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WITNESS TO 1953 FIGHT AGAINST J&K SPECIAL STATUS

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Lakhs of people from across the country joined the agitation led by Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee for complete integration of J&K in 1953. One of the survivors of that struggle from Andhra Pradesh recollects the memories of that agitation

Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

On August 5, 2019 when the Parliament of India was debating and voting for the amendment to special status to Jammu & Kashmir, millions of Indians were glued to their television sets and burst into joy as the proposal for scrapping the provisions under Article 370 got approval of the Parliament..

Among those who were witnessing the Home Minister Amit Shah’s speech defending the Modi government decision to fulfil the 70 year old dream of the Nation, there was one person by name Ghanta Venkata Seetaramaiah (94) who could not control the tears of joy. Yes, there is a reason for his tears. Unlike crores of Indians Seetaramaiah’s joy is so special as he was a participant and perhaps the only living witness to the first historic movement led by Syama Prasad Mookerjee against the grant of special status to J&K and then to historic moment of abolition of special status to the state under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

He believes that he was left on the earth by God to see the historic act while all his colleagues in the 1953 movement had passed away. This nonagenarian felt proud and happy to share his experiences when I met him in his daughter’s house at Mylavaram, the small town 40 kms away from Vijayawada, the political capital of Andhra Pradesh.

Ghanta Seetaramaiah was a pretty ordinary man then in 1953 and was even now. He was hardly educated. He was poor and could not go beyond primary level of education. But he is a patriot to the core. Seetaramaih was born in 1925 the very year when his life long associated body RSS was founded. His association with the RSS started when he was hardly 10 years old. He even now fondly recollects the visit of Gopal Rao Thakur, the first RSS Pracharak in Andhra, to his native Mylavaram village. It was under Gopala Rao Thakur’s benevolent influence and guidance that Seetaramaih said that “he and many other young people of that area grew as a disciplined swayamsevak”.

When I met him on September 16 , 2019 he was extremely happy to share what he and his band of patriotic volunteers who responded to the call of Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1953. Through the Pracharak came the call to go to Kashmir, and Seetaramaih along with the co-swayamsevaks promptly responded. “That Kashmir is far away and that no knowledge of Hindi never bothered me or other swayamsevaks,” he revealed. “It was a call from Sangh and that was a patriotic act to do what they believed and boarded the train in hot summer of 1953 and headed towards Delhi”. He further recollects that “Pittala Jamalaish also from the same Mylavaram village joined four other from Andhra. That team was led by Pydimalla Subbaramaiah Sastry of Nellore Veeraganti Suryanarayana, Appala Bhadradri from Guntur and Dattatryudu from Tenali was the other names he recollected as his fellow swayamsevaks in the movement they participated 66 years ago.

It was in May 1953, the hot summer month that Seetaramiah and his colleagues reached Delhi where they were joined by many others who gathered from different corners of the country. By the time they reached Delhi the first team was already there marching towards Kashmir. As they were travelling by buses the news came that Syama Prasad Mookerjee team is very close to Jammu. Seetaramaiah and his colleagues wanted to join the main team and participate in the main event of walking with Syama Prasad Mookerjee. “I was so disappointed and that disappointment of not joining the first team remained throughout my life and even now my heart pains when I recollect the incident of stoppage of our bus at Pathankot”.

Seetaramaih and five others from Andhra were taken in custody and brought back to Delhi and kept in custody. “Many more busloads came there to the detention camp. As our strength grew we started sloganeering and sat in protest forcing the police to file a case and produce us before the court. The Delhi court convicted us for defying the prohibitory orders and sentenced to one month imprisonment and shifted to Rampur jail of UP. While in prison we heard the news of mysterious death of Syama Prasad Mookerjee,” said seetharamiah. After release from jail he said they met Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya who gave swayamsevaks the message of participation in democratic activity, irrespective of electoral setbacks, under the banner of Jana Sangh.

Since then Seetaramaih was carrying that spirit and was an active participant in all the activities of the Sangh and BJP till old age prevented him to go out. He never regretted for the lack of financial growth of the family as he feels happy that his family accepted and is following the path he has chosen. His only regret he said was “his parents not allowing him to remain bachelor to serve the RSS”. He had four children, two sons and two daughters, the youngest son is named after Vajpayee and he is working as a mason for a living.

Seetaramaih is blessed to be the witness to the start of agitation for abrogation of Article 370 and to the successful removal of that anti national provision in the constitution. The high light of my interaction with him was the slogan ‘Ek desh mein do vidhan, do pradhan aur do nishan nahi chalenge’ coming out of his mouth. India is proud of such patriots like Seetaramaih who kept the spirit of Nationalism alive even after so many years. Long live those patriots and let them be our role models!

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