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August 01, 2017 Tuesday 12:22:49 PM IST

Let’s Keep Divisive Forces at Bay

Cover Story

Tens of thousands of anxious citizens of Delhi had gathered outside the building where the first session of the Constituent Assembly was to take place. There was a festive atmosphere all around.


The entire crowd was waiting with bated breath, in utmost silence and attention, for the historic announcement anticipated. The President of the Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, was to announce the birth of the new nation shortly. Almost all stalwarts of the freedom movement were in attendance.


Around midnight, Jawaharlal Nehru  mounted the podium and delivered the historical speech beginning “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny...”


Yes, we, children, were made to wake up from our deepest slumber and sing the National Anthem while my uncle Kozhikote Gangadhara Menon, a freedom fighter who had abandoned his legal studies in order to plunge into the liberation struggle in response to the call made by Gandhiji, was hoisting national flag on a pole. Though we did not fully understand the total significance of the event, we could very well recollect later the three colours of the flag.


We were told that it was the tricolour flag of free India. Thereafter, we used to assemble without fail in front of the Paliam School, Chendamangalam (near North Paravur in Ernakulam district) to hoist the national flag on 15th August every year. What is remarkable about it is that we rose from our seat and sang the national anthem of our own volition and not in response to any diktat from the authorities as is the case now.


In our younger days we used to look at our uncle sitting in front of the wooden charka (spinning wheel) every morning, weaving khadi for delivery to Nandyattukunnam Gandhigram nearby. He consistently wore coarse khadi clothes which he got from the Gandhigram in exchange for the rolls of cotton fibre he spun. Out of curiosity I once asked my uncle why he was so keen on making cotton rolls when khadi materials were readily available in the market. Without batting an eye lid he replied that it was the only way he could live like a true Gandhian. I can proudly vouchsafe for the fact that he adhered to the practice till his last days.


I still remember the way he reacted when the announcement about awarding freedom fighters’ pension and Thamrapathra (a citation on bronze) to him along with the late E. Ekkanda Warrier, K. P. Madhavan Nair and P. K. Krishnankutty Menon, in return for the sacrifices made by them. His contention was that the trio had plunged into freedom struggle without expecting any reward. I clearly remember how the late K. Karunakaran personally persuaded him, after a verbal duel, to receive the Thamrapathra. Karunakaran had some personal interest in the matter as my uncle was the old friend and close associate of his mentor Panampilly Govinda Menon. At the same time my uncle flatly refused to sign a few papers related to granting of pension.


Nonetheless, six months afterwards, my uncle had a rethinking about it as he was now hospitalised. Senile infirmity and illness made him accede to the plea made by his eldest sister and a few of his nephews for receiving the pension offer. Finally he fell for it as hospital treatment entailed hefty bills. Mr. K. Karunakaran was the chief minister then. When I went to meet him at the secretariat, my close relative was his personal assistant. So things were easy. The pension was allowed shortly by the Centre and along with that the arrears for fifteen years too. Monthly pension was around Rs. 2500.


The model set by my uncle should be a lesson for the so called Gandhians of the day, many of whom do not have anything Gandhian about them.


At a time when our borders are being threatened and Indian economy cannot be described as healthy and stable, the present dispensation should have strained every nerve to unite the entire people on a secular democratic platform, rather than promoting a divisive agenda or majoritarianism.


The youth and students of the country should hold aloft the flag of unity and struggle to protect and preserve the freedom, as a tribute to the leaders of the National Freedom Movement, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.