Durgabai Deshmukh, the eminent freedom fighter born in Rajamahendravaram and educated in Kakinada. (Photo: Twitter)
KAKINADA: Durgabai Deshmukh, the eminent freedom fighter born in Rajamahendravaram and educated in Kakinada, is being ignored by people of both these cities while celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.
Durgabai is well known for catching the attention of Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 and preventing Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru from entering the venue of Indian National Congress conference without a ticket. She has established nearly 100 organisations in the country, apart from a Hindi Institute in Kakinada.
Veterans recall Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Kakinada in 1920 and delivering his speeches in Hindi. Freedom fighter of AP Venkatappaiah used to translate the Hindi speech into Telugu. During one of the visits, Durgabai wanted to meet Gandhiji and raise issues of Devadasis and other oppressed women. Venkatappaiah put a condition that she first mobilise 5,000 and donate the same to Mahatma Gandhi. She mobilised the fund within a week and a surprised Venkatappaiah allowed her to meet Gandhiji for 10 minutes.
"Instead, the Mahatma spent two hours inquiring about the oppressed women," wrote Ramalakshmi Arudra. Further, when Durgabai gave Gandhiji the 5,000 she had mobilised, the Mahatma asked her to donate her gold bangles too. Durgabai took them off and gave them to Gandhiji without any hesitation.
In 1923, when the Indian National Congress conference was held in Kakinada, Durgabai was appointed at the entrance to allow only people who bought a ticket. However, when Nehru arrived at the meeting and started walking in, she stopped him, though other people at the venue tried to restrain her. However, Durgabai remained firm and did not let Nehru get in. Nehru appreciated Durgabai’s sincerity and entered the venue after buying the ticket.
These two incidents pushed Durgabai into the limelight. Incidentally, even though she was a child, her marriage was performed with G. Subba Rao, as was the custom those days. Durgabai persuaded her husband to free her from marriage, as she wanted to participate in the freedom movement and do social service. She even gave her consent for her husband’s second marriage and herself arranged that wedding.
According to Gandhi Bhavan secretary Y.S.V.S. Murthy, Durgabai established more than 100 organisations, which continue to play a prominent role in the country. She subsequently entered into a civil marriage with C.D. Deshmukh, the first finance minister of India.
The bypass road from Kambhalacheruvu to Thadithota in Rajamahendravaram constructed 25 years ago, is named after Durgabai Deshmukh. There is a statue of her at Kotipalli Bus Stand.
Her statue is also there at Gandhinagar Park in Kakinada, where she had prevented Nehru from entering the conference of Congress.
Kakinada municipal commissioner K. Ramesh said no programmes have been held for Durgabai by KMC, as the corporation has not received any instructions in this regard from the collector's office.