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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 leaders.

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 enthusiasm.

''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 India movement.

''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.