'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
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
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
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
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
Can you tell us about your personal experiences during
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
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.