Today we remember two extremely inspiring personalities who left an important mark in India’s history before and after Independence. We pay tributes to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Acharya JB Kripalani on their 125th birth anniversary. Born in the same year, both these men dedicated a lifetime in service of the nation.
Remembering Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Acharya JB Kripalani on their birth anniversary
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad needs no introduction. It was as if he was blessed with a revolutionary streak from a young age. In 1912 he started the paper Al-Hilal, which did not hesitate from attacking the colonial rulers. He occupied an important place in the Congress party under Mahatma Gandhi’s guidance, including as the President during the critical years of early and mid 1940s. He served as India’s first Education Minister and it was under his tenure that the first IIT was inaugurated in Kharagpur. Maulana Azad will also be remembered for his steadfast opposition to partition of India.
A man of deep principles and a commitment to serve the poorest of the poor, Acharya Kripalani embraced Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership during the Champaran Satyagraha and he too went on to occupy an important role in the organisation of the Congress. After Independence he left the Congress and went on to form the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party, which later merged with the Socialist Party to form the Praja Socialist Party.
Acharya Kripalani created history when he moved the first ever no-confidence motion against the Government of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963. The motion came in the backdrop of India’s humiliating defeat to China, which was attributed to the misplaced idealism and lack of preparedness on the part of our first Prime Minister and then Defence Minister Shri VK Krishna Menon. Infact, Acharya Kripalani was unsparingly critical of Krishna Menon on repeated occasions on the floor of the Lok Sabha. His spirited contest against Krishna Menon from North Bombay in 1962 as the joint candidate of all Opposition parties barring the Communists is still remembered. He became one of the staunchest critics of the Emergency as well. Acharya Kripalani became very closely associated with Gujarat Vidyapeeth, which was established by Gandhi ji.
Much has been made of our efforts to commemorate various historical figures, who have either been completely ignored or have not been adequately remembered in the history books. After reading this blog, you are again likely to see television studios and social media networks rife with comments like ‘What does Modi have in common with them’ or ‘But they were not in Modi’s party’ among other things.
Friends, this is exactly the mindset we need to change.
It is with deep anguish that I see how some of our friends have reduced stalwarts of the freedom struggle to mere partisan political leaders. There can be no greater disservice to our history than viewing these stalwarts through the narrow prism of political partisanship.
It is high time we realize that these are leaders who transcended barriers of caste, community, creed or party lines. Their ideals and legacy are not for any party but for the entire nation to get inspired.
What is equally worrying is tendency of “speculative history” where some celebrity historians have appropriated to themselves the authority to speculate what some historical figure would have said or done.
Take the case of the relations between Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Yes, it is a fact that both Maulana Azad and Sardar Patel differed on many issues. But, it is equally a fact that both were guided by their absolute love and devotion for India and both of them worked together on several occasions under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. After all, debate, discussion and disagreements are a part and parcel of a vibrant democracy. Our ancient texts believed that learning is a continuous process. Knowledge and understanding must evolve with time and must not remain frozen in the polemics of the past.
It is in this light that I want to share Maulana Azad’s thoughts on Sardar Patel, which were published in his work ‘India Wins Freedom.’ Maulana Azad describes not running again for Congress President as his first mistake. As for his second mistake he wrote:
“My second mistake was that when I decided not to stand myself, I did not support Sardar Patel. We differed on many issues but I am convinced that he would have seen that the Cabinet Mission Plan was successfully implemented. He would have never committed the mistake of Jawaharlal which gave Mr. Jinnah an opportunity of sabotaging the Plan. I can never forgive myself when I think that if I had not committed these mistakes, perhaps the history of the last ten years would have been different.”
It is equally true that there are historical figures who have been erased from public memory just because they did not belong to a particular family. The history of India is the history or the struggle of countless men and women who devoted a lifetime to the clarion call of the Motherland.
Just because they did not belong to a particular family should we erase them from public memory or remember them less?
An online portal on Maulana Azad will be launched today by the Centre containing his digital archives. This is a welcome thing but one must also ask why they only paid lip service to his legacy all these decades? Should things like this not have come much earlier?
I will end by paying my richest tributes to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Acharya Kripalani with a prayer that we can create the India they and several other stalwarts of the freedom struggle dreamt of.