Local residents hope to see a new Shivapura Freedom Monument at least for Platinum Jubilee of India’s Independence
By Nagaiah Lalanakere
Any road traveller from Mysuru to Bengaluru would not miss a striking red and white building with a unique shape at Shivapura in Maddur taluk, Mandya district.
One plain look at the building will make a person think twice as the shape, structure and ambience is way different from other structures on the same stretch.
A little prodding and exploring will show that it is an inspiring monument of India’s freedom struggle. It was built to commemorate the Shivapura Flag Satyagraha of 1938 and it is called the Satyagraha Soudha. The structure was inaugurated on Oct.26, 1979.
Sadly, the building has become a hub of illegal activities and despite much news written on it, the building lies in a state of neglect and only a handful number of people remember the Flag Satyagraha and the building which was constructed in its memory. Even Star of Mysore had published a report “Shivapura Satyagraha Soudha cries for ‘Freedom’ from anti-social elements” on Aug.14, 2017. Still there is no change in its condition.
First conference of Mysore Congress
The first conference of Mysore Congress was held in 1938 at Shivapura. After this struggle, the movement for independence became stronger. Leaders then opined that Shivapura was most suitable for Satyagraha. Sahukar Chennaiah, H.C. Dasappa, Rangaramaih, M.N. Jois and others took the lead. T. Siddlingaiah was elected as the President of the Satyagraha Committee. Shivapura could easily hold over 40,000 people.
However, the Mysore administration prohibited any meeting within three miles of Shivapura for a month but Satyagrahis were bent upon doing their part of the work. On 8th April 1938, Siddlingaiah was taken in procession in a bullock cart in which about 10,000 people participated. The participants proclaimed their faith in the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The flag was hoisted on 9th April 1938.
T. Siddlingaiah hoisted the flag in violation of British District Magistrate and made a brief speech. Later, Siddlingaiah and M.N. Jois were arrested. The second and the third day all these rituals were repeated. The Flag agitation ended in the evening of 11 April, 1938. In all, thousands of people participated in the Satyagraha and seeing the sheer number of people, the British rule in the Mysore State was rattled.
An important decision at Shivapura was to request the Mysore Maharaja to grant responsible government and if it is not accepted, an agitation should be resorted till the request is accepted. Many were arrested but the agitators did not budge.
Red letter day
To mark the Satyagraha, Kengal Hanumanthaiah wanted to construct a building. He entrusted this work to engineers Lakshmana and Pawar from Indo-Swiss Corporation. They prepared the blueprint for the monument and PWD engineers took up the construction. This monument was dedicated to the public on 26th October 1979 at a function which was presided over by Kengal Hanumanthaiah.
A hub of illegal activities
Sadly, the building that has such an illustrious past has now become a centre point of illegal activities for anti-social elements living in Mandya and Maddur. Many people come here after dark after scaling the boundaries of the Soudha to indulge in drinking, gambling and even prostitution. Playing cards, empty liquor bottles and condoms are found all over the place and the wine shops in the vicinity add to the air of disrepute.
Lack of political will showed by elected representatives, absolute do not care attitude by the District officers who are supposed to maintain the premises have resulted in the Soudha going into the hands of anti-social elements.
Fungus growth and leaky roof
The responsibility of maintaining the monument lies with the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Horticulture Department and none of them have taken the task seriously. Fungus has covered the central dome of the hall with water seeping from every nook and corner of the structure when it rains heavily. Some of the wooden doors are missing and window panes have been broken.
The entire place reeks of urine smell and the dancing fountain around the Soudha has dilapidated. The plaques and signboards are gathering dust. When S.M. Krishna was the Chief Minister, he had decided to construct an annexe to the Satyagraha Soudha at a cost of Rs.1 crore. But only Rs.50 lakh was released and the construction works stopped.
Doors and granite stolen
Now the doors and granite stones have been stolen from the annexe, thanks to the apathy of PWD, Horticulture Departments and the Mandya City Municipal Council (CMC). The annexe has sections like library, meeting hall and Khadi Bhandar. These sections resemble a haunted house with doors, windows and furniture missing.
The authorities had grand plans of restarting the fountains, installing decorative lights, introducing audio-visual programme to recollect the freedom struggle, setting up of a photo gallery. Not a single plan has materialised. Now the fountains that used to be active after dark through attractive water sprinklers have stopped functioning and the pipes have gathered dust.
Will Platinum Jubilee be a saviour?
Forget new plans, local residents say that the Mandya CMC, PWD and the Horticulture Departments can at least maintain the existing structure and prevent outlaws from entering the Satyagraha Soudha. Added to the pitiable condition of the Soudha, sewage water from surrounding areas flows around the historic monument marring its beauty and the entire Soudha stinks due to this.
Local residents are hoping that the Satyagraha Soudha will at least sport a new look two years later when it will be 75 years (Platinum Jubilee) after gaining independence.