Gopal Hari Deshmukh (LokHitVadi)
The great socialist, known for his enlightening articles
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a new generation was moulded due to education in English medium. The socialist Gopal Hari Deshmukh was among the few of the first such batch. He learnt English while studying in a Marathi medium school. From 1848, he started writing articles regularly under the pseudonym LokHitVadi, aimed at benefiting the society, through the magazine Prabhakar. Child marriage was a tradition at that time. He enlightened the society of the hardships that children undergo due to child marriages through his articles in Prabhakar. With the backing of Henry Brown, the then mayor of Mumbai, he established a library in Pune.
He was well known for his unattached and impartial conduct. The following famous event highlights this trait: Sadar Amin, the principal of Satara University was made to resign for unknown reasons. Gopalrao was appointed in his position. When a commission was established to question Sadar Amin, Sadar Amin himself suggested the name of Gopalrao to head the committee! Sadar Amin had full faith in Gopalrao’s impartiality.
In 1856 Gopalrao was appointed as the Assistant Awards Commissioner. In 1867 he was appointed as the Small Causes Judge in Ahmedabad. He initiated a lecture series annually through the Premabai Institute in Ahmedabad, and would deliver lectures on some subjects himself. He established the Prarthana Samaj there, as well as the Gujrathi Punarvivah Mandal (remarriage society). He also revived the Gujrat Vernacular Society. He started a magazine called Hitecchu with editions in Gujarati and English. He established the Gujarati Vaktrutta Sabha (society for oration) in Gujarat.
Gopalrao wanted to free social behaviour and ethics from the clutches of religious beliefs and traditions. He wrote Dharmasudharnechi Kalme in which he wrote fifteen philosophies towards this purpose. He deduced that the Hindu religion had become weak because the religious work was socially entrusted with just one group of Hindus. He was against idol worship. He waged a war against incorrect traditions in society like child marriages, dowry, polygamy (multiple wives), etc.
From 1848 to 1850 he wrote 108 small essays. These essays are recognised as ShataPatre (hundred letters). Through these ShataPatre, he laid his ideas before the society with the perspective of social reform. He wrote approximately thirty-five books on various subjects ranging from religious, social, economic, political, literature, historical, etc. He took the initiative in starting the periodicals DyanPrakash, InduPrakash, and Lokhitvadi. His intense desire for complete development of the society is seen through his writing. He proposed through his writing that the caste system is the biggest obstacle in the path of the country’s progress.
The British commemorated him with the title RaoBahadur in 1877 in the Delhi Darbar.