The eastern sky was getting a little bright. The birds had started chirping.

He moved his leg. But it pained him so severely that he went back into the same position. The previous day, he was flogged so much as he had taken a few minutes extra to crush the coconut to get the decided quantity of the oil. His body was in extreme pain.

He heard the melodious call of the fan-tailed flycatcher. From inside his 10’ X 5’ completely closed room, he could imagine a free to fly, small bird, hopping from one place to another, singing musical tunes. His mind rushed back to his college days.

Brilliant that he was, he had passed out the difficult, final examination with grand marks and was awarded a scholarship for further studies abroad. He completed his studies abroad meritoriously. Still, instead of getting into the routine of joining an organization and following the family life, he got involved in the movement of freedom struggle for the country. He joined a revolutionary group and executed many missions with success. But on one occasion, their secret plan was leaked out and the group of three was caught red-handed. In a mock court trial, two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment. Though both of them were brought to the same place, Andaman cellular jail, they were not allowed to come together.   

He remembered Sunita. The day before he had to leave the country for higher studies, they got married secretly and took oaths to be together until death. She came to see him off on the ship. While departing heavy-hearted, she had told him that she would wait for him to come back after completing his higher studies.

And when he decided to start the revolutionary group from that remote place, he had sent a message through a group member and talked to her secretly. She had agreed with his decision to leave everything for the freedom of the country. She would take care of his ailing mother and told him not to think about his family responsibilities. But then, he was worried about Sunita and his mother.

“How must have they faced the world? Had the ruling government traced my link to my family? Would have they troubled Sunita? I hope Sunita and mother do not know about the harrowing treatment I am meted out." He was lost in thoughts.

The sunrays penetrated the window that was opened only when the food was passed on to him. He realized the sun had come up. There was a loud call from the warden to wake up the inmates of the jail.

With the bar fetters locked, with great difficulty, he sat up straight. After some time, the warden entered the cell, unlocked the bar fetters, and was taken to the oil mill.  Body covered only with the strips of cloth, he had to manually turn a large wheel, which would crush and squeeze coconuts for oil. They were expected to produce 30 pounds of oil a day, a huge amount that most prisoners were unable to complete in one work session. Usually, he used to manage somehow to get the required amount of oil. But that day, the coconuts were extra dry and needed to put in additional effort to crush the coconuts for getting the oil from the fruit. So, he could not get to the targeted amount of oil in the stipulated time. Even though the warden knew the quality of the coconuts, he made the issue of the shortage of production of oil and thrashed him to his content. This was a matter that happened frequently.

In another work session, he was given the dry husks of 20 coconuts, which would have to be repeatedly hit with a wooden hammer until soft. The skin would then be removed and the coconut would be dipped in water and bashed again.

There were two mud pots kept in the room. One for drinking water and the other was being used to answer nature’s call.

He was a bit upset over the pathetic condition he had to go through. But he was hopeful that very soon his country would be free from subjugation and he, with other countrymen would be enjoying the freedom and breathing in the fresh air of an independent country.

There was no news from the outside world for many years. Did not know how world war II was progressing. Did not have any idea of the state of his family members.

And one day, the political prisoners were deported to their home state. He had to be house arrested. The police dropped him at his house.

On reaching the house, he came to know two shocking news. His mother had expired two years ago and his beloved wife had died just a few months ago due to incurable cancer.

He sank into depression.

After spending a few more years in house arrest, he was informed that his entire property was confiscated by the ruling government. He was penniless, literally.

He was still isolated from the world. He could not step out of his house. His only solace was that he could have the writing material and he started writing book after book about his life, his experiences, and his ideology. The poems, those were written by him on the walls of the cellular jail, he penned them down. They were soaked with patriotism. The books were censored but were allowed to reach the readers. These books were an instant hit with all the members of society. The publishing of these books gave him some source of income.

But selfless that he was, he donated the entire earnings to the shelter homes for the widows. He built temples that were open to people of all castes. He also promoted science among children. He envisaged that freedom for the country was imminent. Considering the nation would need armed forces to defend the country from enemies, it was necessary to have trained defence personnel as soon as the country was granted freedom. He was guiding the youth to join the armed forces.  

And the country earned freedom. He was extremely happy that his motherland was free then. The nation had the government of its own citizens.  

He was so happy that he would be free and would be able to be in contact with his countrymen. But it did not happen.

The other group in the freedom struggle took advantage of the ruling govrernment’s keeping the revolutionaries away in dark. They negotiated on behalf of the countrymen with the subjugating power and took charge of the independent government ignoring the revolutionary group. Instead of honouring all the members of the freedom struggle, that group took complete credit for achieving freedom. The contribution of the revolutionary group was set aside. They, when writing the history of freedom struggle, wiped off the chapters of revolutionaries.

He was not even intimated of the celebrations of the independence day. His well-wishers tried to get him back his property confiscated by the previous government. But even that was delayed. On the contrary, when a popular leader was shot dead by the member of yet another group, he was falsely linked in the murder conspiracy and again pushed into the jail.

He was perturbed. Stark injustice to him if taken as any sample to check, did so many persons of the homeland sacrifice their lives during freedom struggle just for sheer change of power? He was wondering whether the new leaders of the independent nation were serving the common man's dreams or were they following their own personal goals.

 Was the entire freedom struggle, a different version of George Orwell’s book Animal Farm?  

June 08, 2023 12:22

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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