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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The fighting spirit

Flat No A-60,located in Shymala Society,Dahisar (East),is like any other ordinary house in Mumbai.

Written by Rohan Swamy | Published: July 19, 2011 4:21:13 am

Gaur Hari Das on his 30-year-long struggle to get a freedom fighters’ certificate,and on the film on his life

Flat No A-60,located in Shymala Society,Dahisar (East),is like any other ordinary house in Mumbai. There are no posters of India’s freedom movement or anything else that is suggestive of the fact that the house is inhabited by a freedom fighter.

And that is how Gaur Hari Das had spent a good part of his life – incognito. With the government taking its own sweet time to provide him with a certificate to prove that he was indeed a freedom fighter,Das,who is now over 80-years-old,has spent last 30 years fighting for the recognition that he rightfully deserves. So much so that,the story of how he managed to fight babudom has inspired filmmaker Anant Mahadevan to make a film on him.

“Fighting for something that the government should have given on its own is not fulfilling,to say the least,” says Das,as he sits down with a huge file in which he has documented each and every letter that was exchanged between him and the respective state and central governments. “I can understand their reluctance,since many people claim to be freedom fighters to avail government schemes. But what was disheartening was the way in which the government even refused to hear my case initially,” he says.

Das participated in the freedom struggle in 1945,when at 14,he,his brother and his father were jailed for unfurling the national flag on January 26,in Orissa. A Gandhian by thoughts and also actions,Das has even participated in the Bhoodan Movement started by Vinoba Bhave in Patna and Central India.

Das says that when he finally received the certificate in 2008,a mixed feeling engulfed him. “First,you fight foreigners to leave our land and then you fight your own government so that they recognise your contribution,” he says,with a dry smile.

The film on his life,titled “Gaur Hari Dastaan”,will document his story right from his freedom struggle days to his working with the Khadi Bhandar in erstwhile Bombay,and his struggle for his rights.

Mahadevan,who is making the film,says it will also be made in English. “The film will be titled “Cotton Country”,” he says.

Perhaps the most interesting and bizarre incident that happened during his fight,Das says,was when the Maharashtra government declined to entertain his plea,stating that he had fought for the country’s freedom in Orissa,and that is where he would have to apply for the certificate. “I wrote back to them saying I didn’t fight for any particular region but for the entire country.”

“And 30 years later,my non-violent struggle to get my certificate yielded fruits,” he says.

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