Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

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Paying tribute to India’s freedom fighters

Bhargav Mahadev Phatak

Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

May 22, 2023 to May 22, 2024

Bhargav Mahadev Phatak, a congress member and a freedom fighter from Dapoli, played a vital role in the Indian Independence movement. Unfortunately, limited information is available regarding his personal life and contributions to the cause of Indian Independence. However, British records of his persecution provide some insight into his activism.

During the 1920s, Phatak worked as a publisher in Pune. His publication of the pamphlet “Satyagraha Mitra Melyachin Pade” brought him to the attention of British officials. The Secretary of the Government of Bombay, J. Crerar, wrote a letter against Phatak to the commissioner of the Central Division regarding disseminating the pamphlet. Consequently, a complaint was lodged against Phatak in the court of the District Magistrate of Pune on 15 November 1922. Phatak was prosecuted under section 108 of C.P.C (Code of Civil Procedure). This was not the only prosecution of Phatak for his pro-national publication. In 1928, he again found himself in legal proceedings for his publication of a pamphlet entitled "Songs of the Satyagraha Mitra Mela." In 1942, Phatak delivered a lecture entitled "Jail in the Attire of the Prisoner '' to an audience of about a hundred young boys and girls. He dealt with his experience as a prisoner, as mentioned in the confidential weekly reports of Ratnagiri District. Although his speech did not constitute a breach of the law, mentioning his activities in the confidential reports indicates that he was kept under vigilant watch. Perhaps the British authorities considered him a potential threat to the administration and were waiting for an opportunity to put him behind bars again. Such an opportunity arose in the same year, on 9 August, just a day after the commencement of the Quit India Movement. All the important leaders and people who were a potential threat to the British government in India were arrested, including Phatak. He was sent to Belgaum (or Belagavi) for detention as a security prisoner. After his release, he was arrested again on 18 April 1943 in a house raid, where officials found congress literature that was declared illegal. As a form of protest against his detention and the ill-treatment of political prisoners by the British authorities, Phatak went on a hunger strike on 2 August 1943 until he was temporarily transferred to Dapoli sub-jail to facilitate the investigation into a charge of looting a mail bag in Dapoli on 5 August 1943. He was convicted and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for one year and a fine of Rupees nine hundred or in default, rigorous imprisonment for six months under Section 392 of the I.P.C. and Rule 36(2) of the Defence of India Rules, and rigorous imprisonment for fourteen months and a fine of Rupees twelve hundred under Section 426 and 394 of the I.P.C. and rule 36(2) of the D.I. Rules on 15 February 1944.

In conclusion, the contributions of Bhargav Mahadev Phatak, a congress member and freedom fighter from Dapoli to the Indian Independence movement were significant. While limited information is available about his personal life and exact role, British records indicate his involvement in publishing pro-national literature and delivering lectures. He faced legal persecution and imprisonment on multiple occasions for his activism.