Independence Day | Karnataka

Vidurashwatha firing changed course of freedom struggle in Mysore

A cenotaph at Vidurashwatha in memory of the martyrs.

A cenotaph at Vidurashwatha in memory of the martyrs. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Vidurashwatha witnessed a ghastly “massacre” — as described by eyewitnesses — of 32 freedom fighters in police firing for trying to hoist the tricolour on April 25, 1938. This was also one of the rare instances when the Congress-led freedom movement was violently suppressed in the Mysore kingdom under the rule of Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV and Sir Mirza Ismail as the Diwan. Vidurashwatha subsequently came to be known as the Jallianwala Bagh of South India.

Following the 1938 Haripura Congress convention’s resolution, Mysore Pradesh Congress was established and its talks with the Mysore administration broke down with Mirza Ismail rejecting their demands to establish a Javabdari Sarkara (responsible government) and allow the hoisting of the tricolour across the State. To protest this, the Congress held a convention at Shivapura in Mandya district in the second week of April 1938. Then Deputy Commissioner Inayatullah Mehkri reportedly refused to open fire at the peaceful convention for breaking prohibitory orders and was transferred out. The Shivapura convention saw several leaders hoist the tricolour and get arrested. The convention was followed by similar programmes to hoist the tricolour across the State.

Congress leaders of Gauribidanur decided to hoist the tricolour at Vidurashwatha during the annual rathotsava and cattle fair that year from April 15 to 29 to gain more traction. However, the Amaldar Magistrate of Gauribidanur imposed prohibitory orders and all Congress leaders who were trying to organise the flag day were arrested from April 18. Two leaders who led large processions towards Vidurashwatha — Ramaiah Setty and Jvalaiah — were arrested on April 23, leading to large-scale protests and mobilisation which converged at Vidurashwatha on April 25. Amid heavy police deployment, local leaders Sooranna, Narayana Swamy, Srinivasarao, and K. Subbarao hoisted the tricolour and were arrested, making the crowds agitated.

The magistrate ordered a lathi-charge on the crowd when they retaliated with stone-pelting. District Superintendent of Police A.S. Khalil fired at the crowd with his service revolver and soon the firing began — a total of 96 rounds — killing 32 people, recounted an official account of the event published by the Archeology, Museum and Heritage Department, Government of Karnataka. However, then Mysore government disputed the number of deaths and recorded it to be only 10.

Mirza–Patel pact

Following the ghastly “massacre”, Mahatma Gandhi sent Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Acharya Kripalani to Mysore and this led to Mirza–Patel pact, in which the Mysore government accepted the demand to hoist the tricolour across the State along with the Mysore flag, recognised the Congress as a political party, among other demands. The second convention of Mysore Congress was held in Vidurashwatha in 1939.

Today, a memorial for the 32 people killed in the shooting stands at Vidurashwatha. A gallery, Veera Soudha, depicting the entire sweep of the history of freedom struggle was installed at the venue in 2009. The gallery, which is a symbol of freedom struggle, recently became a site of ideological contest, as it came under attack by Hindutva groups who took objection to some exhibits at the gallery. Hindutva groups allegedly threatened to burn down the gallery if seven exhibits — two on Mahatma Gandhi’s murder, one on Hindu communalism, two on Tipu Sultan, an exhibit about a young Muslim boy facing sedition in Hyderabad, and another exhibit on Adivasi struggles — were not removed and an exhibit hailing the contribution of V.D. Savarkar was not added. However, no changes have been made at the gallery.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 9:41:44 pm |