Praveen Pilankar submitted a letter to Shri Abhay Patil MLA Belagavi South requesting the latter for recognition of the sacrifice of the Yalgi family from Belagavi during the freedom struggle.
Belagavi was a quaint little place in Bombay Province before Independence. The city was at the forefront of the freedom struggle and it is difficult to avoid a mention of the YALGI family while talking about the history of Indian Independence.
It is my pleasure that I have had a chance of conversation with Shri Vithal Rao Yalgi (Age 95) recently, affectionately called Vitthu Kaka by us Belgaumites. It must have hardly happened elsewhere in the country that thirteen family members were imprisoned during the freedom struggle and that is the family from Belagavi – “YALGI”.
The passion with which he explained about the work and sacrifice for the freedom struggle, made me realize that this family has not received enough credit and recognition for their tremendous work.
‘YALGI HOUSE’ was not only the epicenter of several non-violent as well as revolutionary movements that happened in the state but has stayed the vanguard of the battle of social service including active politics right from the days of Tilak.
Yalgi family’s contribution to the freedom struggle is unmatched. Late Shri. Govind Rao Yalgi lit the first spark of patriotic spirit in the family and then there was no looking back.
13 members of his family his siblings, children including Vithu kaka followed his teachings right from Vangbhang Movement in 1905 to the Quit India Movement of 1942.
Throughout the period there were several arrests, imprisonments, and the Yalgi family has suffered physical, mental and financial losses during India’s struggle for Independence.
Yalgi family was the backbone of all the freedom movements launched by Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi and Yalgi House that stands to date was an epicentre of all political activities that happened in the district.
To support the efforts, many great political leaders like First Hon’ble President Shri. Rajendra Prasad, Former Prime Minister Shri. Morarji Desai, Lokmanya Tilak, Shri. Vallabh Bhai Patel, Shri. Madhu Dandavate, Shri. Manvendra Roy, Shri. NG Gore, Shri. Balasaheb Kher, Annasaheb Latthe, Shri. Senapati Bapat, Shri. Dayanand Bandodkar, Smt. Shashikala Kakodkar, National Kirtankar Shri. Dattopant Patwardhan, Shri SM Joshi, and several others have visited Yalgi House.
Shri Gangadhar Rao Deshpande known as Lion of Karnataka, Shri Pundlikji Katagade, and the then MP, Barrister Nath Pai stayed as family members in their ancestorial house. Nath Pai Ji even breathed his last at the Yalgi house.
Sir, Vithu Kaka is now 95 years old and a baton holder of the great family values that have been imbibed in every family member.
About the Yalgi’s
Govindrao Yalgi :-
He was the follower of the great revolutionary Lokmanya Tilak. In 1906 he was arrested for picketing in front of a liquor shop. As Tilak wanted him to resume his work against British rule he paid the fine and released him from jail. Govindrao Yalgi with Hanmantrao Deshpande started “Mazini club” at Belgaum to train youth in revolutionary activities. Experiments on explosives, training in the manufacture of bombs and pistol shooting training used to be conducted by this club. Govindrao even used to train youth in ‘Malkhamb’ (wrestling pole).
In 1905, Govindrao started Ganeshotsav at Belgaum as per Tilak’s advice. The Ganesh idol was established in the open space in front of his house. In 1906, Tilak attended Ganeshotsav of Belgaum. He was taken in a huge procession under the leadership of Govindrao. Taking into consideration the huge crowd, that year the Ganesh Idol was shifted to Zenda chowk and till today it is being worshipped there. Once, Tilak’s speech was organised at Belgaum but British banned his speech in a public place. Govindrao arranged a private place overnight for his speech.
Govindrao used to attend all Congress sessions and he decided to organize a congress session in 1924 at Belgaum. But before that in 1923 he passed away leaving his dream unfulfilled. Mahatma. Gandhi presided 1924 Congress session at Belgaum. He paid homage to Govindrao before the session started.
Krishna Rao Yalgi : He was in the freedom movement with his elder brother Govindrao Yalgi. Many freedom fighters used to take his valuable suggestions and guidance. He helped many revolutionaries financially. In 1924, under his leadership, Congress well (pumpa sarovar) was built at Belgaum to fulfill the water requirements of the representatives who came to attend the Congress session. He was imprisoned at the time of the 1942 Quit India Movement.
Jeevanrao Yalgi:- In 1930, Salt Satyagraha was carried out under the leadership of Gangadhar Rao Deshpande and Jeevanrao Yalgi at Belgaum. In 1932, Jeevanrao was arrested for breaking the rule of a ban on public speaking. In 1942, he plunged into Quit India Movement which resulted in his arrest. He was kept in Hindalga Jail at Belgaum for some time and then he was shifted to Nashik jail. He was sentenced to a total of three and half years of imprisonment.
Ramabai Yalgi :- Ramabai was the wife of Jeevanrao Yalgi. After she got married in the family which breathed an air of nationalism and patriotism, got inspired by her husband and other family members and plunged into the freedom movement. In 1941 she was selected as one of the satyagrahis by Mahatma Gandhiji. She was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment. Her jail mates were Mrudulaben Sarabhai and Maniben Patel. In 1942 she was arrested once again. Ramabai was a social-political worker in the thick of the battle of freedom.
The next generation of Yalgi family includes Dattopant, Venkatesh, Dr.Anant, Vasant, Gajanan, Hanmant, Arvind, Vithal and Malati Yalgi. They all plunged into Quit India Movement. Protesting against British Rule, looting post office, distributing bulletins, derailing goods train, setting on fire police outposts, public speaking, saying Vande Mataram in a louder voice. Training the youth to prepare bombs to make the British Government Panic were few of the activities of these brothers. Barrister Nath Pai (Ex M.P.), Bhau Pai, Sham Pai, Govind walawalkar, Govind Karekar, Vishnu Shinde, Abanna Deshpande, Kasegaonkar Vaidya, Bhalchandra Deshpande always accompanied these Yalgi brothers in carrying out such activities.
Vithal Yalgi along with Gajanan Yalgi and Damodar Kamat hoisted tricolor on the lightning pole of the building of Native Library (now it is called Sarvajanik Wachanalay) which was a risky task. The tricolor was furling there with pride for several days as it was a difficult task for the British to bring it down. All Yalgi brothers were imprisoned in 1943 where they faced the brutality of the British Government.
As all the men of the Yalgi family were in imprisonment, ladies and children of the family had to face financial crisis but they faced it bravely without losing self-esteem. Apart from the freedom movement Yalgis also participated in Goa Liberation movement.
Vasant, Gajanan, Arvind, Vithal, Mandakini, Sudha and Vijaya are the siblings who were active in the Goa Liberation Movement and during those times Mandakini got injured in Police firing.
Disclaimer: The editor of AAB is the grandson of Shri Vasantrao Yalgi.