Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVII No. 18, January 1-15, 2018

Rebel with a cause

By K.R.A. Narasiah

CGK Reddy can be seen in the centre standing row 4th from left copy copy

C.G.K. Reddy can be seen in the second row, fourth from left.

From early in his life C.G.K. Reddy, former Business Manager of The Hindu and founder Director of the Research Institute of Newspaper Development, an organisation with which the Press Institute merged. Never had literally. He started his life as a mariner, having joined the Training Ship Dufferin as an engineering cadet. On graduation, he was posted as fifth engineer in ss Chilka, a vessel belonging to the British India Steam Navigation Company. Along with him was another Cadent navigating officer, Sayeed Shahabuddin. The ship, was carrying troops, left Calcutta for an unknown destination on January 23, 1942. On March 10th, she altered course due east, heading for Padang, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesian port).

The following passage is from A Short History of the British India Steam Navigation Company by Hilary St. George Saunders:

“. . .the ill-fated Chilka (Captain W. Bird), a passenger ship which had been converted into a trooper, was on the way to Padang. . . she never arrived, for on 11th March 1942 she met with a submarine. . .was torpedoed, listed to port and disappeared”

A badly injured Shahabuddin and some others watched from a lifeboat, the ship go down. Four terrible days later they reached Nias Island, 75 miles west of Sumatra. Reddy, fortunately not wounded so badly, reached the island a few hours later. Learning that Shahabuddin was in an Army hospital, he went to see him. As Shahabuddin says in his autobiography, “The whole of the night he sat on a chair next to my bed, and he was there to help me to turn from one side to another. Reddy wanted to stay with me, but it was not possible as he had to accompany the rest of the officers to Goonoongsitoli, the capital of Nias Island. Saying goodbye, he told me that if he returned to India before me he would get in touch with my parents in Calcutta and inform them of my position.” Reddy kept his promise. The two kept in touch for years after that. Shahabuddin moved to Pakistan after Partition.

Reddy’s nephew Dr. Amulya Reddy, has produced a monograph, Lest we forget C.G.K. Reddy which tells the story of CGK. Incidentally, Amulya’s daughter married into Shahabuddin’s family!

After Reddy and others were rescued and imprisoned by the Japanese, the Japanese planted 19 of them as spies in India. They were all caught and five were hanged for conspiring against the British. CGK was sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment.

CGK was to be charged with sedition once again. During the 1975-76 emergency, he was arrested in June, 1976 along with George Fernandes for working against the state, in what he became known as the Baroda Dynamite Case.

The accused were charged with smuggling dynamite to blow up government establishments and railway tracks. The accused were imprisoned in Tihar Jail, Delhi. CGK did not seek help of his uncle, Sir C.R. Reddy, former Vice Chancellor of Andhra University and its architect, who was quite an influential person then.

CGK has written elaborately about this case in his book, Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy: The Right to Rebel. In the prologue to the book (1977), when he was selected to join the Dufferin, he wanted to get into the Navy, but was rejected as he was marked as a Gandhian! While he was in Calcutta prior to joining Dufferin he was drawn to Subash Chandra Bose and met him once. When Bose escaped, one of the men arrested for enquiry was CGK Reddy! This was when he was yet in his teens.

When he was rescued by the Japanese after the sinking of the Chilka, he was infiltrated into India with the help of the Indian Independence League. The 19-man party entered Teknaf, a small town in Chittagong District, in September 1942. One of them was caught and became a collaborator. All of them were apprehended and were first taken to Red Fort and then to Madras.

Tried for waging war against the king, under the Enemy Agents Ordinance. He was tried with others by Mr. E. Mack, a Sessions judge. The Judge being compassionate person was unwilling to sentence all to death, all of them being youngsters. He sentenced four to death and had others detained till 1945. CGK  saw in the early hours August 9, 1943, Satish Bardan, Fouja Singh, Anandan, shouting Bharath Mata ki Jai and Mahathma Gandhi ki Jai as they went to the hangman’s noose.

The three years in jail gave him some maturity in thought, CGK says. It was during this time that he met Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and became his follower. He went away from politics, but June 26, 1975 transformed him when the Emergency was declared. He got in touch with the underground movement and found himself as an accused in Baroda Dynamite Case. He writes, nearly 30,000 persons were in jail then, which swelled to 150,000. He compares this with 40,000 people in jail at the height of the Quit India movement!

K.M. Mathew of Malayala Manorama offered CGK a job in Malayala Manorama, after he quit The Hindu. Together they established RIND in Madras. PII-RIND Mathews was the chaiman.

In his autobiography, The Eighth Ring, Mathew talks about CGK and says in the Baroda Dynamite Case, he was the second defendant and had before his arrest had been informed on the phone that the police were searching the room he was staying in at the Hotel Imperial and concludes CGK was Dynamite in every sense.

CGK’s son C. Rammohan Reddy, who served in Government, wrote in The Hindu about CGK’s sufferings during emergency in an article titled When Friends Disappeared. As member of Parliament, from Karnataka, Reddy took active part in various discussions involving personal freedom and safety.

Amulya Reddy adds the last note: “He was reading a PG Wodehouse book in the Intensive Care Unit (Vijaya Hospital in Madras) before his operation. On the day he was going in for the major surgery that resulted in death, he asked for a piece of paper and penned his last testament: “I have had the good fortune to enjoy the affection, regard and generosity of friends, relatives and colleagues. These are what made my living worthwhile and have come to my aid in battling some very difficult times.” “May I say Thank you & wish you the best?” He passed away in December 1994.

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