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South India's forgotten Jallianwala


Priyanjana Dutta,CNN-IBN
Aug 09, 2006 at 07:25am IST

Vidurashwatha (Karnataka): Just like April 13, 1919 is etched in the minds of Indians for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, April 25, 1938 is one day that the people of Vidurashwatha village in Karnataka find hard to forget.

Vidurashwatha, a nondescript village in the Kolar district of the state, gets its name from a banyan tree said to have been planted by Vidura – one of the court members of King Dhritarashtra during the Mahabharata period.

However, the village has more than just its mythological inheritance to be proud of. It was here, 68 years ago, that a freedom movement was bravely fought and brutally suppressed.

Vidurashwatha village in Karnataka was called the Jallianwala of south India

At a time when India’s freedom struggle was at its peak, a group of villagers, taking out a peaceful procession, were indiscriminately fired at by the police – a massacre that sent a chilling reminder of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that had happened just 19 years ago.

The group was headed towards a maidan (ground) near the village temple for a non-violent flag Satyagraha. However, as they congregated and rent the air with cries of Vande Mataram, the police opened indiscriminate fire killing 10 people.

All that remains of the village's history here is a memorial for the martyrs of the 1938 incident

While the incident in itself was perhaps not as big as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, it is still remembered as the Jallianwala of the South.

Eight-five-year-old Narsimhaiah was one of the lucky few who escaped unhurt that fateful day.

"That day there was a meeting happening, the police asked us to go elsewhere but we didn't. It was a peaceful gathering, suddenly they started firing and we ran helter-skelter,” Narsimhaiah says.

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Far removed from the fast-paced life of contemporary India, the village is caught in a time warp

Despite his age, the day and its incidents are etched in his memory. Being a witness to the massacre made him stronger and today he takes great pride in the fact that he contributed to the freedom movement.

"It is for this kind of freedom that we fought. Earlier we had to do whatever they said. Now we are free to go and do whatever we want," he says.

Today, there stands a memorial in the name of those who laid down their lives for a cause.

But despite being one of the flashpoints in India’s freedom struggle, Vidurashwatha is, today, just another forgotten chapter in the history, struggling to keep up with the pace of contemporary India.

The likes of Narsimhaiah who survived the massacre still feel proud of their patriotism

Just one school, no cinema halls, no proper roads, unsanitary living conditions and lack of skeletal civic amenities have left people here disillusioned with freedom.

Awareness programmes, organised off and on, are a bleak effort to rekindle that lost spirit and pride, but Vidurashwatha - far removed from modern India - seems to be caught in a time warp.

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