4:51 PM Posted by ukmad
As Gandhiji arrived at precisely 3 pm on the 26th of December, as scheduled, to open the Session, cries of freedom rent the air. As President of the Session – the one and only time he ever allowed himself to accept any office – Gandhiji was received on the dais by Gangadharrao Desphpande. He had bought along his homespun khaddar, which he kept on his chair.
The Session began with ‘Vande Mataram’ sung by Paluskar. This was followed by two songs in Kannada by a choir.
An 11-year-old girl named Gangubai Hangal rendered the famous Kannada anthem, “Udayavagali Namma Cheluva Kannadanadu”, especially composed for the occasion by Hailgol Narayan Rao of Gadag on the opening day of the session.
After this, Gangadharrao Deshpande, who later picked up the epithet, ‘Lion of Karnataka’, welcomed all the delegates to the Session and briefly acquainted them both with Belgaum and with the Province of Karnataka. The Province, he said suffered “multiple partitions” - - each time ‘without the consent of the people themselves”. The province has a “capacity for growth but the necessary organization for its development has been denied to it”. Swaraj will change this, he said, and no sacrifice is too great for achieving Swaraj.
Gangadharrao urged unity – of action, of religion and of caste, behind the personality of the Mahatma who “visibly embodies in himself such unity”. With that, he requested Gandhiji to take the Chair.
Many years later, Dr. Pattabhi Sitarammya was to write that it was at the Belgaum Session that an inflection point in our freedom struggle had been reached. Unity was Gandhiji’s crowning achievement.
Gandhiji spent 10 days in Belgaum in 1924. In the first five days he even refused to divulge the plan that he had formed in his head for bringing us “within measurable distance of Swaraj” unless the delegates pledge to give up their differences.
Hindus and Muslims had fought at Kohat, in what is now Pakistan, Gandhiji felt that this played directly into the hands of the Imperialists. So did the numerous incidents against Harijans. If the freedom movement was divided within itself, the British would never leave India, he argued. Hence Gandhiji worked hard in Belgaum to unite the two factions of the Congress and bring on board the Swarajists. He pledged them to keep this unity till freedom was won.
Gandhiji’s last words at the Congress Session of 1924 were “Let the heavens fall, but the bond that binds us today, the tie that will bind the Swarajists and the No-changers shall never snap”. Upon prolonged applause, he said, “My work is finished”.
The Belgaum Session brought the various hues of the spectrum into sharp focus.
The Lessons of the Session.
Gandhiji gave this sharp beam of light a new direction.
Non-violent, non-cooperation, - or Satyagraha, - and civil disobedience is “the light that reveals the Truth” “Swaraj is a part of that Truth” . . . Satyagraha excludes all violence or hate. Therefore, I cannot and will not hate Englishmen. Nor will I bear their yoke”. Satyagraha is an attitude of the spirit within. Like Swaraj, it is our birthright.
Gandhiji passed on this article of his faith to the nation here in Belgaum in 1924 and it has formed the cornerstone of our Constitution.
It was this faith that shook up the mighty British Empire – an Empire that had routed the powerful German and Japanese combine in a World War. The very same victorious Englishmen got into their ships and headed back home. They headed back because they encountered a completely united country, led by a unified and focused party of sincere people, focused on freedom and charged with the idea of development. This was the central message of Belgaum.