The colonial heritage of Mumbai brings back a range of thoughts and emotions. Starting with chills from the mistreatment of Indians on economic, religious and political grounds, the lathi charges and shootouts, the Satyagrahas and freedom struggles…
But it always ends with pride. Pride and gratitude towards all the freedom fighters and revolutionists whose endless efforts brought us here today — on the brink of our 73rd year of Independence from the British. What better way to celebrate this, than via a Khaki Tours’ #AzadHind Heritage Walk within the city; with (insert his name) taking us to places where the spirit of revolution and relentless hard work still live on.
The walk starts at Tejpal Hall where the infrastructural, economic and political development of the city is explained. The heritage structures we see today are a contribution of both the Indians and the British, with many donations made from the upper class residents of Bombay.
It was here that the Indian National Congress (INC) was founded by A O Hume as an outlet for all the liberal thoughts, in the hope of avoiding any mass movement. But the INC ended up becoming an institution that was the very core of the freedom movement in India. Through the 1850s, various institutions for freedom movements were set up throughout the country and in 1885, they came together to form the INC.
The INC consisted of intellectuals like Dadabhai Naoroji and Surendranath Banerjee along with other eminent scholars, lawyers and journalists who filled in the vacuum created for liberals after the deaths of some of the first ever freedom fighters like Tatya Tope and Rani Laxmibai. Tilak then helped take this message to the masses through movements like Swadeshi and The Partition of Bengal. He was conferred the title ‘Lokmanya’ which means ‘accepted by the people’ (as their leader) for involving the masses in these movements.
Moving on… Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi first met where Imperial Cinema on Lamington Road is today. This was also the venue for ‘The First Satyagraha’. On Gandhi's return from South Africa, a Gujarati organisation arranged a welcome for him. Surprised to see that they all spoke in English, Gandhiji took it upon himself to talk in Gujarati when it was his turn. This action was one of the first of many other passive resistances put up by him and hence, is called ‘The First Satyagraha’.
Jinnah and Gandhi lived on the same street of Malabar Hill and worked together in the Indian National Congress. But later, when Jinnah started to feel sidelined on religious grounds, he decided that he wanted a separate country for Muslims, namely Pakistan, and founded the Muslim League.
These two separate parties and their separate ideologies led to the Partition of India and the formation of Pakistan — with Jinnah as their founding father. Incidentally, at Jinnah House, talks about the liberation of India as well as its partition were held.
August Kranti Maidan, which is a park today, was actually the venue for the final call for freedom where on August 8, 1942, Mahatma Gandhi gave the slogan ‘Do or Die’ which was the Quit India Movement. Shortly after his speech for ‘An Orderly British Withdrawal from India’, the entire leadership of the Indian National Congress was imprisoned. In order to continue the work of the INC, an underground radio station was established.
It was mainly run by Usha Mehta while she was still in college from various houses throughout the city. They used portable radio equipment which was donated by Nanik Motwane of Chicago Radio. On the radio, they shared various happenings related to the freedom struggle. This was essential as the only other way for mass communication was newspapers, which had many restrictions.
During the course of the walk, we pass Azad Maidan where a memorial has been built for two soldiers, Sayyed Hussain and Mangal Gadiya, who were brutally blasted by a cannon for conspiring to start a mutiny in Bombay. It is interesting to note that the reason for the mutiny was the covering of cartridges with beef and pork tallow, which had to be bitten off to put it into the firearms. This was anti-religious for both Hindus and Muslims.
The house where Gandhi lived at Malabar Hill is preserved as a museum today, but a memorial was built for him called Mani Bhavan where several pictures, books and other articles have been preserved.
The charkha, which was a symbol of self-reliance, is kept here. Gandhiji learnt to spin the charkha and promoted it as a symbol of self-sufficiency: To weave your own thread and make your own cloth. He wanted to teach people to focus their energy and concentration on doing something worthwhile.
The whole purpose of this walk is 'to breathe life into the history that we learnt in school’ and that's exactly what it does. Many of these momentous milestones happened right around the places we live, work and study… and we move past them not knowing that it's right here where the struggle for freedom started and ended.
This heritage walk takes you right back to when all of these events took place; making you feel the ever-living spirit of revolution. Mumbai has always been the city of dreams, after all.