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OPINION | These Two Men From The Time of Quit India Movement Continue to Shine a Light on Gandhian Ideals

Seventy six years to date after Gandhiji launched the Quit India Movement with the clarion call “Do or Die”, it is interesting to recount the progression of lives of two of the torchbearers of Gandhian philosophy.

Amritanshu |

Updated:August 9, 2018, 3:42 PM IST
OPINION | These Two Men From The Time of Quit India Movement Continue to Shine a Light on Gandhian Ideals
Seen here is Professor Ramjee Singh cleaning a Gandhi statue.
It is uncanny how the contribution of Gandhiji in the freedom struggle has been forgotten by the people today. The freedom struggle partially ended in 1947 when we achieved the political independence. However, political independence was supposed to usher in social and economic independence which the nation is still struggling for.

Seventy six years to date after Gandhiji launched the Quit India Movement with the clarion call “Do or Die”, it is interesting to recount the progression of lives of two of the torchbearers of Gandhian philosophy.

Professor Ramjee Singh joined the Quit India Movement at a young age of 15. This is where his association with Jay Prakash Narayan began. After the independence, he went back to academics and became a pillar in the study of Gandhian Thought in India. His devotion to freedom and Gandhian ways was at full display when the veteran freedom fighter joined the JP movement in the mid-70s. Following a jail term of almost two years and a small stint in the Parliament, he went back spreading the Gandhian message through academics.

Apart from setting up departments of Gandhian Study across the country, he also was a prominent speaker at several national and international conclaves where Gandhi and his philosophy of peace and non-violence was the theme. Professor Singh finds interesting commonalities between the Mahatma’s philosophy and the spiritual history of India. According to him, “the focus on means to achieve the ends and the emphasis on peace, non-violence and an egalitarian society as both means and end” in these philosophies is the most important inference that one ought to draw. In this light he refers to Gandhiji as the Bodhisattva of 20th Century.

On the one side it is important to outline the Gandhian philosophy for an intellectual discussion on it so as to influence maximum people through it. But, the freedom struggle also saw countless young men and women silently go into oblivion after independence having fearlessly taken down the most potent and exploitative imperialistic regime. The 102 years old Baji Mohammed is one such example.

Baji Mohammed clearly recalls the day he met Gandhiji in Wardha as a 21-year old who had travelled from his small town in Odisha just to see the Mahatma. He remembers Gandhiji asking him, “Are you a Satyagrahi?” Yes was the answer from the young motivated man and it is as true today as it is was then

Inspired by Gandhiji and the idea of freedom, Baji sahib jumped in the Quit India Movement. Travelling across his district from village to village, leading a team of 30-35 satyagrahis, he spread the message of Gandhiji. The idea of India, the idea of Poorna Swaraj and the necessity of non-violent means to achieve them were spread across the remotest parts of Nabrangpur and adjoining areas. The result of this in British India was bullets, lathi charge, broken limbs and a jail term. He was arrested after the police firing in Nabrangpur in which he lost 19 of his fellow satyagrahis. In two and a half years of jail-time, he met several leaders, including Biju Pattnaik as a fellow prisoner.

After independence, Baji Mohammed continued to work on Gandhian principles and devoted his life to constructive programme. As a local leader in the Bhoodan Movement, he led by example by donating his 14 acres of land to poor and landless farmers. Not being able to go past matriculation, mostly because of inaccessibility and his participation in the freedom struggle, he knows the importance of education and emphasise on it no less than the Constructive Programme document of Gandhiji does. He opened a small school in his village and it runs even today through his freedom fighter’s pension.

The upsurge of communal identities in politics in the early 90s was as disappointing for him as the partition. His opposition to the former was as vociferous as it was for the latter. Being part of a 100-member peace force, he went to douse the fire of Mandi-Masjid dispute. And once again he adhered to the Gandhian principles, facing the lathis of violent, aggressive groups with non-violence and forgiveness.

Professor Ramjee Singh and Baji Mohammed Sahib are the two freedom fighters who took diverging paths after the independence. One went on to become a decorated professor, public intellectual and later the Vice Chancellor of Jain Bharati University. The other restricted his work to his village and the surroundings. One told the world what Gandhiji said and followed it in personal capacity while the other showed by example what Gandhiji meant by Poorna Swaraj and the struggle for it. But what binds these two old compatriots is a lifetime of indomitable courage, unflinching determination to uphold peace, unwavering adherence to non-violence and seamless generosity in the hearts. The two Khadi clad educationists have focused on different points in the same holistic document of Constructive Programme with the utmost conviction and belief in Gandhiji’s word, “my real politics is my Constructive work.” To that extent, both are two sides of the same coin.

Today these two stalwarts, along with many eminent Gandhians (such as, Mr. Prakash Amte, Dr. Ravindra Kumar, MR Natwar Khattar, Dr. Chelladurai, etc.) and other distinguished personalities, have come together to lend their support to the National Agenda Forum (NAF). With the aim to ressurect the conversation around Mahatma Gandhi’s 18-point constructive program, to re-imagine and co-create an actionable agenda for contemporary India.

(The writer is an alumnus of ISM, Dhanbad and has worked with many major firms as a consultant. Views expressed are personal)
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