Looking back at India’s freedom struggle with centenarian H S Doreswamy
Bengaluru, Aug 13: A room filled with scattered newspapers on chairs, souvenirs. A telephone next to his bed which doesn't stop ringing throughout the day. Moreover, he is not averse to answering calls on scheduling appointments or giving directions to visitors to reach his home. Most interestingly, a home with doors opened. Visitors don't have to knock on the door to meet this man.
We are talking about freedom fighter HS Doreswamy who turned 100 on 10 April 2018. His personal anecdotes narrate the history of the nation and his home state. The centenarian says his concern for the society keeps him going. He has seen India through its various ups and downs over the past nine decades and has been actively raising political and social causes.
Doreswamy was born in Harohalli village (near Kanakapur), his grandfather was a nominated member of Praja Pratinidhi Sabha. Doreswamy's elder brother HS Sitaram was also a freedom fighter who later became Mayor of Bangalore.
Initiation into freedom struggle:
"During school days I was inspired by eloquent speakers Pattabhi Sitaramaiah, Acharya Kripalani. Mahatma Gandhi had been to Bangalore many a time," recalled Doreswamy.
'My early life', book by Mahatma Gandhi played a pivotal role in his life. "A social worker should voluntarily embrace poverty," that means to be an activist we should embrace poverty, but I did not understand the significance of his words. After I decided to be active in public life I realised what Gandhi wanted to convey," he said.
Also, a public gathering at Banappa Park in 1937 inspired him in which the senior leader of Congress KF Nariman was invited. He was arrested by policemen and the entire crowd went berserk and protested the high-handedness of the British. Police lathi-charged the gathering and injured several people.
Why was I arrested?
All started with labourers movement in the city. Around 14, 000 labourers led by ND Shankar closed Minerva, Raja and Binny mills for 14 days.
In the meantime, I used to supply time-bombs to workers in other districts. These bombs were not harmful to cause loss of human life. Freedom fighters used to throw bombs in postboxes in front of courts and government offices to destroy official correspondences. The flame from the blast used to burn papers.
Doreswamy said, "Then, I was a young man didn't bother violence and non-violence. I just believed in 'Do or die'."
One Buddha Das use to prepare time-bombs at his farm. I supplied a bagful of bombs to my friend Ramachandran in Tumkur. The police followed him and arrested. After his arrest, the police surrounded my house at night. I realized I won't return home soon. They took me to the police station in Halasuru.
I told the arrested man, "Why did he give out my name. Now, they will interrogate me." He was beaten up by the police and to avoid further arrests of workers he misled the police during the investigation. Hence, they took me in preventive detention on suspicion in 1942 December."
Doreswamy was sent to Bengaluru Central Jail for 14 months. There were 500 freedom fighters were the jail.
Spent 14 months in Central jail:
One BT Ramaiah was the caterer in the Central Jail. However, he used to provide food prepared with low-quality ration infested with worms. "We skipped food for days. One day we locked up the kitchen and protested against the caterer.
"My mother was worried. My other two brothers were government servant in the British regime. They didn't come to see me in jail because they were scared of police and losing their job," added Doreswamy. The jail was like a university for me. I played volleyball with inmates, discussed national issues.
Was Doreswamy not a Gandhian?
I was a young man desperate for freedom. Then I wasn't bothered about violence and non-violence. But I did not take extreme steps for the cause. I remember RR Diwakar, the founder of Kannada Daily and Karmaveer magazine, who was underground during the freedom movement. But Gandhiji did not encourage secret movement. He told Diwakar to surrender to the police immediately.
After release being released from the jail, I studied Gandhiji's books and joined the Congress. I' m Gandhian since then.
Earned Rs 30 per month:
In 1947, Doreswamy settled down in Mysore. He opened bookshop Sahitya Mandir to be free and independent in life. I used to earn Rs 30 per month", said Doreswamy with a smile on his face. Also, a weekly Kannada newspaper 'Poura Vaani' in circulation in Bengaluru. "
Unfortunately, the Editor of the paper passed away and he had to take over editorship. The paper was under scrutiny by the Mysore government. As part of the Mysore Chalo Andolan in 1947, the paper published series of articles targeting the then government of the Mysore state. The newspaper was confiscated as we refused to bow to government diktats.
Then, I went to Hindupur to ensure that the newspaper is published from there. "I registered the paper under different names in case the paper was banned. The paper was necessary for the Unification of Karnataka," he said.
Unification of Karnataka:
After Independence Doreswamy was involved himself in 'Mysore Chalo' campaign aimed at Unification of Karnataka. A delegation of youths including Harnalli Ramaswamy, KM Rudrappa Aradhya and myself went to Delhi and stayed in Nijalingappa's residence.
We met then Home Minister Sardar Patel. He asked, " Where are you from? What do you want?."
"We are from Mysore State. We want Unification of Karnataka," we answered.
"You want Unification of Karnataka, then go and remove your Maharaja." Sardar Patel replied.
Doreswamy asked, " Shall we take it as your message?"
"Yes. Do so.'' Patel replied instantly.
As soon as he returned to Bangalore, Doreswamy issued a press statement, saying, "On behalf of citizens, I request Maharaja to step down from the throne for the unification of the state".
Though Kengal Hanumanthaiah was Vokkaliga, he was for unification. The movement in Mysore State got the momentum, after the death of Potte Sriramulu who was demanding the unification of Andhra Pradesh.