Vishwa Kundapura

Eminent freedom fighters have described the tragedy as the Jalianwala Bagh of Karnataka

KOLAR: As elsewhere in the country, the people of Kolar district did not remain aloof from the vortex of struggle to free the nation from the shackles of alien power. Peasants, workers, youth, students and other sections of society spiritedly took part in the movement and strengthened it.

Kolar district has a special place in the history of freedom struggle with Vidurashwath being an inseparable leaf in it.

The Vidurashwath tragedy was aptly described as the Jalianwala Bagh of Karnataka by eminent freedom fighters because of the cruelty perpetrated by the British police against innocent patriots.

It was on April 25, 1939 that the British police opened fired on a congregation at Vidurashwath, a village in Gowribidnur taluk.

The villagers, who had gathered for a jatra, hoisted the tricolour and raised nationalistic slogans.

This was the “crime” of those innocent villagers. Without provocation, the police took action against unarmed and peaceful people killing 10 of them. The tragedy was engraved as the Jalianwala Bagh of Karnataka.

The action of the colonial forces against the rural masses roused protest throughout the Mysore Province.

The wave of protest against this brutality was such that the Congress in its Arsikere conference adopted a resolution demanding a responsible government in the Mysore Province, says historian Sooryanath Kamath.

A look at the tumultuous days of the Quit India movement gives evidence about the patriotic fervour of the people of district and throws light on their activities.

Many from the district suffered at the hands of British rulers.

Eminent leaders of the district such as T. Ramachary, K. Pattabhiraman, B.L. Narayan, M. Doreswamy, M. Ramakrishnaiah, Sampangi Ramaiah and S.C. Nagaiah Reddy were arrested on August 11 for their part in the struggle.

During this period, the British Government banned three organisations associated with the Congress in the district.

The three organisations, Azad Youth League, KCR Youth League and Tilak Valiban Sangh, were based in Robertsonpet. One of the tall leaders of the freedom struggle in the State K.C. Reddy was arrested the next day, i.e., on August 12.

According to records, processions, public meetings and strikes were organised between August 12 and August 14 in various places of the district such as Malur, Gowribidnur, Chickballapur, Mulbagal, Chintamani and Siddlaghatta responding to the call given by Mahatma Gandhi.

Nearly 8,000 people took out a procession in Kolar on August 15. It was organised by P. Narayan Reddy. The main speaker of the day, G. Narayan Gowda, was arrested as soon as he finished his speech. T.K. Gangi Reddy and 12 others were arrested at Chintamani.

Working class

The working class of the district did not lag behind. It also contributed its mite for the cause. Gold mining at the Kolar Gold Fields was the only major industry in the region during that time. A labour organisation established by K.T. Bhashyam in 1926 spread its activities to Kolar Gold Fields also to garner support for the Congress among workers.

As Sooryanath Kamath has noted in his book, Quit India Movement in Karnataka, around 5,000 workers of the Champion Reef mines of Kolar Gold Fields went on a strike demanding war allowance.

Though it was an economic demand, it was aimed at embarrassing the British rulers. The struggle continued for a long time.

While treading the path of peaceful agitations, people did not hesitate to resort to subversive actions when the situation demanded it. They intended to send a message to the alien rulers by adopting this method of struggle.

Ramachandrappa, a retired head master, has, however, a grouse. He said, “Leave alone the younger generation, even the elders are bereft of moral values nowadays.” .

“Educational institutions and social organisations should strive to familiarise the students with the contribution of the people of the district to the freedom movement. They should also work to inculcate patriotism,” he added.

An effort towards this end has been made in the district. Deshapremi Janotsav, a people’s movement aimed at kindling the spirit of freedom struggle, is on in the district.