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Patriot games

After Mahatma Gandhi’s call to the British government to ‘Quit India’ on August 8, 1942, Congress workers ransacked shops owned by Britishers or Irishmen in Connaught Place.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2007 00:19 IST

After Mahatma Gandhi’s call to the British government to ‘Quit India’ on August 8, 1942, Congress workers ransacked shops owned by Britishers or Irishmen in Connaught Place. The area was the bastion of Delhi’s European population. They went there to shop, watch movies and plays. M.M. Agarwal, then only 17, had just started sitting in his father’s showroom, Travelling and Clark. According to Agarwal, activists damaged prestigious showrooms like Rankling and Co, Army and Navy, Phillips and co. and Lawrence and Mayo. Army and Navy was situated where the Khadi showroom now stands. Lawrence and Mayo is also there, right opposite the Super Bazar. “Since our showroom had an English name, the activists damaged it too. They thought that some Britisher owned it. However, after they got to know that the shop was owned by a Hindu, they didn’t touch it.”

Photographer Ashok Dilwali, owner of the Kinsey Photo Studio, says that there was a difference between what happened in 1948 and 42 years later, in 1984. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, lumpen elements looted the shops. According to Dilwali, the ‘Quit India’ activists did destroy the shops but never looted them. Wengers, which is well-known till date for its cakes and pastries, was closed on that day to avoid the protestors.

The activists also did not touch the shops owned by Chinese of Indian origin. D. Minsen and Sons, Chinese Art Centre and John Brothers remained open. Explaining the possible reason, Edward Chiu, owner of D. Minsen and sons, says that perhaps the freedom fighters were told by some people that the owners of these shops were as patriotic to the national cause as any Indian.

Madhusudan Sharma, who then worked in Regal, was also at CP on August 9. Even after six decades, the events are etched in his memory. “The Congress workers were in a belligerent mood. Some of them were also carrying the Congress flag. There were hardly any policemen around. Perhaps they left the scene fearing violent attack from the activists,” Sharma recalls.