Sunday, 6 August 2017

The diary of a freedom fighter

The diary of a freedom fighter.

 I set the air condition to 18 C, turbo mode on, directed the air flow to my bed.
Refreshed after a steaming, hot water shower I crashed, face first on my crisply draped bed.
As the cool air performed its duty of drying me, I repositioned myself from prone to supine.
 A wet patch
Today I decided to start a new book.
 But this time, it wasn’t a bestseller by a famous author, or a critically acclaimed book by an unknown author, or a book suggested by my reader friends (who read one book a year, so it had to be good) or a book recommended by amazon for me.
Today, it was my grandfather’s diary, which my father had given me when I was 15 years old. The book dated back to the 1940s and it was a memoir of my grandfather’s time in pre-independent India.
After 10 years of procrastination, finally the faded black cover of the diary was staring at me.
I took a deep sniff of the approximately middle pages of the book. I did it before every new book.
The peculiar, ink printed page smell was replaced by a fresh aroma of long standing fungus.
I went back to the first page.

After a few blank pages, it read “24 August 1942”
The book was written in kannada. My grandfather served as the editor to one of the most influential independent newspapers in the state.
Throughout my childhood, I heard father telling stories of his bravery and his contributions to make India an independent democratic nation.
But the truth is it never inspired me all those stories.
I don’t believe it was because I am too young or immature to understand, but because I didn’t care about pre independent India. I didn’t experience it, I wasn’t a part of it, I just couldn’t relate how those hard times can influence my present.
So I never bothered to think of the sacrifices people like my grandfather made for me.
But reading would help me get a glimpse of the pre independent India and inside the mind of a freedom fighter.

“24 August 1942”

““The quit India movement has spread like wild fire across the nation, with people turning to violence to vent out their demands and in this process smoldering hundreds of post offices, public office and courts. Mohandas Gandhi was arrested the same day he launched the Quit India movement at the Bombay sessions high court with his team. All-important members of the Indian National Congress were arrested
I wasn’t able to comprehend the intensity of the situation. In just a few days after the Mahatma’s arrest, people across the country poured out their emotions to the British regime. Angrier than ever. We made it very clear that it was time for them leave after nearly 100 years of unjust command over us.
  My colleagues and I had planned to do the same on our town. We were ready to fight for a free Independent country where we, the people of India govern the people of India.
Our increasing violence over the past years reflected our frustrations and outrage against the British empire.
So a week earlier, Rizya Khan, a Muslim journalist, my close associate from the north of the state, had come to me with a proposal to stage a protest in front of the viceroy general’s office.
I readily agreed, so did my other counterparts.
We quickly spread word about the protest all over the town and set everything.
And today we were going to do it.
Early morning, Rizya, Gopalchand, Diwakar and me assembled at the port.
At least 10000 people had already gathered there with flags, banners and hoardings of Quit India.
Rizya, led the march to the office. Toady was a really proud day for all of us to be led by her. She was a true patriot of our country and a visionary. She not only fought for the independence but also the caste discrimination and women empowerment.  She was one of the few Muslim journalists who wrote and encouraged a cordial Hindu-Muslim community.
Watching a strong, independent woman lead the crowd, a deep sense of pride refueled my inner energy, building confidence and motive with each stride. She stood for all the right reasons and she believed in her principles.

More and more people poured into our protest as we reached the town hall intersection.
The viceroy general’s office was just opposite the intersection.
Rizya stepped ahead and raised her palm in the air signaling us to halt.
After I felt a few small shoves and pushes from the sides, we now with a strength 20000 stood in front of the viceroy’s general’s office.
Rizya , Gopalchnad, me weren’t expecting this kind of outcome but we were glad. The movement had finally ignited the spark inside us Indians.
 20000 protesters stood alongside each other completely packing the intersection of the four roads, waiting for further instructions from our Muslim leader, Rizya.
She slowly walked up a few meters, away from the crowd, focused on the gates of the viceroy’s office, guarded by Indian men. At least 100 Indian police with wooden lathis and shields provided by their employers and a few British on their horses, they never expected such large number to show up and passionately knock on their door. The British implementing the divide and rule policy wanted us to fight our own people while they watched us from the sidelines, kill each other.
Dive and rule has proven to be an effective plan. Otherwise how did a small island of foreigner’s rule over a land at least ten times bigger than them in size and more in terms of population. The British were always good at inducing internal conflicts in our country.
Such a sad sight it was, to see Indians fighting against their very own freedom.

Rizya held the loudspeaker close to her lips.
“Today we are here, not to cause any harm or any disruptions in the town. We do not want to hurt anyone. We are here simple asking for our basic rights.”
The press coverage was good, so most of the local and state papers were present.
Her speech would be reported in tomorrow’s papers.
“We, all of us, even you” signaling to the Indian men wearing British uniform “All of us have to let them know that we have tolerated their rule for 100 years now and it is time to leave our country peacefully. Mahatma Gandhiji has paved the way of nonviolence and satyagraha, for us to follow and that is what we are here for.”
Again signaling to the Indian police.
“All I can say is, you can join us, your brothers and sisters and help us in attaining freedom or you can serve the British and be treated as slaves forever”
It was a kind offer she was making, after all these years serving the wrong side, she was giving them a second chance, to do the right thing.
The Indian police in the front row, didn’t move a muscle, they firmly stood their ground, tightening their wrists around the lathis and shields, ready to obey the next command from their master. They were loyal servants.
The British had injected a freshly prepared dose of “divide and rule” into their systems.
They were totally brainwashed by the British and decided not to join us.
Rizya, sensing that her offer wasn’t appealing, now led the charge.
She turned to us and yelled at the top of her lungs “We will die fighting for the freedom of our countrymen and honor all the brave men who have laid down their lives in doing so.”
The ground below my feet reverberated as the 20000 Indians behind me roared in unison “Do or die”
I joined them the second time.
“Do or die” “Do or die” “Do or die” “Do or die” we marched forwards together.
Rizya in front leading the charge, holding a big banner of “Quit India” written in capitols, with paint dripping from the edges of the letters, using a thick paintbrush dipped in bucket of black paint.
We stopped at a distance from the guards, Rizya and me in front, standing at a higher ground than the rest.
An hour into the protest and still no signs of the viceroy’s general.
I turned back to see how the rest of them were doing. and I was happy to see them still going strong.
A sea of people fighting for their brothers and sisters.
Out of nowhere, I could see the rectangular crowd getting split up into small squares and triangles.
The viceroys had immediately called for reinforcements and they were here. Now they had their numbers and weapons and they attacked us with lathis and shields.
They were smart enough to wait us out till they have the numbers.
There was chaos everywhere, some retaliated back, but some were too weak. They took heavy blows and crumpled to the ground, leaving their fate to the almighty. They could die of the stampede, the injuries or they could even survive and live to fight another day, though the chances seemed meagre.
I felt a sharp pain sting my neck and radiate to the back of my head. I felt my legs weaken. It was a massive blow to my head.
I struggled to my knees and could see Rizya being dragged by the police, handcuffed behind her back.
Pink bruises across her forehead and chin, eyes half shut, semi-conscious.
That was the moment I witnessed true patriotism in action.
For Rizya, nothing in this world could take over the respect she has for her country. No religion conflict couldn’t change her views, the pathetic treatment women received in this country didn’t stop her from loving her country, and now even the brutal beatings wasn't enough.
I never saw her again after that. 
But I couldn’t let her down. Even though our protest was dismantled by the British brutally.
I couldn’t let Rizya down, I couldn’t let this fade away.
Being one of the few who survived it, I am going to make sure that we will be back again.
 We will fight back. We will take back what is ours.
We will fight for Rizya.””

I let my fingers run over my grandfather’s handwriting, hoping to get feel of his divine fingers.
I had not experienced even a word of what he went through in his life.
I know I can never be as great as my grandfather, but at least now I know why.

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