A homage to Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia by Bishwa Nath Singh
Bishwanath Singh :
Dr.Ram Manohar Lohia is remembered as an Indian freedom fighter and a socialist political leader besides being an able Parliamentarian.Let us have a glimpse of his life and pay our respectful homage to him.
Bishwanath Singh :
Ram Manohar Lohia was born in a village Akbarpur in Jaunpur district (now called Ambedkar Nagar district) of Uttar Pradesh, in India to Hira Lal, a nationalist and a school teacher, and Chanda-a household lady on March 23,1910, His moth...er Chanda had died when he was very young. Ram was introduced to the Indian Independence Movement at an early age by his father through the various protest assemblies Hari Lal took his son to. Ram made his first contribution to the freedom struggle by organizing a small hartal on the death of Lokmanya Tilak.Hari Lal, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, took his son along on a meeting with the Mahatma. This meeting deeply influenced Lohia and sustained him during trying circumstances and helped seed his thoughts, actions and love for swaraj. Ram was so impressed by Gandhiji's spiritual power and radiant self-control that he pledged to follow the Mahatma's footsteps. He proved his allegiance to Gandhi, and more importantly to the movement as a whole, by joining a satyagraha march at the age of ten.Lohia met Jawaharlal Nehru in 1921. Over the years they developed a close friendship. Lohia, however, never hesitated to censure Nehru on his political beliefs and openly expressed disagreement with Nehru on many key issues. Lohia organized a student protest in 1928 to protest the all-white Simon Commission which was to consider the possibility of granting India dominion status without requiring consultation of the Indian people.Lohia attended the Banaras Hindu University to complete his intermediate course work after standing first in his school's matric examinations. In 1929, Lohia completed his B.A. from Calcutta University. He decided to attend Berlin University, Germany over all prestigious educational institutes in Britain to convey his dim view of British philosophy. He soon learned German and received financial assistance based on his outstanding academic performance.While in Europe, Lohia attended the League of Nations assembly in Geneva. India was represented by the Maharaja of Bikaner, an ally of the British Raj. Lohia took exception to this and launched a protest then and there from the visitors gallery. He fired several letters to editors of newspapers and magazines to clarify the reasons for his protest. The whole incident made Lohia a recognized figure in India overnight. Lohia helped organize the Association of European Indians and became secretary of the club. The main focus of the organization was to preserve and expand Indian nationalism outside of India.Lohia wrote his PhD thesis paper on the topic of Salt Satyagraha, focusing on Gandhiji's socio-economic theory.Lohia joined the Indian National Congress as soon as he returned to India. Lohia was attracted to socialism and helped lay the foundation of Congress Socialist Party, founded 1934, by writing many impressive articles on the feasibility of a socialist India, especially for its journal, the Congress Socialist. When elected to the All India Congress Committee in 1936, Lohia formed a foreign affairs department for the first time. Nehru appointed Lohia as the first secretary of the committee. During the two years that he served he helped define what would be India's foreign policy.In the onset of the Second World War, Lohia saw an opportunity to collapse the British Raj in India. He made a series of caustic speeches urging Indians to boycott all government institutions. He was arrested on May 24, 1939, but released by authorities the very next day in fear of a youth uprising.Soon after his release, Lohia wrote an article called "Satyagraha Now" in Gandhiji's newspaper, Harijan, on June 1, 1940. Within six days of the publication of the article, he was arrested and sentenced to two years of jail.. In December 1941, all the arrested Congress leaders, including Lohia, were released in a desperate attempt by the government to stabilize India internally. Gandhi and the Indian National Congress launched the Quit India movement in 1942. Prominent leaders, including Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad, were jailed. The "secondary cadre" stepped-up to the challenge to continue the struggle and to keep the flame for swaraj burning within the people's hearts. Leaders who were still free carried out their operations from underground. Lohia printed and distributed many posters, pamphlets and bulletins on the theme of "Do or Die" on his secret printing-press. Lohia, along with freedom fighter Usha Mehta, broadcast messages in Bombay from a secret radio station called Congress Radio for three months before detection, as a measure to give the disarrayed Indian population a sense of hope and spirit in absence of their leaders.He went to Calcutta to revive the movement there. He changed his name to hide from the police who were closing in on him. Lohia fled to Nepal's dense jungles to evade the British. There he met, among other Nepalese revolutionaries, the Koirala brothers, who remained Lohia's allies for the rest of their lives.Lohia was captured in May 1944, in Bombay. Lohia was taken to a notorious prison in Lahore, where it is alleged that he underwent extreme torture. His health was destroyed but even though he was never as fit his courage and willpower strengthened through the ordeal. Under Gandhiji's pressure the Government released Lohia and his comrade Jayaprakash Narayan.Following his release, Lohia decided to vacation with a friend in Goa. Once there, Lohia was alarmed to learn that the Portuguese government had introduced new curbs on the people's freedom of speech and assembly. He decided to deliver a speech to oppose the policy but was arrested even before he could reach the meeting location. The publicity served to force the Portuguese government to relent and it allowed the people the right to assemble. The Goan people weaved Lohia's tale of unselfish work for Goa in their folk songs.As India's tryst with freedom neared, Hindu-Muslim strife increased. Lohia strongly opposed partitioning India in his speeches and writings. He appealed to communities in riot torn regions to stay united, ignore the violence surrounding them and stick to Gandhiji's ideals of non-violence.On the 15th of August, 1947, as the rest of India's leadership gathered in Delhi for the handover of power, Dr.Ram Manohar Lohia stayed by Gandhiji's side as he mourned the effects of Partition.Dr. Lohia favored Hindi as the official language of India, arguingLohia decided to make the mass public realize the importance of economic robustness for the nation's future.He encouraged public involvement in post-freedom reconstruction. He pressed people to construct canals, wells and roads voluntarily in their neighborhood. He volunteered himself to build a dam on river Paniyari which is standing till this day and is called "Lohia Sagar Dam When he arrived in Parliament in 1963, the country had a one-party government through three general elections. Lohia shook things up. Lohia was early to recognize that Marxism and Capitalism were similar in that both were proponents of the Big Machine. It was his belief that Big Industry was no solution for the third world (he even warned Americans, back in 1951, about their lives being taken over by big corporations). He called Marxism the "last weapon of Europe against Asia". Propounding the "Principle of Equal Irrelevance", he rejected both Marxism and Capitalism, which were often presented as the only alternatives for third world nations. Nehru too had a similar view, at least insofar as he observed to Andre Malraux that his challenge was to "build a just society by just means". Lohia had a strong preference for appropriate technology, which would reduce drudgery but not put the common man at the mercy of far away forces. As early as 1951, he foresaw a time of the 'monotonic mind', with nothing much to do because the problems of living had been all addressed by technology.He was against caste system.Aside from the procedural revolution of non-violent civil disobedience, bridging the rich-poor divide, the elimination of caste and the revolution against incursions of the big-machine, other revolutions in Lohia's list included tackling Man-Woman inequality, banishing inequality based on color, and that of preserving individual privacy against encroachment of the collective... He carried out this idea by moving the first no-confidence motion against the Nehru government, which had by then been in office for sixteen years! Lohia wanted to abolish private schools and establish upgraded municipal (government) schools which would give equal academic opportunity to students of all casts. This he hoped would help eradicate the divisions created by the caste system.Lohia set up a plan to decentralize the government's power so that the general public would have more power in Indian politics. He also formed Hind Kisan Panchayat to resolve farmers' everyday problems.Lohia was a socialist and wanted to unite all the socialists in the world to form a potent platform. He was the General Secretary of Praja Socialist Party. He established the World Development Council and eventually the World Government to maintain peace in the world.During his last few years, besides politics, he spent hours talking to thousands of young adults on topics ranging from Indian literature to politics and art .Lohia died on October 12, 1967 in New Delhi. He left behind no property or bank balance, just prudent contemplations. Let us join to pay our respectful homage to Lohia who was very socialistic in his thoughts and actions!
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Bishwanath Singh :
Let us pay our humble obeisance's to his lotus feet!