Karnataka’s Esuru, first village to declare itself free from British Raj, cries for development
The villagers had barred the British officials from entering Esuru and hoisted the Tricolour from the top of Veerabhadreshwara Temple on September 29, 1942, and declared the village “free” of British rule.Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: Apr 30, 2018 17:31 IST
“All parties give money. Whoever gives more, we will vote for them,” says Prabhu S, a 48-year-old farmer from Esuru, expressing frustration over the lack of development in this tiny village which was the first in India to declare itself free from the British rule in 1942.
Not only Prabhu, many other villagers in Esuru, that falls under state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa’s Shikaripura constituency in Shivamogga district, are upset with political parties. They say party leaders normally visit the place only to seek votes during elections but later don’t even show their faces.
The villagers take pride in narrating stories of the courage displayed by their forefathers against the British, but Shivakumar, 53, a farmer who grows jowar and paddy in two acres of land, says, “All that is past legacy. Now there is no fighting spirit among villagers.”
“There is no unity. No one wants to raise public issues. Each one has alliance with one of the political parties,” he says.
In 1942, as the “Quit India” movement was taking shape, Esuru residents had refused to pay land revenue as a natural calamity had caused a drop in agriculture yield. They had strongly resisted the intimidatory tactics adopted by the British and fought pitched battles with the police.
The villagers had barred the British officials from entering Esuru and hoisted the Tricolour from the top of Veerabhadreshwara Temple on September 29, 1942, and declared the village “free” of British rule.
The British had rushed police force to reclaim the village. Several freedom fighters from the villagers were martyred.
Suvarnamma, 90, the first wife of late R S Shantaveerappa who was one of those who fought against the British, says, “The whole village used to listen to my husband then, but now there is no mass leader who can take everyone together.”
Now, villagers are divided and they vote for whichever party appeases them, she says, adding that however, “our family has been loyal to the Congress and will vote for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.”
Echoing similar views, 100-year-old freedom fighter Hucharayappa recalled the struggle against British and voiced concern over the “failed” electoral system.
“We uphold Gandhian philosophy and I’m a strong Congress supporter. I will vote for the Congress even though it has now become ‘Pundara Rajya’ (rogues’ state),” she said.
Most villagers in Esuru are engaged in farming. For the last three years they are suffering due to deficient rainfall and a lack of irrigation facilities despite demanding that they be provided water from Tungabadra river or from the nearby Anjanpura dam.
To add to their woes, the farmers are not getting the minimum support price (MSP) for jowar and paddy and the power supply is provided only for seven hours a day.
“The MSP purchasing centres did not open this year. We did not get the assured price for our produce. If we ask the state government, they say it is the BJP at Centre which is not procuring,” Shivakumar says.
“When Congress was at the Centre, the BJP in the state too said the same. They are fooling us, confusing people,” he adds.
Taluk panchayat member Jayanna said he was fed up of the false assurances given by political parties that they would build ‘Smarak Bhavan’ in the memory of leaders who gave their lives in 1942 bloody revolution.
“When Yeddyurappa was the chief minister, he built the roads. Thereafter, there has not been any development,” says Jayanna.
Fearing that the ruling Congress will take credit for the development during polls, BJP is waiting to come to power in the state to speed up the pace of incomplete projects, says 35-year-old Sanjay Kumar M S, a farmer who owns 10 acres of farm land.