Republic Day Chalkboard: Gujarat will pay tribute to tribal revolutionaries who fought for independence

Gujarat’s tableau for this year’s Republic Day parade is themed around the state’s tribal revolutionaries who dedicated themselves to the struggle for Indian independence, with particular emphasis on an event that took place in Sabarkantha in 1922 which some historians call “the Jallianwala Bagh of Gujarat”. ”.

The painting, which measures 45 feet long, 14 feet wide and 16 feet high, includes a seven-foot statue of Motilal Tejawat, one of the heroes of the event” who was considered the “Gandhi of Koliyari”. by the tribals.

The tragic incident, in which some 1,200 Bhils were massacred, occurred in the villages of Pal-Chitariya and Dadhvaav in the district, then part of Idar State.

On March 7, 1922, the day marking Amalki Ekadashi, just before Holi – a major festival for the tribals, the villagers of Pal-Chitariya and Dadhvaav gathered on the banks of the Her River under the leadership of Tejawat to protest against the land income tax (lagaan) imposed by British and feudal lords.

From a merchant family in the adivasi-dominated village of Koliyari in the Mewad region of Rajasthan, Tejawat was employed by a landlord where he worked for eight years. “During this period, he saw first hand how the landlords exploited the tribes and threatened to beat them with shoes if they did not pay the tax,” write author and Gujarat Sahitya Akademi president Vishnu Pandya, and his late wife Arti Pandya in their book ‘Gujarat na Krantiteertho’ (2009). Outraged by the atrocities and exploitation of tribal people, he quit his job in 1920 and devoted himself to social work and reform. Tejawat had also mobilized the Bhils of Kotda Chhavni, Sirohi and Danta to participate in the event.

The impact of the protest was felt in Vijaynagar, Dadhvaav, Poshina, Khedbrahma which are now talukas of Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts, Banaskantha, Danta of Banaskantha district, Kotda Chhavni, Dungarpur, Chittor, Sirohi, Banswada and Udaipur of Rajasthan, all of which were then part of princely states.

The Mewad Bhil Corps (MBC), a paramilitary force raised by the British which was on the lookout for Tejawat, heard of the gathering and reached the place.

“After Tejawat’s fiery speech, nearly 2,000 Bhils raised their bows and arrows and shouted in unison, ‘We won’t pay the tax.’ In response, MBC Commander HG Sutton ordered his men to fire. Bullets were raining down on them but where would they go? There was a stampede,” the book recounts.

Some fell under the bullets and others jumped into two wells – Dhekhadiya and Dudhiya, says Pandya, who gathered information about the incident from official newspapers and the accounts of local chroniclers.

While the British claimed that 22 people were killed, the Bhils believe that around 1,200 to 1,500 of them died in the battle.

Tejawat, who was also shot twice, was taken to safety by the villagers on camels. However, he “returned there to baptize him Veerbhumi,” the book says.
Tribes recount this incident to this day in songs sung at weddings and fairs. One such song is “Hansu dukhi, duniya dukhi”.

The Gujarat painting will also include a statue of Officer Sutton, in addition to six other statues. Six artists will also perform to bring “the pain of tragedy” to life.

There are five wall artworks around the painting depicting scenes from the 1922 tribal congregation. There are also the two wells on both sides of the painting “illustrating the corpses of martyred tribal peoples”, the statement said. There will also be four-foot-tall statues of four tribal freedom fighters carrying torches as a symbol of revolution. “These statues show the bravery, courage and dedication of tribal peoples in the struggle for independence,” the statement said.

“In this part of the Sabarkantha district, the tribes offer clay horse idols to their shrine in a ritual way with the intention that their wishes will be granted one day. Therefore, two such horses are featured on both sides of the painting “, Still indicates the press release.

Ten tribal artists, dressed in traditional outfits, will perform Gair (a popular folk dance) depicting the event in folklore to music composed by Sabarkantha artists using traditional instruments.

A song sung in folklore by tribal people addressing Tejawat as “Koliyari no Vanio Gandhi” will also be featured with the painting, designed and built by Siddheshwar Kanuga, owner of Smart Graph Art Private Limited.

Interestingly, it was Narendra Modi who “introduced this crucial chapter of history to the world” when he was the state’s chief minister, a memo from the Gujarat government says. During his tenure, a memorial for Tejawat was also built at the site of the massacre surrounded by a Smriti Van.

According to Pandya, it was Prime Minister Modi’s idea to thematize the Gujarat painting on this incident.

Thelma J. Longworth