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Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes

Publication: The Statesman
Date: June 25, 2000

I HAD just returned from the summer training camp of the RSS held at Ban-galore. Some of us met on June 25, 1975 night at the RSS office in Mangalore to discuss what events would possibly take place and how to face them. We also discussed the mode of contacting each other in the eventuality of harsh measures. Things were still not clear. Then we decided to go to bed at the RSS office.

I was still a bachelor at that time teaching in Canara College at Mangalore. Sudden-ly we got a message that the RSS had been banned and the office would be seized by police. We were told by the Mangalore pra-charak, Ravi, who is currently the Kar-natak prant pracha-rak, to disperse immediately. The whole situation was a bit confusing as it was a totally new confrontation and there were no certainties about the Emergency period. But somehow I was feeling happy - within my heart there was a ray of hope. In fact, I told my friends in the organisation that everything would turn out to be all right. Besides, I was always feeling that I missed an opportunity of participating in the freedom struggle - as I was born after independence. I thought a golden opportunity had come my way to work for the national cause. From that day onwards I involved myself actively in the struggle against the Emergency.


Five or six lecturers with an RSS background started meeting regularly to strengthen the underground movement. I started as an enthusiastic participant. But within six months I graduated to lead the group. Later I was given responsibility of organising students and teachers in the entire district. In fact, it gave me an opportunity to see many places - especially remote areas. Often when I was taken to the underground meetings, they happened to be held at the residences of my own students. They silently used to express a sense of pride as they saw me entering the place. Of course, there was no question of their meeting directly as we used to limit our exchanges to the persons concerned only as a matter of discipline.

I could carry on my activities without much problems for the simple reason that the Manga-lore police were not aware of my presence as an activist. One morning I went, as usual, to hold the first year degree class and started the roll call. I just could not get myself to read out the name of one student - Udaya Kumar. I be-came emotional and just could not control myself. Because in the early morning I was in-formed that Uday Kumar had been arrested by the police while writing slogans against the Emergency on the road the previous night. He was not among one of my bright students as he was average in his studies.

But he came from very poor family in a remote village. He used to stay in the RSS office and used to depend on seven different homes on seven days of the week for his food. The boy was physically very weak and had no footwear. Still, he had the fire within to work for the national cause. He was severely tortured in the police station. The police even tried to hang him. But their effort to extract the name of the person behind the underground activities did not succeed. Police wanted to implicate me with some solid proof. But they did not succeed. This was a sample of RSS training and discipline. The boy happily remained in the jail for over one year.


As "satyagraha" picked up, students from many colleges came forward to fight against the Emergency. I was really impressed when I saw a batch of girls with garlands around their necks shouting slogans against the Emergency as they walked into my college. Our principal was terribly shaken seeing his own students defying his orders. These girls were led by one of my students by name Pushpa Karnath Pan-chamal. She was one of the brilliant students and came from a rich business family, but she had the fire within her to fight for national cause. Because she belonged to a family which was in the forefront of RSS activity. She herself was an active worker of the Rashtrya Sevika Samiti. Soon the police entered the college and the girls were arrested. Though the other girls were released within a couple of hours Pushpa remained behind bars till the end of Emergency rule was liberalised with the announcement of the parliamentary elections.

Another student of mine Sudhir Ghate was actively involved in organising students against the Emergency. Throughout his career he was a brilliant student, winning many medals. His father was already a Misa detenu and his mo-ther was also active in the underground movement. When the college principal failed to contain increasing activities against the dark rule, he thought he would succeed by punishing their leaders. He called a staff council meeting and mooted the idea of rusticating Sud-hir. Though I and some of my colleagues vehemently opposed the principal, we failed in our task. Sudhir was rusticated from the college and was readmitted only after a change of government at the Centre. When the Shah commission started probing Emergency excesses my principal was also called before the commission. At that time I did not hesitate to give evidence against my principal.


These are just a few individual examples. There were thousand of Uday Kumars Pushpas and Sudhirs who came forward to fight for the national cause. Many families suffered hardship during these dark days as their earning members were behind bars. But many of them preferred not to encash their sacrifice for personal recognition, let alone benefit - through a career in politics. Today, Uday Kumar works for a daily in Karnataka. Pushpa is happy as a housewife looking after her family but still continuing her work for women's causes. Only Sudhir is an active BJP worker. They all belonged to the RSS. Still, Chandrashekhar, the former Prime Minister, had the audacity to dismiss the role of the RSS during the Emergency. Chandrashekhar might have been behind bar. Was he tortured in jail like thousands of small creatures like Uday and Pushpa. Let us learn to salute them.

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