Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gandhi of Uttarakhand - Indramani Badoni

EVEN as the people of Uttarakhand celebrate victory of their long-drawn struggle, they are missing one person very lovingly. He is the tallest leader of the Uttarakhand movement, Indramani Badoni, who had died at his residence in Rishkesh (Uttarakhand) on 18 August, 1999, after prolonged illness.
A simple and unassuming person, Badoni became a symbol of hope for more than one crore Uttarakhandi people, living in several parts of the country and abroad, during the peak of Uttarakhand movement in 1994. A man of principles, he came to be called as Gandhi of Uttarakhand for leading a historical movement for the creation of Uttarakhand state which remained thoroughly nonviolent despite provocation from several quarters.
On 2nd August, 1994, he started an indefinite fast unto death at Pauri, headquarters of Garhwal division, to press for the demand of a separate state. On August 7, 1999, he was forcibly sent to the Meerut jail and later shifted to the AIIMS in New Delhi for treatment, where he was forcibly discharged. "The people of Uttarakhand must not feel defeated and keep on the flag of their cause flying high till they achieve their goal," he had said in his last message to the people whom he loved the most.
Ever since his political career, Badoni not only was among the pioneers who played a vital role in politically awakening the masses in Garhwal, but also tried to make them understand that their future lied in a separate state. Born in 1914 in the Akhaurhi village of Jakholi block of Tehri district (now in Rudraprayag district) in a modest family, Badoni passed his intermediate examination from Tehri and graduated from the DAV College in Dehradun in 1949. He was just 27 when his father passed away and burden of the whole family fell on his shoulders. Being eldest among the male children of his parents, he even had to raise a herd of goats to support his family and send one of his younger brothers to pursue higher studies in Ayurveda, a subject in which Badoni himself took a great interest. In 1971, he lost his mother also.
Soon after the CPI leader comrade PC Joshi espoused the cause of a separate state for the people of Uttarakhand during early 1950s, Badoni realized that the people in the hills were never given their due. He went to jail several times during the freedom struggle. The Congress being in the foreground of the struggle, Badoni had little choice but to join that party. It was only in the late Sixties that he lost faith in the Congress and came to the conclusion that the national parties only served the superficial objectives and they had nothing to do with the aspirations and hopes of the people in several parts of the country that were languishing for a long time.
A simple person but a political animal, Badoni fought Deoprayag assembly seat three times in 1967, 1969 and 1977. He contested the 1967 assembly election from Deoprayag as an independent candidate against the Congress party's official candidate and won. He fought the assembly election not because he was denied a Congress ticket, but because the then Congress stalwart HN Bahuguna had tried to convince him that no one can win an election minus a Congress ticket. It is believed that Bahuguna told Badoni that even a dog would win the election on the Congress ticket. This made Badoni furious and he decided to prove Bahuguna wrong.
Around the time he contested the Uttar Pradesh assembly election as an independent candidate in 1967, he restarted espousing the cause of a separate hill state comprising the mountainous districts of Uttar Pradesh. In 1971, he fought the Lok Sabha election on the same issue against erstwhile Raja of Tehri principality, Manabendra Shah. But the time was not ripe for the demand he ad raised. Larger sections of the Uttarakhand people used to see the Uttarakhand supporters as anti-nationals at that time. Consequently, the election result was on the expected lines and he lost the election to the erstwhile Raja.
In 1973, he was behind those who organized a massive rally in Bageshwar on the day of Makar Samkranti, where all participants pledged to take the Uttarakhand movement to its logical conclusion. He rejoined the Congress soon after and in 1969 contested the election on the Congress ticket winning again. In 1977, he fought as an independent and won the seat defeating the Janata Party candidate. He was the only candidate who could withstand the Janata Party tornado. After being vice chairman of the hill development corporation in 1980, he joined the UKD in the same year during party's Rishikesh convention and till death remained its most important leader.
His decision to switch over to the regional politics was prompted by the fact that he always believed that only a regional force could sincerely fight for the cause of Uttarakhand and regional aspirations hardly found an adequate place in the scheme of things of the national parties. Perhaps this was one reason which aggravated his disillusionment with the Congress. In 1989, he contested for the Lok Sabha from Tehri constituency on the UKD ticket and lost very narrowly (only about 1400 votes) to the Congress candidate Brahm Dutt.
Apart from the hullabaloo of politics, he was a fine dancer of Kedar nritya, a folk dance of Garhwal. In fact, in 1956, he along with his troupe had participated in the Republic Day parades in the capital. Their troupe so enthralled Nehru that he also joined them and danced with them. Through his Madho Singh Bhandari folk ballet, Badoni had also tried to make the masses understand how important it was to make sacrifices for the people and their welfare. The explorer's soul in his body took him to the unknown places in the central Himalayas or Uttarakhand. It was he who discovered the Khatling glacier, the source of river Bhilangana. Since then, an annual festival is celebrated there to mark his discovery and with the purpose of encouraging tourism there.

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