Life During the Freedom Struggle


Three revolutionaries talk to RobinAge about hoisting the Indian tricolour for the first time on August 15, 1947


82 years 

"I was in class 5, studying in a school in Bhavnagar when Gandhiji declared the Quit India movement. On August 8, 1942, all the schools, colleges and shops were declared closed all over the country. Hadtals were declared and processions were carried out where we shouted anti-British slogans. This went on for six to seven months.

I was highly influenced by Gandhiji and his simplicity. I spun the charkha and wore khadi. We, my friends and I, would listen to the news broadcast on All India Radio and keep ourselves informed of all that was happening with the freedom movement. We would write messages on loose sheets of paper and distribute them as pamphlets to everyone in the bazaars. This helped inform people about what was happening because newspapers were banned most of the times.

I believed in the socialist ideology and was highly influenced by Jayaprakash Narayan who was a socialist. Jayaprakash Narayan frequently visited Podar College where I studied. There, he would discuss India's freedom struggle. He was a great leader and visionary. I once got the opportunity to interact with him and share some thoughts with him. I consider it as a unique opportunity and I will cherish this memory forever.

On the day of independence, the entire nation was overwhelmed. Everyone was on the streets. There was singing and dancing and everyone proudly hoisted the Indian tricolour. I was filled with joy, thrill and excitement. I was in Bombay on August 15 and along with my friends, I decided to walk on the streets as a free man for the first time ever.

 We boarded a tram from Matunga and travelled right up to Colaba. At that time, such a long trip cost only 8 annas. But as it was a big day for India, we could travel for free. All the trains, buses and trams provided free services that day. It was a moment that was imprinted in everyone's minds.

Pandit Nehru was indeed correct when he called our freedom a tryst with destiny. But attaining freedom was not easy. We lost several lives. People all around the nation unanimously worked towards the same goal and this collective effort helped us achieve freedom.

Balwantrai Sheth is the Vice President and Trustee of Shri Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal.


81 years 

"My participation in the freedom struggle started when I was only eight months old. My mother carried me in her arms and walked along with several others in the Dandi March.

I lived in Uttarsanda, a small village in Nadiyad district, Gujarat, where I spent most of my childhood. Once, my friends and I got to know that a train would be passing by our railway station while plying between Ahmedabad and Bombay. The train was full of British military officers. When the train arrived, we cut off all the telecommunication cables to disrupt communication from the train to the base. After this, the British police chased my companions and me. We were 21 of us. We managed to escape, but the matter did not end there. The police had issued arrest warrants against all of us and had declared us as absconders. To date, British records have me listed as an absconder!

After this episode, I came to Bombay and completed my schooling. But even while I pursued my education, I continued to participate in the freedom struggle. I read a lot of newspapers and kept myself well-informed. Newspapers like Janmbhoomi, Vande Mataram and Kesari were the famous newspapers available at that time.

Listening to Gandhiji and Sardar Vallabhai Patel's speeches was a great pleasure. Gandhiji was a very simple speaker and always kept his speeches to the point. His manner of addressing the crowd would reflect the politeness and simplicity in him and this touched every common man's heart. On the other hand, Sardar Patel's speeches were hard-hitting and mixed with humour. He was a sharp speaker and his speeches involved a lot of political content.

In January 1947, I left for London to pursue a degree in mechanical and electrical engineering. It was a great learning experience. In London too, I continued to participate in the freedom struggle and thought of different ideas to free India from British rule. I met Lord Pethick Lawrence to discuss my ideas on independence. He was amazed with my level of understanding and the ideas I generated. It was an unforgettable experience.

The news of the British leaving India broke out in the month of August that year. I was at Farady House College at that time. I was happy, thrilled and satisfied. I was filled with excitement and many new ideas. I celebrated the day of independence in London, where my journey for independence ended.

Dr Mohan Patel is the former Sheriff of Mumbai and owner of Patel Extrusion Group.


84 years 

"In the month of May in 1947, Lord Mountbatten addressed Indians at a public forum for the first time and presented the declaration of independence. He came out carrying a calendar in his hand, which marked the date of independence as August 15. It was a thrilling experience and everybody was full of expectations to live an independent life.

I have seen India change and grow. Independence Day brings happy as well as disappointing memories. We got independence at the cost of Partition and communal riots. Gandhiji had opposed the idea of Partition, but destiny had its own plans.

Several people had to move from Pakistan and India and start a new life just like my close friend, Hari Lalji Das. He was the proprietor of a wholesale market in Bombay, but decided not to move from his homeland, Pakistan. He lived there with his family but wore khadi and followed a Gandhian life till his last breath. He was a brave man.

I have always been a great admirer of Gandhiji and I was extremely shocked to hear of his death. It was really sad that Gandhiji was not provided any kind of security. According to me, the biggest tragedy India has seen is not Partition, but Gandhiji's death.

During the freedom struggle, I would read all the newspapers regularly. Newspapers in those days were very different from what we see today. They were completely authentic, promoted the truth and acted as a common man's voice and opinion. English newspapers were thoroughly criticised and most Indians did not read them. Papers like Kesari, Harijan Bandhu, Vande Mataram, Janmbhumi and Gujarat Samachar were the papers that gave you a true picture of what was happening in our country.

I raised the Indian flag for the first time in Bombay on the day of independence, August 15, 1947.

Ajit Saraiya is a writer by profession. He has written 22 books on various subjects. He frequently contributes articles to Janmabhoomi and other Gujarati dailies.