Raj Yogendra Veer Swami, 93, is a freedom fighter from Karnataka. He still remembers the trials and travails of the freedom movement and how Mahatma Gandhi shaped a movement to uproot the mighty British Empire.
Today, however, he is convinced that had Gandhi been alive, he would have been defamed and made to regret his life dedicated to the freedom of India. "The zeal to serve the people has disappeared in today's breed of political leaders. Gandhi could not give shape to independent India, but had he been alive today, he would have gone into shock and dismay," said Swami, while talking to HT on the sidelines of the felicitation function.
Another freedom fighter Dr Prahlad Prajapati, 92, a resident of Kusinagar (Uttar Pradesh), felt that Bapu's dream of uniform education could not be realised due to apparent division in the education system. "Only children of high-profile people get elitist education, while wards of the poor remain illiterate," said Prajapati, who participated in the Quit India movement on August 8-9, 1942. He had also suffered a bullet injury on August 14, 1942 when four of his associates, including Ram Chandra Prajapati, were killed while unfurling the Indian flag at Basantpur in Gorakhpur.
He also lamented that even in free India, he was deprived of benefits given to freedom fighters. "The political class has forgotten the pain of freedom movement," he added.
Avinash Chandra Shastri, 92, from Phagwara in Punjab said that whatever Gandhi wrote in his book 'Indian in Dreams' remained in pages of the book only. "Gandhiji wanted river of milk to flow, but liquor started flowing in the country, though prohibition was later initiated in Gujarat and other states. Education is improving, but not the way Gandhiji wanted it to," he said.
M Satyanarayan, 89, from Telangana said that while everyone basked in the glory of freedom, nobody had time to ponder over the price of freedom. "On her return from Russia in 1972, the late Indira Gandhi thought of giving pension to freedom fighters. Not before that," he added
Narayan Burman, 92, from Assam said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was striving to realise Bapu's dreams. "There is need for a movement to take the nation towards Gandhian philosophy, which has cure for all ills plaguing the society. The increasing void between the rich and the poor needs to be bridged," said Burman, who was arrested in Pandu while burning foreign clothes.
Many freedom fighters like Lajpat Rai Yadav (97) whose five sons are IAS officers and many grandsons IPS officers, Ram Pilla, Bhartiya Choudhary and Subhadra Kumari Khemka, felt that Bapu's relevance was felt more today than ever before.
"He wanted to wipe the tears of the last man in the society. Today, the problems have confounded so much that we are still struggling with the basics," he added.