Rediff Logo freedom BANNER ADS Find/Feedback/Site Index


'In the south too, people started
manufacturing salt on the beach'

Will you tell us something about the struggle that the people of your generation had to undergo in order to win freedom for India?

The freedom struggle started during the last century. But it became much more active when Mahatma Gandhi entered the freedom movement. He became the leader of the Indian National Congress. Till then, it was in the hands of the liberals who only passed resolutions.

Tilak also gave a positive turn to the struggle, but it was Mahatma Gandhi who converted it into a mass movement. He had an unusual weapon called satyagraha with which he wanted to fight the British. It was a completely unique method of confrontation with the government. You suffer, but you don't hurt the enemy.

The satyagraha movement took a much more positive turn with the salt satyagraha in 1930. I had the privilege of participating in the freedom movement in the year 1932 and I was imprisoned for 10 months.

The struggle became much more intensive during the war (world war II). We had moved on to the phase of individual satyagraha, in which I participated. Above all, we had the Quit India movement which began on August 9, 1942. I participated in that movement also.

Because of Mahatma Gandhi, there arose an awakening in the masses; he was so clear that he would not tolerate foreign rule and that we would have swaraj. As a result, the British found it difficult to rule India; it was no longer economically advantageous for them to do so with such a mass awakening. That was how India was gained her freedom.

We have only read about the salt satyagraha and the Quit India movement. Will you share some of your personal experiences with us?

The Quit India movement began when the second world war was at its peak. India was involved in the war without her consent since the British government took the decision that India also would (fight).

It was in protest against this decision that we decided that we would not help them, that we would stay away from the war. Of course, with the armed force available with the British, they were able to put down the movement to a certain extent. But they could not control the thoughts of the people. We insisted that we would not co-operate and that we wanted our freedom.

The Quit India movement was the awakening of the nation against participation in the war without our consent. We also said that, if we were given freedom, we were prepared to co-operate as a free country. But they were not willing to do so at that time. Churchill was the prime minister of England then. He was thinking in terms of the British empire continuing for ever. But that empire collapsed in 1947. After that, all the other colonies also became free.

Can you tell us about your personal experiences during the struggle?

It was 1932. I was fresh from college. I had picketed a toddy shop auction and was arrested and put in prison. In prison, we had more physical freedom as compared to other prisoners since we were under group imprisonment. All of us were kept together in a huge compound where there were sheds. We used to be locked into our cells only at night. Otherwise, we were free to move about in the compound.

We had discussions, study groups, etc, during the day. We used to discuss economics, politics, social matters, etc, depending on the inclination of each individual. There were persons who were learning music from others. I was taking lessons in yoga because there was a yoga expert present there in prison. Multifarious activities took place there.

I was in an A-class cell. So they used to give us rations and we used to have it cooked. We had other ordinary prisoners helping us cook. We were also given censored newspapers where most of the political news would be blacked out. When I was in the Vellore jail, many of the leaders were also there. I had the opportunity to become acquainted with them for the first time.

What motivated you to join the Congress and the freedom struggle?

Patriotism. The spirit of patriotism was instilled in the minds of the people by the leaders, particularly by Mahatma Gandhi.

What do you remember about the salt satyagraha and the impact it had in the south?

Salt is commonly used, everyone requires it. Mahatma Gandhi started the salt satyagraha because he felt that a commodity like salt, which was used by everyone, should also be freely accessed by everyone. It was symbolic gesture more than anything else. In the south too, people started manufacturing salt on the beach. Then the police lathi-charged the people and many of our leaders were put in prison.

Back Continued