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Keshav Baliram Hedgewar


Initial Arrest

In May 1921, Hedgewar was arrested on charges of “sedition” for his “objectionable” speeches in Maharashtra. The hearing of the case began on June 14, 1921. After a few hearings, he decided to plead his own case and read out a written statement on 5/8/1921. After hearing it, Justice Smelly said: “His defense is even more seditious than his original speech!” In his August 19 judgment, the judge ordered Hedgewar to give an undertaking in writing that he would not deliver seditious speeches for 1 year and furnish a bail bond of Rs3,000.

Hedgewar’s response was terse: “My conscience tells me that I am completely innocent. A policy of repression would only add fuel to the fire already raging because of the government’s vicious policies. I am convinced that the day is not far off for the foreign regime to reap the fruits of its sinful actions. I have faith in the justice of the Omnipresent God. I, therefore, refuse to comply with the order for bail. As soon as he finished his reply, the judge sentenced him to one-year rigorous imprisonment. Hedgewar went outside the court, and addressed a large crowd, “As you are aware, I have defended myself in this case of sedition against me. However, these days, there is an impression going round that arguing in one’s defense is an act of treachery to the national movement. But I feel it is highly unwise to merely get crushed like a bug when a case is foisted upon us. It is our duty to expose to the whole world the wickedness of the foreign rulers. That would indeed be an act of patriotism. And not to defend ourselves, on the other hand, would be a suicidal policy”. “You may if you so choose refuse to defend yourself, but for God’s sake don’t consider those who disagree with you as being less patriotic. If in the course of our patriotic duty we are called upon to enter the prison or be transported to the Andamans or face the gallows we shall have to willingly do so. But let us not be under the illusion that jail-going is all in all, that it is the only path for achieving freedom. There are, in fact, so many fields of national service awaiting us outside the prison. I would be back amongst you after one year, till then, I will not be in touch with national development, but I’m confident that by then the movement for ‘PoornaSwaraj’ will have gained momentum. Now, it is no more possible to keep down Bharat under the heels of foreign domination. I offer my gratitude to you goodbye.”

Release from Jail

KB Hegdewar was released in July 1922, and the same evening a public reception was organized for him. Senior Congress leader Motilal Nehru and Hakim Ajmal Khan addressed the gathering. Hedgewar was appointed as joint secretary of the Provincial Congress in 1922. He was also part of the Hindusthani Seva Dal, a Congress wing of volunteers. The communal riots that broke out in 1923 in the wake of the Khilafat Movement proved to be a tipping point. Hedgewar felt the Congress leadership failed to address the concern of Hindus and so it was the time to set up an organization to unite Hindus. Dr. K B Hegdewar, who had lost both his parents for plague studied with the assistance of relatives & friends who recognized his zeal for education & determined nationalism. Hedgewar was sent to study in the National Medical College, Calcutta & also with an agenda. He was sent to Calcutta primarily to receive training for revolutionary work under the supervision of Pulinbihari Das, a top leader of the revolutionary group Anusheelan Samiti. Dr. Hegdewar grew within ranks & became an important person within the Samithi & 1 of his prime tasks was to ensure the distribution of underground literature and arms to other parts of the country.

Founding of RSS

His friends acted as couriers and whenever he himself went to Nagpur, he would take revolvers for revolutionaries there. His code name among the revolutionaries was “Koken”. After completing the course, Hedgewar returned to Nagpur in early 1916. Rejected lucrative Bangkok offer, Instead, he set up a revolutionary group called ‘Kranti Dal’ with the help of Bhauji Karve, a nationalist from Nagpur. Though Hedgewar had developed a close affinity with all the important nationalists of Bengal, two leaders who were closest to him were Shamsundar Chakravarti and Moulvi Liaquat Hussain.

Hussain was a devout follower of Lokmanya Tilak and had taken the vow of swadeshi. He also ran a swadeshi provision store called “Kuber Vastu Bhandar”. When Hussain was severely ill, Hedgewar personally nursed him and was constantly by his bedside for two months. Though, the RSS was founded on the day of “Vijayadashami” in 1925 the name was decided later. On 17/4/26, Hedgewar called for a meeting attended by 26 Swayamsevaks, detailed discussion followed 3 names were finalized after several rounds of elimination Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Jaripataka Mandal, and Bhedratoddharak Mandal. Finally, Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh was chosen.

His initial followers included Bhaiyaji Dani, Babasaheb Apte, M. S. Golwalkar, Balasaheb Deoras, and Madhukar Rao Bhagwat, among others.

The Sangh was growing in Nagpur and the surrounding districts, and it soon began to spread to other provinces. Hedgewar inspired the youths for taking up the Sangh work. Gradually all his associates had begun to endearingly call him “Doctorji”. Upon his urging, Swayamsevaks went to far-off cities like Kashi, Lucknow, etc., for their further education and started ‘Shakhas’ there.

In April 1930, when Gandhi gave a call for ‘#Satyagraha’ against the British Government. Gandhi himself launched the Salt Satyagraha undertaking his Dandi Yatra. Dr. Hedgewar decided to participate only individually and not let the RSS join the freedom movement officially. He sent information everywhere that the Sangh will not participate in the Satyagraha. However, those wishing to participate individually in it were not prohibited. His concern was to keep the RSS out of the political arena.


His health deteriorated in the later years of his life. Often he suffered from chronic back pain. He started delegating his responsibilities to MS_Golwalkar, who later succeeded him as Sarsanghachalak of RSS. He attended the annual Sangh Shiksha Varg in 1940, where he gave his last message to Swayamsevaks, “I see before my eyes today a miniature Hindu Rashtra.”

On the morning of 21 June 1940 in Nagpur, KB Hegdewar attained Sadgati. His last rites were performed in the locality of Resham Bagh in Nagpur, which was later developed as Hedgewar Smruti Mandir.