Skip to main content

A bridge between Congress, revolutionaries, he sacrificed life for communal harmony

By Bharat Dogra* 

On March 25 is observed the death anniversary of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, a great editor, a highly dedicated freedom fighter and a lifelong crusader for justice and freedom who sacrificed his life at a young age of 41 in 1931 while trying to stop communal violence and rescue trapped people in Kanpur.
A Congress leader, the central place of his work was in the vast area of United Provinces. He martyred just two days after Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. It was regarded as a very big setback at a critical stage of the freedom movement. Many people believe that Vidyarthi was trapped by colonial rulers into a riot where he was to be killed without the government getting blamed for this.
This view gains credibility when we remember that Vidyarthi had a very special position as a bridge between the Congress and the revolutionaries. Jawaharlal Nehru had a very high regard for him. It is apparent from the rich tributes paid to him by both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as the position he occupied as the highly respected leader of the United Provinces at a very young age, that his position in the Congress was very strong. 
Yet he also enjoyed fully the confidence of such leading revolutionaries as Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad, the former having been trained by him as an assistant editor of sorts while still in his teens.
What is not so well-known is that Vidyarthi had a role in channelizing the high energy levels of young revolutionaries along lines of greater constructive achievements. As they respected his understanding and wisdom, revolutionaries quietly consulted Vidyarthi regarding some ‘actions’, and often Vidyarthi would exercise restraint to prevent what would have been avoidable violence.
As revolutionaries moved towards making a more durable impact on people by satyagraha type actions and fasts in jail during 1929-31, the influence of mentors like Vidyarthi could be seen in this change.
At the same time his role as an editor was nothing short of being glorious. For 18 years at a stretch, with continuity, (1913-31) he fought colonial rule with his one foot in office and the other in prison. In addition he was all the time fighting court cases filed by very powerful persons as well. His newspaper "Pratap" became a leading forum for the wider freedom movement as well as various struggles against various big feudal interests and royalty.
In addition he repeatedly took up the issue of communal harmony in his newspaper and also helped several citizens’ efforts in this direction, particularly in Kanpur. He played a leading role in forming an organization called Hindustani Biradari which organized programs on communal harmony and joint celebrations of various festivals.
Vidyarthi repeatedly warned people against falling prey to communal propaganda. He could foresee that to divert the rising tide of freedom movement, the forces of imperialism will try to help and incite the narrow communal forces on both sides. So he wrote against this several times. But even he could not have foreseen that his own life will be lost in trying to control this violence.
In the early days of 1931 the popularity of Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries who had been imprisoned by the British was at its peak. In a different case Vidyarthi was also in jail but he was released just a few days before the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev on March 23.
These revolutionaries were very close and dear to Vidyarthi. 
Given his high organizational capability and his mass base it is very likely that Vidyarthi mobilized perhaps the biggest opposition against the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Keeping this in mind, the colonial regime instigated one of the worst communal violence in Kanpur around the same time that the three revolutionaries were executed.
As Vidyarthi had himself just come out of jail, he did not get enough time to mobilize people against this possibility. However once the flames of communal violence started burning, he made very determined efforts to rescue as many people as he could. People saw him rescuing trapped people from both communities.
Colonialists instigated one of the worst communal riots in Kanpur around the time Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were executed
It was in the course of these repeated efforts that at some stage he was stabbed and killed. There are indications that following the death sentence given to Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru instructions had been given by colonial rulers also to eliminate Vidyarthi as he was seen as a bridge between the revolutionaries and the Congress. This view is supported in an interview of his daughter Vimla Vidyarthi which was conducted by Suresh Salil who has edited and compiled the collected works of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi.
Vimla stated that she sees the killers not as rioters but as persons guided by colonial rulers. She recalled a well-informed person stating earlier that day that weapons are being distributed in several localities and it is being said that the Lion of Kanpur will be killed today (Kahat hai ki Kanpur ka sheru mara jai).
Of course the Lion of Kanpur reference is to Vidyarthi. The concluding observation of Vimla was that the killing of Vidyarthi was a part of the same conspiracy which led to the hurried execution of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.
This is all the more reason why the nationwide observance of martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev should be followed up also by observing the martyrdom day of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. He is an enduring symbol that when we fight for justice, equality, freedom and harmony, a broader unity should be established, ignoring smaller differences.
Vidyarthi lived this reality by creating a very united movement of such forces in the region around Kanpur for nearly two decades which had a much wider impact.
---
*Has extensively written articles, booklets, books and short stories on freedom movement; recent books include “When the Two Streams Met” and “Azadi ke Deewanon Ki Daastaan”

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Dalit scholar's comment on Lord Shiva 'harming' Muslims, 'damaging' secular cause

Shahid Siddiqui, Bobby Naqvi By Our Representative   Bobby Naqvi, who is with the "Gulf News", and is a well-known name among Muslim intellectuals, strongly objecting to the social media post of Prof Ratan Lal, has said that "a big reason for majoritarian hatred against Muslims is irresponsible remarks by people like Prof Ratan Lal of Delhi University." In a Facebook comment , which has attracted paise, among others, from journaliat-politician Shahid Siddiqui, Naqvi said, "Their commentary on Hinduism and icons of Hinduism (while angering religious and liberal Hindus alike) also triggers a massive backlash against Muslims. When the likes of Prof Lal criticize Hinduism on social media, Hindus bring Islam and Islamic practices and ask 'what about this' or 'what about that'." Naqvi insists, "Muslims (without their fault) and Islam get caught in this crossfire between the so called Hindu liberal class and the religious Hindus. And the ult

Why there's strong likelihood India may resurrect its presence in Afghan capital

By Anand K Sahay* Since India evacuated its mission in Afghanistan once the Taliban re-took Kabul last August practically under American aegis, following what came to be called the Taliban’s Doha “negotiations” with the US, New Delhi is evidently doing a re-think. It is considered likely that an Indian representation will soon be restored in Kabul, even if this will be small and not at the level of ambassador. This is reflective of realistic thinking. Of course, there can be no question at present of according recognition to the Taliban regime. That is likely to happen when a broad consensus amongst the leading powers emerges. Currently the Taliban government is not helping its own cause of gaining world recognition- which will help it access overseas funds at a time when the country is in dire straits- by imposing severe restrictions on women and girls in serious violation of human rights. More basic is the issue that the Taliban regime is not considered r

Message to 'high caste' attackers? Dalit leader's daughter rides elephant in wedding march

By Our Representative  In what has been termed as “jumbo celebration”, a Gujarat Dalit rights leader belonging to Saurashtra region ensured that his daughter rides an elephant as part of wedding celebrations which took place in Vadhwan town of Surendranagar district. Natubhai Parmar, who shot into prominence for organising a unique protest against the notorious Una flogging incident in 2016, in which five Dalit boys were flogged as they allegedly slaughtered a cow. Belonging to the Rohit community, whose traditionally live by skinning dead cows, in 2016, Parmar reached Surendranagar district collector’s office with vehicles full of carcasses of cows asking him to organise them disposal of, declaring, his community had decided not to continue with the caste occupation, as it had been termed cow slaughter by saffron vigilantes. The decision to make his daughter ride the elephant, which he brought to Ahmedabad, was to send a message to members of the dominant castes, whose aggressive atta

Govt of India 'ignores' GMO regulation, 'overlooks' Constitutional process

Counterview Desk Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi, independent public policy expert, in a letter to Nareshpal Gangwar, additional secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), New Delhi, has expressed “seriously concern” that a recent office memorandum (OM) has sought to exempt certain types of gene-edited plants from the country's genetically modified organism  (GMO) regulations, without any reason or basis or representation. Dr Reddy regretted, “Such a serious decision, with an impact scale of unimaginable proportions, in terms of time and ecology, is being pushed through an ordinary office memorandum”, insisting, “This is circumvention of the processes enshrined in Indian Constitution, which has defined democratic participation in matters of critical importance.” Stating that the exemption from regulation is a policy decision and has legal implications, he demanded immediate withdrawal the OM, insisting, the government should take a "strong stand again

Himalayan tragedy: Labour laws for migrant workers violated at Ramganga dam site

By Bharat Dogra* The extremely tragic death of 10 workers at a tunnel construction site in Ramban on Jammu-Srinagar highway has again drawn attention to the serious hazards faced by workers employed in highways and dams in Himalayan region, several of them in very remote areas. These workers were trapped after a landslide hit the under-construction tunnel on May 19, followed later by one more landslide. Apart from these deaths, the remaining workers suffered injuries. While overall conditions at many such construction sites are known to be hazardous, according to preliminary reports the risks here increased due to sub-contracts which resulted in work being handled by those who did not have much experience or knowledge of such hazardous conditions. Sub-contracting is a common practice in such work and the principal employer gets away with less legal liability for hazardous conditions. Workers face more risks under this system and their rights are adversely affected. This