‘Is this what our martyrs fought for?’ | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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‘Is this what our martyrs fought for?’

“My brother must be crying in heaven,” said Datta Ghadigaonkar, the 77-year-old brother of Sitaram Ghadigaonkar, the last of the 105 martyrs who were killed in police firing during the Samyukta [united] Maharashtra movement in 1956. “His sacrifice has gone to waste.” Naresh Kamath reports.

mumbai Updated: Apr 30, 2010 01:44 IST
Naresh Kamath

“My brother must be crying in heaven,” said Datta Ghadigaonkar, the 77-year-old brother of Sitaram Ghadigaonkar, the last of the 105 martyrs who were killed in police firing during the Samyukta [united] Maharashtra movement in 1956. “His sacrifice has gone to waste.”

“See our state, our children continue to be without jobs, all the opportunities are grabbed by outsiders and we continue to rot in old chawls or get thrown out of the city,” said Ghadigaonkar, seated in a matchbox-sized room in a Lalbaug chawl. “Is this the Maharashtra our martyrs had envisaged?”

Ghadigaonkar vividly remembers June 3, 1956, when Sitaram, his younger brother, was gunned down by the police while trying to disrupt a rally of then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Sitaram was 16 years old then. He and a bunch of friends were protesting against Nehru for opposing the creation of a separate state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital. He was the part of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samitee, the organisation fighting for statehood.

Both Nehru and the then state Chief Minister, Morarjee Desai, were strongly opposed to statehood and used massive police force to crush all opposition.

Ghadigaonkar said he brought up Sitaram like a son after their father died. “Lighting his funeral pyre was the most tragic moment of my life,” Ghadigaonkar said.

Once the manager of the cooperative chain, Shiv Vaibhav, which went bust in 1977, Ghadigaonkar now does odd jobs to make ends meet. He lives in a chawl with his wife and mentally challenged son. Two of his sons live separately and support him.

Emotional, Ghadigaonkar looked out of the small window in his room at the tall skyscrapers. “The mills which gave us meals are gone,” he said. “They have been replaced by towers where we are not allowed.”