At the age of 19, Uppalike Badkilaya Ramarao, with many others like him in Mangalore made it their task not to let the Government of the day function in peace in the 1940s.
In response to Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement, many an inspired youth went about disconnecting the telegraph cables. “We gave them a lot of trouble,” recalls 86-year-old Ramarao, who resides with his son Raviraj Rao, an agriculturist at Mulky. Mr. Ramarao was felicitated by the Bharat Seva Dal in Mangalore on Friday to mark Gandhi Jayanti celebrations.
Mr. Ramarao was a “Junior B.A.” student of St. Aloysius College then and remembers that many people were highly motivated and tried to render the government dysfunctional. He was arrested and jailed in Bellary. He remembers that the next six months in the Allipur Jail were nothing less than hell. He and other inmates were made to sleep on uneven floor of a stable-converted-jail. They were made to sleep on sacks braving numerous bedbugs.
On his release, he went to the college to get re-admission to Junior B.A. The principal asked him to submit an apology letter to him for revolting against the State. Mr. Ramarao said he could not agree to it. “I told him that what I have done is correct”, and asked him to give re-admission without any such letter. The principal stuck to his stand. “Kaimugidu bandubitte,” (I saluted him and came away).
So he could not complete his degree course. When a gainful career was tough task, he was appointed as Chowki Inspector – a police official in-charge of Kundapur, Karkala and Udupi taluks. But the then District Collector, whose name he remembers as Kalimatulla, came to know that Mr. Ramarao had been jailed. As a result, the freedom fighter lost his job within six months of service.
Then onwards he lived the life of a farmer. Though his family had vast lands in different taluks, most of it was taken away when the Karnataka Government implemented the Land Reforms Act.
According to Mr. Raviraj Rao, his father did not fight for compensation as he was dejected with the corrupt administration. He said the financial condition of his father, who has nine children, improved only when he received the “Tamra Patra” – an award given to freedom fighters with a copper plate insignia – from the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and a handsome pension. The pension has gone up from the initial Rs. 3,000 a month to Rs. 10,000 a month now.
Mr. Ramarao regrets that Gandhian ideals are hardly followed these days and refuses to offer any suggestions. He remembers the Mahatma’s visit to the city when he was a schoolboy. He remembers he was very close to the dais from where Gandhiji addressed people at the Nehru Maidan (according to him, it was then called the Gandhi Maidan). Young Ramarao was impressed with a particular physical feature of Gandhiji: “His hands were so long, they came up to here,” he said touching his hands to his knees.
He remains untouched by the mobile mania. “Nanig yake mobile u?” (Why do I need a mobile phone?).