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Top Gandhian and Modi critic Narayan Desai passes away in Vedchhi, South Gujarat

By Our Representative
Well-known Gandhian Narayan Desai and a firm Modi critic, who became famous for his Gandhi Katha, a story-telling mode for religious preaching, has passed away. Born on December 24, 1924 in Valsad in South Gujarat, Desai breathed last in the wee hours of March 15 in a town situated not very far, Vedcchi, where Mahatma Gandhi founded one of his many ashrams. He was son of Gandhi's personal secretary and biographer Mahadev Desai.
Last of the towering Gandhians of Gujarat, Desai was brought up at Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, Ahmedabad, and Sevagram, near Wardha. He stopped attending school to be educated and trained by his father and other residents of the Ashram. He specialized in basic education, spinning and weaving khadi.
A sharp critic of Narendra Modi's chief ministership, Desai said in an interview that he loved Gujarat but was "not proud" of Gujarat. He said, he would not support Modi "because he has not shown any regret for the violence in 2002 in Ahmedabad."
Worse, he said, "Not only that, (Modi) conducted a tour in which he addressed about 164 meetings and called it a Gaurav Yatra -- a pilgrimage of pride. Pride of what? Killing of one's own people in his own state?"
A supporter of Gandhi's idea of dissolving the Congress, Desai turned to the Aam Admi Party (AAP), offering it "conditional support" by deciding to go in for voter education programme for AAP.
Desai married to Uttara Chaudhury, daughter of freedom fighter parents, Nabakrushna and Malatidevi Chaudhury. He moved to Vedchhi, then a tribal village, immediately thereafter, to work as teachers in a Nai Taleem school.
Following the Bhoodan (land gift) movement launched by Vinoba Bhave, Desai traversed through the length and breadth of Gujarat by foot, seeking to collect land from the rich in order to distribute it among the landless. He started Bhoodan mouthpiece "Bhoomiputra" (Son of the Soil) and remained its editor till 1959.
Desai joined the Akhil Bharatiya Shanti Sena Mandal (Indian Peace Brigade), founded by Bhave, and headed by veteran socialist Jayaprakash Narayan. As general secretary of Shanti Sena, Desai recruited and trained "peace volunteers" in order to intervene in ethnic conflicts and help establish harmony among conflicting communities. He was also involved in the setting up of Peace Brigades International.
Desai was an active campaigner against the Emergency, and brought out a magazine defying the prevailing censorship law. He played an important role in the formation of Janata Party, a conglomeration of non-Congress political parties in India, which included the then Jana Sangh (now BJP), and helped arrive at a consensus on the name of Morarji Desai as Prime Minister.
Following Narayan's death, Narayanbhai moved back to Vedchhi and set up the Institute for Total Revolution to impart training in non-violence and Gandhian way of life. As part of his tribute to his father, he wrote a four-volume biography of Gandhi in Gujarati, a dream his father could not fulfill in his lifetime because of his sudden death in prison on August 15, 1942.
Desai started Gandhi Katha in 2004 to spread message of Mahatma Gandhi. His Katha is compiled in a book form. In the last phase of his life, he became chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith. Due to health issues, he resigned from the post from a hospital in Surat, where he was hospitalised for several months before he was brought to Vedcchi.

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