(Unveiling of Adivasi Shahid Smarak, Pal Chitraya, Vijaynagar District, Sabarkantha. June 22, 2003)
The Jallianwala Bagh and Pal Chitariya massacres happened in 1919 at a time when Mahatma Gandhi was not yet in the limelight. More than a thousand freedom fighters, who had assembled for a peaceful discussion, were shot down mercilessly by General Dyer. This was a major embarrassment for the British and it greatly weakened their standing. However, an even crueller massacre took place three years later in 1922 when 1200 forest-dwellers were killed. The British Raj attempted to conceal news about this genocide and keep it away from the pages of history. However, some people who have recently arrived in this country and who believe that only their family should be given the credit for the freedom of the nation and that only they have made sacrifices, were not ready to accept this event as true till recently.
During the freedom struggle, the terrible punishment of kala pani (black waters) was inflicted at the island of Andaman Nicobar. The brave freedom fighters, some of them even barristers, were meted out harsh treatment at the Cellular Prison. They were locked up in tiny cells that could not even hold a single cot for twenty years. Even entering that prison today can bring tears to a person’s eyes. However, our rulers chose to ignore the pain suffered by our freedom fighters in Andaman Nicobar. It was never declared as a national monument in memory of the freedom fighters who had sacrificed their lives.
Andaman Nicobar was first accepted as a national monument during the rule of the Janata Party, when Shri Lal Krishna Advani was the Minister of Information, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Foreign Minister and Shri Morarji Desai was the Prime Minister. This was after twenty-five years of freedom. Veer Savarkar was a barrister, who was among the first to begin the armed revolution against the British Government, and who sacrificed his entire life for the freedom struggle. He and his brother spent their entire youth in the prison of Andaman Nicobar. His third brother Narayan languished in the Sabarmati Prison, while the women of his family struggled to make ends meet. The picture of such a brave hero should have been displayed in the Parliament, but those who have monopolized the freedom struggle rejected this proposal as they believe that they alone deserve credit for the country’s Independence. The Gujarat Government made a firm declaration to pay a respectful tribute to this legendary hero who has been so far neglected, by putting up his picture in the State Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately, even at that time, the monopolists of the freedom movement boycotted the program.
This is the reason for our miserable condition after independence. So many of our tribal ancestors have sacrificed their lives for the motherland. However, this sacrifice has never been acknowledged by our previous rulers who have monopolized the independence struggle. They have adopted a policy of keeping these sacrifices under wraps for the last fifty years. But we have now decided that we shall keep alive the monument of their heroic deeds – all of us need to come together and work to make this a reality.
Let me talk about the greatness of the people living in this area. Maharana Pratap spent some time in Vijaynagar, living in disguise. Once when he was resting, a gipsy couple came up to him, asking for water. During the ensuing conversation, Maharana Pratap casually asked them about their children. They replied that they had vowed to remain childless till their king Maharana Pratap recovered his kingdom Mewar from the Mughals, which came as a huge surprise to the disguised king.
This reflects the glory of Vijaynagar. Even during the freedom struggle, the people of this region had put in massive efforts. By creating a monument in memory of the brave martyrs of Pal Chitariya village, we have tried to express our gratitude for their heroic acts. This monument should develop into a place that radiates energy for the entire nation.