There are three acclaimed ways in which Shri Dattopant Thengadi is invoked. First, as founder and mentor of the organisations he founded: Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Kisan Sangh, Adhivakta Parishad, Paryavaran Manch, Samarasata Manch, etc.
The Second way commemorates him as an ingenious theorist and Economist thoroughly embedded in Indic thought stream.
The third path is to remember him for his phenomenal contributions to polity and policy realm marked by his relentless espousal and leadership to prominent socio-political moments in the post-Independence era—Emergency and Swadeshi.
A closer scrutiny reveals that the three approaches are species of a common genre. All three approaches, though appear to be diverse to an external glance, together sums up to make just one facet of Thengadi. What is beyond the ken of our comprehension is—Thengadi, the futurologist, who foresaw the structures of socio-political and economic structures and institutions with an amazingly empirical precision. Thengadi’s amazing ability to diagnose innate contradictions of an ideology matched only by his brutal objectivity to acknowledge its merits, bestowed him with a rare proficiency to predict the forthcoming. What makes Thengadi exceptional is not his amazing ability to foresee but his selfless strive to enable even his bitterest opponents to introspect and revaluate their own ideas and ideologies. Thegadi was a spiritual master, akin to a mirror and a binocular in which one could see true reflection and gaze the future too. Thengadi never abolished or decried anything. He was a compassionate fulfiller in action.
As an illustration, consider Thengadi’s discourses and writings on Marxists. In one place, Thengadi, citing Guruji, says that Marxists in our country have done greatest injustice to Marx. In fact, Marx was not driven by mere materialistic motivations; his approach was deeply innate and moral, which Communists in our country have utterly failed to understand. (Ref: Dattopant Thengadi—Jeevan Darshan Vol IX - Ed: Amarnath Dogra). Thengadi always quoted Marx, Engels, Lenin from primary sources and therefore, his understanding and analysis of Marxism was never adulterated or jaundiced by notions.
In fact, Thengadi has authored an interesting article entitled “On Revolution” which is contained in the Appendix to his celebrated book Third Way. This is a paper submitted to the National Executive of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh on 23rd October, 1976. This is a classical treatise on the art and science of revolution with deep insights into its subtleties and nuances. Thengadi amasingly culls details from Cromwellian revolution of 1649 to the guerrilla armed struggles of our times. If our Marxists had approached Marxism from this unbiassed perspective, they would not have disappeared into the present-day oblivion. In sum, whether you are a superrich or a subaltern, Thengadi is a teacher to all.
In his discourses, Thengadi generously quoted his Marxist friends and colleagues in the Parliament. He quotes a Marxist theorist to say that a person’s greatness and relevance should be measured by the measure of his shadow cast on the future. Today, given the phenomenal growth of mass organisations that are inspired by sanskars of Sangh, one cannot but acknowledge the near prophetic foresight of Thengadi in shaping them at the time of their inception and through their formative phases.
Dr. Amebdkar was fondly called by Thengadi as “Baba”. It is extremely difficult to imagine a better medium than Thengadi to decode Ambedkar. Thengadi reached the inner echelons of Baba and unravelled to the world the genius of Ambedkar together with his passionate patriotism, trepidations and sufferings. Humiliations suffered by Baba at the hands of Congress and Communists left an indelible impact during his youth. In the present times when the fringe is trying to usurp Ambedkar’s legacy, Thengadi provides an apt anecdote of wisdom. Thengadi has correctly contextualised Ambedkar’s compulsions when the latter had to take certain painful decisions. Thengadi recalls the deep pain and anxiety faced by Baba in his last days that prompted him to embrace Buddhism. Thengadi recounts how Ambedkar painfully told him that but for this decision, Communists and missionaries will hunt down the socially disadvantaged sections. Ambedkar painfully informs Thengadi that given the diminutive digestive capacity of our society, its hard to retain these sections within a status quoist social structure. There was hardly anything common between Thengadi and Baba. Yet, Thengadi could touch the inner most domains of Baba’s mind and heart.
In his early twenties Thengadi was sent to Kerala as Pracharak. His dedicated efforts resulted in reaching out to the masses and the elite alike. In fact, Thengadi’s work ensured that the first set of Pracharaks came from the royal family of Nilambur in Malabar region of Kerala. Forget Western, it is impossible for our own theorists to imagine the dexterity with which Thengadi could assimilate himself with such diverse sections. There was definitely some steak of greatness in Thengadi that enabled him to surpass his age, linguistic barriers, social status and all conceivable blockades. Ranga Hari ji has recently recalled in his discourse an instance wherein septuagenarian Theosophist, a seasoned Lawyer, chides Thengadi that Kerala, the land of Adi Sankara doesn’t need guidance from RSS to learn about Hinduism and asks Thengadi not to waste his youth and to return home instead. Young Thengadi, hardly having crossed his early twenties, remains remarkably stoic. Thengadi was always age defying. Most of his remarkable qualities and innate steak of extraordinariness was always present in him since his early age and it never changed in his lifetime.
It was very hard to bracket his thought stream within the confines of any dogma. Thengadi’s bouquet of thoughts spanned from Lincoln, Ralph Lap, Marc Gallanter, John Kleinig, Ivan Illich, Tagore, Aurobindo, Radhakrishnan, MN Roy and many more. The expanse of his scholarship is simply unimaginable. From agriculture to astronomy, Vedas to monetary economics, nuclear physics to aesthetics, socialism to Dhammapada—nothing remained untrodden for Thengadi.
Thengadi was a great constitutional expert and jurisprudential genius, that has never been acknowledged and explored. His pathbreaking thoughts crystallised in his inaugural address to Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad in New Delhi on September 7, 1992 must be prescribed as Text Book material for all law students and legal officers in Bharat. Thengadi, citing Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Doeras spoke of establishment of Human Rights Commission. Precisely, a year later, National Human Rights Commission was established in Bharat (28th September, 1993). Thengadi conceptualised the most radical sounding conception Peoples’ Constituent Assembly. What is amazing is Thengadi’s comparative analysis of world constitutions. He juxtaposes the unitary constitutions of UK, France, Norway, Sweden, Japan with that of the Federal constitutional regimes of West Germany, USSR, USA, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. His insightful analysis of almost all modern political constitutions must be a study material for all our legislators and law givers.
Thengadi’s phenomenal contributions to the organisations he founded and mentored is just an iota of his persona and a small fraction of what his contributions to the political imagination and ideation of the world at large. Thengadi showed the path to all those interested in ‘Deschooling’ themselves from conventional constructs. So, to estimate Thengadi’s worth by the strength of organisations that he founded is like denoting Vivekananda as founder of Belur Math and estimating his influence on the followers of Ramakrishna Mission.
Today when all conventional canons and dogmas are getting demolished, there is emergent need to infuse indigenous wisdom, inventiveness in ideation. All this, in essence, is nothing but Indicness. Invoking Thengadi is to invoke Indicness.
(The writer is a senior advocate)