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FIGHT FOR FREEDOM 29 fears He was now satisfied ‘The leader knew’, he added, ‘his regard for sanity and judgment’ Rajaji thus recognised that the Khadi programme was the programme forthe country if we wished to make England realise the need to treat India well In 1926 he said zn Ahmedabad ‘Khadi work 1s the only true political programme before the country’ ‘You are living ima great city You do not really know the amount of poverty that has overtaken the country called India As a matter of fact in India there are thousands and tens of thousands of villages where men do not get more than two and a half rupeesa month There is no use’ shedding tears for them if we won’t weara few yards of Khadi which they have manufactured and want us to buy, so that they might get a meal If our hearts were not made of stone, we would all be wearing Khadi Khadi means employment for the poor and freedom for India Britain holds India because it 1s a fine market for Lancashire’ v When not 1n prison the constructive work received all the attention of Rajaji1 Spinning and weaving have been the time honoured occupations of our people The mills which modern civilisation brought into the country had almost killed this activity Rajaj1 organised the Khadi mo\ement in the South by working a centre to such good purpose that Tamil Nadu becamea strong- hold of the movement Again we do not realise all that this means unless we make an effort and picture this middle aged Fnglish-educated Jawyer living among the village folk whose life he was tryingto make happy 30 RAJAJI He could not command the comforts of even the middle class home which he had built up for himself and his family How great the sacrifice was, cannot be 1ealised by any one who has not himself passed through some- thing like it Pudupalayam and Tiruchengode were the villages in the centre The Tiruchengode area is a very dry area getting ve1y little rain Handloom weaving was a traditional subsidiary occupation of the people living there Sm Ratnasabhapathi Gaunder, the local mrttadar, was anadmirer of Rajajt He made a gift of a four acre-site for the Ashiam which Rajaji wished, to establish His wife Nallamma supported the work The Ashram was inaugurated in February 1925 It started with a few thatched sheds, masonry and tiled buildings came up later Workers were tiained in spinning Among those first taken for training were four Harians Caste Hindus of the area did not like this mingling with Hariyans and refused to supply milk to the Ashram One man however supplied it n secret Ratnasabhapathi wasasick man He told his wife ‘Rajaji is your father and mother, take his advice always and act according toit He dred in 1930 (The circumstance of his death are worthy of note Rajajyi1 had arranged for the Vedaranyam march and started on the journey When he had gone some distance he was informed that the Gaunder had died He came back and attended the funeral and then started again for the Vedaranyam march) The Ashram had a school anda dispensary, besides FIGHT FOR FRELDOM 31 the classes for spinning and weaving It conducted propaganda for prohibition in which Sri K Santanam, Sm1 P § Ramadurai, Sri R Krishna Murthy and Sr1N S Varadachan took part It was not merely propaganda A Harijan woman one day complained to Rajaji that her husband drank and quarrelled when she objected, that he beat her and her children Rajaji got the man and asked why he didso The man demed the accusation Hewas a cobbler Rajayi put a pair of chappals m his hands and said ‘swear by the chappals that the charge 1s not true’ The man dare notdoit What he held in Ins hand was the thing through which he was earning his livmg He fell on Rajaji’s feet and admitted the charge and promised to drink no more It is recorded that he did not drink any more Rayaji gave him work and jater put him incharge of the footwear unit of the Ashram It 1s recorded that Rajaji gave him suggestions how the patterns should be made and how the stitching could be improyed It 18 also recorded that Rajaji could himself use the awl and stitch well Khad: work was the main activity of the Ashram One of the men trained was a Muslim, and there were a number of Harijans and of course a large number of persons who were traditionally weavers The weavers were helped with yarn on payment of a small deposit When a particular man could not afford the deposit, yarn was issued to him without it The Ashram was busy fiom the early hours with hundreds of charkas plying, and the bustle of weavers and other workers 32 RAJA The mushm Chagan turned out to be a good spinner and as the staff in the Ashram was small, did other work along with his companions such as carding, sliver- ing, weighing and measuring Khadi and despatching bales Rayayi was kind and considerate to the workers but was exacting in work No work should be slipshod Every worker did his best and was unwilling to incur ‘Per: Ayya’s displeasure, Per: Ayya being principal master Chagan has said that he marned some time after he joined the Ashram and that Rajaj1 took personal interest in arranging the marriage, and attended it When Chagan got children, Rajaj: looked after their education When his daughter grew up, Rajaj1 helped in Chagan celebrating the wedding and then 1n educating his son-in-law All the Ashram workers were trained in fire-fighting When the workers went out to sell the Khadi, Rayjaji would go with one of the parties and help them in doing the work The Harijan workers were instructed in keeping themselves and their houses and their surroundings clean The Ashram workers helped in keeping the cheris clean and giving the young children washes, ol baths and conjee Angamuthu a Hariyjan worker was sent to Masuli- patam for training in Khadi printing Rajaji took keen interest in the education of hissons He got the first son’s admission to the Layola College, Madras That son got a good appointment in the Postal Department FIGHT FOR FREEDOM 33 The other sons were all taken into the Harijan Hostel near the Ashram and received help im education Rajayi helped in the wedding of the daughter Her husband became a lecturer in a college Rayjaji helped a dumb harijan to set up asa tailor This man was helped to get into a deaf and dumb school and studied upto the ninth standard On com- pleting schooling Rajaji presented him with a sewing machine His wife also wasa worker They had three children and two of them were at schoo] The man remembered Rajaji’s kindness The sewing machine he was working on many years Jater, was the one presented by Rajaji He would not get anew one The old one had come from his benefactor and he was not willing to part with it There was a leprosy clinic attached to the dispen- sary of the Ashram New activities were started as time passed — Bee- keeping, Soap-making, Night Schools and Primary Schools A worker of the Ashram was a water-diviner Some seventy wells were sunk with his help to provide drinking water to the villages around The mittadar Gaunder placed a carriage and two horses at Rajajt’s disposal, when he had to go any long distance Syce Chinnan was looking after the horses and driving the carriage Rayays agreed to his serving him after making sure that he did not drink Besides he was not allowed to whip the horses to make them go faster Social service of another type was also done When Rayaji learnt that a family of people were 3 34 RAJASI thinking of going to Ceylon as labourers because they had a big debt here and could payit up with the advance they would get, he took interest in their case and sent for the creditors and persuaded them to receive the principal and give up interest and arranged with a friend of his to pay them this principal and recover it from the family in slow instalments The following account by a fellow worker 1s of interest “Rajayi lived with his youngest son and his daughter We were a group of about ten of whom one was specially taken from the untouchables We were living as a yoint family with a common mess This created a furore and the neighbouring Goundars tried to boycott the Ashram Rayjaji was altogether un- disturbed Ratnasabhapathi Goundar continued to help us, and ina short time, the people came to be reconciled especially as they needed the guidance and help of Rajay1 1h many matters They came to him for writing their letters, and settling their disputes with neighbours Once there was a murder in the neighbour- hood, and a large number of villagers were taken to the Police Station, and released after each of them paid 100 or 200 Rupees to the Police Officers They all came to Rajaj1 and he collected written statements from them giving precise details of the amounts taken Then he wrote to the Deputy Superintendent of Police in- forming him of the statements collected, and gave him the choice either that the guilty officers should immedi- ately refund the amount and apologise for their con- duct, or further steps would be taken This had FIGHT FOR FREEDOM 35 immediate effect The amounts were refunded, and officers appologised and promised not to harass the villagers This had such a tremendous moral effect that the Ashram became a beloved institution in all the villages around ” vi The Khadi movement of the Congress was naturally confined to the British Indian territory, but helped sympathisers in the Indian States to have depots Rajajit arranged to have a Khadi depot in Bangalore City, and himself opened st in 1924 I had heard of Rajayi as an old student of the Central College, Bangalore, when I was a student there mm 1910-11 We used to hear his name and the name of Navaratna Rama Rao together Both were known as students whom Prof Tait of the College had liked for their English I attended the function arranged for the opening of the Bangalore Khadi Depot in 1924 mainly to have an opportunity of meeting Rajayi and making myself known to him as another student of Prof Tait who had earned his good opinion. I intro- duced myself to him and he accepted me immediately as a young friend and without any reserve The acquaintance begun that day mpened as the years passed into much affection and tenderness on his side towards me, and boundless admiration and respect on my side towards him Rajaji’s stature as leader in the freedom movement grew from day to day ‘When Gandhi: was invited by Sir Mirza Ismail, then Dewan of Mysore to be the