Who is the freedom fighter Pandurang Khankhoje whose statue will be inaugurated in Mexico?
Lok Sabha President Om Birla will travel to Mexico to unveil the statue of freedom fighter and farmer Pandurang Khankhoje. The Maharashtra-born revolutionary has strong ties to Mexico as he sought refuge there due to his association with the Ghadar party
Pandurang Khankhoje was part of efforts to usher in the Green Revolution in Mexico. Image Courtesy: @panipatwar/Twitter
The visit to Canada of Lok Sabha President Om Birla brought to light the revolutionary Pandurang Sadashiv Khankhoje (1886-1967) born in Maharashtra. Birla is currently in Canada to attend the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Halifax.
Sharing photos with the Indian Diaspora in Toronto ahead of her visit to Halifax for the conference, Birla tweeted on August 23: “On our way to Halifax to attend #65CPC, met with the Indian Diaspora in Toronto. Shared with them India’s successful journey in the fields of economy, science and technology. & other areas. Glad to see that they are making a significant contribution to the development of Canada while remaining rooted in their homeland.
Headed to Halifax to attend #65CPC, met with the Indian diaspora in Toronto. Shared with them India’s successful journey in the fields of economy, science and technology. & other areas. Glad to see that they contribute significantly to the development of Canada while remaining rooted in the homeland. pic.twitter.com/8lubwxH6Eh
— Om Birla (@ombirlakota) August 23, 2022
The Lok Sabha chairman is due to travel to Mexico where he will unveil statues of Swami Vivekananda and farmer Pandurang Khankhoje.
Let’s take a look at Pandurang Khankhoje and how he became a renowned agricultural scientist in Mexico:
Who was Pandurang Khankhoje?
Born at the end of the 19th century in the Wardha of Maharashtra, Pandurang Khankhoje completed his higher education in Nagpur. Khankhoje’s daughter, Savitri Sawhney, writes in her early biography: “As a student, Khankhoje was an ardent admirer of the French Revolution and the American Revolutionary War. Closer to home, Hindu reformer Swami Dayanand and his Arya Samaj movement, which called for a spirit of reform and social change, became the hero of a group of young students led by Khankhoje.
According Live story from IndiaKhankhoje was inspired by freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
The encounter with Tilak in the early 1900s kindled the fire of an armed struggle against the British in Khankhoje.
Tilak urged him to travel to Japan to learn from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 in which Russia and Japan fought in Korea and the Sea of Japan after years of conflict over control of Manchuria.
After spending some time in Japan, where Khankhoje also met Chinese revolutionaries, he moved to the United States.
Life in the United States and the formation of the Ghadar Party
In the American Oregon, Khankhoje worked with Indian workers in a sawmill. Later at Stanford University, he meets Lala Har Dayal. Har Dayal had launched a propaganda campaign by publishing a newspaper which featured patriotic songs and articles in the vernacular languages of India. It was the seed from which the Ghadar party would emerge in 1913,” Sawhney wrote in Khankhoje’s biography.
When the Ghadar party was formed in the United States, Khankhoje, as one of the founders, used his military experience at Mount Tamalpais to train volunteers, mostly retired military personnel, to foment unrest for the British in India. However, due to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, their plans for militant action in India were foiled.
While meeting Indian workers on the farm in the United States, Khankhoje, who was encouraged by the Mexican Revolution of 1910, also interacted with Mexican workers.
In 1915, when the Ghadar movement faded, Khankhoje left for Paris to meet Madame Bhikaji Cama who sent him to Germany where he came into contact with Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, brother of Sarojini Naidu, in Berlin. Chattopadhyaya, who led a group of Indian freedom fighters, gave him new hope. Later he met Vladimir Lenin in Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917. “Although Khankhoje would remain deeply committed to the ideals and principles of Lenin, he was also aware that India was not ready for communism”, said Sawhney said when the duo met.
How Pandurang Khankhoje won Mexico?
Fearing the British secret service, Khankhoje headed for Mexico. He was appointed professor at the National School of Agriculture in Chapingo because of his previous friendship with the Mexican revolutionaries, according to The Indian Express. Soon he devoted himself to the Mexicans and began to study the cultivation of new varieties of corn and wheat with high yields, with an emphasis on varieties resistant to drought and diseases, and thus became part of the efforts to inaugurate the Green Revolution in Mexico.
According Scroll.inthe local press in Mexico dubbed Khankhoje “the sorcerer of Chapingo and the Hindu scholar, the man who created wonders with nature”.
Commenting on his father’s contribution to agriculture, Savitri Sawhney writes in his biography: “…Khankhoje’s experiments with maize were a fundamental contribution to the search and study of better varieties. These studies, many years later, would inform the Green Revolution led by Norman Borlaug. In turn, the Green Revolution would greatly benefit India, which in its own way was the fulfillment of Khankhoje’s original dream: to provide food for the people of India.
With contributions from agencies
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