75 Years of Bhonsala Military School
By Subhash Gatade..to bring about military regeneration of the Hindus and to make Hindu youths fit for undertaking the entire responsibility for the defence of their motherland. to educate them in the ‘Sanatan Dharma’, and to train them “in the science and art of personal and national defence”
(Aim of ‘Central Hindu Military Education Society,’ NMML, Munje Papers, subject files, n 24, 1932-36) This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities (sic) of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible causality to the adversary.
(Preface to the Scheme of the Central Hindu Military Society and Its Military School, NMML, Munje Papers, subject files, n 25, 1935) Nashik: Expressing concern over the dominance of ‘rich and powerful people’ in politics, besides the soaring inflation rate, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said that India’s situation was better during the British rule...Speaking at a function organized by Bhonsala Military School (BMS) to celebrate its platinum jubilee year in Nashik on Monday, Bhagwat ...laid stress on the need for imparting military education to students, citing rising threat to the nation.
(“India was better off under British rule: Mohan Bhagwat,” TNN, Feb 22, 2012 )
Platinum Jubilee of an educational institution is definitely a moment for celebration. For all those people who are associated with it or have played a role in its nascent emergence it is a moment of triumph and also an occasion to revisit the journey so far. For the rest of the society also it is a moment to shower some words of appreciation and praise.
Would it be possible to exhibit similar feelings, show one’s appreciation for an institution which had its genesis in one of the darkest chapters in human history - which humanity still abhors and (if possible) would like to obliterate from its memory - and which still carries imprints of the era ? Definitely not.
The platinum jubilee of Bhonsala Military School, which was founded in 1937 by the Hindu Mahasabha leader Dr B S Moonje who also happened to be founder member of RSS, presents before us a similar occasion. Apart from the fact that it has of late found itself on the wrong side of the law, where its premises have been used to hold training camps of Hindutva terrorists or the likes of Lt Col Purohit, getting initial exposure to the sectarian agenda here, or its officials being taken to Bombay for interrogation by the anti-terrorist squad, a close look at the goings on in the institute, the work of indoctrination packaged as education, its vision of ‘regenerating India’ makes it amply clear that the seven plus decadal journey of the institute, has made no difference to its core weltanshauung.
One is reminded of its founders’ yearning for the ‘military regeneration of Hindus : so that the artificial distinction emphasised by the British of marital and non-marital classes amongst Hindus may disappear’ and his fascination for the goings on in Italy under the leadership of Mussolini and its military and paramilitary organisations. It is now history, how Dr Moonje, learnt his skills when he got a chance to visit Mussolini and Italy’s Central Military School of Physical Education, the fascist academy of Physical Education and Balilla and Avanguardisti, organisations which influenced many a rightwing initiatives in India which he used in, not only developing RSS but also laying down the foundation of this military school.
Celebrations held on the occasion of platinum jubilee rather reinforced its image as a modern institution bearing a medieval mindset. It was quite symptomatic that barring the real claimants to this legacy not many people joined the celebrations. Sangh Supremo Mohan Bhagwat, who was recently chided by the supreme court for his remarks on Malegaon blast case.(ET Bureau Mar 1, 2012, 04.55AM IST) happened to be the chief guest at the programme. Stirring up a heated political debate, Mr Bhagwat said India was in a much better situation under the British rule. Underlining the fact that the School which was founded ‘to protect the nation’ and has been acting as a ‘feeder institute to fulfill backlog of military officials’ he stressed the need for imparting military education to kids citing “rising” threat to internal security.
Senior RSS functionary Prakash Pathak - who happens to be the General Secretary of the management committee informed the gathering that Bhonsala Military School plans to start a similar facility exclusively for girls in Nashik. It is also mulling the idea to set up a flying club and a pilot training institute besides a centre for service preparation and aeronautic engineering course. Mr Pathak also reported that the The BMS run by the Central Hindu Military Education Society (CHMES) is also receiving proposals from the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand for setting up military schools there and would soon take a call on them.One did not expect that either Mr Pathak nor Mr Bhagwat would share with the audience the key role played by the school in the metamorphosis of Lt Col Purohit into a terror mastermind, especially of the infamous Malegaon bomb blast 2008 or for that matter would reveal how many key functionaries of the school facilitated holding of ‘terror training camps’ inside the school premises. The ‘exploits’ of the school first came to the limelight after the Nanded bomb blast 2006. II.
Picking up the splinters : the Nanded bomb explosion !
The backdrop had never been so ‘promising’. Timing chosen for the whole ‘operation’ seemed perfect. And the ambience was very ‘conducive’ for a riot to ‘happen’. Maps of mosques in adjoining districts were ready, dresses had been stocked, even caps and beards had been stored in large numbers. The idea was to attack mosques and Gurudwaras wearing those dresses and instigate a riot. The expectation was that the community under attack would retaliate and a full scale riot would ensue. The only thing left was explosives in one form or other which could cause maximum damage to the places hit. The making of bombs in a house owned by an old RSS hack who dealt in fircrackers also seemed rather perfect.
Nanded, a city in Marathwada (Maharashtra) inhabiting around a million people ( 5 Lakh Hindus, 2 Lakh Muslims or one lakh Sikhs) was already reeling under communal tension then. The alleged elopement of a Sikh girl with a Muslim boy had put both the communities at loggerheads. The preparations were so foolproof that nobody expected any mishap. But the sudden bomb explosion in the very house, which killed two ringleaders on the spot and seriously injured the other four rather foiled all their plans. All the grandiose ideas - which must have been tested on earlier occasions- to ‘start’ a riot lay shattered.
It has been around six years that Nanded, Maharashtra, a town described as being communally sensitive witnessed a bomb explosion (6 th April 2006) in a house belonging to Laxman Rajkondwar, a retired employee of irrigation department and an old activist of RSS. Incidentally this man with his wife and few other family members was on a religious excursion when the explosion occurred. Of course his son Naresh was among the two people who died on the spot, the other being Himanshu Panse, a Bajrang Dal leader and an active member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) .Four others present that night included Maruthi Keshav Wagh, Yogesh Vidulkar (Deshpande), Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar and Rahul Manohar Pande, who were grievously injured. Narco analysis of Rahul Pande revealed that the same terror module led by Himanshu had planned the bomb blasts at masjids in Jalna, Purnia and Parbhani in 2003 and 2004 and Rahul had even accompanied Himanshu to Jalna. It needs to be noted that the Marathwada region of Maharashtra has had a history of such mysterious attacks on religious minorites. Only two years prior to Nanded bomb blast miscreants on motorcycles had fired at a crowd offering Friday prayers in nearby Parbhani. The whole of Marathwada went up in flames by evening. Till the exposure in the Nanded case the police had not been able to unearth the case and apprehend the criminals who fired at the religious congregation.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) investigating the case found that Himanshu had organised a training camp at the Bhonsala Military School in Nagpur, apart from other camps. The chargesheet filed by ATS in the Nanded case underlined that Himanshu Panse and Rahul Pande had started a gymnasium called Power Zone to motivate youth and rally them around for the war against Muslim terror. Apart from mentioning their training in making pipe bombs near Pune it also talked about the fact that Panse and Wagh attended a 40-day training camp at Bhonsala Military School at Nagpur. The charge sheet and narco analysis of accused in the Nanded blast case made it very clear that a training camp was held in the Bhonsala Military School at Nagpur attended by 100 to 115 people in May 2000 from all over the country. City of Nanded witnessed another blast in February 2007, this time inside a bakery shop. Two persons died in the incident, both belonging to Hindutva organisations.Despite ample proof that Bhonsala Military School, was engaged in activities which are nothing but ‘terror related’ no action was taken against it. preparing the ground for similar acts in future. III.
How Bhonsala Military School ‘facilitated’ emergence of terror masterminds 2001 : 40 days training camp of RSS-Bajrang Dal activists was organised on the premises of the Bhonsala military school, Nagpur. A total of 115 activists from all over the country, including 54 from Maharashtra, attended the camp. The trainees were imparted training in handling of weapons, making of bombs and exploding the same. Retired and serving army officers and retired senior IB officers were among the trainers (as disclosed in the investigation of Nanded blast case of 2006 and Malegaon blast case of 2008.) (S.M. Mushrif, Who Killed Karkare)
Pune, which has been an epicentre of many social reform movements in the past has been in the news of late altogether for wrong reasons. In fact the exposure in the Malegaon bomb blast (Sep 2008) could be said to have brought out this change. Many of the accused in the case belong to or have been associated with this city only, reminding the people that the legacy of Nathuram Godse, the first terrorist of independent India, who was a resident of Pune only, still survives. Not very many people outside the state know that till date one finds a significant section of the elite entertaining sympathies for his exclusivist project. One such gentleman happens to be Lt Col Jayant Chitale, a retired air defence artillery officer who runs the Maharashtra Military Foundation (MMF) and functions from his bunglow only. Few years back Maharashtra Military Foundation was in the news for organising a camp to ‘train youth on a suicide mission to counter terrorism’(Indian Express, 16 th Nov 2002, PTI, Posted online: Friday, November 15, 2002 at 1249 hours IST) In an interview to the Outlook reporter (‘Godse’s War, Nov 17, 2008), Jayant Chitale told him that he had “over 1,000 of my boys serving in the three services today. Each one has been brainwashed by me. They are motivated, determined and will do anything for the nation.” The visitor’s book which Chitale has carefully preserved lists the names of all the young men who were trained under him. Entry on February 20, 1993 tells us that Shrikant Prasad Purohit, Law College, Pune was also enrolled here.There is no doubt that the metamorphosis of this son of a bank officer, who had no particular political leanings, into one of the masterminds of a terror plot of the Malegaon bomb blast 2008 has baffled many. In the dominant media which is always singing paens to the ‘secular character of the Indian army,’ the emergence of a Lt Col as a key strategist of Hindutva terror plot, the debate about his ‘being an exception’ or ‘not’ still remains unsettled. If one were to browse his biographical details one learns that Shrikant Purohit had his brush with the Hindutva politics in his late teens when he attended a special coaching class for Short Service Commission officer-aspirants at the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik. His military career does not seem to be very remarkable. His participation in the counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir (2002) did not win him any special laurels. His tenure in Jammu and Kashmir continued upto January 2005, where he was transferred to the counter intelligence unit of the Military Intelligence Directorate. While his earlier stint in MMF or at Bhonsla Military School had convinced him about the weltanshauung (world view) of the Hindutva forces, his transfer to Maharashtra in 2005 seemed to have accelerated his attempts to work towards ‘building Hindu Rashtra’. His posting in the Military Intelligence Cell , which is meant for developing and maintaining links between the army as well as the people , must have helped him a lot. It facilitated renewal of his contacts with the Hindutva activists, where Col S S Raikar, school commandant of Bhonsala Military School, played a key role, which later germinated in the form of Abhinav Bharat. He is reported to have even organised training camps in which dozens of people took part and were taught to handle arms. He also took the initiative in organising camps in Pune but most of these camps were in the campus of Bhonsla Military School only (Indian Express, 7 Nov 2008). Purohit said during the Faridabad meeting: “Whatever I have said today is in fact taken care of by the officers sitting there. The entire school is in my hands” (26 January Conversation: 25). There is no doubt that he carefully used his position in the military intelligence unit, to develop contacts within the military and outside. In fact, he was smart enough to give an impression to many of his gullible colleagues that what he was doing was part of 'some secret operations' on behalf of some higherups only. The chargesheet filed in the Malegaon case tells us a lot about it. IV.
Nashik, Nov 12, 2008 (PTI) The Principal and a clerk of Bhonsala Military School (BMS), where some of the arrested, accused in Malegaon blast case held meetings, and resigned today after both were questioned by Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad.
Principal Shailesh Raikar and clerk Rajan Gaidhani tendered their resignation to the city-based school management. Talking to PTI, BMS divisional secretary Diwakar Kulkarni said the management will discuss the resignation issue at a meeting to be held tomorrow.
Both Raikar and Gaidhani have not given any reasons for their resignation but said the management has not asked for it.
The duo were recently taken by ATS in Mumbai for questioning in connection with the meeting with the right wing group Abhinav Bharat held in the School premises on September 16, 13 days before the Malegaon blast. The meeting was attended by Lt Col P S Purohit and others.
Anyone who has had access to the chargesheet filed in the Malegaon (Sept 2008) bomb blast case would tell you that it has testimonies of a few military personnel also - who knew Lt Col Purohit and whom he tried to rope in for his grand project of ‘Aryavarta Hindurashtra’. The recordings of the meetings which were done by Swami Dayanand Pandey also provide details about the contacts, the team had tried to establish with Israel and the king of Nepal who had promised them arms as well as training in arms. Another recording tells us about Delhi Hindu Mahasabha chief Ayodhya Prasad Tripathi’s loud claims about his links with an anti-Islamic group based in the UK headed by a ‘dreaded anti-communist and anti-Islamic’ David Gaus whose units ‘are growing rapidly in France, Germany, England and America’.
On these tapes Purohit is heard talking about starting a military school in every state, where recruits would be given rifle training during the summer. According to him these schools could be used to hide people in case of “any police action.” Interestingly, he emphasises that RSS’s name should not be linked in any way to the schools. “We have to assume such a name that is deceptive. We will work under the name ‘Bastion Guards.’During the 2006 inquiry into the Nanded blast, a retired navy officer hailing from Pune, S R Bhate, who was associated with the RSS since 1996, declared to the police that as early as March-April 2000 he had been asked by the local Bajrang Dal leader “to train his activists in the use of gelatine sticks at a camp in the city” (Indian Express, 2008) and then at a larger one in the Bhonsala Military School (Nasik). Bhate told the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) investigators that the camp had been organised by the RSS and about 115 activists from across the country were trained in karate, ground obstacles and firing of revolvers. Two retired ex-servicemen and a senior retired officer from the IB [Intelligence Bureau] were also present, he stated (Indian Express 2008).
The probe into Nanded blast (April 2006) further revealed that an armyman called “Mithun Chakrabarty” had trained the accused in the case to make IEDs for the blasts at the Sinhagad Fort, near Pune.
Apart from the direct involvement of Ramesh Upadhyaya, a retired army Major, in the operations, one also gets to know from newspaper reports that the ATS under Mr Karkare had also interrogated Mr Raikar, Commandant of the Bhosla Military School because of his knowledge of the whole conspiracy and the manner in which the premises of the School were freely given to others. In fact, Purohit had served with the new commandant of the school, Col S.S. Raikar, who also worked with military intelligence earlier, and had even requested him to let Abhinav Bharat hold its meeting in the school.Perhaps one needs to be reminded that Bhosla Military School was under the scanner when investigations in the Nanded bomb blast were also on. Looking at the key role played by Bhonsla Military School, which is run by a group of people whose sympathies for the RSS is no secret, one fails to understand why the chief bosses of the school were allowed to go scot free and were not arrested for their dubious role in facilitating and supporting outfits committed to Hindutva terror. Very few people even know that it is one of those rare schools which impart training on service pattern to the students alongwith regular courses which is aimed at encouraging and preparing them for entry into National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) etc and other defence services.
V ...Dr Moonje formed the Central Hindu Military Education Society at Nasik in 1935 and started the school on 12th June 1937. The school started functioning in the Surgana Palace in Nasik city with 90 students on its roll. The Maharaja of erstwhile Gwalior state, H H Shriman Jivajirao Scindia inaugurated the main building of the school. In his inaugural speech, he said, “It is not a mere coincidence that within a short period of the opening of a first rate public school in India (he was referring to the Doon School, Dehradun), we are here today to open a first rate Military School.” Such was the charishma, charm and aura of the founder, that he got the then Governor of Bombay State, Sir Roger Lumley to lay the foundation stone of the present main building of the school. Over the years, the school has established itself as a premier residential school catering to the educational needs of students from all over India and also as a focal point for military education. In 1995, the school was granted affiliation by Indian Public Schools Conference, an association of heads of leading public schools of the country. (From the official website of the Bhonsala Military School)
What is common between late Shri Vasant Sathe, former Union Minister and a leader of the Congress Party, Shri Vinayakrao Patil, former Minister Govt. of Maharashtra, Padma Bhushan Lt. Gen (Rtd) M L Chhibber, PVSM, Lt. Gen (Rtd) Y D Sahasrabuddhe, PVSM, Lt. Col (Rtd) Prakash Kitkule, VrC, Flt (Rtd) S M Ghatate, V M, Maj. (TA) Pandit Rao, Shri V G Pagare, DCP. All of them have been students of Bhonsala military school and have been receipients of the ‘Bhonsala Bhushan Award' instituted by the school for its ex-students. The school campus which is on nearly 65 hectares is called ‘Rambhoomi’ and the students are called ‘Ramdandees”.
According to the guidelines issued by the management “admission is open for boys to class V every year. Admission to higher classes are given only if vacancies exist and are filled up as per the decision of the school management. Admission is open for all eligible candidates irrespective of caste, creed or religion. For admission to class V, the candidate should be between 9 to 10 yrs. of age as on 1st July and should have passed class IV, preferably from an English medium school. "Interestingly a close look at the students selected for admission in the present year showed near absence of any non-Hindu names in the list.
Apart from the regular courses the school also runs ‘Personality Development Course’ (PDC) for boys for around a fortnight during summer where boys aged 12 to 14 who are studying in standard VII or above are selected on ‘first come first serve basis’ and the syllabus includes riding, swimming, shooting, self Defence, Yoga, drill, physical Training, group discussion and public speaking. Participants are also taught basic skills of horse riding and are also introduced to army training & weapon training. There is also a demonstration of artillery firing. For students above this age it runs ‘Summer Military Training Course (SMTC) during summer vacation for one month where students studying in standard X and above and age group 15 plus are admitted and has similar syllabus.
The Central Hindu Military Education Society which runs the Bhonsala Military School established Bhonsala Adventure Foundation on 28th January 1994 at Nashik supposedly to inculcate ‘spirit of adventure in youth'. Multifarious activities of varying duration are conducted throuhout the year. One Major General Anant V. Natu PVSM (Retd) who had received Paramvishishta Seva Medal and Mahavir Chakra for his performance in the Indo-Pak war was initially the chief advisor and promoter of the foundation. whereas one Brigadier A. M. Warty, VSM (Retd) was the first chairman of the foundation.It is claimed that “Bhonsala Adventure Foundation is a premier Adventure training institute of Maharashtra. The youngsters are getting involved in this institute in big way. This is a unique Adventure Institute by itself. The foundation has most modern equipment required for carrying out adventure courses and has planned to procure more sophisticated equipment for aero sports and water sports. The foundation also has sports from India Armies Adventure sports organization.”
It was the year 2008 when investigations into the Malegaon terror attack were going on there were news in a section of the press that ‘there are leads of some Hindu leaders from Bangladesh having attended the training camps held at the Bhonsala Military School, “(outlook 23 Nov 2008)
It was the same time when in a statement, the CPI(M) Politburo demanded firm action against extremist elements in both communities. “They will have to be dealt with firmly and their networks dismantled irrespective of the community they belong to.” Asking the Centre to take the reports of Hindutva infiltration in the Army “seriously”, it said the role of the Bhonsala Military School in Maharashtra should be probed. “No private educational institution can be allowed to provide military training.” (PTI 07 Nov 2008)
One does not know whether any action was taken on the demand of the CPM politbureau which was then supporting the government at the Centre. But looking at the fact that status quo vis-á-vis Bhonsala Military School remains, it is apparent that all such demands have been put in the cold storage.