On October 11, 1916, people in the small town of Kadoli in Hingoli district of Maharashtra had no premonitions that a boy born in their town will one day be conferred with Indias highest civilian honourthe Bharat Ratna. The boy was none other than Nanji Deshmukh, a social activist and a long-time member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who also played a key role in the JP Movement.
India was not still a reality then. It was 31 years away from getting its Independence from the British Raj.
More than 103 years later, on January 25, 2019, President of India, Ram Nath Kovind conferred the Bharat Ratna upon him (posthumously) for his services to the nation.
Here are some important facts about him:
- Being an intelligent student from a poor background, he had his high schooling sponsored by the Maharaja Of Sikar.
Later he studied at the Birla School (now the famous BITS Pilani) before joining the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
- Nanaji Deshmukh was inspired by the teachings and policies of Lokmanya Tilak.
It was the teachings of freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak that got Nanaji interested in social service and activism.
- Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar – a family friend of Nanaji – who discerned the potential in Nanaji and inspired him to join the RSS.
Inspired by the life of Hegdewar, many youngsters after his death in 1940 joined the RSS. Nanaji Deshmukh was one of the first and maintained a lifelong association with the organisation.
- A learned man himself, Nanaji did a lot to impart modern education.
It was his effort that led to the foundation of the first Saraswati Sishu Mandir at Gorakhpur in 1950.
- Nanaji’s dedication towards public life earned him the prestigious Padma Vibhushan in 1999.
India’s former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam praised Deshmukh for his ‘single-minded devotion to the uplift of the people’. The great soul passed away in February, 2010.