Foot Soldiers of Freedom | Ganpati Yadav’s gripping life cycle

My name is Ganpati Bala Yadav Bharat Patil: Were you a part of the Toofan Sena? Yes. I must have been 15 or 16 What can you us about the train-looting incident [at Shenoli]? What do you remember? The doors were shut. Everyone surrounded the train You couldn’t see the train. That’s how
many of us were there The people inside did nothing The train was carrying payroll We looted the train at night and left When did you know of the plan to loot the train? We learnt about it four days before the looting To place the rocks [on the tracks], all that was to be done The date was set Everyone had gathered there And suddenly [we] surrounded the train How many of you were there? Can you count at night! Everyone took rocks from the tractor Two rocks, as many as they could carry And in two minutes they piled up the
rocks [on the tracks] Nana Patil would say, ‘We have to fight
and get rid of this government’ ‘We must struggle’ ‘And don’t fear the government’ ‘Let them open fire, but don’t get scared’ ‘We must work in large numbers, and our
job will be done’ We’d always get to listen to his [Nana Patil’s] lectures He’d be [hiding] somewhere in some part of the forest And as soon as we got the news, we’d take him food Namita Waikar: What food would you take for him? He used to like a meal of corn kernels and buttermilk! That Bhamabai would make this big vessel
of buttermilk and a pot full of corn kernels Bapu used to like that a lot Sampat More: Why would you travel by narrow paths? Because [patrol] cars would ply by road And there was the fear of them arresting us or even shooting at us That’s why we’d do all our jobs by wooded paths Not just I, but everyone would use them I go to Kundal every fortnight My brother-in-law, my in-laws are there I know many people there. Some are no more,
some still around How do you travel to Kundal? I go by cycle By cycle! I don’t travel by bus to villages nearby You don’t at all No Then when do you take the bus? Only when I have to travel to Pandharpur, Pune or Mumbai. That’s when I take the bus What else did you do as part of the Toofan Sena? Those people who were hand-in-glove with the British, those who wanted us to get arrested, we’d mark those people and do ‘research’ about them At night we’d besiege his village Shut the doors of all the houses And we’d search for him Then we’d take two men outside the village One was that man, and another man with him We’d hang the rogue upside down and beat the soles of his feet [‘patri’] until he couldn’t walk Then put this man on the other’s back and
send them off home Like this we carried out operations in
Belavade, Nevari and Tadsar… At Tadsar there was one such man His name was Nanasaheb We went to catch him We shut all the houses in the village He had a big house We broke the door and entered All the women were sleeping, No men or anyone else around There were lanterns giving out a dim light We were strictly told not to bother the women Only to pick up the man we were meant to So we waited We couldn’t see any man around Only women sleeping Then we saw a woman sleeping on the side She had taken her saree under her heels and pulled it over her head She slept straight [and rigid] All the other women were sleeping haphazardly My companion said, ‘Look at how all the other women are sleeping and now look at how this woman is sleeping’ That was the man! We picked him up along with the bedding
and took him out When Nana Patil would come, did the
village have a cycle? Yes Did you have one? No, I didn’t have a cycle How many cycles were there at that time? There were very few cycles with someone or the other Even then everyone would crowd to look at the cycle and run behind it I started cycling when I was 20 or 25 How did you learn [to ride]? Someone would teach To fall and then to get up, it’s all there

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