MUMBAI: This is one shutdown that is voluntary and is being patriotically followed for 70 years. On August 14 every year, Palghar marks Hutatma Din (martyrs' day) to pay homage to five young fr edom fighters who were shot dead by the British during the peak of the Quit India Movement.
On Thursday, schoolgirls gathered at Hutatma Chowk, in the heart of Palghar, singing and offering prayers. A sea of humanity—government officials, politicians, industrialists, shop and restaurant owners and the general public—observed silence at 12.39pm, when bullets had pierced Govind Thakur, Kashinath Pagdare, Ramprasad Tevari, Sukur More and Ramchandra Churi, all aged 17 to 20, on August 14, 1942. As the clarion call of 'Do or Die' and 'Quit India' was given at August Kranti Maidan on August 9, 1942, youngsters from Palghar and the surrounding villages of Satpati, Shirgaon, Dhansar, Tembode, Alyali, Murbe, Navapur, Ucheli, Palmtembhi, Kharekhuran, Popurva, Unbhat and Aalewadi took out a morcha to the tehsildar's office. As the crowd, led by Sakharam Patil, reached the memorial spot, the British opened fire, recalled Navnitbhai Shah (91), a Palghar resident. He said Patil, a Gandhian, had asked the crowd to not even possess sticks. Two years later, a memorial was constructed for the martyrs and Palgharites have since then practiced keeping their shops and establishments shut on August 14 from 6am to 6pm. Even autos are off roads and educational institutions remain shut. Only hospitals and diaries remain open and only essential commodities and services provided. Narendra Patil, a Palghar resident, recalls his late father mentioning about the march. "My father used to tell us stories about how one of the martyrs, Govind Thakur (17), collapsed after being hit by bullets, but refused to put down the flag. Even when he died, the flag was on him," Patil said. The flag continues to honour the central hall of the Palghar Municipal Council and is brought to the memorial site on August 14.