Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, popularly and fondly known as Balasaheb Deoras, was a direct product of the first RSS Shakha started by its founder Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. Or we can say that he was the quintessential product of the organizational process initiated by Dr. Hedgewar to consolidate the Hindu society. Balasaheb came in contact with Dr. Hedgewar at the tender age of 11 and remained glued to the RSS ideology till he breathed his last in 1996 June. His life was the dedication and commitment to the mission personified.
Balasaheb Deoras was born to Dattatreya Krishnarao Deoras and Parvatibai on Nag Deepavali, i.e. December 11, 1915 as per Gregorian calendar.
Balasaheb was the third Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He was amongst the first batch of swayamsevaks who had joined the first RSS shakha started by Dr. Hedgewar at ‘Mohite Wada’ in Nagpur. Balasaheb was groomed by none other than the founder of the RSS himself and that is probably one of the reasons that millions of swayamsevaks who had never seen Dr Hedgewar found reflection of the RSS founder in Balasaheb.
Along with Balasaheb, the first batch of swayamsevaks included Keshav Rao Vakil, Triambak Shiledar, Pralhaad Ambekar, Bapu Diwakar, Narhari Parakhi, Baliram Yerkuntvar, Madhav Rao Muley and Eknath Ranade. Later his younger brother Bhaurao Deoras also joined the RSS. Eleven-year old Balasaheb was their undisputed leader and his fellow swayamsevaks looked up to him right from the beginning though Ranade was one year and Muley was three years elder to him. Later Ranade and Mule both became General Secretaries (Sarkryavah) of the RSS and played a stellar role in the expansion of the organization.
By the time RSS was founded in 1925, the Deoras family had shifted back to Itwari Mohalla in Nagpur. Balasaheb was studying in sixth grade when he joined the first RSS shakha. His enthusiasm was infectious and he brought in many of his friends to the RSS shakha where Shamrao Gadge was their instructor (Gana Shikshak). This bunch of young school going boys used to play games and listen to the tales of bravery told by Gadge. After sometime Balasaheb made his younger brother Bhaurao also join the RSS. They were always together and very close to each other.
Since his early days Balasaheb was dead against the practice of untouchability. He even told his mother to treat his fellow swayamasevaks who came from the so-called ‘lower’ castes, as she treated him to which she readily agreed. Later he spoke against the social evil at his famous discourse in Pune’s famous ‘Vasant Vyakhyanmala’ insisting that “untouchabilty must go and go lock, stock and barrel”.
This statement is considered to be one of the milestones in the history of the RSS as it guided the organization in fighting the demon of caste based discrimination with a renewed vigor. During the 21-year tenure of Balasaheb as the Sarsanghchalak, he relentlessly campaigned against caste based discrimination and untouchability. It also points to a personality trait of Balasaheb that he believed in challenging the status quo.
Balasaheb was an organizer par excellence and Dr. Hedgewar was quick to identify this important trait of his personality. He slowly started delegating certain authorities to Balasaheb starting from a “Mukhya Shikshak” of a shakha to “Karyawah of Nagpur” to “Mukhya Shikshak of an RSS Training Camp in Pune. Dr Hedgewar had done this with a purpose. He knew that to expand the RSS work, the organization needed large number of full-time workers (‘Pracharak’) and Balasaheb was the ideal person to prepare youngsters to take up this cause. He had once told Dr. Hedgewar, “A ‘model’ Shakha is that from where large number of youth comes out ready to serve the society by devoting all their time.”
Balasaheb did his education from the famous Morris College of Nagpur and passed LLB exam in first division. He was very practical and down to earth person. He played a very important role in getting the ban imposed on the RSS in the aftermath of Gandhi murder in 1948. The then Congress government acting in full vengeance, banned the organization, incarcerated its leaders and swayamsevaks, and arrested thousands of them who performed “Satyagraha”. The entire situation was so grim that the future of the RSS looked dark with no silver lining of hopes. In such a difficult situation, it was Balasaheb and some of this colleagues who worked hard under the guidance of the then Sarsanghchalak Late M. S. Golwalkar alias Sri Guruji to get the ban lifted.
Balasaheb was a great motivator and easily approachable to common swayamsevaks besides being open to any question. He would even answer the pettiest question from any swayamsevak until he is satisfied.
After the demise of Dr. Hedgewar in June 1940, Sri Golwalkar Guruji was appointed as Sarsanghchalak to lead the RSS. He with the help of Balasaheb and his team of workers, took the RSS to the centre—stage of the contemporary Indian socio-political situation. He was well aware of the capacity of Balasaheb and never hid his appreciation for Deoras.
Balasaheb was the most pragmatic leader of the RSS which was branded as most revivalist, obscurantist and regressive organization by its left and secular critics. Unlike the Congress he made it clear that no memorial of any RSS chief except its founder Dr. Hedgewar and his predecessor Golwalkar Guruji would be erected.
Deoras had a clear vision of the mission of Hindu consolidation and the day-to-day politics. Once, after the formation of the Janata Party government post emergency, former Prime Minister Chandrasekhar, who was then Janata Party president, said that ABVP and BMS should work as front organizations of the party. Balasaheb replied to his suggestion saying that “all trains leaving New Delhi Station need not start from Platform No. 1”. But the same Balasaheb allowed the erstwhile Jan Sangh leaders of the Janata Party to keep ‘safe distance’ from the RSS to avoid any further organizational crisis in the wake of the issue of ‘duel membership’ raised by some of the socialist constituents of the Janata Party.
Balasaheb is and will be remembered in future for his lasting contribution to the RSS and to the society at large. He was the man who added the dimension of social service to the RSS mission and a created a formal structure to carry forward the various service activities across the country, especially in the remote and inaccessible areas. During the birth centenary of RSS founder Dr. Hedgewar he announced the creation of “Sewa Vibhag” within the RSS and launched 5000 service projects. Today, the RSS and inspired organizations runs lakhs of such multi-faceted service projects all over the country ranging from health to education and from bio-farming to village development.
His passion and commitment for equitable and harmonious society (Samajik Samarasata) inspired many a swayamsevak to launch the movement to bring people of different hues to resolve the problems of the caste system and achieve the common goal of social harmony.
He was at the centre of the Ram Janmabhumi movement and events like ‘Ekatmata Yatra’ and ‘Ram Shila Pujan’ that preceded this great movement. The Ram Janmabhumi movement has changed the total polital, social narrative in India bringing all the sections of the Hindu society together and ending the dynasty rule besides bringing Hindutva to the political centre stage of contemporary Indian politics. He saw an RSS swayamsevak Atal Bihari Vajapayee to become the Prime Minister of this country before he breathed his last in Pune.
He also raised his voice against the division of Indian society as majority and minority. When the Janata Party government under Morarji Desai was about to set up the Minority commission, Deoras suggested that instead of Minority Commission the government should constitute a Human Rights Commission. He considered Muslims and Christians as part of the Indian Society and hence to categorize them as minority would be disastrous for the social health he believed.
Post-emergency he took lead in starting a meaningful dialogue with the Muslims and Christians and even allowed their entry into the RSS. The mission that he started is now being taken ahead under the aegis of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM).
His personal assistant late Srikant Joshi once commented that if Golwalkar Guruji was described as ‘heart’ of Dr. Hedgewar, Balasaheb was his “soul and Vision”.