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The 1924 Belgaum Congress Session

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By uday

The INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS held its thirty-ninth session at Belgaum(now Belagavi) on the 26th & 27th Dec. 1924.

Gandhiji was the president of the Congress only on one occasion and the session was held in Belgaum.

The Indian National Congress began its 39th session under Gandhiji’s presidency. Gandhiji delivered the presidential address and spoke on the resolution endorsing the Calcutta Agreement.

Meticulous planning and preparation went into the arrangement for various aspects of the Congress Session.

Walking towards the Session
Walking towards the Congress Session Belgaum 1924

A huge area – stretching from the Vaccine Depot to the Military Centre was cordoned off for the Congress and an enormous well was dug. While the well was being dug a small boy named Harpanahalli fell in and died. Gangadharrao Deshpande who supervised all the work daily on horseback, dissuaded people from taking this as a bad omen and asked them to carry on with the work. Then the Army objected to the well because the well would divert water from their Swimming pool (about half a mile away!) Gangadharrao assured them that the well would be filled in again after the Congress Session.

Mohammad Ali on the way to the session pandal Belgaum 1924
Mohammad Ali on the way to the session pandal Belgaum 1924

Finally, the well-named ‘Pampa Sarovar’ was ready. Built with rough granite, it had 10 arches for water to be drawn and sluiced to the end user points. The total cost of Pampa Sarovar came to Rs. 4,370 and 3 annas. The pipelines cost Rs. 9293 and 3 pies.

A flag railway station was constructed near the site of the Congress Session, which came to be called ‘Vijaya Nagara’, after the mighty empire of Hampi and the entrance gate, with an impressive height of 70 feet was designed as a ‘gopura’ from the same place.

Some seventeen thousand people from all corners of India – from Quetta in the West to Burma in the East, from Kashmir to Kerala descended upon this site and had to be fed and housed. It was graciously done, with volunteers catering to every comfort of all who attended.

Belgaum 1924 Congress session
Gandhi with Mohd.Ali being taken to the session Belgaum 1924

Particularly impressive were the arrangements made by the Sanitation Committee to keep the site spotless. Brahmins rubbed shoulders with bhangis to clean the toilets with a smile.

For Gandhiji, a small hut of bamboo and grass was built, by one Khemajirao Godse, at the cost of Rs. 350, which Gandhiji objected to, as being far too expensive for a simple man like him !

Belgaum 1924 Congress session
Gandhiji Addressing the Belgaum 1924 Congress session

Gandhiji arrived six days before the Congress Session to forge unity between the ‘Swaraj’ faction and the ‘no-change’ faction.

On the 26th of December 1924, delegates were stunned by the massive Shamiana put up for the Congress Session. Spacious as a circus tent, it was rented for Rs. 5000/- (it was even insured against fire for Rs. 500/-) Gandhiji objected to the amount spent on its decoration! He requested that the delegation fees be reduced from Rs. 10 to Rs. 1, which was done. Even after all this, the Belgaum Session made a profit for the Congress of Rs. 773, of which Rs. 745 were deposited in P.U.C.C. Bank, Rs. 25/- kept for contingencies with the Secretary and Rs. 1/- kept with the Treasurer, N. V. Herekar, for petty expenses!

Belgaum 1924 Congress session
The temporary station made at Belgaum 1924 Congress session
Belgaum 1924 Congress session
AICC Pendal at Belgaum 1924

The Session:

The Belgaum Session of the Indian National Congress saw the coming together of a cluster of personalities who helped steer the freedom struggle and have left a mark on our country. Besides Mahatma Gandhi, there were stalwarts like Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, Lala Lajpatrai and Rajagopalachari, Drs. Annie Besant and Sarojini Naidu, Chittaranjandas and Pandit Madan Mohan Malalviya, Saifuddin Kichalu and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Mohd. Ali & Maulana Shaukat Ali, Rajendra Prasad, Vallabhai Patel, Rangaswamy Iyengar and so many others.

By Dr.Nitin Khot

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Gandhiji Evening Walk at 1924 Belgaum session
Gandhiji Evening Walk at 1924 Belgaum session
Rare photo of Gangadharrao Deshpande and Bapu
Rare photo of Gangadharrao Deshpande and Bapu
Belgaum 1924 session bath
Belgaum 1924 session arrangements for Bath at the specially built Congress Well

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