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AIPSO Observes 75th Anniversary of Gandhi’s Last Visit to Kolkata

M K Gandhi was in Kolkata the day India got independence, organising all-faith meetings to stop the violence that preceded and followed the Partition.

AIPSO rally in Beliaghata.

Kolkata: When India got its independence in 1947, on August 15, M K Gandhi – one of the biggest leaders of the freedom struggle – was not to be found in New Delhi. He was instead staying in a dilapidated house called Hyderi Manzil at Beliaghata in Kolkata. He was busy attending all-faith meetings in the wake of the Calcutta killings – a ghastly riot that broke out in Kolkata ahead of the partition of the country. He had arrived in the city on August 13.

To commemorate the day of his arrival, the All India Peace and Solidarity Council (AIPSO) on Saturday took out a procession in the Beliaghata area of  Kolkata. Two brief meetings were also organised on the occasion, which were attended by intellectuals such as the former Supreme Court Judge Ashok Ganguly, former Jadavpur University VC Ashoknath Basu, former PAC chairman and IAS officer Sukhbilas Barma, actors Chandan Sen, Joyraj Bhattacharjee, and poet Mandakranta Sen among others.

AIPSO General Secretary Professor Anjan Bera hailed the exemplary role played by Gandhi ji in handling the violence that took place around the Partition. He said, “The then prime minister of undivided Bengal, Shaheed Surawardi, was also residing with him in the building,  which was later renamed Gandhi Bhawan. Gandhi ji chose to stay in a minority-dominated area to give strength to the minorities. The hardcore Hindutva proponents were not in favour of his stay there and even tried to obstruct his work. However, the common people of Beliaghata supported Gandhi ji.”

“Keeping Beliaghata as the epicentre, he conducted more than 25 meetings within seven days in Barrackpore, Kanchrapara, Barasat, Tollygunge, Alipore, Jadavpur, and  Howrah Maidan area to spread the message of unity and amity. He sat in the meetings at the Victoria nursery grounds, Kolkata University science college, and Mohammedan sporting tent in Kolkata maidan,” said Bera.

He reminded the attendees that it was the same Hyderi Manzil where Gandji embarked upon a fast until death on September 1, which lasted for a total of 73 hours. “It was his appeal that brought the communal violence to a halt at that time. He left the Manzil on September 7 as he caught a train to New Delhi from the Belpur station. Before leaving, he had said the Hyderi Mazil will be his permanent address. However, he was never able to return to Mazil as he was assassinated by Hindutva forces on January 30, 1948,” recalled Bera.

Ganguly stressed the need to remember that India’s freedom followed a riotous partition. “ The motto of India's freedom has been reflected in its Constitution.  Gandhi's place nowadays is only on the currency notes, while the central and the state governments – though bound by oath to be loyal to the Constitution – rarely obey it.   Now the bulldozer policy is being adopted while in the Supreme Court the hijab row still has still not got a hearing.  Everybody has got the right to wear whatever they deem right, but it is being denied under the present regime. Now is the time to protest and resist,” he said in his inaugural speech at the programme.

The programme was dotted with many cultural elements as well, such as a rendition of Tagore’s songs by Sukhbilas Barma, songs by the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) and dance by schoolchildren. The rally ahead of the programme was attended by over a thousand people. The Beliaghata area – which is known to be a territory of the ruling TMC – saw a rally by the progressive organisation after a hiatus of 11 years.

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