The Indian informer in the British police
Macaulay may have modelled an education system for British India
which ensured subordinate posts for educated Indians, but
the system also proved to be the womb where many revolutionaries were born.
One such person was K V Upadhye, a typist for the British police,
though he was taught to say ''long live the king'', he could not keep
away from the revolutionary zeal of the age.
87-year-old Upadhye recalls how he used
to tip off freedom fighters about key police decisions
and impending arrests.
''I would pilfer an extra carbon copy of all orders typed,
shamelessly eavesdrop on officers's conversations and
then tip off the
underground workers,'' reveals Upadhye.
Speaking about the heady days of 1942, he said though the Quit
India resolution was passed on August 8 and was described by Gandhiji
as the last fight for India's freedom, details of the
programme were not specified. Congress workers had to
take independent decisions after the arrest of their
When news spread about Gandhiji's plan to read the Quit
India resolution at the All India Congress Committee meeting
at Gowalia tank in Bombay, the city erupted in a wave of
''I came to know that the government was going to arrest all
national leaders, so I rushed to the venue of the meeting. Achyut Patwardhan, R R Diwakar, D P Karmarkar, R S Hekerikar and
M P Patil believed me and escaped arrest by going underground.
Others were not lucky,'' he reminisces.
Upadhye joined the Independence movement in 1921 as an
eleven-year-old. He remembers how Gandhiji fondly
patted his back at the Belgaum meeting in 1924. '"Though I was originally
inspired by Lokmanya Tilak's slogan, Swaraj mera janma siddha
adhikar hai (freedom is my birthright), it was only during the Quit
India movement that I finally made the big plunge.
Top leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were
arrested on the intervening night of August 8-9. ''Everyone
asked who would now lead the movement? What is the Congress
programme? The Quit India movement was like a bird without wings,'' says Upadhye.
However, there emerged an underground network that achieved much
success in sabotaging British systems. Even an underground radio
station began functioning. ''The Quit India movement would have fallen
flat on its face had it not been for this very effective underground network that
worked till the release of Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru and other
leaders," he claims.
Upadhye went about coordinating sabotage
activities in North Karnataka and Maharashtra without giving the slightest
hint that he was a Congress mole in
the British police. "We made a plan of
action,'' he says which was appreciated by underground leaders like
Jayprakash Narayan and Achyut Patwardhan.
''Along with with B D Jatti and others I set up the underground
centre in Jamkhandi.'' The operatives of this centre burnt down the
Sulebhavi-Suldhal railway station near Belgaum even though it was
guarded round-the-clock by the railway police.
''Gandhiiji acknowledged the good work being done by
the patriots in Karnataka in a letter to Diwakarji in 1943. When all was
quiet in other parts, Karnataka kept the flame of nationalism
aflame,'' says Upadhye.
Upadhye, had earlier failed his matriculation exams by three
marks. He spent 13 days in jail and says it was his British
uniform that saved him from doubt on many occasions during the Quit
''I had a close call once when I went to meet an arrested
underground activist in jail. I would have been shot had
they discovered I was passing on information to them or
coordinating their activities,'' reveals the veteran.
Now shrivelled with age, Upadhye continues to chart a course as
Independent as the spirit of freedom. His sons could not complete
college because he did not have the money to pay for their fees.
He could have utilised his 'freedom fighter's position' but
he refused. In 1972, the Karnataka government honoured him with a 'Tamra
Patra'', but he refused to accept it. ''I do not want to
encash my patriotism,'' he clarified.
''I only want to speak on the occasion of the golden jubilee year
of Independence and have written accordingly to Prime Minister
Inder Kumar Gujral,'' he says.