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He led the first recorded organised struggle against displacement caused by an irrigation project

Ahmednagar, Maharashtra

August 09, 2021


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.

Born in 1880 in Partner, his family was originally from Ratnagiri. 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.

In 1912, he was arrested in connection with the Alipore bombing and was sentenced to be imprisoned. Later, Bapat re-aligned himself with Gandhi's vision of swaraj. 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 company had initially dug test trenches on land without obtaining permission and the farmers, who were mostly tenants, objected in fear of losing their lands.

Senapati Bapat featured in issue 303 of the Amar Chitra Katha comic book series in 1984. In 1977, the Government of India issued a postage stamp to commemorate him.

On 15 August 1947 — Indian Independence Day — Bapat was given the honour of raising the Indian national flag over the city of Poona for the first time.