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Times in DU, Gandhi's Company, Karachi Visits: Bihar Centenarian Recalls Days of Freedom Struggle as He Votes for the 87th Time

The centenarian fondly remembers how he was sent on several occasions — an event held in Karachi hosted by Mohammad Ali and another by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – as an emissary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Pankaj Kumar | News18

Updated:May 6, 2019, 6:46 PM IST
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Times in DU, Gandhi's Company, Karachi Visits: Bihar Centenarian Recalls Days of Freedom Struggle as He Votes for the 87th Time
Representative image.

Patna: He fought for India’s independence and witnessed its transformation from a British colony to a democratic nation-state. In more than seven decades since India became independent, he never missed a chance to be a part of the elections. With the same zeal Girija Nandan Sharma, 105, resident of Muzaffarpur Bihar, exercised his right to vote on Monday too.

Donning a tri-color stole and white kurta-dhoti, Girija Nandan arrives at the polling station in a wheel-chair. He exuded the same enthusiasm of a first-time voter. “It is always heartening to see people celebrating this festival of democracy as we fought hard against British rule to see this day,” says Sharma.

As he speaks, he chokes with emotions with a thought that this might be his "last contribution to this great democratic spectacle". “This is probably the last time I am being part of elections. I am more than 100 years old now and I don’t think that I will live to see the next elections,” says the centenarian.

An ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Sharma feels that India will thrive as democracy. Sharma’s son Shashi Bhushan, a retired bank official says, “My father is more than a hundred years old now but he strictly follows the footsteps of Gandhi ji. He still tries to do all his work himself and believes in a very disciplined life that is reflected in the fact that he still follows his old schedule of waking up at 5 AM and goes off to sleep at 7 pm. He has no problem with sugar and blood pressure. His eyesight is perfectly fine and he enjoys reading several newspapers in the morning.”

Shashi Bhushan adds, “Babuji was very excited as he was waiting eagerly for this day to cast his vote. He had expressed his desire to vote early in the morning”.

Girija Nandan Sharma is a well-known and respected man in the region. People know and acknowledge his contribution in the Quit India Movement. He had worked in close association with Mahatma Gandhi and is known to have accompanied him for more than six months in Verdha as well as Delhi during the Quit India Movement.

Pankaj Kumar Rai, Professor of History at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Muzzafarpur says, “Girija Babu was programme cordinator and a key member of the think-tank of Quit India Movement in Bihar along with other freedom fighters like Triveni Prasad Singh, L P Shahi, Bhubneshwar Chaudhary, and Anugrah Prasad Singh. Triveni Babu was a staunch Gandhian, who later became MLA from Aurai. LP Shahi was Minister in the Congress government and Bhubneshwar Chaudhary was the Chairman of first Municipal Corporation in Bihar.”

Girija Nandan Sharma recalls his association with Sardar Patel, Abdul Gaffar Khan, Sarojini Naidu with great fondness,” says Ram Sharma, his neighbour.

He adds, “We so much enjoy and relish listening to these stories of freedom struggle from Girija Babu. His memory betrays him sometimes now but whenever he is calm and composed, he recalls all the stories of his life with great interest and it inspires so much of respect for him and all the leaders he talks about.”

Girija Nandan Sharma was part of the first batch of Ramjas College where he completed his intermediate in 1936 and then he joined BHU to complete his Bachelor of Science. His admiration for Mahatma Gandhi is matchless but among the post-independence leaders, he appreciates former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his “oratory and successful running of the government”.

His endeavor in the freedom struggle makes all the residents of his native Purushottam Pur Village proud. Many of them recall the story of the visit of Madan Mohan Malviya, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Jaanki Ballabh Shastri during the devastating earthquake of 1934. All the three dignitaries had visited Purushottampur as they had a family relationship with Girija Nandan Sharma.

The centenarian fondly remembers how he was sent on several occasions — an event held in Karachi hosted by Mohammad Ali and another by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – as an emissary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Sharma, who believes in the strength and resilience of India democracy, is also worried about current political discourse and political environment.

“It saddens me how political leaders today hurl abuses at each other and target each other for petty political interest. This kind of politics weakens our democracy”, rues Sharma. But then he signs off after casting his vote with a smile exuding contentment. It is reflective of his hope that Indian democracy for which he sacrificed many beautiful years of his youth will thrive.

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