Freedom fighter and activist HS Doreswamy, who was 103 years old, passed away in Bengaluru on Wednesday, 26 May. He had recovered from COVID-19 on 12 May but was hospitalised at the Jayadeva Hospital in the city again, where he passed away after a cardiac arrest. Speaking to The News Minute, CN Manjunath, the cardiologist at Jayadeva Hospital said, “He had heart failure and a cardiac arrest and passed away today (Wednesday) around 1.30 pm.”
The doctor said that he had a pre-existing valvular heart disease for the last 10 years and that he was admitted to Jayadeva Hospital multiple times in this period. He tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month.
“This could be a precipitating factor since he tested positive and was hospitalised till 12 May. He was readmitted to the hospital on 14 May.”Dr CN Manjunath, Cardiologist
HS Doreswamy’s Formative Years
Born on 10 April 1918, in the village of Harohalli, in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysuru, Harohalli Srinivasaiah Doreswamy was brought up by his grandfather, after his parents passed away at the age of five. He joined the freedom struggle at a young age – from planting small scale time bombs in postboxes and in the record rooms of British government officials to burning documents, organising protests and general strikes in the state of Mysuru against the British rule – and actively participated in the freedom struggle, including the Quit India movement. He was jailed for 14 months from 1943 to 1944. He was jailed for 14 months from 1943 to 1944. The Gandhian had also participated in the Mysore Chalo movement to compel the Mysore Maharaja to accede to the Indian State post-independence.
With a Bachelor of Science from Central College, Bengaluru, Doreswamy was a teacher at a high school and later tried his hands at journalism by bringing out a newspaper called ‘Pauravani’.
Post Independence, in the 1950s, Doreswamy became a part of the Bhoodan movement and also began to fight for the unification of Karnataka. He was actively involved in the Jayaprakash Narayan movement against the Emergency. During the 1980s, he fought for the rights of farmers and other marginalised communities. He was also part of the India Against Corruption movement. Age did not diminish Doreswamy’s spirit, as he stayed active until his final days. He took part in various agitations until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
In February 2020, at the age of 102, HS Doreswamy sat on a five-day protest in Bengaluru against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Doreswamy ran the publication house Sahitya Mandira and an Indian newspaper ‘Pauravani’ during the British Raj and the period afterwards.
“I was 23-years-old when I was arrested. I had just got a new job as a teacher in a high school then. I started working in June but by then, the Quit India Movement had begun. I helped organise a 14-day strike at the mills across Mysore state and also blew up government record rooms and postboxes with very small time-bombs. Our intention was to disrupt the British government’s daily functioning. By December, I was arrested, and I lost my job as well,” Doreswamy had told Hindustan Times’s Arun Dev in February.
His ‘Fights for Rights’ After Independence
Over the decades, Doreswamy has been a constant figure at various civil rights struggles in Karnataka. He was involved in a number of agitations and committees working against the encroachment of water bodies and dumping of garbage near impoverished areas in and outside Bengaluru. In October 2014, he led an anti-encroachment protest in Bengaluru, demanding the implementation of the Land Grabbing Prohibition Act, 2007 by the state government. He was also involved in agitations against the eviction of adivasis from their tribal lands in Kodagu district.
He had also been one of the prominent figures in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC. Before the pandemic began, he had vowed to hold a protest every month against CAA and NRC.
A huge controversy had broken out in February 2020 after Doreswamy attended a protest event called ‘Save the Constitution’. An enraged BJP MLA had accused the freedom fighter of acting like a Pakistani agent. "There are many fake freedom fighters. There is one in Bengaluru. Now we have to say what Doreswamy is. Where is that old man? He behaves like a Pakistan agent," BJP MLA from Vijayapura Basanagouda Patil Yatnal had said. Though the issue reached the Karnataka Assembly and snowballed into a huge controversy, Yatnal refused to apologise.
In February 2021, following the detention and arrest of the climate activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru, Doreswamy shared a message of support for the young activist and asked her “to stay strong”.
(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)