shifted from overthrowing the British government to educating the population.
In 1912, he was arrested in connection with the bombing and was sentenced to be imprisoned. He was free by 1915.
In late 1920, he re-aligned himself with Gandhi’s vision of swaraj. This was a considerable shift, given his firebrand nature and willingness to use violence, but although he took the Gandhian oath of non-violence he remained willing to use force when he thought it necessary.
From 1921, Bapat led the three-year farmers’ protest (satyagraha) against the construction of the Mulshi Dam by the Tata company. The dam was eventually constructed and thus the protest ultimately failed.
Although satyagrahas are intended to be non-violent, Bapat was jailed for vandalism of the construction project: rather than be captured for this, he turned himself in.
His third jail sentence was for speaking at a public gathering held by Subhas Chandra Bose.
Major public roads in Pune and Mumbai have been named in his honour. In 1977, the Indian government issued a postage stamp to commemorate him.