Gaur Hari Das loved to talk about his adventures as a freedom fighter...a favourite used to be, how at the age of eighteen, he was asked to deliver letters as a messenger of the "vanar sena". He used to be on the run at nights, along railway tracks, using the headlights of approaching trains to find his way in the darkness.
But soon he realized that people and kids were sniggering behind his back, dubbing him a fibber. It hurt, but he never craved to prove himself right. Until one day his son sought admission in the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute in King Circle, and Das was told that a freedom fighter
s certificate would facilitate an entry into the institute.
Das had his first brush with bureaucracy when he was told that he could not obtain a certificate from Maharashtra, as he had fought from the state of Orissa. Which forced him to point out that he hadn
t fought for a state, but for the country!
Disillusioned, Das backed out and refused to pursue the matter anymore. Even his family discouraged him. "My wife and children told me not to fight the government for recognition...they said I
d get nothing". I could see that today
s generation was fast losing faith. I shuddered to think of their future...It was then that a friend, Rajeev Singhal suggested that he meet Mohan Joshi, an advocate with conviction and a tough man who wouldn
t fall for any smooth talk. If Das could convince Joshi of his intentions, then maybe Joshi could find a way out...
Before he met Joshi, there were even offers for a certificate and higher pensions if Das greased a few palms. But he hadn
t braved the British, and spent time behind bars for 180 days to succumb to red tapism now.
The utter callousness of the officials was an eye opener to Das. And a new Das was born... He suddenly realized that this wasn
t the country he had fought for. And this was the country he couldn
t abandon either! He was determined not to let the sacrifices of his ilk be squandered by a set of people out to erode a value system they had upheld in the face of near impossible situations. He is surprised to discover that today
s youth have either no idea of independence or scant respect for freedom. There was a time when bombs were manufactured by them to blow up bridges constructed by the British. Today
s youth had militant leanings, destroying the very fabric that Gaur and innumerable others had fought to build.
And not unexpectedly, the fight against his own countrymen was getting tougher. The law at one stage even accused him of being a fraud trying to cheat the government for pension. "When I asked them to stand by their theory, go ahead and arrest me, they just did not react. At least the British showed some self respect. We appear to have become a spineless nation".
"Today there is no powerful ruling party or even a strong opposition in the country to raise and solve the real problems of the citizens" Standing on a bridge that connected the past with the present, Das waged a 30 year battle to prove his credentials. A battle strewn with the bodies of a decaying system, a fumbling democracy and guilty consciences. And then the struggle bore fruit...he won!...And as he walked out of the government office, clutching the precious certificate that proclaimed him to be a freedom fighter, he turned back for the most scathing famous last words..."the fight with our own people was tougher...we were better off in the Raj era!!".
Gour Hari Dastaan - The Freedom File based on Hari Gaur Das
memoirs, is a telling comment on a country
s present that has failed to justify the past. It
s the dramatic tale of two generations locked in a see-saw battle... one extolling values, the other groping in the dark. And it
s the future that
s at stake!