“Gandhiji too would’ve repented having driven the British away,” says Gour Hari Das, who was blessed by the Mahatma for his contribution to the freedom movement when only 14. The searing indictment of the India of today is not because he’s cynical but because he’s frustrated, says the octogenarian freedom fighter.
He explains why at length. “The British looted our country to create their own surplus economy. Instances like buying raw material like cotton here, shipping it across to Britain where cloth was made and selling it here while closing down our industries broke India’s back. Yet, whatever they left behind is what keeps us going. Look at our government buildings. Unlike what was constructed by them, look at any building that has come up in the last 25 years and you can see what I mean.”
“They maintained a certain level of honesty in what they did in public life. It is lamentable that the government in British India was far more accountable to the average citizenry of its colony than our government is in free India,” Das says when we meet him at his Dahisar home.
He insists he is saying this not out of bitterness but because of the denial and humiliation he has faced from the Maharashtra government towards his own 32-year struggle for recognition of his contribution to the freedom movement. The state government said since he had participated in the freedom struggle in Odisha, it would only come there. “But I had fought for India’s independence, not my own state’s,” he says simply. read more