June 22, 1897. A hundred years later, the memories live on
The year was 1897. Date June 22. Walter Charles Rand, the special officer for plague, was returning after attending a function at the government guest house.
Ganeshpind road on which his carriage was to pass was deserted. Hiding in the forest nearby were the three Chapekar brothers -- Damodar, Vasudev and Balkrishna -- and their associates.
As a carriage passed by, Vasudev ran after it shouting, ''Gondiya ala re.''
It was a signal for Balkrishna to finish off Rand, the infamous British officer who had created much distress among the masses with his tactless handling of the Pune plague.
Fired with revolutionary zeal, Balkrishna boarded the covered
carriage and shot the occupant dead. Suddenly he found that it was
Lt Ayerst, an associate of Rand.
Realising the folly, Damodar, the eldest of the three, jumped on
to the carriage carrying Rand and fired, killing the British officer on the spot, the first act of
revolutionary terrorism in British India.
The killings shook the British empire and the government
announced a reward of Rs 20,000 for anyone who helped track down
the killers, who had added a colourful
chapter to the history of the freedom movement.
Exactly 100 years later, people of independent India
will witness the shooting acted out by
35 actors of the Krantiveer Chapekar Samarak Samiti as a tribute
to the Chapekar brothers.
After the killings, the Chapekar brothers fled the city, but two
of them were arrested following a tip-off by the Dravid brothers. The
two informers paid with their lives for their act of betrayal when Vasudev
and Ranade shot them at their Sadashiv Peth residence after posing
as messengers for the British officer investigating the Rand killing.
Damodar was tried for the crime in the sessions court which
ordered his execution on March 2, 1898. He was hanged on April 18. Vasudev was hanged on May 8, 1899, Ranade on
May 10 and Balkrishna on May 12. Lokmanya Tilak was accused of sedition for inciting the Chapekar brothers in his articles and sent to jail.
Chapekar Wada, the house the brothers lived in,
was turned into an illicit liquor den after their death. The same
house, now in a dilapidated condition, has been bought by the
Samiti which will use two of its rooms as a museum to store
revolutionary literature while the
other rooms will be converted into a vyayamshala -- a gymnasium -- as a tribute to Damodar who was a bodybuilder.
The Samiti also plans to hold a seminar on April 18, 1998, the
day Damodar was hanged 100 years ago, by inviting surviving
freedom fighters along with the grandsons of the Chapekar brothers,
says Samiti secretary Girish Prabhune.