Bengaluru: Veteran freedom fighter HS Doreswamy has said India’s true freedom, as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi, is yet to come. Doreswamy, who turned 100 this year, told News18 in an exclusive interview that the country had reached the moon but failed to eradicate poverty, as Gandhi had intended. The erstwhile freedom fighter still actively participates in and heads land struggles for the needy. He shares his experiences on the occasion of India’s 72nd Independence Day.
Q. When did you become a part of the freedom struggle and why?
Mahatma Gandhi and several other leaders visited Bengaluru for public meetings and I attended many of those with my friends. Inspired by their speeches, I became a part of the freedom struggle.
Q. When were you arrested for the first time?
A Mumbai-based Congress mayor had come to our college for a public meeting as part of the freedom struggle. We were speaking to him after the speech when a sub-inspector came to us and said we had been arrested. Though we were jailed for one day, we decided to hold a protest march from Bannappa Park to Majestic and demonstrated against the police. That was the first time I was jailed and prison felt like university to me.
Q. What was the role of the Harijan newspaper in the freedom movement?
I was very influenced by the newspaper which was brought out by Gandhi. It carried several articles related to the freedom struggle and state oppression. I completed my BSc in 1942 and became an active member of the Quit India movement launched by Gandhi.
Q. We are celebrating the 72nd Independence Day but are we really independent?
I don’t think we are independent in the true sense of the term. The parties that came to power after independence have done nothing for society. We may have developed our technology but have failed to fulfil the dreams of Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar.
Q. What was India’s true freedom according to Gandhi?
We fought for the eradication of poverty and decentralisation of power but today, political parties have no values. They help the rich become richer by encouraging corporate culture. Elections, too, are driven by money, caste and religion. This is not true freedom and democracy. We want a bribe-free country, where the government generates jobs for the youth as well as provides land and housing facilities so that every citizen leads a dignified life.
Q. What are your views on the killing of veteran journalist Gauri Lankesh and the recent attack on JNU student leader Umar Khalid?
This is a democratic country where there is space for every thought. When there is an ideological difference between two groups, it usually leads to a fight. We should solve this through a healthy debate and not with guns and pistols. Some parties are dividing people on the basis of caste and religion. In India, we have equal space for all religions. Both the incidents are highly condemnable.
Q. How was your relationship with Gandhi?
Gandhi has always been my inspiration. Once, he came to Nandi hills for rest. I stayed at my relative’s place in Doddaballapura and walked to Nandi hills every day to attend the morning prayers. I met Gandhi personally twice and discussed the need to intensify the Quit India movement in Karnataka. He remains my beloved teacher.
Q. What is your message to society?
Our generation had a goal with a guru but the present generation is unaware of its responsibilities. People need to know the importance of the freedom struggle and the aspirations of Gandhi and other leaders. They should wake up and fight for their rights instead of sleeping after casting their vote in every election.