By Shevlin Sebastian
On the morning of August 15, 1947, KL Mohana Varma, who was 11 years old at that time, stood on the grounds of the Cherthala government high school, along with other students, and watched the headmaster raise the Indian flag. “At that time, the people were apprehensive about what would happen after the British left,” says Varma, noted writer and intellectual.
The previous night, a few senior students, of Leftist leaning, had entered the headmaster’s room and wanted to tie the Communist flag, with the hammer and sickle, onto the national flag. But they were unable to do so, as they suddenly panicked and ran away.
“There were many Communist sympathisers among the teachers also, because the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising had taken place a few months ago,” says Varma. (In October, 1946, there was a Communist revolt against the Travancore Prime Minister Sir C P Ramaswami Iyer, in which more than a thousand people died. Incidentally, Vayalar is just four kms away from Cherthala).
Meanwhile, it was an era when news was hard to come by. “At that time, we had not known that Jawaharlal Nehru had given his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech,” says Varma. “There was no radio, or electricity or fast-moving transport, like buses. And we read the news about our Independence, only three days later, from the ‘Malayala Rajyam’ newspaper which came from Kollam. Whatever we say now, at that time, 80 per cent of the people did not know that Independence had come to India.”
Among Varma’s age group, they yearned for the presence of nationalist Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. “He was our hero,” he says. “All the youngsters were with Bose. We did not think about politics. We only thought of Bose and his Indian National Army (INA). We heard that the INA had gone to Burma and that was exciting. And we felt that Bose would return on Independence Day and raise the flag.”
(The New Indian Express, Kerala edition)