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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Mumbai Greens: August Kranti Maidan, a quiet zone catapulted to national fame by the Quit India Movement

It was from here that Gandhi declared the start of the Quit India Movement. Formerly known as Gowalia Tank Maidan, the park was renamed to pay homage to pivotal movement.

Written by Mira Patel | Mumbai |
Updated: November 14, 2021 2:26:08 pm
One of the park’s five sections (Express Photo)

Located in the commercial Tardeo district, August Kranti Maidan – formerly known as Gowalia Tank Maidan – is a park in central Mumbai made famous by its pivotal role in the Indian Independence movement. It was from August Kranti Marg that Mahatma Gandhi declared the start of the Quit India Movement. The park’s name was subsequently changed to August Kranti Maidan to pay homage to the month in which the movement was launched.

Situated a stone’s throw away from Gandhi’s official residence Mani Bhavan and close to the headquarters of the Indian National Congress, this ground was built over a tank which exists there to this day. People would often go there to bathe their cows, hence the name Gowalia – gaie meaning cow in Marathi and Gujarati and walia meaning person.

A memorial to the Quit India Movement erected at the park. (Express Photo)

On August 7, 1942, the All India Congress Committee organised a meeting under the presidency of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who would go on to become India’s first Minister of Education. The meeting started early in the morning and continued until past midnight the following day. On August 8, spurred by the hypocrisy of the allied fight against fascism, Gandhi uttered his famous slogan “do or die”, warning the British that they must leave India immediately or mass agitations would take place. Proclaiming that “we shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery,” Gandhi launched a massive civil disobedience movement, known as the Quit India Movement, from the grounds that day. It lasted until the end of World War II.

On August 9, the INC had planned a flag salutation at August Kranti Marg which was to be attended by Jawaharlal Nehru. However, in the early hours of that morning, seminal leaders of the Independence movement had been arrested and jailed. Gandhi himself was arrested from his home in Mani Bhavan. The INC was declared as an unlawful organisation and public demonstrations were banned across the country with Bombay, in particular, being subjected to curfew restrictions. In response, protests erupted in every part of India, culminating in the arrest of over 1 lakh Indians by the British forces.

Since Independence, August Kranti Marg has largely been used as a recreational ground. Cricket is the most popular game played here, but during the monsoon season a lot of people head here to play football and volleyball as well. The ground is split into five smaller sections, with one functioning as a playground for children, another a seating area for senior citizens and one being used for sporting activities by the Fellowship School. One part of the ground features a memorial, a tall pillar with a lotus atop, erected by the Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1970. A road cuts through the ground, connecting Hughes Road with August Kranti Road.

Every year, on the anniversary of the Quit India Movement, celebrations are held at August Kranti Maidan. Leaders such as Jayant Patil and Uddhav Thackeray have visited the ground to pay their respects as well. The ground was also the site for protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA when thousands of students and other citizens gathered peacefully at the spot. Muslims too joined the agitation, carving out a section of the park for their evening prayers.

August Kranti Maidan is a must-visit for anyone interested in Indian history or for someone simply looking to escape the ever-growing bustle of this city.

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