Born On: March 23, 1910
Born In: Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh
Died On: October 12, 1967
Career: Freedom Fighter, Socialist, Political Leader
An honored freedom fighter, a maverick socialist and an esteemed political leader are phrases that have long been and still are synonymous to Ram Manohar Lohia. Having been born in 1910 in the pre-independence era to a nationalist-at-heart father, it didn't take him long before he entered the freedom movement. And with Mahatma Gandhi as his mentor, he never shied away from the truth and worked his way wonderfully through India's freedom struggle for independence to post-independence social and economic issues with an unswayed enthusiasm and dedication. Be it organizing a small strike on the death of Lokmanya Tilak or providing support to India's freedom struggle by participating in the Satyagraha Movement at the age of ten; raising his voice to the social evils like rich-poor divide, elimination of caste system, and man-woman inequality; summoning the youth on the topics of politics, literature, and arts during his last few years; he did it all. At the age of 57 he passed away, but not before making an applaud-worthy contribution to both, India's history and future. It's only respectful that many colleges, universities, hospitals, and roads have been named after him in his remembrance.
Son of Hira Lal and Chanda, Ram Manohar was born on 23rd March 1910 in Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh in the British India. His mother, who was a teacher by profession, passed away while he was still very young. At a young age, Ram's father, who was a nationalist, introduced him to India's freedom movement through various rallies and protest assemblies. The turning point in his life came when his father, an impassioned follower of Mahatma Gandhi, took him along on a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi. Deeply inspired by Gandhi's personality and beliefs, Ram took his values and principles to heart which helped him come through the testing times and supported him in many of his endeavors in future. At the age of ten, he participated in the Satyagraha march and proved both, his loyalty to Mahatma Gandhi and his metal as a significant freedom fighter in the time to come.
In 1921, he met Jawaharlal Nehru, with whom he developed a deep bond over the years. However, the two had clash of opinions over various issues and political beliefs. At the age of 18, in the year 1928, young Lohia organized a student protest to object the all-white Simon Commission which was to consider the possibility of granting India dominion status without requiring consultation of the Indian people. However, in midst of all this, Lohia did not give up on his education. He attended the Banaras Hindu University to complete his intermediate course work after standing first in his school's matric examinations. He, then, completed his graduation in B.A from Calcutta University in 1929 and went to Berlin University, Germany to pursue his PhD and completed it in 1932. He soon learned German and received financial assistance based on his outstanding academic performance.
Ram Manohar Lohia always preferred Hindi over English as the official language of India as he believed that English creates a distance between the educated and the uneducated public. He stated that the usage of English acts as a hindrance in the way of original thinking and creates a sense of un-belongingness among the uneducated class. He believed that using Hindi would promote a spirit of unity and will foster new nation changing ideas. "Caste restricts opportunity. Restricted opportunity constricts ability. Constricted ability further restricts opportunity. Where caste prevails, opportunity and ability are restricted to ever-narrowing circles of the people". These words from Ram Manohar truly project what he thought of ever existent caste system in India.
He believed that caste system impairs the thought processes and robs the country of fresh ideas. He suggested for a nullification of the caste system through "Roti and Beti (bread and daughter)". He believed that the only way to annihilate the caste barrier is by baking bread (roti) together as one (eating together) and by being willing to marry the girls (beti) despite of what caste the boy belongs to. For the same, he handed out electoral tickets to the higher positions in his United Socialist Party to the lower caste candidates and even promoted them. He also wanted to establish better government schools which would provide equal learning opportunities to everyone despite of the class.
Indian Freedom Movement
His spirit and role in the freedom movement did not end with his stint while he was young. In fact, while his stay in Europe, he also organized a club Association of European Indians, the purpose of which was to expand and preserve Indian nationalism outside India. He also attended the League of Nations assembly in Geneva. Though India was represented by the Maharaja of Bikaner, an ally of the British Raj, Lohia took exception to this. Further, he launched a protest from the visitors' gallery and later fired several letters to editors of newspapers and magazines to clarify the reasons for his protest. The whole incident made Ram Manohar Lohia a superstar in India, overnight. Immediately after his return to the home country, he joined the Indian National Congress party and laid the base for Congress Socialist Party formed in 1934. In 1936, Jawahar Lal Nehru appointed him as the first secretary of the All India Congress Committee which led to the formation of the foreign affairs department for the first time, in giving shape to India's foreign policy.
On 24th May, 1939, Lohia was arrested for the first time for making provocative statements and urging Indian people to boycott all government institutions but was released by the authorities on the very next day because of the fear of youth uprising. However in June 1940, he was arrested yet again under charges of writing the article "Satyagraha Now" and was sent for two years of imprisonment where he was mentally tortured and interrogated, before being set free in December 1941. During the Quit India Movement in 1942, Ram Manohar was among many other secondary leaders who made tremendous effort to keep the fire of an independent India burning inside the commoners; when many top leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Azad, and Vallabhbhai Patel were imprisoned.
Lohia got arrested twice after that, once in Bombay from where he was taken to a prison in Lahore and was brutally tortured; and once in Goa, where upon learning that the Portuguese government had restricted people's freedom of speech and assembly, he decided to make a speech against Portuguese government's policy. And as India was getting closer to being independent, he strongly opposed partition of the country into two through his writings and speeches. Being a hardcore follower of Mahatma Gandhi and adopting his philosophy of non-violence, he pleaded the nation against the acts of violence that had engulfed the country because of partition. On 15th August 1947, when all of the India assembled in Delhi, he stood by his mentor mourning the after-effects of an unwanted partition.
The post independence work that he indulged in to rebuild the nation and make it stand firm was no less ordinary than his contribution as a freedom fighter in India's struggle for independence. He urged for a more personal involvement and contribution from the general public to reconstruct the nation by constructing wells, canals, and roads in their respective local and neighborhood areas. The Janavani Day, a day to listen to the grievances and opinions of people from across the nation by the parliament members; is still persistent today. The controversy of "teen anna pandrah anna", when Ram Manohar wrote a pamphlet "25000 rupees in a day" stating that the amount of money spent on prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was way more than our country could afford when majority of the population lived on 3 annas a day, is famous even today. In reply, Nehru had snapped stating that India's planning commission's statistics reflected that the average income was close to 15 annas a day.
Lohia brought many issues at surface that had long been eating away the nation and its capacity to succeed. He worked hard through speech and writing in creating awareness and bringing forth the problems like rich man-poor man gap, caste inequalities, man-woman inequalities, and yet not giving away individual privacy. Since agriculture was India's primary source of GDP at that time, Lohia formed Hind Kisan Panchayat, whereby farmers of the country could resolve their problems. He even made an effort to provide more power into the hands of general public by planning to centralize the government. During his last few years, he spent most of his time in discussing the topics of politics, Indian literature, and arts with the younger generation of the nation.
On 12th October, 1967; at the age of 57 Ram Manohar Lohia died in New Delhi.
Ram Manohar Lohia's contribution did not go in vain, as people realized his efforts for a united and free India. Post his death; he was bestowed with numerous nobilities. Dr. Rammanohar Lohiya National Law University, one of the premier law institutes in India, located at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, has been named after him. Apart from this, there is a hospital in New Delhi by the name of Dr. Rammanohar Lohia Hospital that has been established in his memory. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences is an upcoming medical institute for postgrauade studies in Lucknow Uttar Pradesh. To add on, the Dr. Rammanohar Lohia College of Law, affiliated with Bangalore University, has been named after him. Also, "18 June Road", in Panjim, Goa is named after himmarkign his agitation against colonial rule in the year 1946.
1910: Born to Hira Lal and Chanda in Akbarpur, UP.
1921: Participated in Satyagraha March lead by Mahatma Gandhi.
1928: Organized a student protest against the all-white Simon Commission.
1929: Completed his graduation in B.A from Calcutta University.
1932: Completed his Ph D from Berlin University, Germany.
1934: Laid the foundation for Congress Socialist Party.
1936: Elected as first secretary to the All India Congress Committee.
1939: Arrested for making harsh speeches and asking people to boycott government institutions.
1940: Arrested yet again for his article "Satyagraha Now".
1942: Participated in Quit India Movement.
1944: Arrested and taken to a jail in Lahore where he was tortured.
1947: Was amongst the many leaders who were present in New Delhi on 15th August.
1962: Shocked everyone by asking India to produce a bomb shortly after the Chinese aggression.
1963: His pamphlet "25000 rupees in a day" sparked off the still-remembered "teen anna pandrah anna controversy".
1967: Died at the age of 57 in New Delhi.