Recently the Lok Sabha Speaker Mr. Om Birla had visited Canada for 5th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference and further planned to travel Mexico to unveil the statue of Swami Vivekananda and Maharashtra-born freedom fighter and agriculturalist Pandurang Khankhoje.
Who was Pandurang Khankhoje?
Pandurang Sadashiv Khankhoje (1884 –1967) had a close connection with Mexico where he sought refuge due to his association with the radical pro-Indian independence ‘Ghadar Party’.
He was born in Wardha, Maharashtra, in the late 19th century.
According to his biography by his daughter Savitri Sawhney, as a student, Khankhoje was an ardent admirer of the French Revolution and of the American War of Independence.
The Hindu reformer Swami Dayanand and his Arya Samaj movement, which called for a spirit of reform and social change, became the hero to a young student group led by Khankhoje.
Khankhoje decided to go abroad for further training in revolutionary methods and militaristic strategy.
After spending time with nationalists from Japan and China, Khankhoje eventually moved to the US, where he enrolled in college as a student of agriculture.
In Mexico during the 1920s, he established the Escuelas Libres de Agricultura Mexico (1924-1928) - free agricultural colleges where he successfully experimented with varieties of corn.
Contributions in National Freedom Struggle
Associated to Ghadar Party: He was one of the founding members of the Ghadar Party, established by Indians living abroad in 1914, mostly belonging to Punjab.
Its aim was to lead a revolutionary fight against the British in India.
Led to Mexico: Inspired by the Mexican revolution of 1910, he also reached out to Indians working on farms in the US with the aim of discussing the idea of Indian independence with them. There, he met with Mexican workers as well.
Spread Nationalist ideologies: He reached out to Bhikaji Cama in Paris, and met with Vladimir Lenin in Russia among other leaders, seeking support for the Indian cause.
However, as he was facing possible deportation from Europe and could not go to India, he sought shelter in Mexico.
Green Revolution: He also researched corn, wheat, pulses and rubber, developing frost and drought-resistant varieties, and was part of efforts to bring in the Green Revolution in Mexico.
Later on, the American agronomist Dr Norman Borlaug called as the ‘Father of the Green Revolution’ in India, brought the Mexican wheat variety to Punjab.