Despite staying in the city for decades, how many of us are aware that Abhyankar Wada on Shukrawar Peth had a radio station on its third floor during the freedom struggle? The station, which functioned as a bridge between the national leaders and the local party workers, would broadcast patriotic songs by Sane Guruji and Vasant Bapat and lectures in Hindi by Jayprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia, Aruna Asaf Ali, among others.
Abhyankar Wada is one of the 28 sites that are covered in the A5-size book titled ‘The Freedom Trail in Pune.’ An initiative by Janwani, a wing of MCCIA, the book features sites in the city that were associated with the freedom struggle and also chronicles information about more than 15 freedom fighters from Pune such as Umaji Naik, Chapekar brothers, VB Phadke, VB Gogate, M K Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, VD Savarkar, G K Gokhale, Senapati Bapat, Bhaskar Karnik, Mahatma Phule and Savitribai Phule, Subhash Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekanand, Bhau Rangari, Aruna Asaf Ali, Rajguru, Bhagat Singh, Narayan Dabhade, Vallabbhai Patel and Annie Besant.
Janwani was established in 2006 by MCCIA. Its areas of work include city structure, energy, environment, governance, heritage, traffic and transportation. The launch of the book, to take place on August 9, which is celebrated as the Kranti Day, is a part of a series of activities to be organised by Janwani’s Virasat Pune on the occasion of 68th Independence Day. The event will also be marked by audio presentation of rare recordings of freedom fighters from Pune.
Among the sites chronicled in the book are Shaniwarwada, Bendre Block, Mahatma Phule Mandai, Chapekar Brothers, Bharat Itihaas Sanshodhak Mandal, Murlidhar Mandir, Congress Bhavan, Mamledaar Kacheri, Kesh Kartanalaya and so on. “This book also offers travel information for those who wish to take the trails,” said Prajakta Panshikar, Deputy Director, Heritage Conservation & Management, Janwani. The idea behind launching the book, she says, “It will be beneficial for those who are unable to participate in our initiative Freedom Trail, which we conduct on request-basis from time to time. The book acts as a self-guided tour, with maps, pictures and other information.”
All the sites, says Panshikar, share some kind of connection with the freedom fighters. She cites an example of the Chapekar Brothers, who were associated with sites namely Khunya Murlidhar, Nagnath Par and Chapekar memorial on University Road.
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Haribhau Chaphekar, a famous keertan artist, had three sons – Damodar, Balkrishna and Vasudeo. The Chapekar family resided opposite Nagnath Par, as tenants in Bhopale Wada. “Nagnath Par, the almost two-century-old Peepal tree stands secure in its stone skirting. The Chapekar brothers were fitness enthusiasts. These brothers would regularly run many miles as well as do hundreds of Surya Namaskars. They also trained young children to defend themselves with a slingshot. Around the end of 19th century, Pune was hit by plague. Walter Rand, a British officer, was appointed plague commissioner,” says Panshikar, further, adding that under the pretext of prevention of epidemic, Rand’s sergeants perpetrated harsh measures against the people.
Inspired by Lokmanya Tilak’s thoughts and his articles in the newspaper Kesari, the Chapekar brothers protested against Rand. On 22nd June, 1897, Damodar and Balkrishna open fire at Rand and another officer Ayerst near Ganeshkhind (now, the University of Pune). “They were arrested and sentenced to death for the murders, owing to a treacherous tip-off by Dravid brothers. Vasudeo Chapekar and Mahadeo Ranade, in turn, killed the Dravid brothers,” says Panshikar. The Chapekar Smarak, is located on Ganeshkhind Road.