By Moin Qazi*
Book Review: “Oral History of Indian Freedom Movement”, by Dr Licy Bharucha; Pp240; Rs 300; Published by National Museum of Indian Freedom Movement
The Congress has won political freedom, but it has yet to win economic freedom, social and moral freedom. These freedoms are harder than the political, if only because they are constructive, less exciting and not spectacular. — Mahatma Gandhi
The opening quote of the book by Mahatma Gandhi sums up the true objective of India’s freedom struggle. It also in essence speaks for the multitudes of brave and courageous individuals who aspired to get themselves jailed for the cause of the country’s freedom. A jail term was a strong testimony and credential of patriotism for them.
The book has been written by Dr Licy Bharucha, an academically trained political scientist and a scholar of peace studies and Gandhian studies, who was closely associated throughout her life with those who made the struggle for India’s independence the primary motto in life. They were drawn from diverse professions but believed that as long as the British ruled them, the people would not be able to define their own brand of nationhood. Once free, they would be self -governed and would have the freedom and autonomy to shape their own destiny. The Indian freedom movement was a unique mass movement that transcended all barriers and was representative of the diverse hues of linguistic, religious and ideological communities of India.
Bharucha served Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum, Mumbai for three decades as its executive secretary. She left it in 1992 to devote fulltime to documenting the freedom struggle. She was the Chief PRO of the eighth month-old Sadbhavna Rail Yatra in 1993-94. Bharucha is the managing trustee of the Museum Trust, which aims to set up an archive and a collection of audio recordings of freedom fighters. S. N. Subbu Rao, a well-known Gandhian freedom fighter, is the founder chairman of the Trust and Anil Hebbar, a dynamic social crusader is I present chairman.
We must remember that Gandhiji had proclaimed that true freedom will be one where every Indian is able to live a life free of hunger and destitution. As the great philosopher Voltaire said, “The poor man is never free; he serves in every country.” Gandhiji himself emphasised that his mission in life was to wipe every tear from every eye.
Freedom is the primary value from which spring forth all other values. It is the river; the others are the tributaries. Without freedom, all other values wither and perish. True freedom signifies freedom from restraints that we derive from the willingness of others to give space to their convictions and actions and acknowledge their right to do so. It allows us to live our way and to pursue our vision. Thus, freedom is not just the freedom from want but also the freedom to speak one’s minds and to allow others to speak theirs, even if it goes against our own thought. In essence e, it recognises the freedom to dissent.
In his famous speech, ‘Freedom at Midnight’, Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru emphasised, “The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.” Nehru reminded the country of the tasks ahead and emphasized: “The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity’” That mission of Gandhi and ambition of Nehru is still a mirage, a far distant dream.
As we complete more than seventy years of independence, this book helps us relive the freedom struggle. Licy Bharucha has undertaken a pilgrimage into the lives of freedom fighters from all over the country, and presents through these interviews their own thought processes, the public sentiments of the struggle, the ideals and values that bonded them and the Gandhian mantras that found echo in their own lives. She chronicles the unrecorded history of inhuman treatment of the freedom fighters at the hand of the British, and the involvement of large families. CS Dharmadihikari, a former senior judge of Bombay High Court has given a very moving account of how the entire family went through the tortuous experiences. He informs that eighteen members of their family were part of the freedom struggle.
Bharucha spent seven years from 2005 to 2011 travelling around the country and speaking to 200 freedom fighters. The book is a collection of 60 of those stories. The book is interprersed with chilling accounts narrated by the freedom fighters of the suffering they and their families had to undergo at the hands of British. This book must be read by school and college students so that they know the price the country paid for achieving freedom.
This book vividly depicts the pathos of these determined freedom fighters who were driven by a unique brand of patriotism that sustained them all through. The book is a reminder of the great legacy of these selfless individuals whose sole aim was to leave behind a free nation for posterity. The younger generation needs to be exposed to the temper of the freedom movement where service and sacrifice permeated the national mood. It may inspire them to work for a strong, united India based on peace and justice to all.