Monday, May 27, 2024

Gandhiji in Baloda Bazaar – The Hindu

“I faintly remember Gandhiji’s visit to Baloda Bazaar and his public meeting held near Sabzi Mandi. I was a small child then and had gone to see him out of curiosity. Though Baloda Bazaar was a small town, a huge crowd had gathered for the Mahatma’s darshan,” recollected Bhagwati Prasad Gupta, 98, the only surviving person in the locality who had seen Gandhiji during his “Harijan” tour.

Gandhiji drank water drawn by a “Harijan” from a well in the Sabzi Mandi and made it accessible for “Harijans” from November 25, 1933. This well now is not only in a poor condition but also does not have even a small signboard describing Gandhiji’s visit.

Baloda Bazaar (now a district) was previously known as Bail and Bauda (bull and buffalo). Being a famous cattle market, it got the name Baloda Bazaar. It’s about 70 km north of Raipur, capital of present-day Chhattisgarh. Gandhiji also declared open to “Harijans” a private temple of Gopalji, saying the temple had become a true abode of God with the entry of “Harijans”.

The temple does not retain any memoirs of Gandhiji’s historic visit, but Vijay Kesarwani, an advocate at Baloda Bazaar, shared an old photograph of his freedom- fighter father, Shri Raghunath Prasad Kesarwani, with Gandhiji opening the temple. The priest proudly narrated that since the opening of this temple by Gandhiji, anyone could enter the temple, irrespective of their caste. Established in 1882, the temple is now maintained by Ram Krishan Acharya, son of Satrughan Dasji, who had invited Gandhiji to open his private temple for “Harijans”.

A long trip

Gandhiji started his nine-month “Harijan” tour on November 7, 1933 from Wardha. After visiting a few places in Maharashtra, he reached Raipur on November 22, toured Durg, Dhamtari, Rajim, Baloda Bazaar and Bilaspur and left for Amgaon in Maharashtra on November 27. During his six-day hectic tour, Gandhiji addressed many public meetings, collected funds, and opened wells and temples for “Harijans”.

On the invitation of Bharatdasji and Mahant Laxmi Narayandasji, Gandhiji reached “Jaitu Sav Math” in Purani Basti of Raipur on November 24, and threw open Bharatdasji’s private temple to “Harijans”. Gandhiji addressed the audience and also threw open the well for “Harijans” after drinking some water from it.

Uma Devi established this math in 1887 in the memory of her husband, Jaitu Sav. Ajay Tiwari, one of the trustees and the caretaker of this math, revealed that the math had become the centre of political activities with regard to the freedom movement since 1921. The math had many doors, even a few secret ones that were used to escape stealthily during police raids. Most of these doors were closed now.

Mr. Tiwari further stated that the temple was freely visited by the members of all communities since Gandhiji’s arrival. Though the hall in which Gandhiji addressed the audience has been renovated, one of its walls is inscribed with the words “Gandhi Bhawan” at the top.

Most of Gandhiji’s tour was in a car, driven by freedom fighter Shri Hazarilalji Jain of Dhamtari, a town which was then a division of Raipur. His son, Vijay Prakash Jain, 81, revealed that during the freedom struggle, when his father went underground in Nagpur, he learnt driving and mechanic’s work. Being close to the veteran freedom fighter Ravi Shankar Shukla, the then 23-year-old Hazarilal was chosen to drive Gandhiji’s car for his entire “Harijan” tour in Chhattisgarh.

Dr. Jain shared a three-page hand-written note that described some interesting events of Gandhiji’s visit to Chhattisgarh. The note said that Gandhiji addressed women, and asked them to shun untouchability and treat everyone as God’s children. He visited Harijan Mohalla and took fruits arranged by Charan Satnami. Gandhiji was happy to notice the cleanliness of the Mohalla.

The note also mentions an account of Gandhiji’s photo with Shri Hazarilal. The photographer D’Costa had managed to stop the car to take Gandhiji’s picture. As soon as the car stopped, Gandhiji said, “Why don’t you drive the car, Jain?” Shri Hazarilal replied, “Photographer D’Costa wants to take your picture.” Pointing towards Hazarilal, Gandhiji replied, “I have enough, take his.” Dr. Jain fondly showed that old photograph of 1933 with D’Costa Studio written on it, picturing Mahatma Gandhi, Mahadev Desai, Pt. Ravi Shankar Shukla, Hazarilal Jain and others. On contacting Savio D’Costa, grandson of the photographer, he revealed that he dimly recollected that his grandfather had two cars and one of them was used for Gandhiji’s trip in 1933.

(The author is a former Special DGP of Chhattisgarh. He recently did a post-graduation course in ‘Gandhi and Peace Studies’ from IGNOU)

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#Gandhiji #Baloda #Bazaar #Hindu

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