Gangadharrao Balkrishna Deshpande
(1871 – 1960) – (Karnataka)
Gangadharrao Balkrishna Deshpande (Aged 89), also known as the Lion of Karnataka and Khadi Bhageeratha of Karnataka, was born on March 31, 1871 in Hudli, Belgaum, Karnataka, India. He was an Indian activist and leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule from Belgaum. He was the right-hand man of both Lokamanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi in succession. In 1905, Freedom fighters Govindrao Yalgi and Gangadhar Rao Deshpande first planned to host a Ganesha festival as a public event for the cause of uniting people of all faiths to fight against the British.
In 1916, Deshpande invited Mohandas Gandhi to a political conference at Belgaum so that Gandhi could meet Lokamanya Tilak. Deshpande supported the Non-Cooperation Movement and hosted the Belgaum Congress Session of 1924, over which Mahatma Gandhi presided. This was the only session chaired by Gandhi, and his address covered Khadi spinning and the Non-Cooperation Movement. Around 70,000 people attended the session, including freedom fighters Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sarojini Naidu, Motilal Nehru, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Annie Besant, Shaukat Ali, and R H Kulkarni. Deshpande kept accounts, and the expenditure of the session was Rs 2,20,829 and five annas and six paise.
Deshpande started a khadi unit at Kumari ashram near Hudali, the first khadi unit in Karnataka. He went from village to village to create awareness about the khadi movement. This work was later continued by Pundalikji Katagade. When Gandhi broke the Salt Act at Dandi and started the Salt Satyagraha Movement, Deshpande defied the law by selling contraband salt and was arrested on the same day.
In 1937, Gandhi visited Hudali on the invitation of Deshpande to attend the Gandhi Seva Sammelana (Conference) and stayed for seven days. Other leaders present in the conference were Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Rajendra Prasad, Abdul Gaffar Khan, Mahadev Desai, Kasturba, along with 10,000 delegates. Deshpande passed away on July 30, 1960 in Karnataka, India.