Born On: February 18, 1894
Born In: Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh
Died On: October 24, 1954
Career: Indian Independence Activist, Socialist
An Indian independence activist and a socialist to the core, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai's ceaseless efforts in making the country free from the British rule have been nothing but praiseworthy. Although a bachelor in arts graduate from Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College, his skills of keen observing and learning from human nature took him beyond bookish knowledge. During the crisis situations that he had to deal with during his service to the nation, he showed distinct man management skills and an innovative approach to resolve human issues. And with Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as his mentor, there was no stopping him further. His efforts in bringing out many reforms and fighting against the unjust with utmost conviction will always be remembered. A committed freedom fighter to the very end!
Rafi Ahmed Kidwai was born on 18th February 1894 in the village of Masauli in Barabanki District of Uttar Pradesh to a middle class zamindar family. His father, Imtiaz Ali Kidwai was a zamindar and a government servant by profession. His mother Rashid-ul-Nisa, died during Kidwai's early childhood. Young Kidwai received his early education from his uncle Vilayat Ali, who was a politically active lawyer. It was till 1913 that he attended the Government high school in Barabanki. In 1916, he enrolled into the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh to pursue his graduation. It was in the December of 1916 that his uncle made sure he participated in the historic session of the Congress party and the Muslim League party held at Lucknow. It was at this session that the Congress-league Pact was signed. In 1918 he successfully completed his B.A degree. For further education, Kidwai started to work towards L.L.B but couldn't complete it following his involvement in the national freedom struggle. In between, he also got married to Majid-ul-Nisa in 1919. The only son they had died at the age of seven.
It was by 1920 that Kidwai's political career officially initiated after he had become an active force behind the Khilafat Movement and the Non-Cooperation Movement and was even jailed for the same. In 1922, he moved to Allahabad after being released from jail and served as the private secretary to Motilal Nehru. In 1926, Kidwai was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly of the British India and from there on it was his political and social insightfulness that made him the Chief Whip of the Congress Legislative Assembly from 1926 to 1929. He also held the secretary position of the United Provinces Congress Committee and organized a no-rent campaign to protect the farmers of the Rae Bareli district from the ongoing economic depression. For this, he was even sentenced for six months.
The Government of India Act 1935 made him a minister-in-charge of managing the revenues and jail portfolios in Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant's cabinet in the United Provinces when congress government was set up. He was second to Pant as home minister in the 1946 government and in the same year, he became the home minister of UP. Post independence, Kidwai became India's first minister for communication in Jawahar Lal Nehru's cabinet. Kidwai, along with Abul Kalam Azad, were the two Muslims in Nehru's central cabinet. The "own your telephone" service that he launched in 1948 still goes by the name of OYT; under which a new telephone may be obtained. In the same year, he also launched night air mail service as a minister for communications.
It was after the first general elections in 1952 that Kidwai was entrusted with the food and agriculture portfolio. This was a trying time as food rationing had pan India footprints and supplies were only in limited quantities. It was only due to Kidwai's polished administrative skills that he was able to turn the problem on its head with food being available in abundance. Apart from this, he also played a crucial role in the Kashmir embroilment by displacing Sheikh Abdullah from the prime ministership of the state. Throughout his political tenure, Kidwai remained faithful in deeds to liberate India from the British rule and further by contributed whole heartedly to Jawahar Lal Nehru and the government to strengthen the state of the nation.
It was cardiac asthma that that led to a heart failure in between a speech at public meeting in Delhi that Kidwai lost his life and passed away on 24th October 1954. He was buried in his home village of Masauli and a Mughal style mausoleum was built over his grave.