Salute to the real sloganeers 

As the countdown to election day draws close, we pause to think how sloganeering has changed over the decades. Far from aggressive and self-serving, the brand of politics which patriots engaged in during the pre-Independence era reflected mostly the larger good, doing right by all people. Yet, it’s interesting to see memorable lines associated with the Independence struggle sometimes wrongly attributed.

Joseph (Kaka) Baptista (picture credit: Wikipedia)

Take the example of “Swaraj is my birthright”. It actually originated in the small hamlet of Matharpacady, the predominantly East Indian gaothan producing such giants as All India Trade Union Congress co-founder, Joseph (Kaka) Baptista and free Bombay’s first Mayor (1948-49), Dr Mafaldo Ubaldo Mascarenhas. Known as the Father of the Home Rule movement, Baptista’s ideas (Home Rule implied that while nominally under the Crown, its Dominions elected and ruled their lands as they saw fit) deeply influenced Lokmanya Tilak and Annie Besant. And Baptista’s slogan, often credited to Tilak, was adopted by Tilak as a rallying cry that initially rang across Gaiwadi in Girgaum, where he initiated the Ganesh festival as a public event knitting people together to talk freedom.

Yusuf Meherally (picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It was not till I walked Raghavji Road, at Gowalia Tank, to find the one-time home of a half-forgotten hero, that I realised who really framed the “Quit India” slogan and before that “Simon, go back”. Commonly attributed to Gandhiji, both these catchphrases were coined by the socialist leader Yusuf Meherally who, with the Mahatma’s approval, widely distributed badges with “Quit India” printed on them. Rousing a whole country from this tiny lane, that battle cry sparked the 1942 August Kranti revolt in the maidan right opposite. Badly beaten for demonstrating against the Brits, Meherally was even rolled in a barrel from the top of Grant Road Bridge.

But quit India they did.


MEHER MARFATIA

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