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Gorta – where ‘offence’ of hoisting flag led to a massacre

The project to build a memorial for the people who were killed in Razakars’ attack and install a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at Gorta village in Basavakalyan taluk of Bidar district has remained incomplete.

The project to build a memorial for the people who were killed in Razakars’ attack and install a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at Gorta village in Basavakalyan taluk of Bidar district has remained incomplete. | Photo Credit: KUMAR BURADIKATTI

The tricolour was officially hoisted across the subcontinent to celebrate Independence on August 15, 1947. However, the act continued to be an offence in some areas in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Telangana that were part of the Princely State of Hyderabad. For, Mir Osman Ali Khan, then Nizam, had refused to integrate his State with the newborn country. So, thousands in these areas continued their fight, while the rest of the country celebrated Independence.

Tricolour hoisted

As part of this struggle, a few people led by Baurao Patil, associated with Dayananda Saraswati’s Arya Samaj, hoisted the tricolour at his village Honnalli and neighbouring Halagorta in Bidar district. To punish those involved, the Nizam’s police, along with Isamuddin, the local leader of Razakars (a private armed militia formed and led by Kasim Razvi, which was independent of the Nizam government but stood firmly in support of it) came to Honnalli to arrest Patil and others but could not find them. The Razakars then ransacked Patil’s house.

Sahukar Mahadevappa Dumani’s house at Gorta village in Basavakalyan taluk of Bidar district protected many people from the attack of Razakars on May 9, 1948.

Sahukar Mahadevappa Dumani’s house at Gorta village in Basavakalyan taluk of Bidar district protected many people from the attack of Razakars on May 9, 1948. | Photo Credit: KUMAR BURADIKATTI

Within a few days, Patil and his associates retaliated, targeting Isamuddin, who was based in neighbouring Gorta village and serving as the local commander of Razakars in around eight villages. The team ambushed Isamuddin and killed him near Dhannur–Muchalamba area when he was travelling back from Basavakalyan to Gorta.

The Razakars suspected that Patil was tipped off about Isamuddin’s travel by the people of Gorta and decided to retaliate by targeting the villagers. Suspecting attack, some people had left Gorta and others had begun preparation for self-defence. The house of Sahukar Mahadevappa Dumani was the centre of counter-Razakars activities in the village. Mahadevappa himself had left for Solapur soon after the murder of Isamuddin, leaving behind his servants who were armed with guns at the house.

The day of attack

On May 9, 1948, armed forces of Razakars who were mobilised from around a dozen villages attacked Gorta from all sides. Upon hearing the gunshots, hundreds of people rushed to Mahadevappa’s house and locked themselves inside. The massive house, built with heavy stone blocks, was no less than a fort. Those who were outside the house had to face the wrath of advancing Razakars. Many villagers, including the village heads, were killed in the attack and counter-attack. The clash began at about 9 a.m. and went on till the sunset.

Unable to prevail over the fighters at Mahadevappa’s house in the gunfight, the Razakars retreated from the village in the evening. When they returned with reinforcement the next morning, the entire village was deserted. All the people, including those in Mahadevappa’s house, had fled. Most had crossed the borders of Hyderabad State and taken shelter at Solapur, Washim, and Pune. They returned only after the princely State was annexed by India.

While there is no clear picture of the number of people killed, it is estimated to be around 200 by K.M. Munshi, Agent-General of Government of India in Hyderabad, in his book, The End of an Era – Hyderabad Memoirs. Virupakshayya Shivalingayya Matapathi, a drama and music teacher of Gorta, who was a witness to the clash, listed 20 people and described the sequence of events in his book published in 2014. Acharya Khanderao Kulkarni, in his book, has said that at least 50 people were killed.

Living memory

Jarnatappa Dhulappa Rajeshware, one of the few survivors of Razakars’ attack on Gorta village in Basavakalyan taluk of Bidar district on May 9, 1948.

Jarnatappa Dhulappa Rajeshware, one of the few survivors of Razakars’ attack on Gorta village in Basavakalyan taluk of Bidar district on May 9, 1948. | Photo Credit: KUMAR BURADIKATTI

Speaking to The Hindu at his house at Gorta, Jarnatappa Dhulappa Rajeshware, an 85-year-old survivor of the attack, recalled the incident, complete with names, and said that the casualties were from both sides. “Hundreds of people were killed in the attack and counter-attack on both sides. We have, at the local panchayat, displayed the names of only 20 victims who belonged to Lingayats and Brahmin communities,” Mr. Rajeshware said. The project of building a memorial in the village for those killed in Razakars' attack has remained incomplete.


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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 1:54:12 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/gorta-where-offence-of-hoisting-flag-led-to-a-massacre/article65764957.ece