Making Space For Freedom-Sites of Significance

The most significant moment for us as Indians is being celebrated today. As flags get hoisted around the country, I sit here in Bengaluru thinking about the significance of freedom and the various things it means to us, including the ability to make choices for ourselves and the opening of minds to new possibilities.

IMG_4462

The built heritage of Bengaluru city has proudly facilitated many such turning points in its relatively young history. It has also supported prominent people who were associated with these places and defining moments. City dwellers in Bengaluru swell with pride as they narrate stories about lady family members who chopped down palm trees while protesting against toddy sales during the Forest Movement, relatives who cut telephone and telegraph wires and played prominent roles during our fight for freedom. While many anecdotes continue to be handed down as private family histories, some of these places are visible to the public eye. Perhaps this is an appropriate time to point out a few.

The earliest known disturbance in this regard after the Battle for Bangalore (1791) during the Third Anglo-Mysore War was the 1832 Bangalore Mutiny at the Bengaluru Oval Fort off KR Road. Court martial records say the mutineers (native sepoys) faced a musket firing squad or were tied to the mouths of cannons and blown to pieces in full view of the Pete for plotting to rid the fort and Cantonment of British military presence.

The Central Jail (now Freedom Park) built nearby in the late 19th century was where many freedom fighters and activists were held thereafter, including Sri T.Mariyappa in 1942-1943.The famous Banappa Park near Hudson Circle is where protests and rallies (including a public speech by Gandhiji) have been organised for decades now. People still gather there when collective action is required.

The Kannada Sahitya Parishad in Chamarajpet was established in 1915 under the auspices of noted writer-political leader Sri Alur Venkata Rao whose efforts also resulted in the founding of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. AV Road here retains his memory while elsewhere urban Bengaluru remembers leaders Sri Kengal Hanumanthaiah, KT Bashyam and T Siddalingaiah at KH Road, Bashyam Circle and Siddalingaiah Circle respectively.

In 1921, people of all communities gathered at the Idgah Maidan in Benson Town during the Khilfat Movement to hear speeches by national leader Maulana Mohammed Ali, in the presence of Gandhiji,  Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Maulana Shaukat Ali. Following this, the Non Co-operation Movement saw businessman Khilafatwale Hajee Osman Sait burn his foreign made merchandise at his family owned India Garage on St.Mark’s Road, while shopkeepers on Commercial Street did the same at maidans in Blackpalli (Shivajinagar) and the Muslim Orphanage on Dickenson Road where now forgotten editor-writer poet Mahmood Khan Bengaloori wrote his powerful pro-freedom poems.

City stations including Yeshwanthpur and locations like the Kumarakrupa Guesthouse received Gandhiji on his multiple visits to the city while city ladies at Mahila Seva Samaja in Basavanagudi and the MEWS Ladies Club, Malleswaram reportedly offered him their Sreedhan ornaments during his fundraising efforts.

Subhashnagar, VV Puram and Basavanagudi then made space for the `Mysore Chalo’ movement advocating responsible government in 1947 while heritage newspaper offices across the city supported many voices who spoke up for freedom and civil liberties; including writer-freedom fighters Sri M.N. Jois and Sri H.S. Doreswamy. Institutions like Central College and National High School amongst others, saw many prominent personalities including Sri H. Narasimhaiah stimulate young minds to dream of a new India. This list, as I mentioned, is not exhaustive. The city has so many more stories hidden in its corners, on road signs, at circles and within institutions. So perhaps today is a good day for honouring city people and places, both known and unknown, for their contributions, both big and small, that opened our lives up to new possibilities.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

This story was originally published in the Bangalore Mirror on 15th August 2016.Read it here.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: