Vasant Nagarkar Bravely Stood Against Political Emergency & Its Mighty Leader

Remembering my father on his birth centenary - Part 2/3

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Vasant Nagarkar, who lived for 66 years from November 2, 1922, to October 9, 1988. This year marks his birth centenary year. He had a beautiful journey full of ups and downs. At the age of 20, he was imprisoned for participating in the 1942 'Chale Jao' movement. He completed his education after his release from prison and later became a reputed IPS officer. He served as a senior police officer in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Delhi. While he was working, he continued to help social reformers like Hamid Dalwai. Nagarkar had also excelled in the literary field, where he wrote books such as Genesis of Pakistan, Islam: In India’s Transition to Modernity and translated a few books. This piece is penned by his daughter, giving insights into his personal life and personality. The article is divided into three parts series. The first part is published here. This is the second part...

In late 1950, Kaka was posted in Satara. The police were successful in apprehending a notorious bandit. The bandit was brought to my father’s office because he would not admit to any of the charges against him. My father started questioning him. The bandit became violent and started banging his head on Kaka’s desk. Kaka stopped the questioning and asked a constable to bring a big rock. Everyone was worried as to what Kaka was going to do with the rock. Kaka quietly placed the rock on his desk and said to the bandit, “I am going to start asking you questions, and you are free to bang your head on this rock”. I suppose the questioning went smoothly after that. What a creative way to handle a stubborn bandit!

Kaka was posted as ASP (Assistant Superintendent of Police) in Ahmednagar in 1951. There was one sub-inspector Mr. Shimpi who worked for him. Mr. Shimpi used to be extremely afraid of Kaka. Kaka didn’t know why. My mother finally asked him the reason for his fear. He admitted to my mother that in 1944 he had collected Rs. 50 as a reward for capturing my father. Poor Mr. Shimpi, he had every reason to be afraid! These are amazing little humorous anecdotes from Kaka's work life. 

In the mid-1950s, my father was posted in Gujarat. We used to live in a large bungalow outside the town of Bharuch. Mr. Julio Ribeiro was a young new IPS officer assigned to train with my father. He was allotted a house nearby, but my father enjoyed working with him so much that he asked Mr. Ribeiro to come and stay in our bungalow. Mr. Ribeiro accepted the offer. He became like a family member. He did not mind eating our simple vegetarian food. Ravi, my brother was 6 years old at the time and I was just an infant. Mr. Ribeiro played with us too. To this day, he remembers not only my parents but our names too.

Kaka used to be transferred every few years, wherever he was posted he had a keen interest in the welfare of policemen serving under his command. In Bharuch district, he started a cottage industry for spinning, weaving, and soap making in the Police lines to supplement the meagre incomes of constables. This work was recognized by Mr. M. L. Mehta, Chairman of the All-India Khadi Board. Similarly, his welfare work in Amravati was highly praised by Mr. Y.B. Chavan, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Later in Delhi, because he was concerned about improving the living standards of subordinates, Kaka was put in charge of the welfare of IB – Intelligence Bureau employees in addition to his regular responsibilities. His focus on social service never waned throughout his life regardless where he lived. 

Kaka loved all the kids. He was a favourite uncle to my cousins. He could handle infants too. Finicky eaters would sit happily on his lap and eat from his plate. Little dirty hands on his clothes were never an issue. He was very fond of his granddaughter. In 1979, on a work-related day trip from Delhi to Mumbai, he decided he wanted to bring home my brother Ravi’s 6-month-old daughter. My brother was to visit Delhi a few days later. He convinced everyone that Ravi could bring the baby back from Delhi in a few days. He really brought the baby from Mumbai to Delhi on a plane all alone. My mother was used to having unexpected guests any time of the day but not a 6-month-old baby!     

My father had many friends and acquaintances. They were political leaders, social reformers, journalists, and educators. Many of them were my father’s friends from the 1942 freedom struggle. They were people like Yashwantrao Chavan, S. M. Joshi, George Fernandes, Mohan Dharia, Madhu Limaye, Madhu Dandawate and more.   He was also friends with Hamid Dalwai, A. B. Shah, Gowardhan and Indumati Parikh, and many more. He understood the social dynamics well in all walks of life. It was amazing how he got to know Hamid Dalwai.  It was because of a complaint lodged against Dalwai.  During the investigation Kaka got to know him and developed a close friendship with him. Kaka has written a very touching article ‘Ek Assal Bharatiya’ on Hamid Dalwai and his work. He supported Hamid Dalwai’s ‘Muslim Satya Shodhak Mandal’ till the very end.

Whatever Kaka did, he got engrossed in it. Whether it was political analysis, writing articles, books, drawing, even watering the garden, he would be completely absorbed in it. I remember! During our time in Delhi, he would come home for lunch and rest for a few minutes. That was his power nap for 15 minutes. When he woke up, he was completely refreshed as if he had had a full night’s sleep. He went in the zone mentally when it came to writing books. At odd hours of the night, I would hear his keystrokes on the typewriter. 

He had clarity in his thoughts. I don’t think he discussed his thoughts with many people. There were hardly any pages rewritten. He had beautiful handwriting. If there were any corrections on a page they were done cleanly in his wonderful handwriting. He wrote four books while working as a police officer. Those are, ‘Islam - In India’s Transition to Moernity’ published in 1968 (under another author), ‘India: Dream and Reality in 1970, ‘Genesis of Pakistan’ in 1975, and ‘Bharatiya Swatantra Sangram’ (Marathi) in 1981. I often wonder how many more books he might have written, if only he had a laptop with word processing software. 

Kaka served as a police officer in Gujarat and Maharashtra until the late 1960s. Later because of his political insights and analytical skills he was transferred to the Intelligence Bureau as a deputy director in Delhi. However, when Smt. Indira Gandhi declared an emergency, suppressed political discourse and the freedom of speech. Kaka did whatever he could to shield people like S. M. Joshi, N. G Gore, Madhu Limaye, and George Fernandes, much to the displeasure of Shankarrao Chavan- the then CM of Maharashtra. After the emergency lifted in 1977, Indira Gandhi lost the election, and Morarji Desai’s Janata Party government came into power for a short while.

During that time, as an intelligence bureau analyst, Kaka had to investigate the irregularities and dealings of some of Indira Gandhi’s close associates. As a government servant that was his job, and he did it earnestly. Except the balance of power changed again and Smt. Indira Gandhi and her team were back in power. Those earlier reports angered people who were now in power, resulting in a court case against Kaka and his associates. That was the most difficult period of his life. My father courageously fought the case in the Delhi High court. I should mention Mrs. Jayashree Wad represented my father. She and her husband handled the court case for my father. The case ultimately was thrown out of court. 

This was just one type of harassment he had to endure. There were many more. At one point they asked him to prove that he was a freedom fighter to get the freedom fighter’s pension. My father never intended to claim that pension, but this was just too much to bear. He fought for it in court and won. 

- Sucharita Tilak

(The writer Sucharita Tilak is the daughter of  Vasant Nagarkar, Sudhir Alekar provided assistance in writing a heartfelt piece on her father)

Marathi translation of this article has published in the December 4, 2021 issue of Sadhana Weekly. 
Part 1 Vasant Nagarkar : A freedom fighter, IPS officer, expert on Islam...
Part 3 Kaka was True Freedom Fighter and Well-Wisher of his Country

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Ravindra Bhate

Excellent recap of his various achievements on and off the field.

Ramesh Wasudeo Nagarkar

Yes very nicely said. And true too. Indeed he was great and dashing person and gentleman too. My heartiest Congratulations to the writer. I here by endorse the same.

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