Vasudev Balwant Phadke was an Indian independence activist and revolutionary who sought India’s independence from British. Phadke was moved by the plight of the farmer community during British Raj. Phadke believed that Swaraj was the only remedy for their ills.
Phadke is known as father of the armed struggle for India’s independence. He created a group called Ramoshi, which was the group of Ramoshis, Kolis, Bhils and Dhangars communities in Maharashtra and the actually the “organized political dacoits“.
The group started an armed struggle to overthrow the British Raj. It also launched raids on rich English businessmen to obtain funds for their liberation struggle. Phadke came into limelight when he got control of the city of Pune for a few days when he caught the British soldiers off guard during one of his surprise attacks.
Krantiveer Lahuji Vastad Salve a then prominent social figure based in Pune was his mentor.It was during this period that Phadke began attending lectures by Mahadeo Govind Ranade which mainly focused on how the British Raj policies hurt the Indian economy. Phadke was deeply hurt by how this was leading to widespread suffering in the society.
In 1870, he joined a public agitation in Pune that was aimed at addressing people’s grievances. Phadke founded an institution, the Aikya Vardhini Sabha, to educate the youth. While working as clerk, he was not able to see his dying mother due to the delay in approval of his leave. This incident enraged Phadke and happened to be the turning point in his life.
In 1860, along fellow social reformers and revolutionaries Laxman Narhar Indapurkar and Waman Prabhakar Bhave, Phadke co-founded the Poona Native Institution (PNI) which later went on to be renamed the Maharashtra Education Society (MES). Through the PNI, he went on set up Bhave School in Pune. Today, the MES runs over 77 institutions in various parts of Maharashtra.
A British Major, Henry William Daniell and Abdul Haque, Police Commissioner to the Nizam of Hyderabad, pursued the fleeing Phadke day and night. The British move to offer a bounty for his capture met with success: someone betrayed Phadke, and he was captured in a temple after a fierce fight at the district of Kaladgi on 20 July 1879 while he was on his way to Pandharpur. From here he was taken to Pune for trial. Ganesh Vasudeo Joshi, also known as Sarvajanik Kaka, defended his case.
His own diary provided evidence to have him sentenced for life. Phadke was transported to jail at Aden, but escaped from the prison by taking the door off from its hinges on 13 February 1883. But his escape was too short lived: he was recaptured and put back in prison. Phadke then went on a hunger strike unto death and died on 17 February 1883.