Index > Oral History on India's Independence Movement

Oral History on India's Independence Movement

Millions of Indians participated in the struggle for independence from the British Empire who witnessed and were part of the large nonviolent movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi.

For the first time a concentrated effort is made to video-record reminiscences of nonviolent fighters for India's freedom. Systematically, GandhiServe Foundation, in cooperation with its sister organization, GandhiServe India Trust, Mumbai/India, identifies these veterans and talks to them about various aspects of the struggle, which was the first large campaign in history based on truth and nonviolence.

The results of this project are partly presented here and are made available fully to associates and supporters of the project.

Media: Oral History, Autumn 2005 (pdf)

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All interviews are published with permission by the interviewees.

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Interview id:
MH001
Interviewee:
Mr. Shrichand J. Chhugani
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 26 February 2005
Length:
58 min 01 sec
Summary: Born in 1929 in Sakarsund (West-Pakistan), six brothers and five sisters, belongs to Sindhi community (Hindu) but no religious upbringing, father revenue officer at British government, schooling up to 10th standard 1944 where he got attracted to Gandhian thoughts, moved to Shekarpur, later to Karachi where he passed intermediate science, took active part in Quit India movement 1942 (with brief imprisonment) and Navy mutiny 1946, 1947 house was raided by police where some posters and bulletins with anti-British agitation were found, 15-days c-class prisoner during interrogation (cell of 8 x 8 feet, wore shackles), later on b-class prisoner for 18 months (describes condition in detail), first in Karachi later in Lahore, accused for "War against British Government", released in October 1948 through exchange of prisoners between India and Pakistan, settled at Mumbai, completed education, became secretary of Social Union at Jain College, favored socialist ideas of Jayaprakash Narayan, worked with Central Revenue Department (customs) until retirement, feels that Mahatma Gandhi is forgotten as his thoughts of education, health, village development, eradication of poverty and corruption are not implemented in India today
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Interview id:
MH014
Interviewee:
Mr. Anand Rai
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 1 March 2005
Length:
54 min 58 sec
Summary: Born at Dharamstadha in South Karnataka in 1923, one brother and one sister, lost father at the age of three, worships his mother for her nobility, completed elementary education in Vittal, higher education in Puttu, was moved by Gandhi's book "Satyagraha in South Africa", joined independence movement by touring villages to convince farmers not to pay taxes and by breaking the forest law by cutting one tree symbolically in order to abolish the forest law which prohibited Indians to cut trees but buy them in the market from the Britishers, was arrested and brought by public transport to police station, was awarded 15 months rigorous imprisonment in Hyderali Jail at Beladi (nr. Bangalore), stayed in dusty barrack with 100 co-prisoners, lost 15 pounds due to insufficient food, no visitors were allowed - only letters, studied Hindi and Urdu at night, no work for political prisoners, work was done by criminals (narrates reminiscences), was released three months early in December 1943, moved to Mumbai and worked for Student's Union in Congress, organized meetings, attended prayer meeting of Mahatma Gandhi, was hugged by him, AR: Gandhi's teachings are more relevant than ever before due to todays terrorism, wars and bombings, they should be promoted allover, AR's philosophy: see God in Gods creation and follow your dharma (do your duty)
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Interview id:
MH015
Interviewee:
Mr. Avdhoot S. Shinde
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 28 February 2005
Length:
42 min 21 sec
Summary: Born at Kopdi village in Maharashtra in 1922, father was agriculturist, illiterate parents were non-religious and died in 1931 and 1932, was then brought up by mother's mother at Margaon village, attended private coaching class until 11th standard in 1942, no school, saw Gandhi on Akola railway station passing by train and was moved by his clarion call "Do or Die", demonstrated during Quit India movement in 1942 against British school system and agitated for non-cooperation with British authorities in neighbouring villages, got arrested, kept in prison at Akola as undertrial for 15 days, magistrate awarded eight months rigorous imprisonment, 150 freedom fighters were in Akola District Jail, boycotted jail dress as they wanted khadi dresses, stayed completely naked for eight days but then obeyed to jail rules, protested against poor food and succeeded, upon release stayed with grandmother and served her until she died, passed matriculation exams in 1945, pursued college studies, graduated in 1949, joined Law College at Nagpur, has followed Gandhi's simple way of protest and non-cooperation as it reached out to masses but actually believed in revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh and Raj Guru, joined Government service as lawyer in 1949, retired in 1980, AS: very few people followed Gandhi's ideas after independence as he had advocated village industries and was against mass production, that was favoured by Jawaharlal Nehru and others at that time, Gandhi's impetus was limited to his lifetime and was finished when he died, it can not be applied today, India progressed only due to scientific influence not due to politics
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Interview id:
MH016
Interviewee:
Mr. Narain N. Bhavnani
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 27 February 2005
Length:
42 min 21 sec
Summary: Born at Hyderabad (Sindh) in Pakistan in 1923, father was stamp writer, belongs to Sindhi community (Hindu), two brothers and two sisters, attended English medium school, was interested in revolutionaries, spent a few years at Delhi where he saw - saintly and much respected - Gandhi a few times and greeted him, was attracted by Gandhi's radiating face and love that he gave to everybody, attended Gandhi's prayer meeting in Harijan Colony at Delhi, got arrested in 1942 for shouting slogan "Long live the revolution" and was imprisoned at Hyderabad Central Jail for 12 months together with 800-900 other political prisoners, mainly non-violent Gandhians, was later on moved to Sarkar Jail, continued spinning after release for production of own khadi clothes, believes in cottage industry, Ayurveda and Gandhian values as well as the revolutionaries ideas, moved to India in 1947 by train from Hyderabad (Sindh) to Jodhpur, violence was in the air due to Hindu-Muslim riots, witnessed riots on 6 January 1948 in Karachi where 3000 Hindu refugees were killed on their way to India, on a train from Peshawar Hindu refugees got their arms cut, upon their arrival at Delhi Muslim refugees got their eyes cut out and blinded in revenge, Hindu women were hijacked by Muslims, they were converted to Islam and married, everyone just tried to save his/her and his/her family's life, was separated from his brothers/sisters during the track, reunited after six months in Lucknow, established successful export business in Mumbai, after retirement his purpose of life is the selfless service of his countrymen which is equal to the service of God, provides food to needy people through Ramkrishna Mission and other charities at Tata Hospital, Mumbai, donates his freedom fighter pension
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Interview id:
MH025
Interviewee:
Mr. Prabhavati Dattatraya Dabir
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 2 March 2005
Length:
48 min 42 sec
Summary: Born at Tripakeshwar, Nasik district (Maharashtra) in 1923, six brothers and two sisters, father was inamdar (landlord) owning 1400 acres of land presented by the government, after independence land was confiscated by the government, had education (Marathi medium) in Nasik, as school boy met Rajendra Prasad (narrates incident) and Nehru, attended engineering college 1941 at Pune for five years, came in touch with socialist leader Sane Guruji but belonged to Rashtriya Sevak Sangh, took part in anti-British demonstrations, got arrested at Pune railway station and was brought to main police station for one night, next day was brought to Yeravda Jail, arrested for three months as third class prisoner (special class: eminent political leaders - first class: political state leaders - second class: local political leaders - third class: ordinary political prisoners), political and criminal prisoners were mixed in barracks made for 50 people filled with actually 150 people, no visitors allowed, one toilet for all, bad food, fell ill, hungerstrike for better facilities, had news from Gandhi through a co-prisoner who was allowed to give massage to Gandhi every day at Aga Khan Palace, no discipline and unity amongst political prisoners (gives example), was released in war days, no lights at night, PD: India got independence due to Indian National Army (who fought from Japan) and Navy mutiny at Mumbai in 1946, re-joined college and completed education after release, attended Gandhi's prayer meeting at Juhu Beach, Mumbai, in 1946, after independence worked in car company at Mumbai, after retirement did social work (orphanage, women's ashram, etc.) for 20 years (till 2004), PD: Gandhi's principles are not applicable today because society has become too violent
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Interview id:
MH050
Interviewee:
Dr. Prabhat C. Kapadia and Mrs. Vidyut Kapadia
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 27 February 2005
Length:
58 min 25 sec
Summary: PK was born at Gamdevi (Gujarat) in 1924, father was strong follower of Mahatma Gandhi who was seen as a Saint/God in the family, they were impressed by his simple life, father was businessman and sold khadi, parents were religious (Hindus) and spun yarn, they burned all foreign clothes in front of their house, saw Gandhi first during Salt Satyagraha in 1930, mother told it's better to act than to talk, at the age of 13 attended Haripura Congress 1937 as volunteer (looked after delegates), Gandhian youth movement was self-organized, they went to villages in order to spread Gandhi's message, they read Gandhi's publications, attended public meeting at Gowalia Tank Maidan, Mumbai, on 8 August 1942 were Gandhi proclaimed slogan "Do or Die!", waved the National Flag and shouted slogans on 9 August "Britishers go out!", they were tear-gassed, arrested and brought to police station and then imprisoned in a Mumbai jail for seven months, six to eight people in a cell of ten by ten feet, no furniture, slept on floor on mats, after release went back to home village and continued propagating Gandhi's message, fetched and overcame meningitis, was dismissed from Government college at Mumbai, went to Pune to continue studies and completed studies in Mumbai in 1950 when he also started practising, in his professional life as doctor he always donated 25% of his income to social causes and only charged those who could afford to pay for treatment, after retirement offers voluntary medical service to Ramkrishna Mission for one hour where he has c. 30 patients daily, PK: Gandhi is the Man of the Millenium and will always stay in our minds, his ideas are strong and relevant even today: simple living, human rights (equality), nonviolence

VK's father was a loyal government officer (first consulting surveyor), lost mother at the age of two, four sisters and two brothers, brother's joined "monkey army" (Gandhian youth and child group) with father's approval, saw Gandhi in 1942 at Pune when he passed by by car, married PK in Pune 1953, who knew each other from their youth days (distant relatives; VK narrates details), followed a simple life throughout, works with All India Women's Conference for street children and in adult education (women), they run a working women's hostel, VK: the younger generation should be better acquainted with India's independence movement and Gandhi's ideas
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Interview id:
MH057
Interviewee:
Mr. G.P. Puthran
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 28 February 2005
Length:
103 min 42 sec
Summary: Born in Kapur in Urupi district (Karnataka; narrates story of Krishna temple of Urupi) in 1923, three brothers and two sisters, father was fisherman, his poor Hindu family (Krishnaites) lived in a thatched-roofed one room hut of 5 x 3 m without any facilities (narrates routine life), no knowledge about Gandhi or khadi as child, went to Bombay 1940, worked in restaurant and as office boy (salary 5 Rs./month), completed education - 4th and 5th standard - in night-school, became interested in politics and learned Hindi, English and spinning, became volunteer with Bombay National Guard of Congress, saw all Congress leaders, attended meeting on 9 August 1942 at Gowalia Tank, Mumbai, where the slogan "Do or Die!" was created a day earlier (narrates arrest of Aruna Asaf Ali etc.), participated in a Quit India demonstration, got arrested and was jailed (narrates jail atmosphere) for c. nine months at Worli Temporary Jail, Atta Road Jail and Yeravda Jail (Poona), distributed Congress bulletins after release, remembers underground radio ("Congress Radio"), after independence worked as pune and later on as designer in silk factory, criticises lacking solidarity in independence movement and absence of affection in the society at large after independence (selfishness, no brotherhood)
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Interview id:
MH067
Interviewee:
Mr. Fakhruddin M. Shamsi
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 25 February 2005
Length:
29 min 57 sec
Summary: Born at Palanpur (Gujarat) in 1911, family were general merchants running a departmental store at Jubbulpore (Madhya Pradesh), learned fearlessness and truth from Gandhi by reading his books, attended Gandhi's prayer meetings, FS: Saintly Gandhi spoke like an innocent child on Hindu-Muslim unity and untouchability, participated in Salt Satyagraha in Jubbulpore: bought salt in the market and spread on banks of Narmada river and then collected salt from the river symbolically, worked with an underground group by sticking posters with anti-British slogans ("Quit India!") on walls and writing anti-British slogans on the streets at night in Jubbulpore, fasted the day Gandhi was shot, learned from Gandhi to be good and to do good things, be truthful and nonviolent, moved to Bombay 1965 in order to conduct business, practises Hatha Yoga daily since 40-50 years
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Interview id:
MH082
Interviewee:
Mr. Vimal Chandra Das
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 1 March 2005
Length:
51 min 21 sec
Summary: Born at Samadhapur (Bihar) in 1923, father was accountant of a landlord but lost his eyesight at an early age, father was then jobless but managed somehow to feed his family: wife and five children (two sisters and three brothers), saw Gandhi after Bihar earthquake in 1934 when he came to a neighbouring village to inspect damages, relief work was organized by Congress, studied up to 7th standard at Singva village, took part in socialist Kisan (farmers) movement in 1937 that formed part of the Congress, worked in office of Kisan leader Ramananda Mishra, spent three months in Varanasi where he got in touch with other freedom fighters, studied in Lahore from 8th to 10th standard, stayed in an orphanage, joined arts college for one year and then studied medicine at Dayal Singh College, participated in anti-British student demonstrations and activities in 1942, attended Congress meetings (also in Mumbai) and saw its leaders, went to Delhi, worked there for nine months, continued anti-British activities and got arrested, three months imprisonment at Lahore Jail, stayed in a barrack together with 60 other young freedom fighters and 15 days in solitary cell, shifted to a Sikh college in Lahore to complete studies, shifted to Mumbai in 1945 where he attended Gandhi's prayer meetings at Birla House (describes the atmosphere), worked as journalist with National Press Syndicate and several newspapers in Mumbai and Delhi up to retirement in 1985 (narrates details), VD: Gandhi's teachings are relevant in many areas today
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Interview id:
MH085
Interviewee:
Mr. Chandrakant D. Jardosh
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 26 February 2005
Length:
52 min 18 sec
Summary: Born at Surat (Gujarat) in 1923, grandfather was headmaster of a school, father was government official (taxation work), grew up in joint family that belongs to Vaishnava cult (Krishnaites, Hindu religion), had three brothers and one sister, father took him to Bardoli Congress meeting in c. 1937 where he saw Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Nehru (later: Gandhi) and other leaders, family sympathised with Congress politics, read Gandhi's papers and books, saw Gandhi again on Surat railway station on Gandhi's way to Simla in 1941, followed Gandhi's clarion call "Do or Die!" during the Quit India movement, attended Congress meetings and stuck anti-British posters on walls and distributed leaflets, participated in demonstration in 1943 when he got arrested and imprisoned, rigorous imprisonment at Sabarmati Central Jail, Ahmedabad, for 6 months (describes atmosphere), stayed in a barrack for political prisoners with 30-40 cells of 6 x 6 feet for 2 prisoners each, in total 500 political prisoners and 300 criminals, rejoined studies and completed matriculation upon release, studied law and became lawyer at Surat in 1950, got appointed as government lawyer in Valsad in 1953, lived a Gandhian life throughout - simple, vegetarian, religious and healthy without tension, CJ: for personal and national peace Gandhi's principles should be followed
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Interview id:
MH089
Interviewee:
Ms. Savitaben Desai
Interviewer:
Peter Rühe
Place, date:
Mumbai, 25 February 2005
Length:
52 min 51 sec
Summary: Born at Dharasana (Gujarat) c. 1919, five sisters and one brother, very poor Hindu farmer family which sympathised with Gandhi and the independence movement, grandfather worked in Congress party, witnessed the raiding of Dharasana Salt Works in 1930: countless freedom fighters who tried to enter the salt works received heavy lathi (bamboo stick) charge incl. her father and uncles, completed 4th year of studies at Gujarati medium Poddar School at Mumbai Santacruz, married at age of 17 in a simple Gandhian marriage in the presence of only 21 people, together with husband burned foreign clothes and wore only khadi clothes throughout, got involved in freedom struggle as grandfather demanded to go to jail for the sake of the country, was arrested 1941 when SD announced she would participate in satyagraha campaign, was treated well by policemen, was locked up in Yeravda Jail cell with two mad women, SD became first female freedom fighter in Mumbai Santacruz, participated in demonstrations and shouted slogans during Quit India movement, spent in total seven month simple and three months rigorous c-class imprisonment during three imprisonments at Thane Jail and Yeravda Jail (describes atmosphere), husband got arrested for writing slogans on the road, worked for uplift of harijans after release (taught children), sold khadi and served her family, SD: today it's not possible to apply Gandhi's ideas, nobody would listen to him
video 34 kbps     video 100 kbps    audio 16 kbps    photographs    Video Google