93-year-old Baji Mohammed of Nabrangpur district in Odisha is too frail to work. But, he still holds Gandhian principles close to the heart. Influenced by Gandhi's approach of non-violence in his school-days, he had made up his mind to meet him. And his dream was fulfilled when he met Gandhi at the age of 21 in 1941 at Wardha Ashram.
"I had no money but I had to see Gandhiji. So, I and one of my friends Lakshman Sahu took a cycle and covered some 350 km amidst thick forests and hilly terrain to reach Raipur in Chhatisgarh. From there we boarded a train for Wardha where I met Gandhiji, said Baji, a bachelor. I was overwhelmed after seeing him. Gandhiji asked me if I was a Satyagrahi. When I said I had pledged to be one, he asked me to face the British lathis and sacrifice my life for the nation. I knew what was waiting for me next," he added.
Seven days later Baji returned to Nabarangpur and he did what Gandhiji had told him. He performed individual Satyagraha in an anti-war protest outside the Nabrangpur Masjid. He was sent to jail for six months and fined Rs 50.
Gandhiji had asked me to propagate the slogan of non-violence among the masses. "I, along with a group of about 30 people walked to villages to spread Satyagraha and non-violence among people," Baji said.
On August 25, 1942 during the Quit India Movement, he was jailed for 30 months. In 1945, he was attacked and arrested at Soraguda during a peace march. Baji was injured in the violence and shifted to Cuttack jail, where he was housed along with Biju Patnaik. He was set free on August 12, 1947.
However, partition of the country on religious basis hurt Baji. "I was against the partition of the country, but it happened. I was very upset over the development as we had fought for the independence of a united India," he said.
In 1952 elections, many of his colleagues including the then chief minister Sadashiv Tripathy became MLAs but Baji believed in helping people in a different way."Gandhi's code was to serve mankind and I dont think we always need power and position for that, said Baji.