Extracts of The Hindu Corrospondent Mr Vijaykumar Patil
Belgaum and its adjoining regions — Bombay Karnataka in popular parlance — have always been the geographical meeting point of Marathi and Kannada cultures. It was a centre of the freedom struggle.
In 1857, when the Indo-Gangetic plain was convulsed by the fires of a sepoy-led rebellion against colonial rule, its echo was heard in Belgaum.
A Muslim Wahabi and ‘munshi’ in the army were discovered instigating sepoys in Belgaum in August 1857; five of them were executed by the British and four others imprisoned for life. Mahipalsingh was deputed by Raja Venkatappa Nayaka of Shorapur (Gulbarga district) to instigate sepoys in the native infantry in Belgaum. Though he succeeded in persuading a considerable number of soldiers to revolt, his plot was discovered and he was arrested and hanged. Bhaskar Rao alias Babasaheb of Nargund planned a revolt and attacked a British contingent, but was caught in Torgal and later hanged in Belgaum. His ‘samadhi’ is located at the Military Dairy.
The history of Belgaum is not complete without a mention of Rani Channamma, the Queen of Kittur, whose heroic resistance to the British is commemorated in song and story. The queen refused a surrender offer and promise of ‘justice’ and instead attacked the enemy surrounding her fort, on December 3, 1824. The queen and her small army put up a heroic fight but were eventually defeated. She was jailed at Bailhongal where she died in 1829.
Heroic too was Sangolli Rayanna, a servant of Kittur State, who gathered a considerable band and carried forward the fight. He was later overpowered, arrested and hanged in 1830 at Nandgadh.
A.O. Hume visited Belgaum to propagate Congress ideals in 1893. Since then the district has served as home for both the ‘naram’ and ‘garam’ (moderate and extremist) factions of the Congress. The region was greatly influenced by Balgangadhar Tilak who visited Belgaum in 1906. Several leaders emerged here, including Gangadhar Rao Deshpande, Annu Guruji, Jivanrao Yalgi, Ramchandra Wadavi and Baburao Thakur.
During the swadeshi movement of 1905-08, Govindrao Yalgi was responsible for starting secret revolutionary associations. Belgaum was made headquarters of the State unit of Tilak’s Home Rule League.
Belgaum played host to the historic 39th Plenary Session of the All-India Congress in 1924 (December 26 to 28), the only Congress session presided over by Mahatma Gandhi. The session saw the return of the Swaraj Party into the Congress fold.
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.
As per the Lahore Congress decision, Independence Day was celebrated on January 26, 1930 by hoisting the tricolour in several places in the district. Thousands took the oath for freedom. This was followed by Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha. In Belgaum, Gangadhar Rao sold contraband salt on April 6, 1930 at a public meeting, the same day that Gandhiji broke the salt law at Dandi.
After a lull in the movement because of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact of 1831, the Civil Disobedience movement started once again in 1932, and 113 people from Belgaum taluk alone were convicted. They included Annu Guruji and four women from Ankalgi.
Veteran freedom fighter Krishna Mense recalls the overwhelming response in Belgaum and surrounding areas to the Quit India Movement. Large numbers of peasants, labourers and the weaker sections of society had joined the movement.
August 15, 1947 turned out to be a great festival when thousands took out a massive procession in Ganpat galli in Belgaum city to celebrate independence.