S N Subbarao is no more, born in Karnataka, he breathed his last in Jaipur (Rajasthan), Jaura (Madhya Pradesh) became the spectator of his last rites and then his ashes were flown into the river at Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh). The passing away of this soldier of peace and goodwill, popularly known as Bhaiji, at the age of 92, was like leaving the body for the purpose of Jai Bhamhand (Victory of the Universe) while chanting the slogan of Jai Jagat (Victory of the world) throughout his life. He was filled with a spiritual smile, a youthful energy, immeasurable humility and love.
With his departure, tributes poured in. And many people learned from these tribute messages how Bhaiji belonged to everyone while living an extremely simple life and considered everyone as his own. Be it political stalwarts like Om Birla, Rahul Gandhi, Ashok Gehlot, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ram Madhav, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Priyanka Gandhi, Manish Sisodia or social workers like Kumar Prashant, P V Rajagopal, Shankar Sanyal, Ram Mohan Rai and others, Journalists and Gandhians or ordinary students, everyone remembered and offered tribute to him. He tried for unity throughout his life and in his nirvana, everyone united and bid him farewell.
Bhaiji, the founder of the National Youth Project and the front soldier from the culture and values of Gandhi-Vinoba-Jaiprakash, was considered by many as a living Gandhi. Subbarao ji, who had called his life for the country, national unity, religious social harmony, continued touring the country for social purposes till his last time. Through youth camps, he trained many thousands of youth of the country with non-violence, harmony, national unity and diversity.
Bhaiji, who was arrested by the British police for writing pro-independence slogans on the walls at the age of 13 during the Quit India Movement, remained very popular among the youths even after independence due to his songs of peace-revolution-harmony. In 1969, in Gandhi’s centenary year, Subbarao ji organised the Gandhi Darshan train and gave a message to the people for Gandhi’s ideas of unity and goodwill throughout the country. During this, a convoy of young volunteers accompanied him on the journey, people welcomed him along the way and at the end of the journey, Subbarao ji established Gandhi Ashram with the money that was not spent. Away from personal greed and attachment, Bhaiji got respect all over the world.
Subbarao ji’s efforts helped those who considered Gandhi and Vinoba non-violent idea to be only bookish to understand the philosophy of non-violence when Subbarao ji made a change of heart of several hundred notorious rebels of Chambal and got success with their surrender in to his ashram in Chambal. During this, a crowd of thousands of citizens, including the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Prakash Chandra Sethi and Jai Prakash Narayan, were shocked to see how one after the other infamous rebels, with rewards on their heads in lakhs, came quietly with their weapons and put it at the feet of Gandhi statue and surrendered to the administration. Without handcuffs, self-motivated, accepted their crime without hesitation in the court and then labored in the jail, these dacoits (baagis) of Chamabal remained an example of efforts to transformation of hearts and minds and Subbarao ji remained a brother for them.
Whenever I got to meet Bhaiji, he inspired me a lot and always encouraged me. In a program of ‘Aagaz-e-Dosti’, he enthralled everyone in the packed hall by singing Jai Jagat’s song. Whenever I wrote something to him, I received his answer. A few months ago, when I sent him an article I wrote on Frontier Gandhi, he replied that he had an exciting meeting with Frontier Gandhi for some time and that admirers of Frontier Gandhi living in Palestine gave him a biography in Arabic originally written by Eknath Easwaran. Later, Bhaiji gifted this Arabic translation of Khan’s biography to Bacha Khan’s son Wali Khan.
Bhaiji did not consider anything personal. It was his life to stay and work in a room of Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi and then move to other corners of the country. In this room, so many awards, honors, recognitions received by him from the country and abroad are decorated. The journey was his destiny, now he seems to have gone on another journey, leaving behind a plethora of tasks that people have to do.
Bhaiji has organized youth camps in every corner of the country. He knew the language of almost every province of the country as well as many foreign languages. He always tried to speak with people in their native language whenever he met someone. In one such camp on invitation of his close aide Sanjay Rai, I went to Sultanpur Lodhi (Punjab) around three years ago where around five thousand youths from all states, religions, regions, languages were gathered to reflect unity in diversity.
Whether it is the courage to reach Lal Chowk in Srinagar to offer prayers for all religions even in the most tense times or to inspire a famous musician like Kumar Gandharva to compose a new raga called ‘Gandhi Malhar’, or to the bring people from every corner of the country together, Bhaiji remained excellent everywhere. Indians living in America had started calling Bhaiji every year for a multi-day workshop in which Indian children living abroad could imbibe the values, ethics, diversity, national unity of India. During one such webinar for children and youth, I saw how foreign youth of Indian origin, who were fluent in English, were proudly singing songs like Jai Jagat.
Bhaiji was a true warrior who remained extremely simple in lifestyle, who worked tirelessly for people, who advocated peacebuilding and believed in the idea of one world. Bhaiji, who was active for social consciousness till his last time, may have gone on a journey of Jai Brahmand, but in the form of an energy beam, so much heat has been scattered here which will continue to inspire thousands of people.
Ravi Nitesh is a freelance writer and social activist. He can be reached on twitter @ravinitesh