Though India’s freedom struggle saw a significant participation of countless martyrs, unfortunately several of them have remained invisible to this day - unknown and unsung. At a time when the nation celebrated its 65th Republic year, 90-year-old Nagappan Nair, a freedom fighter from Kozhikode, goes down the memory lane with tears in his eyes. As he says, those fights against the colonial rulers and the sufferings he had to undergo in connection with those movements were rather his birth right.
“I find it a privilege to have been born then. If not, how could I have shared my part to save the motherland,” he smiles.
It was in the early 1930s when the freedom struggles and nationalist movements were in full swing in various parts of the country that Nair got ‘enrolled’ himself in the list.
“Those days the number of Malayalis who chose to enter the struggle movements was just a few. Most of the people did not favour this initiative because of the presumed fate of not returning home alive. But, undoubtedly, there was not a single soul who did not have a rebel attitude towards the colonial rule. But there were people of my kind who believed that there was no compromise other than bloodshed for justice. We decided to fight till our last breath”.
As Nair says, participating in freedom struggles meant a complete sacrifice.
“We had to forego our education and our homes for the same. Life gave us very little choices - either to live as a slave or die as a braveheart. I chose the latter”.
A few years ago, Nagappan Nair’s family decided to give him a surprise. “We took him to the premises of Port Blair jail where achan had served imprisonment several times. He had told us of those miserable tales, where, he along with his fellow fighters, were deported to the jail in huge packed ships,” says Sunil Kumar, his son.
“I had to serve imprisonment in Port Blair jail two times and when we were sailing the second time the least expected tragedy happened. The jam-packed ships that carried us turned topsy turvy and most of those in the ships, I must say, ‘luckily’ died that way. At least they could escape from the worst in store for them on the jail shores. Though I encountered death face to face then, it was in some way better than the days we had to spend behind the bars”.
His voice literally chokes when he recollects those dark plights. “From standing handcuffed for a week to confinement in dark cells without even knowing if it was day or night, they were literally raping our soul. There were days when we were not even provided food”. It was during one of those days that he happened to see Gandhiji.
“We were happy when leaders like him visited us. They used to recharge our dying souls,” says the martyr who had also been part of the Vaikom Sathyagraha, Salt Sathyagraha and the Dandi March. “We had travelled to Gujarat then and during most of those travels we had to hide ourselves”.
Though health issues plague him these days, Nagappan Nair, who currently resides along with his son and family at Vellimadukunnu, is an active public figure who participates in strikes and processions. “A freedom fighter’s activities do not conclude with a war. They go on till his end,” he says.