Gurugram’s role in Gandhi’s movements for India’s freedom
Mahatma Gandhi visited Ghasera village, where Muslim Meo refugees from Rajasthan were camping before migrating to Pakistan, and convinced half of them to stay back.
The period before October 2, 2019, the day the country celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, is probably a good time to recall his struggle with the British in India and Gurgram’s role in the entire movement. The year 1919 was an important landmark in the history of India’s struggle for freedom with the advent of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian politics. As the beginning of his non-violence movement and protest, he first declared March 30, 1919, as the day of an all-India hartal (strike). The date was later changed to April 6. Among the districts in Haryana, the hartal was observed in Rewari on March 30, 1919. The Gurgaon District Gazetteer also records hartals in various other areas.
A meeting was organised in Hodal on April 11 and the hartal was observed for a day. In Hassanpur too the hartal was observed on the same day. Firozpur, Nagina, and Taoru were the other areas where the hartal was observed on April 13. In Nuh, there was hartal on April 13 and 14. Partial hartal was also observed in Gurugram on April 10. At night, a large meeting was held in which it was decided to hold hartal on the following day and on the last Saturday of every month till the Rowlatt Act was repealed. However, the latter suggestion was not carried out. As decided, the hartal was continued on April 11 and a Hindu-Muslim meeting was held in the Araianwali Mosque. Section 15 of the Indian Police Act, 1861, was proclaimed in the district on April 17, 1919. In December 1920, Mahatma Gandhi formally launched the Non-Cooperation Movement and it was in full swing by 1921. Mahatma Gandhi made an extensive tour of Punjab in February and March of 1920-21, visiting, inter alia, Bhiwani and Kalanaur in Haryana. Hartals were repeatedly observed in April in the towns of all the districts of Haryana, including Gurugram.
The Gazetteer mentions that on November 24, 1921, the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act XIV of 1908, Part-II, were extended to the Gurugram district, under which all volunteer bodies were declared unlawful. Many persons were arrested and lodged in the police station, which was then attacked by a crowd of two to three thousand people. The police opened fire, killing three and wounding 29. The situation was saved by the timely arrival of some troops of the Alwar state.
The historic Dandi March from Sabarmati Ashram on March 12, 1930, served as a signal for a nation-wide mass movement. Gurugram actively participated in this movement. Several people from Gurugram were arrested and released three years later in 1933. Subsequently, in 1940 and 1942, the Gurugram district participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement respectively, recording several arrests during both the movements.
In the 1940s, the ruling party in Punjab under the leadership of Sikandar Hayat Khan and Sir Chhotu Ram kept an effective check on communal activities, even in the Gurugram district, that were on the rise due to Jinnah’s activities. Communal tension increased in 1945-46 and this had its repercussions in the Mewat area of Gurugram as well. A branch of the All India Muslim League was established there and a large number of Meos joined in. In 1947, a scheme of organising Mewat into a separate Meo province was mooted and it received the sympathies of the All India Muslim League. Meanwhile, the country gained independence in 1947 and Mahatma Gandhi played a significant role in convincing the Meos not to move out during the Partition.
Ghasera, 45 kilometres southwest of Gurugram, is recognised for the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, who visited the place at the time of the Partition and convinced them not to migrate to Pakistan. On December 19, 1947, Meo leader Chaudhary Yasin Khan, then a member of the Punjab legislative assembly, was instrumental in inviting Gandhi to Ghasera, where Muslim Meo refugees from Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan stayed at a camp on their way to Pakistan. More than half the refugees were convinced and stayed back and the village was renamed Gandhi Gram Ghasera.
(Shikha Jain is state convenor, INTACH Haryana Chapter and member of Heritage Committees under ministries of culture and HRD. She is co-editor of book ‘Haryana: Cultural Heritage Guide’; director, DRONAH (Development and Research Organisation.)