Siddaramaiah demands expulsion of BJP MLA over insult to freedom fighter

Published : March 05, 2020 17:26 IST

Siddaramaiah with some of the other members of the Congress delegation that met Governor Vajubhai Vala in the Raj Bhavan. They submitted a letter seeking action against BJP MLA Basangouda Patil Yatnal for disrespecting veteran freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy, in Bengaluru on March 4. Photo: K. MURALI KUMAR

Proceedings in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council in Karnataka were stalled for three days before the presentation of the State Budget on March 5 with opposition leaders, led by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, insisting that Basangouda Patil Yatnal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Vijayapura City, be expelled from the State Assembly for his statements against the centenarian freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy. The MLA had called Doreswamy a “fake freedom fighter” and a “Pakistani agent”.

Digging out a 49-year-old certificate from the office of the Bangalore Central Jail that asserts that Doreswamy was imprisoned during the Quit India Movement, Siddaramaiah flashed the certificate in the Assembly. The certificate, dated September 24, 1971, is endorsed by the Senior Superintendent of the Central Jail and states that Doreswamy was “ordered to be detained until further orders on 17.12.1942”. The certificate continues, “He [Doreswamy] was admitted into this jail on 18.12.1942 and was released on 8.12.1943 as per order No. PC 77/43 dated 7.12.1942 from the District Magistrate, Bangalore District.”

Accusing the BJP and the broader Sangh Parivar of insulting and “discrediting the freedom struggle”, Siddaramaiah demanded that Yatnal be expelled under Article 51A of the Constitution for disrespecting the elderly freedom fighter. Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has maintained a studious silence on the controversy, allowing his colleagues to respond to Siddaramaiah.

Yatnal justified his comments by stating that Doreswamy had insulted Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. On the same day that the kerfuffle in the Assembly took place, Doreswamy acknowledged in an interview that Savarkar had played an exemplary role during the freedom struggle but “it is inexplicable why he apologised to the British when he was imprisoned”. In the same interview, Doreswamy also stated that Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, was in Bangalore a fortnight before the assassination on January 30, 1948.

Doreswamy first saw Gandhi in the summer of 1936 when Gandhi stayed in Nandi Hills on the outskirts of the city. Inspired by his message, Doreswamy became his follower. A graduate of Central College in Bangalore, Doreswamy quit his job of a school teacher to participate in the Quit India Movement in 1942 during which time he spread the message of the freedom struggle among factory workers in the city. He and his associates were also responsible for the obliteration of official documents of the colonial authorities during the period. Over the past two decades, his advanced age and his commitment to progressive causes has made him a permanent fixture and some kind of patron at protest venues in the city. His stature as a Gandhian and a freedom fighter adds legitimacy to many progressive struggles in the city. Doreswamy has been particularly vocal against the Sangh Parivar after the murder of Gauri Lankesh and has also been a constant presence at anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in the city. This is not to say he is pro-Congress in any way; he participated in the nationwide India Against Corruption (IAC) movement during 2011 and 2012 that helped in building an unfavourable opinion against the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

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