Hubballi: Chennabasamma Ratnakatti, centurion freedom fighter from Hubballi is a rare living link between the present generation and the Gandhian principles. Her eyes go moist whenever she recalls her role in the freedom struggle and days spent with Gandhiji and his wife Kasturba.When Gandhiji visited Hudali village near Belgavi in 1937, Congress workers from Hubballi, Dharwad, Ranebennur and Belgavi had gathered as volunteers. Chennabasamma along with her husband Chennabasappa stayed at Hudali for 15-20 days, during which she got to work closely with Gandhiji.

The lessons in fight against untouchability were given by Mahatma and his wife Kasturba. This inspired me and my husband to take up various works towards harijans during 1940s and 50s, recalls Chennabasamma.

Chennabasamma with her husband started working for educating under-privileged children at Aremallapur village in Ranebennur taluk, which was also the home town of her freedom fighter husband Chennabasappa.

“We had 30 girls staying at Harijan Ashram in our village. I used to help the girls read and write. Many Congress leaders, who visited the Ashram, honoured us,” she says.

Chennabasamma actively participated in the freedom struggle, which was at its peak in parts of north Karnataka. She was lodged in Hindalga jail in Belagavi for a month. The freedom struggle also gave her bitter memories. She lost her three-month-old child when her husband and many others in the village were arrested and taken away by the British. There was no ration and food supply for many weeks, during which the elders and children in the village had to bear the brunt.

Mailar Mahadevappa was a famous freedom fighter from Haveri and Chennabasamma helped him during the struggle. He was one among the few leaders from the region, who participated in the Dandi March with Gandhiji.

Mahadevappa was shot dead by the British police in 1943 when he attempted to loot a government treasury. Even at the age of 104, she likes to go outdoor and eat idlis at her favourite restaurants in Hubballi. She has a message for younger generation – work hard and earn.