Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

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Kanthapura: Section 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
People throughout India picket toddy booths near their towns, and all day and night they sing songs about the evil of drinking and their allegiance to Gandhi, “our king.” Some educated “city boys” express this in rational argument, and others ask lower-caste villagers from Kanthapura to sneak out in the night and help them protest elsewhere.
The Kanthapura villagers’ protests are representative of similar events across India. Achakka portrays the village as a center of such resistance. People of different caste and educational backgrounds all help with the movement in ways suited to their character and experience, from protesting on the ground to helping theorize Indian independence.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
After Potter Ramayya comes back from one such trip, he says that in “house after house” people pasted newspaper pictures of Moorthy on the walls and asked for stories about his campaign. The villagers become proud to “bear the lathi blows and the prisons” and every day there is a new mission.
The pictures of Moorthy reveal how a colonial means of documenting and distributing information—newspapers—can be turned against the government by serving to venerate anticolonial leaders.
Themes
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
One day, the villagers threw a homecoming welcome feast for Potter Chandrayya, who told of being beaten with canes dipped in hot oil and then with lathis when they refused to salute the Government flag. One protestor climbed the building and raised the national flag; the police put him in solitary confinement and he was never seen again.
Again, the brutality of state violence is both a badge of honor for dedicated Gandhians and evidence that the colonial regime must be overthrown. Directly claiming independence by raising the national flag is the most dangerous challenge a Gandhian can make to the government.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Seetharamu has “the most terrible story” from prison. He came down with fever but the police forced him to continue working, beating him before binding him in a yoke, like a bull, and making him run around the mill until “nothing but blood” came from his mouth and they were forced to release him. Moorthy praises Seetharamu’s endurance and will, and this inspires the rest.
By forcing Seetharamu to work like an animal, the colonial government took the everyday exploitation of Indian laborers to its logical extreme, nearly killing a man whose life loses value to them when he cannot work.
Themes
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
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The villagers continue to picket toddy shops, and 24 of them close down in the area nearby, including Boranna’s. Some of the toddy sellers even join the Gandhians.
The protests finally begin to concretely effect change by shutting down businesses that oppress Indians and even converting some of Gandhi’s enemies.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The new Patel tries to collect revenues, but the villagers refuse despite the government’s threats. The police go around town, finding reasons to beat up whomever they wish. Only the few remaining pro-government brahmins pay their dues; the rest hide their jewels, sacks of food and other valuables in the ground. The policemen do not come to their houses, but they barricade every road out of Kanthapura.
The villagers do not acknowledge the false Patel named by the British; this officially brings the entire village outside the law, depriving the villagers of any legal rights at all.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Later, the police march a beadle through Kanthapura, and he announces that everyone who did not pay owns a fine “as punitive tax” to pay for the new policemen who would come “to protect” the villagers from “the troublesome ones.” Moorthy comes to Achakka’s house in the night, saying that “the fight has really begun” and warning her to ring a bell if the police come into her house. With Rangamma and Ratna’s help, he managed to inform everyone in the village that night, and everyone stayed up in fear until dawn.
The government doubles down on its demand for tax revenue, arbitrarily imposing a punitive tax but holding out hope that the villagers will finally back down. The empty rhetoric of police “protection” reflects the more broadly farcical nature of the Indian colonial police system, which acts in the name of the public but only truly protects the wealthy (almost entirely British) minority.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon