Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Gandhi Bhavi

While Mahatma Gandhi’s five visits to Bangalore have been fairly well documented, very few people know that the Father of the Nation also spent time in Kengeri, which then was a small village on the outskirts of Bangalore.
Gandhi paid two visits to Kengeri and each of them can be described as a path breaking event. The first time he visited Kengeri was to spend some time at the Kengeri Gurukula Vidya Peetha which was founded in 1926 by freedom fighters and Gandhians like Dr C B Rama Rao, Swamy Vishwananda, T Ramachandra and K B Purushottam.
These Gandhians wanted to motivate youngsters undertake selfless service and inculcate in them the Gandhian principles.
Gandhi visited the Gurukula again and this time it was on June 1, 1934 when he advised the inmates and others to visit villages and organise people to tackle socio-economic problems through village cooperatives.
Even today, a memorial building stands at the premises to commemorate the two visits of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Vidyapeetha, an NGO, runs an orphanage, free residential school and a short-stay-home for underprivileged women.
Gandhi’s 1934 visit to the ashrama or gurukula saw him speak eloquently about the evils of untouchability and the need to root out the caste system.
He opened a Gram Seva Kendra and also inaugurated a well constructed by the then Bangalore District Board for marginalised people, which today is located next to the busy Bangalore-Mysore highway.
Gandhi had led a large number of Harijans to the well from the highway. He himself drew water from the well in a silver mug and gave it to people gathered there, including the Harijans or untouchables. When the gathering quenched their thirst, Gandhi stood up and gave a small but inspiring lecture on how untouchability needs to be abolished and how Harijans, as he called them, should be treated as equals.
He then auctioned a small statue of himself  and the Rs. 25 that it fetched was the beginning of the fund that he created to fight untouchability.
As soon as Gandhi departed, people of Kengeri and the Gurukula began addressing the well as Gandhi Bhavi or Gandhi well. The well stood as a test against untouchability and slowly but surely it began to manifest as a symbol of hope for the poor and downtrodden.
However, once Indian gained Independence, and politicians-bureaucrat nexus began ruling the roost, all that Gandhi stood for merely became symbolic and what should have been a protected well soon became a disused watery structure.
Soon, the well remained lost in history and it became a place where debris, filth and garbage was dumped. The water too disappeared as there was nobody to care for it and clean the well.
The insensitivity of the people is also matched by the callousness of our rulers and today the well is in need of  permanent preservation.
When I last saw the well, I found one of the sides of the structure had developed cracks and that there was no water. The area around the well looks unkept and there were weeds. I was told that the weeds can be cleared twice an year.
Today, all that remains of the well is the inaugural stone with the name of Gandhi on it. The Kengeri Gurukula Vidyapeeth Ashram, which owns the land, have plans to convert the well and the area around it into a Gandhi memorial. But who is there to support them, Certainly not our politicians.   
The Ashram is located just 1.5 km from the busy highway. But as expected not a single vehicle takes the deviation to the Gurukal. It seems we too have forgotten our duty to the Mahatma. For Gandhi, the self always came last. For us, self always comes first.
Gandhi also addressed the Harijan Workers conference that was organized in Kengeri on June 10, 1936. He also gave an interview to a delegation from the Adi Karnataka Sangha. Two days later (June12), he again addressed the Harijan conference in Kengeri.

By the way, it was in Bangalore that Gandhi received news of his son, Hiralal, converting to Islam. It was on May 29, 1936 that Gandhi was told that Hiralal had taken the name Abdulla.
Gandhi also met Dr C. V. Raman and visited the Indian Institute of Science.   

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