Babu Genu Said, the first martyr of Swadeshi Movement

We have a target today, a great aspiration to take Bharat to a Five Trillion Dollar Economy. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the nation has to progress and has put forward a challenge to his country man to work together to reach there. Will we reach there in the time frame he has fixed or not is a moot point, but that should not deter any one of us to spare any effort to work towards that goal wholeheartedly and with fervency and zeal.

But then, how? We have gained our administrative independence from the foreign rule – a struggle spanning over 90 years. We are still in the midst of a struggle to gain economic independence. We are sure to win under the present dispensation which has seriously and cautiously making efforts to keep away from the intellectual dependency that was forced upon the minds of our Politicians and Bureaucrats till 2014.

Today, December 12, while we observe the remembrance day of late Baby Genu Said, the first Swadeshi Martyr —an illiterate Cotton Mill Worker who laid down his life while standing firm on the ground to protect the economic independence of our nation, it is imperative that we draw inspiration from this young hero, forgotten by many and work tirelessly towards our rightful position as an economic power. For those who are wondering who this forgotten hero is, let me take you 111 years back.

Babu Genu Said was born in a poor family in Mahalunge Padwal, a village in Maharashtra. Having lost his father at the age of two, his mother went to Bombay (now Mumbai) in search of employment. Genu later joined his mother but had to fend for himself and engaged himself as a casual labour in the famed cotton mills in Mumbai. He was influenced by the spirit of swadeshi movement propounded by Mahatma Gandhi and was an active participant in the protests against foreign imports by the British. He understood that these imports is against the economic activity of our nation and protested against the import of foreign made cloth.

George Frazier, a cloth merchant and importer was moving foreign made cloth in truck with police protection on that fateful day – 12 December, 1930. The freedom fighters protested the movement but the police cleared the way for the truck to move forward. However, Babu Genu stood in front of the truck at Bhaangwadi on Kalbadevi Road. The rallying cry praising Mahatma Gandhi and stubbornly refusing to move away, made the British Police to order the truck driver to tread forward disregarding the protester. Balbir Singh, the driver drove up close to the protestors but did not have the heart to run them over. It is said that Singh, who found his fellow Indian as a brother, refused the order to murder.  A British Officer took the driver’s seat and ran over the obdurate Genu, crushing him to a violent death. This murder of Babu Genu evoked violent protests throughout Mumbai. The Director of Information of the British administration immediately issued a press note describing the grisly act as an accident. A martyr—the first for the cause of swadeshi.

No one can claim that Babu Genu was an economist who visualised the economic impact in the global trade. I cannot argue that he was mature enough at 22 to dissect the nuances of wearing a shirt made of foreign cloth vis-a-vis that of a locally weaved one. He knew that the employment of many will be at stake, he realised that the economic independence of his nation will be compromised, he foresaw the economic dependency that would be forced upon Bharat and he understood that our freedom will be a distant dream.

Should we not stand up, come together and work for that cause for which this young man laid down his life? Should we not be fiercely helping our economy by supporting our brethren who bring out the products and services from within our county? In today’s world, which is much more complicated than 90 years back in the field of trade and business, should we not have a fierce nationalism in our buying preferences.

Yes, We Can and Yes, We Should. Take a pledge today – Buy Swadeshi Products. When you go to the market, bring home our own products. Be assured, this will take our economy to that 5 Trillion Dollar mark.