Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Handcuffed with Jawaharlal

K. Santhanam


            [We are on the threshold of the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Independence. The following is an anecdote from the handwritten notes of Late K. Santhanam which is certain to bring into focus the selflessness, value system and spirit of sacrifice of those days. 1995-96 is the Birth Centenary of K. Santhanam.              - Editor]

In 1923 the Akalis were conducting a satyagraha against the arbitrary action of the British Government in depriving the ruler of Nabha of his powers and forcing him to stay at Kodaikanal under surveillance. Actually satyagraha was being conducted at a place near Jaito which had to be reached from Mukteswar in Punjab.

I had heard and read so much about the spirit of discipline and self-sacrifice of the Akalis that I decided to see the satyagraha and this was welcomed by one of the leaders of the Akalis, Sardar Mangal Singh, who promised to make all arrangements. I trav­elled in the 3rd class to Mukteswar and when I got down at the station, I found that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Acharya Gidwani, had also come by the same train and for the same purpose. We had to go a distance of about 30 miles.

Jawaharlal rode on a horse and my­self and Gidwani were put in a horse cart. We were lavishly treated by the Sikhs on the way and we arrived in the evening at Jaito. We were taken straight to the place where the satyagraha was preformed. We found that a batch of Akalis was sitting on the ground and another batch was ready to take their place when the first batch was arrested and taken to jail. Everything was absolutely peaceful.

As soon as we arrived at the place of satyagraha, we were greeted by a police officer who served an order upon Jawaharlal asking him and his two friends to quit the State immediately. We told him that we had not come to participate in the satyagraha and after seeing it for some time we would be going away in a day or two. But the officer demanded whether we were prepared to quit by the next train from Jatio to Nabha and from thence to our place.

We refused and we were immedi­ately arrested. As a safety precaution, I was handcuffed with Jawaharlal and Gidwani was handcuffed with a policemen and we were put in a miserable branch line train and taken to Nabha where we were lodged in a separate and secluded part of the jail which was constructed with mud walls. The room itself was 20 feet by 12 feet and both walls and roof were built with mud and the flooring also was of mud.

The other gate was permanently locked and even the sentries were not allowed to speak to us. At stated times, food consisting of chappathis and dhall was put in our cell and no arrangements were made for our bath. Our clothing also was not given to us. Mud was falling from the roof all the time.

Jawaharlal was highly irritated at this treatment and he found vent to his irritation by sweeping the floor every half hour and trying to keep the room clean. Gidwani and myself were more amused than angry.

Our imprisonment in Nabha Jail was not known to the outside world. Pandit Motilal Nehru got worried and tried to as­certain our whereabouts from various officials and non-officials in Punjab. Failing to get any reply, he approached the Viceroy himself who got the information from Nabha. This took 2 to 3 days. The authorities of the Nabha jail suddenly changed their attitude and arrangements were made for our bath­ing. Our clothes were given to us and friends from outside were allowed to send fruits and other eatables.

We continued in this manner for about a fortnight when one day, we were taken to the Chief Court of Nabha, where the Judge was a Sikh who did not know English. We were charged with defiance of orders and when Jawaharlal asked under what law or procedure we were being prosecuted, he got no reply. After the prosecution statement, since we did not offer any defence, we were sentenced to two and half years and taken to our cell.

We began to make plans as to how we were to spend the time. I intended to learn Hindi and Urdu. The other two made a big plan to study and writing but the same evening we were served with another order remitting the sentence on condition that we agreed to quit the State immediately. We thought that there was no more purpose in rotting in a Nabha jail and we left by the branch line which connects Nabha to the main line going to Delhi.

As soon as we came to Delhi Jawaharlal suggested that I should visit Simla and Lahore before going to Ma­dras. I gladly agreed and it was arranged that Bhagat Singh’s father should take me to these places. First I went to Solan near Simla where Lala Lajpat Rai was convalesc­ing after an illness. Though I had seen him at the Congress sessions at Calcutta and Nagpur, this was the only occasion when I had any personal talk with him. Lalaji was very kind and enquired about our Nabha experience and about the progress of non-cooperation movement in South India. Then I proceeded to Simla and roamed on the hill station for 2 or 3 hours and went by an evening train to Lahore.

At Lahore, Bhagat Singh’s father left me with a Punjabi friend who was living in a spacious house. This friend was very kind and arranged to show me all the places in Lahore but unfortunately, I fell ill with typhoid. For two weeks, my host was as anxious as my people and Rajaji, who came to know of my illness after some days. Jawaharlal also made anxious enquiries but I recovered and immediately took a train to Madras.

Jawaharlal had arranged for a friend to meet me at Delhi and see me off in the Madras train. Soon after I arrived at Ma­dras, I saw Rajaji who wanted me to take charge of the Khadi Board which had its headquarters at Tirupur. I went to my village to see my wife and children and I took up the work of the Khadi Board in November, 1923.

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