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A forgotten patriot

Feroze Gandhi made a mark in politics at a comparatively young age. He was only 48 when he died on September 8, 1960. SATYA PRAKASH MALAVIYA pays tribute.


Feroze Gandhi

FEROZE GANDHI, an active participant in India's struggle for freedom, died on September 8, 1960 at the comparatively young age of 48 years at the Willington Nursing Home, now Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Born in a Parsi family at Allahabad, he had his early education in City Anglo-Vernacular High School and Ewing Christian College. Later he also studied at London School of Economics. Jawaharlal Nehru had also studies there earlier.

He had his political training and entry into public life at Allahabad. He abandoned his studies in 1930 and joined the freedom struggle.

Feroze was a regular visitor to Anand Bhawan the Nehru home. He was with Indira and Jawaharlal Nehru at Kamala Nehru's bedside in a sanatorium near Lausanne in Switzerland when she died.

Feroze married Indira on March 26, 1942 at Anand Bhawan. They attended the historic 1942 session of the A.I.C.C. at Bombay where the Quit India Resolution was moved. In the early hours of August 9 all top Congress leaders were arrested and Congress was declared an unlawful organisation.

From Bombay, Feroze and Indira returned to Allahabad and plunged into the Quit India Movement. An arrest warrant was issued but Feroze had gone underground. Both evaded arrest and hid themselves.

Feroze and Indira were arrested together on September, 10 and sent to Allahabad's Naini Central Prison. Feroze was sentenced to one year's rigorous imprisonment and to a fine of Rs. 200. In 1946 he assumed charge as Managing Director of the National Herald at Lucknow.

Feroze was elected to the Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh. Feroze was one of the most popular Members of Indian Parliament and this is amply proved by the rich tributes that were paid to Feroze on his death.And it was as an effective and accomplished parliamentarian that Feroze was destined to shine.

The earliest distinction came with the dynamic role he played in exposing the L.I.C. - Mundhra scandal. He spoke in Lok Sabha rarely but whenever he spoke he was always listened to with great attention and his carefully prepared speech received wide publicity.

Hari Das Mundhra was prosecuted and convicted for embezzlement and sentenced to imprisonment. When he died on September 8, 1960 rich tributes were paid by the then speaker, M.A. Ayyappan, the Vice-President Dr. S. Radhakrishna and Jawaharlal Nehru.

I met him twice in 1959 and 1960, first in the Central Hall of Parliament at the sofa which then used to be lovingly known as `Feroze Corner' and then at his New Delhi residence on Jantar Mantar Lane. He spoke little but was outspoken and a good conversationalist. He appeared to be a sworn enemy of corruption and inefficiency. His main concern was to provide a clean government to the people.

Public dishonesty and corruption attracted his wrath. He was a firm believer in value — based politics. He condemned corruption with a sincerity of feeling that revealed his own character. In many ways, his keenly critical mind was a hindrance to him in politics. That Feroze on the floor of the Lok Sabha unhesitatingly criticised the evil of the ruling political party of which he was a member has deep meaning.

Feroze's contributions were many and in a comparatively short period of time, he made his mark in various spheres as a political and social worker, a parliamentarian and a journalist. His work in the field of the Indian press, journalism and its freedom has been no less outstanding. Healthy journalism was a great ideal to him. He believed that without an independent and fearless press all over the country, democracy could not be safe.

It is only in the fitness of things that a grateful people should perpetuate his memory. He wanted to root out and eradicate corruption and inefficiency. His contribution to India's Parliamentary life has been of great value. His memory will be best perpetuated by sincerely furthering and popularising the causes and worthy ideals which he espoused during his lifetime and thereby to make his dreams a reality.

The cruel hands of death is no respecter of persons. It prematurely snatched away from us Feroze depriving the country of the services of a selfless patriot and an able parliamentarian from whom so much more could be expected in the years to come.

The writer is a former Union Cabinet Minister.

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