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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

50) Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan; Honouring a Prominent Freedom Fighter ,Nationalist and popular Social leader (11.10.1902 – 08.10.1979)

Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan;
Honouring a Prominent Freedom Fighter ,Nationalist and popular Social leader
(11.10.1902 – 08.10.1979)
Jaya Prakash Narayan (or Jai Prakash Narain or J.P. as he is popularly known as) was born on 11.10.1902 at Sitab Diyara, Chappra District, Bihar, India.
He had his early education in his native village, passing his Matriculation Examination in 1919. He joined a Collegiate School at Patna for further studies. Later, he studied at Patna College on a Government scholarship, and then he studied at Bihar Vidyapeeth, founded by Dr. Rajendra Prasad (the First President of India), Later, through his own efforts, he was educated at universities in the United States of America where, in San Francisco he completed his graduation. He, also, imbibed Marxist learning/leanings and had read Lenin’s “Colonial thesis” which exhorted all communists under colonial rule to actively participate in National Freedom struggles. He dropped further studies to join the Indian Freedom Movement against British Rule.

Participation in India Freedom Movement:
 He returned to India in 1929, where he joined the Indian National Congress (INC). He took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement which had started in 1930 at Mahatma Gandhi’s call against the British Rule for achieving Independence for India. In 1932, he was arrested and imprisoned for a year for his fiery speeches and participation in the Civil Disobedience movement.
Upon his release in 1934, he was in the forefront of the formation of the Congress Socialist Party, a left-wing group within the INC, of which he was, also, the Secretary. He was imprisoned again in 1939, when Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (Please refer my previous post on this blog) started another Civil Disobedience Movement at the start of World War II, when the then Viceroy of India, declared and committed India’s resources towards the British war effort. He made a dramatic escape from prison and tried to organize a militant resistance against the British Government in India. During the Quit India Movement in 1942, much like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, before him, he tried to persuade the INC to adopt a more militant approach against British Rule in India and was imprisoned again and subjected to severe torture several times by the British Authorities.

Post Independence social work:
  From being a leader advocating “militancy” against British Rule, he transformed himself into a Gandhian  and was greatly influenced by Gandhiji’s concept of non-violence and advocated the use of “Satyagrah”  (insistence of one’s true rights through peaceful means)to achieve the ideals of “Democratic Socialism”.
In 1948, after Indian achieved Independence, he broke away from the INC along with several Socialists and formed the “Praja Socialist Party” in 1952. He was deeply disillusioned with the actual implementation of Socialism during Nehru’s tenure as Prime Minister.
Later, in 1954, finding himself constrained with working within a political entity and given to a life of working for the upliftment of the masses in India, he let it be known that he would devote his life exclusively towards the “Sarvodaya” (Growth and Prosperity everywhere) and “Bhoodaan Yajna Movement” (Donation of land to the Landless and Depressed classes), which had been initiated by Vinoba Bhave. He gave up his own land and set up an “Ashram” in Hazaribagh (Bihar), working towards upliftment of the villages.
He was very unhappy with the way Indian Politics was being run by the leaders after India achieved Freedom through the sacrifices of many patriotic citizens.
In 1957, he declared the philosophy of “Lok-niti (Polity of the people) as opposed to “Raj-niti (Polity of the State). His concept of Lok-niti was that it should be non-partisan, build up a consensus-based, classless, participatory democracy which he termed “Sarvodaya”. In 1959 he put forth a strong case for the reconstruction of Indian Polity within a four tier hierarchy – village councils ( at the base), District councils (at the second tier), State councils ( at the third level) and the Union Councils (at the National level).

The infamous “National Emergency” of 1975:
In 1974, he became a severe critic of the rise in sycophancy, corruption and autocratic methods of Governance in the Indian political system, during the tenure of Indira Gandhi as India’s Prime Minister. The lop-sided Government policies resulted in the labour class sinking deeper into starvation and debt traps. Student strikes and mass protests took place in the most affected states, particularly, in Bihar and Gujarat, spearheaded by Jaya Prakash Narayan and Morarji Desai under the banner of a “Janata Morcha” (People’s Front).
Later, when in 1975, Indira Gandhi was convicted of corrupt election practices by the Allahabad High Court, he called for her to tender her resignation as Prime Minister and gave a call for “Sampoorna Kranti” (Total Revolution). Instead , alarmed at the growing popularity of J.P.’s movement, and with the intention to save her Prime Minister’s position at any cost, Indira Gandhi declared the now infamous “National Emergency “on 25.06.1975, curtailed citizens rights, imposed Press censorship, subverted the Judiciary and imposed an Authoritarian Rule upon the Indian Nation. Jaya Prakash Narayan and several Opposition Leaders and dissenting members of her own Party – the “Young Turks”, were jailed for varied/indefinite terms, where he became very sick and never recovered from the ailments which he contracted during his 5-month prison term. Jaya Prakash Narayan’s vision of a corruption free Indian polity, later, got a chance, when Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party received a drubbing in the landmark elections of 1977, during which he also campaigned for election of clean and committed politicians, despite his ill-health, and the Janata Party was elected to power, whose leaders consulted him on National/Political matters for guidance.

Death and Legacy:
 Jaya Prakash continuously suffered from diabetes and heart ailments which he had contracted during his detention in prison during the “National Emergency” declared by Indira Gandhi and he passed away on 08.10.1979. While he was undergoing treatment in the final days of his life at Jaslok Hospital, New Delhi, and an anxious Nation awaited the news of his well-being, an erroneous announcement by the then Prime Minister Charan Singh, that he had passed away , led to a National Mourning, which was remedied later, by announcing that he was still undergoing treatment. He passed away a few weeks later, leading to a week’s National mourning. He was hailed as the “Conscience of the Nation” by the Prime Minister.
He was fully committed to the cause of India’s Freedom from British Rule, and after Independence, he was a voice against Corruption, sycophancy and autocratic policies of the Indira Gandhi regime. He stood for sacrifices from the well to do citizens of India and pragmatic developmental policies at the Political level for the welfare of the Indian masses and had a vision that many people followed and made their life’s goals in the reconstruction of the Indian Nation.
Leaders like him (and Aruna Asaf Ali) were described as “the political children of Mahatma Gandhi, but the recent students of Karl Marx”. He was also a great advocate of “Sahjeevan” (Peaceful Co-Existence).
Several books and biographies were written on him and there are several edited works on Jaya Prakash Narayan, including on his thoughts on the Sarvodaya movement , democracy,, vision, prison life/diaries, his personal letters etc.

Commemoration/memorials  and Awards:
He was awarded the Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1965.
He was awarded the Bharat Ratna (the highest civilian Award) in 1999.
The Airport at Patna (capital of Bihar State, India) is named after him.
 The Reserve Bank of India, to commemorate the birth centenary ofJaya Prakash Narayan, has brought out a one rupee coin in 2002 to celebrate for general circulation. (Also, a Proof/uncirculated set in the denomination of 100, and 10 rupees was brought out for the occasion).
The coin issued for general circulation is made of Ferritic Stainless Steel (FSS) It is circular in shape and has a diameter of 25mm and weight of 4.85gms.

The obverse of the coin has the Lion Capital in the centre together with the words “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth always Prevails) which together form the emblem/Coat of Arms of India. The numeral “1” denoting the denomination of the coin is below the emblem. On the left periphery are the words “Bharat” and “Rupiye” in Hindi and on the right periphery are the words “India” and “Rupees” in English.

On the reverse of the coin is a portrait/image of Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan, with his name spelt out both in Hindi and English. The words “Janamshati” in Hindi and “Centenary” in English are also engraved on the coin. This coin was minted at Mumbai mint. Notice the “diamond” mint mark below the year of issue, 2002.

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