Foot-Soldiers of Freedom | The unsung heroism of Hausabai

They call me Hausatai My father named me He called me Hauserao Krantisingh Nana Patil, that’s my father And G.D. Bapu, my cousin I worked with them in the freedom struggle Whatever little jobs needed to be done Not big things But I worked… Bapu took me along twice to get weapons The third time, Bapu took me to Panaji… But the third time I said, ‘My child [son] is not well,
I will not come now’ When they returned home for lunch, Kadke saheb asked me, ‘Get ready soon, have you eaten?’ ‘Eat soon. You have to travel’ I said, ‘No!’ Then he asked my father, ‘What shall we do now, Anna?’ Anna [father] said [to me], ‘Do what suits
the name of your father’ ‘I will not stop you if you decide to go’ ‘And I won’t ask you to go if you refuse to go’ ‘Do what suits the name of your father’ ‘You are Nana Patil’s daughter. Do what suits your name’ Then I told my aunt, ‘Please take care of my baby’, ‘I must go’ The bus carrying the payroll was to be
looted at Surli Ghat There is a banyan tree by the road at Surli Ghat From the top of a mound, we could see the tree below We could see how many people were there,
and their positions And we decided to loot that bus My husband said to Bapu, ‘We need some
women to go ahead first’ So Shelar Mama, I and two other workers with him… The bus came, and the two other workers
and I [put on an act], that the sister is leaving home and going
to her in-laws’ place So she is crying and hugging everyone We stalled the bus on purpose To see who was in the vehicle The conductor said, ‘How much longer?’ ‘Enough delay now’ ‘We are getting late, let’s go’ So we got on the bus By then Shelar Mama had already checked the bus If there were police, if they had weapons, he gathered all that information, then got
onto the bus with me When the bus came up the ghat, towards the end, Mama signalled the man near the tree with a flag, that there aren’t any policemen in the bus After the ghat ended, we stopped the bus Punctured the tyres Where was the bus to go now? Our team took what it had to and left Shelar Mama, I and another of the workers, we got out as soon as the bus stopped We didn’t wait there We walked from one village to another Until we returned to Kundal Shelar Mama and I were a team I, the daughter and he, the father Those were the roles we used to play We had to set the Vangi dak bungalow on fire So we needed all the information How many policemen were there, if there were rifles, We had to check that [I wore] a torn saree ‘She is going to her maternal home Her father has come to get her’ In this guise we went there I was four months pregnant with my elder son We sat by that bungalow all day There were two policemen there And four rifles stood by the wall The other two had gone for lunch We needed to see who came in the evening, no? We had to see what came and went in the day time All day, we dawdled on the ground in the
shade of the bungalow We didn’t even have anything to spread on the ground Just one small towel We spread it out and lay on it We waited a long time to see if anyone
came in the evening There were only two policemen there And some rifles inside [In the evening] they asked us to leave Mama told them, ‘My daughter is unwell’ ‘My son is getting a bullock cart’ ‘Until then, we’ll wait out here’ And waiting and waiting for the
son to come with the cart How long could we wait! It was dusk Lights were lit Mama told them we’d leave now [The police said] ‘You’ve been sitting here all day, where will you go on foot?’ Mama said, ‘We’ll go. My son will come
with the bullock cart’ It was the month of Paush (December-January) We started feeling very cold In the distance a body was being cremated I said, ‘Mama, I am feeling very cold now’ ‘There is a fire, let’s go there’ That bonfire of the dead body… I knew what was burning But Mama tried to console me and said, ‘The farmer has lit a bonfire to keep warm in this cold month’ ‘Here in the wada?’[traditional house] I asked He told me, ‘If he lit it in the forest, and started a fire, what would the animals eat?’ ‘That’s why here in the field’ I knew what was burning The clothes on the body and the long logs of wood I was feeling cold I was four-months pregnant So we went there to get warm Then I stared to get drowsy Mama asked me to get up He said we should stay at Vangi We warmed ourselves [at the fire] for two hours We took a cart from someone there
and returned to Kundal The Bhavani Nagar police station wasn’t too big then Only the station hall and rooms for two
or three people to stay It was decided to steal the rifles from there Bapu said we first had to see what was there
and who was there That was right And Shelar Mama was with me, as always And two workers were with us And others had already checked how
many rifles were there How many policemen were there We had gone around, checked it out There were four rifles And two policemen And two others had gone for lunch I had to pretend to be the harassed wife
of a drunkard husband It should all look authentic My back started to ache with all the
beatings [he gave me] So I screamed out loud We were fighting on a small platform A little further away from where the trains stood ‘I don’t want to go back to my husband’
[she told her ‘brother’] ‘And I don’t want to take his beatings either!’ So my ‘husband’ picked up a big rock And said he’d kill me right there Why should I let you live? The police were concerned that the man would kill me They came out to stop our fight By that time our other freedom fighters stole the rifles The police settled our fight and put us in the train I told them we had no money Then they bought us tickets with their money I don’t know if they paid But they handed me and my so-called
husband the tickets Then they told us, ‘Don’t fight now’ And even told the ‘drunkard’: ‘Don’t you want your wife?’ ‘Then take care of her properly. Don’t fight’ When I was three, my mother passed away, [and some of] my family members were taken to jail Then that government sealed our house One room, about this much [was left to us temporarily] My grandmother, aunt, two uncles and I lived there The [rest of the] house was locked My grandmother was cooking They made her get up and took her out The dough for the bhakri remained there Even the bhakri on the stove The brinjal too was on the fire The men kicked us out They sealed the place and put up the farm for auction Every day, in the morning and the evening, the dawandi [village crier] would announce the auctions But the men would say ‘Why take Nana Patil’s farm?’ ‘Has he killed someone? Or robbed anyone?’ ‘Why take his farm?’ ‘Let others do what they feel like but we won’t take it’ They tried a lot, but found no takers We had to do some rojgar for a living Do you understand what I mean by rojgar? It means we had to work for other people But those people didn’t even allow us to work for them They would say, ‘Like those people [our family members] were taken away, ‘we’ll be taken too if these people are seen
in our house or fields’ The grocer would not even give us salt ‘No, we won’t give you anything, get it
from somewhere else’ We’d go [to work] even if no one called us, so that we could get something to eat for the evening We’d cook umbryachya dodya [fruit of the Indian fig tree] to make a curry My grandmother’s blouses were torn And we didn’t have money to buy new ones What could be done? So she took an old lungi of my father’s And cut it into two and made two blouses out of it She used to wear white blouses When we later got money, we did buy new blouses But my grandmother didn’t wear them Today’s situation? If my father and Bapu were alive, They would have dismantled it all in three days! Before the sun rose on the fourth day, In three days they would have changed it Someone protests here And as soon as someone is arrested, no one wants to come forward again Our people must be good [to be able to
achieve better results] The problems will be solved, but it will take time But I’m not sure I’ll be alive till then I used to say I will not go before a hundred And god won’t even take me. He will return home But now I don’t feel that way. I feel weak On such occasions [as when talking to the PARI team],
I speak out And my folks then say to me, ‘How can you
speak so well now?’ Because at home I speak very little and in a low voice I say I am not well and don’t make me talk ‘And how are you talking so well now?!’ And I say, ‘It is not me talking now’ ‘It is Bapu and my father speaking through me’ ‘Those two are speaking through my voice, not me!’ I don’t know how to talk. What will I say? Were you ever scared? Scared? Of what? I am not scared of anything I was grinding at the grindmill until my son was born All the women were doing housework in their houses The houses were not like this, with walls They were of stone or bricks Once a week, we had to coat them with a
paste of mud and dung And keep our houses clean and neat If there was any work [for the freedom struggle] to be done, we’d do that Otherwise work at home But Bapu would always send me messages
– ‘Don’t sit at home!’ Don’t sit at home! We prayed to that one god and we, brother and sister worked [for the freedom struggle]

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