Monday, April 26, 2010

SA Dange's Daughter Roza Recounts Forgotten Maharashtra's Founding Fathers' Sacrifice

By Bella Jaisinghani & Ashley D’Mello | TNN

Mumbai: With a week to go before the golden jubilee celebrations of Maharashtra, the portraits of the leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, who won us statehood, should have festooned the city. But there is nothing to remind Mumbai of the state’s founding fathers, save some roads or chowks named after them.

Even in this, not a single road is named after SA Dange, the “Comrade’’ who led from the front and made Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru declare May Day of 1960 as Maharashtra Day rather than “fool the Maharashtrians’’ by doing so on April 1.

Dange’s daughter, the 80-year-old Roza Deshpande, shares her father’s pride in Marathi identity and feels that does not in any way contradict the nationalist spirit. She does not feel the sacrifice of 106 martyrs has come to nought although the issue of Marathi pride and identity lingers 50 years on. “It is only because of poor governance that statehood has achieved little,’’ she says.

Critics ask if the movement for linguistic states was appropriate in the 1950s when the nation had just secured its Independence from foreign rule. “No. Regional pride does not take away from nationalism. Linguistic states were coming up across the country and Leftminded freedom fighters all got involved,’’ says Deshpande.

If the fire in the eyes is undimmed and the power of thought remains razor sharp at 80, credit is due to a sunburnt upbringing amidst the working class population of Prabhadevi and Parel.

Panicking in their unpreparedness meanwhile, officials from the government have been calling Deshpande asking for lists of the men and women who participated in the agitation.

“They have no records or mementos. The assembly does not have a single portrait of either Acharya Atre or my father or S M Joshi, the stalwarts who granted these ministers the state that they run,’’ she says.

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