India fought a long drawn battle with the British and became an independent nation on the stroke of the midnight hour of August 15th, 1947. Even as the new India aims to reach the stars, what does this freedom mean for those who toiled for it? And has India truly learned anything from its freedom struggle? Two freedom fighters provided their perspective of the ‘New India’ to Swetha Gowda.
H S Doreswamy was a school teacher during the Quit India Movement. While the freedom fighter fought hard against the British, the freedom fighter reveals that he is disappointed with the current generation of Indian leaders and the way the country has evolved.
What was your role in the freedom movement?
During 1942, I was working as a school teacher in Gandhi Nagar High School and that’s when the Quit India Movement started. My brother and I were approached by Sardar Unatrao Ramachandra who was the then minister. They came to us and told that they want to go underground and they wanted us to support them. We were trying to approach labourers from different industries to help us with the movement. We went on an indefinite shutting of mills in Bengaluru such as Binny Mills, Raja Mills and Minerva Mills. We were efficient enough to close the mills for 14 successful days. Following our strike, factories in Mysuru also started shutting down and this enraged the British but after a few days, we got arrested and stayed in jail for 14 months.
What motivated you to actively participate in the movement?
Congress helped our country gain independence. Gandhiji followed Passive Resistance but the British knew only torture. So, Gandhiji started using Satya and Ahimsa as a weapon against the British who were startled by his move. I followed the same motto. We were ready to give our blood but ensured that we did not shed blood.
Who were the leaders that inspired you?
When we were students, we were inspired by several Indian leaders. Also, Gandhiji’s books, his newspapers, were an inspiration. People who laid down their life for independence also inspired us further to participate in the freedom movement.
What was the type of independence that you envisioned for the country? Do you think India has achieved that?
The main aim of independence was to abolish poverty. In the last 70 years of Independence, what we fought for, has gone for a toss. Gandhiji’s main aim was to abolish poverty and ban alcohol but both of these have not been achieved till today. Poor are still poor and the rich are getting richer. What is the point of achieving independence?
Do you think independence has given India citizens the freedom that they fought for?
We have definitely achieved political freedom, but not economic or social freedom. The Government should start thinking about people and start fighting for their rights and not use power for their own personal benefits. Only 10% of the people in this country are enjoying the freedom and the remaining 90% are deprived of their rights.
India’s independence came with the heavy cost of partition and bloodshed caused by it. The country got divided on the grounds of religion. Do you think the seeds of division are still crippling society?
BJP and RSS are trying to build a Hindutva nation, where everybody should be called Hindus. In India the situation is such that Hindu has become a tool. Fanatic Hindus are against other Hindus. For 2000 years, there have been many who have co-existed in India like the Parsis, Muslims, Hindus and many more. Why should we impose all these kind of rules on those people who have been living in our country for centuries? We should not impose Hindutva on all these people. Everyone is a citizen of this country, there will definitely be bloodshed. Hindutva, that RSS and Modi are propagating is different from what Vivekananda, Ramakrishan Paramahamsa propagated. There should be no discrimination regardless of anything.
Harohalli Srinivasaiah Doreswamy (born 10 April 1918 at Harohalli, Mysore State, British Indian Empire to Parent(s) Srinivasa Iyer (Father), Padmavathamma (Mother) is an Indian activist and journalist. He turned 100 in April 2018. His other names: HiriyaSwathantraHoratagaara. His Alma Mater: Central College, Bengaluru.
He is known for his involvement and commitment to the Indian independence movement, Ahimsa, 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement.
Doreswamy, known as H. S. Doreswamy, was raised by his grandfather after the death of his father, Srinivasa Iyer, who died when he was five years old.
After completing his primary school education, he came to Bengaluru. The book “My Early Life” by Mahatma Gandhi influenced him to join the Indian Freedom Movement.
Entry to Freedom Movement
By 1942, he had completed his B.Sc and had joined a college as a lecturer. In August, the Quit India freedom movement started, where students participated in large numbers. He along with his brother H S Seetharam, SardarVenkataramaiah and A G Ramachandra Rao planned moving together against the British. H. S. Seetharam later become a mayor of Bengaluru. They were involved in making Time Bombs, which were used to damage government documents.
When he was jailed for the first time for 14 months, he decided to follow Gandhi’s ideals of non-violence and Satyagraha. He established a book store and publishing depot, where literary figures like R. K. Narayan and K.S. Narasimhaswamy were frequent visitors. It served as a cultural centre in those days.
Protests against land grabbing
In 2014, Doreswamy spearheaded the anti-land grabbing protests in Bengaluru with the help of AAP, A.T. Ramaswamy who was part of the Joint Legislature Committee on Encroachment in Bengaluru Urban District and many other activists. Eminent citizens including Justice Santosh Hedge lent support. The main location of protest was at the Bengaluru townhall.
If you had to give a message to free India, what would it be?
My message is that all the people living in the country regardless of their religion or sex should live in harmony. People should stop fighting in the name of religion. I have seen a lot of progress in the field of education, support for SC/ST. Many things have changed except one, the poor still remain poor and the rich are growing rich. Jawaharlal Nehru had once said, ‘Industrialise or Perish’, in fact now the situation is such that everything has perished. There are no employment opportunities. Technology has grown so much that one machine will do the work of 10 people then how will everyone be given a job. Obviously, they are still a lot of changes that need to be done. I have myself been a part of many strikes, even today I take part in strikes when people reach out to me. We all are Hindus, but before that we all are Indians.
Narahari Ramachandra Rao Mathad, President of All India freedom Fighter’s Committee in New Delhi seems just as disillusioned as H S Doreswamy. Here’s what he said about his contribution to the freedom movement and current country scenario.
What is your contribution towards the freedom movement?
When Gandhiji, started the Quit India Movement I was in Delhi and I had heard his slogan ‘Do or Die’ in the year 1942. I joined the Quit India movement in the same year. Gavaliya tank in New Delhi was the place where the ‘Do or Die’ march took place. After attending that march I came down to my hometown that is Paschapura village in Belgaum district. My brother M R Mathad and I together started a procession. Later a Sub-Inspector along with the police officers came to the place where the procession was going on and arrested me. When I resisted they forcefully dragged me and took me to the station.
Our leader HannGuruji was staying with 35 other people who were wanted by the police. Later, my brother and I joined the group. For almost 6 months, we were underground and tried to hide in the corn farms during the day and on the river basin at night times. We were covering ourselves in jute bags to protect ourselves from police, whenever they were out on search.
The police had announced a reward of Rs.5000 for the person who would inform them about HaanGuruji’s whereabouts or help the police to catch him. During that 6-month period we used to destroy government property, we used to burn down government vehicles and burn down government bungalows but the best part about this is, until we reach the spot we would not know what we were going to destroy, because HaanGuruji was very scared of leakage of information. He used to be very secretive about his plans.
I think in November 1943, we burned down the police camp that was set up near Gujnal. HaanGuruji, used to assign one job to every member, for example, one person had to safeguard the place, one person had to tie the police officer up, few people would pour kerosene all over the place, few people had to start the fire. We all used to follow HaanGuruji’s instruction. We used to burn down places but never killed people. We used to tie them up, burn down the place and escape. Then 6 months later, the corn farm had to be cut so we started hiding in houses.
But one fine day we did get caught, Jainapur police Sub Inspector along with Kalur Sub Inspector came and arrested us. We were taken to Fort Jail Killa. Our 35-member group were locked up in a 15/15 Sq Ft space room where there was no toilet, no space to even sleep. No water, we did not take bath for almost two months and we started getting infected. They used to give us very bad food, two rotis and sambar.
If we had to go to the loo they would tie us up with ropes. One person Shivalinga who was in that gang tried to escape when they took us out and the police shot him on his leg, but he survived. We were tortured in a way that nobody can imagine. Shock treatments, beating with hot metal rods, trying to keep a rod in between our fingers and twisting them, we just can’t explain the amount of pain we had gone through. They used to keep us naked only with our undergarment on and hit with the back of slipper all over our body.
How did your family contribute to the freedom movement?
My entire family has been to jail at least once. My elder brother was in jail for five years. His wife was in jail for 14 months along with her one-month-old child.
Who were the leaders who inspired you?
AnnuGuruji, VamanraoBidri, AppannaPatil, SrirangKamat were the leaders who inspired us. All these leaders started inspiring youngsters and that is what inspired me to join this rally so I started working with them. We used to wait three days for a paper to reach us. That paper was Gandhiji’s words, one person used to read and all of us used to surround him to listen to what Gandhiji had to say. RudrobalajiDeshpande had a secret place in his pooja room where most of us used to hide and this inspired us too. There were so many firm followers of Gandhiji, if Gandhiji wore a dhoti even they would wear a dhoti. There were no schools, no teachers.
What was the type of independence that you envisioned for the country? Do you think India has achieved that?
There was dignity before, now there is no dignity. There was discipline and love for nation before and now there is nothing. When we got independence we were around 33,000 crore people including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Educated people started the rally. Before people used to fight together but now we don’t have that. Nobody is scared of anything; everybody does mistake without any fear. I don’t think we will be able to save the independence that we got because of the chaos that is happening these days. For their own benefit people are ready to go any extent and I’m ashamed to say that we fought for independence of these people. Votes are being purchased indirectly. Politicians are doing nothing for the poor and the needy. Do you think they can be like Gandhiji who sacrificed his life for the country?
What difference do you find before Independence and now?
Around 600 kingdoms were there, before and yet all the kings ruled India in a peaceful manner and what do we see now? Politicians are doing everything possible for their party and family, like Rahul Gandhi is for his party.
Like how we had kingdoms before now we have parties for that. Politicians are hiding money today in their rooms, pooja rooms. I stopped voting 20 years back.
What do you think could be your message for free India?
People who think about the nation and people who are educated should vote now because they are more mature. Government is not running properly, if it does then why would they say we are a poor country. We are not even able to safeguard our own children. So many people sacrificed their life, do you think we deserve such a nation? A girl cannot go out safely today who do we blame?
I am really ashamed to talk about politics about our country. What Gandhi fought for has not been achieved at all. Today everyone has become an alcoholic because of which so many people are getting arrested. Before anybody is Hindu, Muslim or Christian, we are Indian. If we start spreading love and stop all this violence we can make India a great country. I am ashamed of the present running of government; we have sacrificed so much for our independence which is for nothing.
Swetha Gowda is a member of NewsCart – a Bengaluru based media start-up.