MANGALORE, 15 May-2014, TOI: Well-known freedom fighter and the guru of former defence minister George Fernandes, Ammembala Balappa, passed away at a private hospital on Thursday. He was 93.
The veteran had respiratory problems of late and was in and out the hospital from couple of months. He had been admitted to the hospital May 1 and was in the Medical ICU till his death. The body has been kept at the AJ Hospital Mortuary.
The freedom fighter turned socialist was born in Ammembala of Bantwal taluk on February 23, 1922. He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and jumped into the freedom struggle during the Quit India struggle in 1942. He was 20 years old then.
He is one of the main contributors to the Land reforms Act initiated by the Devraj Urs government during Indira Gandhi’s tenure as prime minister in the 70’s. Born in a potter’s family, he could not continue his education beyond first standard because of casteism, but Balappa managed to speak and read English while being employed by a British officer.
Balappa was sent to Vellore jail after he was found to have planted crude bombs at the court complex at Light House Hill Road. This jail stint helped him learn Hindi through former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who was also imprisoned there. His prowess in Hindi helped him get in touch with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Jayaprakash Narayan.
Balappa after Independence was in the labour movement and started co-operative banks to help rural farmers. In the major part of the last decade he was bedridden and suffering from memory loss.