“In our world of big names, curiously our two heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi – illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.” Daniel J. Boorstin
Our country is celebrating 75 years of its Independence. This independence movement was a series of historic events and sacrifices by thousands of freedom fighters. Undoubtedly Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Rani Lakshmibai and many more are amongst the famous freedom fighters and have got the spotlights but there are many unsung heroes who also played a crucial role in India’s freedom movement. Jammu & Kashmir has also one such unsung hero who is very less known even to people of his birth place since his death in 1953 and he is none other them Dhanwantri.
Dhanwantri was born on March 7, 1902 at military Hospital Satwari in the family of Dr. (Col.) Durga Dutt Mahey. He was third among four brothers. The eldest Bhim Sen Mahey remained Wazir-e-Wazarat, Poonch, Second Pandit Vidyanand Mahey was an officer in Railway at Lahore. Third Dhanwantri and Fourth Pandit Vishwamitter also held a high position in the society. If Dhanwantri had wanted he could have lived happily and in gaiety but he chose rough floors and prison loaves for himself. From the very beginning he was the master of revolutionary ideology. He was interested in literature, was habituated to practice in the sun and contemplate in solitude.
Dhanwantri completed his school education at Sri Ranbir Higher Secondary School, Jammu and afterwards proceeded to Lahore to his brother Pandit Vidyanand and got admission in Shri Dayanand Ayurevedic College for F.Sc. Degree. The Britishers imposed Rowlatt Act in India due to which they could have imprisoned Indians without trial. As Britishers had imprisoned two leaders Satyapal and Saiffudin Kitchloo, in revolt on 13 April, 1919, a large no of people gathered at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar. Suddenly British Brigadier General Reginald Dyer approached there with 90 British Soldiers and started firing at unarmed people. At least 1000 people were killed and more than 2000 got injured in this episode. Furious Mahatma Gandhi launched Non-Cooperation movement. A large no of Indians supported him. Young people also joined but on 4 February 1922 at Gorakhpur a violent incident happended in the police station of Chauri Chaura, Gorakhpur U.P. and about 22 British police men were killed. Sadly, Gandhi Ji suspended the movement. As Mahatma Gandhi did not consult any senior leaders, agitators were very upset with Gandhi Ji’s self decision. Dhanwantri also did not understand logic behind this. He continued his studies at D A V College and got associated with energetic students of National College, Lahore – Sukhdev Thaper and Bhagat Singh. He was very much impressed with the ideology of Bhagat Singh who was a staunch follower of Bakunin, Karal Marx, Vladimir Lenin ( founder of the Russian Communist party (Bolsheviks)) and Russian revolutionary Trotsky. Dhanwantri started a chemist shop at Lahore where all the young men organized meetings. British police suspected him but Dhanwantri managed to employ a man wearing clothes exactly like him so that no one could imagine that the owner of the shop was not in his seat. Hindustan Republican Association was formed at Cawnpore by revolutionaries on 3 October 1924. This was the collective effort of Sachinder Nath Sanyal and Ram Prasad Bismil. In 1926 Bhagat Singh Bhagwati Charan Vohra formed Naujawan Bharat Sabha. Dhanwantri also joined this organization.
On 3 April, 1928 Simon Commission proceeded to India to report on the working of the Indian constitution established by the Government of India Act of 1919, but it included only British members and no Indian. This commission was opposed by the people of India. At Lahore this movement was going on under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai who was beaten up by the Britishers with sticks. Dhanwantri could not see this atrocity. He came and stood in front of Lala Ji and he too was beaten severely. Lala Ji got heart attack after 18 days and he died. Dhanwantri suggested Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries that they should avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai by murdering superintendent of Police, James Scott on whose order, Lala ji was beaten. Then Hindustan Republican Association was converted into Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (H S R A) , but by mistake, assistant superintendent of police, John Saunders was killed in place of James Scott. Bhagat Singh declared ” Today the world has seen that the people of India are not lifeless.” Again Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs at Central Legislative Assembly, Delhi against the Trade Dispute Act & Public Safety Bill and surrendered themselves before the British police. Dhanwantri and other comrades began to arrange for their release from jail. He printed 70,000 photos of Bhagat Singh for distribution at different places of the country. He also posted posters on walls. Revolutionaries opened a secret bomb factory called Himayan Toilets where they made bombs using Picric acid Carbolic acid, Sulphuric acid, Nitric acid and Potassium Cyanide. Bhagwati Charan Vohra Ji and Yashpal planned to blast train carrying Lord Irwin with bomb but Chander Shekhar Azad was not in favour. The plan failed as Lord Irwin and his wife had shifted the compartment for lunch. Azad scolded Yashpal who gave lame excuses. The next step was to release Bhagat Singh and others using armed weapons but due to misinformation it also failed. Meanwhile, Bhagwati Charan Vohra died while testing a bomb. Chander Shekhar Azad suspected Yashpal to be an informer of the British as all plans failed in which he was an associate. Dhanwantri was sent to Lahore for murdering Yashpal anywhere he would be seen. Yashpal had carried alongwith him Prakasho Devi, picric acid and a revolver. When Dhanwantri reached Lahore, Yashpal had already won favour of revolutionaries from Punjab. He told Dhanwantri that he had no malafide intentions and was ready to prove his innocence. Dhanwantri understood the situation and returned without killing Yashpal.
Dhanwantri was caught several times but was released due to the paucity of evidences. Government of Punjab, Geoffrey de Montmorency was torturing the Indians and Dhanwantri was very much eager to kill him. On 23rd December 1930 Montmorency was invited at Punjab University on its Convocation Day. Dhanwantri planned to kill him with Hari Kishan Talwar but it was a pity when Hari Kishan Talwar stood on a chair to shoot Montmorency, the chair tilted due to uneven surface and the target was missed. Sub-Inspector of Montmorency ran towards Hari Kishan but bullets were fired at him too. He was declared dead at Mayo Hospital. Sub-Inspector Vardhman and one British lady Dr. Medermott were also injured. Hari Kishan surrendered himself later. He was tortured and on 26 January 1931, he was sentenced to death. In the prison Bhagat Singh studied Russian literature a lot and wished Prithvi Singh to go Russia and enrich himself with Russian literature and Russian ideology of revolution. The heavy task to locate Prithvi Singh rested on the shoulders of Dhanwantri and he fulfilled his duties. When the death sentence was announced to Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, he went to Gandhi Ji for appealing to Britishers to stop the death sentence. They were given death sentence on 23rd March, 1931. Dhanwantri wrote a letter to Sushila Didi from the Jail to kill Chief Secretary of Punjab Govt. Sir Henry Craik who he thought was the main culprit to impose death sentence to the great revolutionaries. Sushila Didi got the help of Sukhdev Raj and Jagdish Chander Roy but they both were caught in the event. In the court of Magistrate Ist Class, Delhi, E.S. Lewis, Dhanwantri was sentenced to ten years imprisonment under Section 307 of Indian Penal Code and section 19-F of Arms Act, 1878 which was curtailed to seven years afterwards. Dhanwantri was sent to District Jail, Delhi. He was referred to as prisoner No. 5055, B-class, dangerous terrorist. There were conspiracies to send him to Cellular Jail, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar on 12 October, 1934, Dhanwantri and Harbandhu Jamadar were deported to Cellular Jai, Port Blair. Two hunger strikes had already happened there and some improvements were made in living conditions there but jail was jail. The compartments were very congested, with rough floors and humid atmosphere. There used to be mosquitoes and scorpions everywhere. However, Dhanwantri alongwith other revolutionaries read a lot about Karl Mark and Lenin. He was also member of editorial Board of a Manuscript paper ‘ The Call’ in which articles on Marxism and nationalism were published. On Ist July, 1937 the revolutionaries once again started hunger strike. Britishers used forcible feeding. Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindra Nath Tagore made an agreement with Lord Linlithgow for the release of the prisoners of cellular Jail. So they appealed to the prisoners to stop hunger strike. Dhanwantri was released. Pt. Bhim Sen Mahey wrote a letter to the Govt. of J&K on 22 February 1939 to lift ban from Dhanwantri to enter J&K as he was no longer involved in terrorist activities now. Dhanwantri was again sent to the prison without a trial.
He was then released in 1946. Now he involved himself in Trade Union and Kisan Sabha Movements. He along with P.C. Joshi also wrote a book ‘ Bleeding Pubjab Warns ‘ on the harmful effects of bloodshed in the name of communalism. He said “the Punjab Tragedy” is a crisis for the whole of India. It is a grave threat to our very existence and the future of democracy in our land. Dhanwantri came to Jammu, his birth place in November 1947 but was very weak and frail. His digestive system was not in a proper condition, but he did not lose his spirits. He started a unit of Communist Party of India in Jammu. Many leaders, common people visited him at his Kali Jani residence to consult him. He prepared volunteers and made people’s army. Lands were allotted to poor and loans were exempted. Time was set for the shops to be opened and shut. Holiday was declared. Labour Courts were made. Dhanwantri was also interested in culture and literature. He stressed on the preservation of Dogra language and also suggested to write stage plays on the life of Bawa Jitto. Dhanwantri’s deep understanding , first hand experience and advice was of a great value. Ist meeting of communist party of India in Jammu was held at Purani Mandi, Jammu and people gathered in thousands in this meeting. In 1953 Dhanwantri got ill but he went to Kashmir on the order of the party. He stayed in the house of Girdhari Lal Dogra, the then Finance Minister but his health deteriorated and he was shifted to Jammu by air on 13 July, 1953. The lone freedom fighter of J&K, Dhanwantri left his abode at the age of 51 years. Almost 68 years have passed since but a larger no. of people don’t know the name of Dhanwantri . Library of Jammu University has been named as Dhanwantri Library and a statue of Dhanwantri has been built at park, Trikuta Nagar, Jammu but whether it is sufficient in the memory of such a great personality who had dedicated his whole life to the nation and in whose praise his companions said : “The work which can’t be done by anybody, is easily done by Dhanwantri”