Reviews

The many facets of Malaviya

In his autobiography Jawaharlal Nehru says, “Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, with his long record of public work, attracted us of course and we used to have long talks with him, pressing him to give brave lead to the country”. During the mela at Allahabad, in January 1924, Nehru says, prohibitory orders were issued against bathing in the river. Malaviya opposed this, as religious interference by the English. A barrier was erected by the police to avoid people going to the water. Nehru says, “When we reached this high palisade we were stopped by the police and being non-violent satyagrahis we sat on the sands peacefully.”

Later, Nehru with some others climbed over the palisade and even put a national flag atop the palisade. Nehru saw when he returned, Malaviya sitting patiently with some others. He continues, “Suddenly without a hint to anyone, he dived in the most extraordinary way through the policemen and the horses. For any one, that would have been a surprising dive, but for an old and physically weak person like Malaviya, it was astounding. Anyhow, we all followed him; we all dived. After some effort to keep us back, the cavalry and the police did not interfere. A little later they were withdrawn.”

It is unfortunate that Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya has been conveniently forgotten by many Indians and when he was given the highest civilian honour of Bharat Ratna along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee last December, some concluded that he was honoured only because the BJP was ruling and Malaviya was known as a Hindu nationalist.

Dr. Vishwanath Pandey, in this timely book brings out Malaviya’s important role in the Indian independence movement and as Dr. Mushirul Hasan, in his foreword says, the writing makes compulsory reading. Mahamana Malaviya is better known as the founder of the Banaras Hindu University, while the role he played in legislative matters is not widely known.

The author builds a strong case to recognise Pandit Malaviya for his stellar contribution during the early years of freedom movement and is able to demolish the all too easy theory of simple division of people as Hindu nationalists, a term recently fashioned, and secular nationalists.

In the Introduction and Life Sketch, Pandey quotes many authors to show that Malaviya played a very important role in the formative years of Indian nationalism. Born in 1861, Malaviya after his graduation and study of law, practised for a while in the High Court of Allahabad. Journalism was also in his blood and was one of the earliest protagonists of the Indian National Congress. Four times president of the INC, he was elected to the provincial legislative council in 1903. His vision of India envisaged rapid industrial and agricultural development and to achieve the same he advocated education. His dissent to the report of the Indian Industrial Commission stands testimony to his clear thinking on Indian industrial and economic problems. His major contribution is the founding of the Banaras Hindu University in 1916 and working ceaselessly for it with funds from donations showing his selfless devotion to the cause of education.

The collection of selected important speeches of Malaviya forms the second chapter of the book. On the abolition of indentured labour, his speech at the meeting of the Imperial Council held on March 20, 1916 stands out as one of his best. It was clear that indentured labour was merely a different name for slavery and had come into force in the 1830s. He brought out the point that the recruiting depots for indentured labour resorted to all sorts of malpractices including kidnapping. He quoted from the reports of various westerners themselves to prove his point. He declared, “My Lord, no reforms will prove sufficient; tinkering will not do; the system must be abolished root and branch. During the last three-quarters of a century a policy of tinkering has been tried and has failed.”

One of his outstanding arguments was on the Press Bill. Speaking on April 4, 1910, he vociferously opposed the Bill. Similarly in 1910 he argued against the Seditious Meeting Act. He pointed out how easily a repressive law may be abused — a prophetic statement indeed! His support to Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s motion on education showed his commitment to education from the beginning. Similarly he pleaded for simultaneous examinations in India and England for the Civil Services.

The third chapter deals with his important speeches. Of historical importance is one about the Morley-Minto reforms. While the scheme originally was liked by the Congress, when published, it contained some disappointing passages and he spoke against them forcefully. He dwelt long on the subjects of sanitation and education.

On the National Ideal, he said “No Indian is entitled to the honour of being called a patriot, be he a Hindu, Mohammedan, Christian or Parsi who desires for a moment that any fellow-countrymen of his, whatever his race or creed may be, should be placed under the domination of the men of his own particular persuasion or community, or that any one section should gain an undue advantage over any other section … Patriotism demands that we should desire equally the good of all our countrymen alike.”

Most of his important addresses as INC president are included in this section in full, from which one can understand his true nature. A statement issued by Malaviya from Benares on April 9, when he was prevented from attending the Congress session in Calcutta in April 1933, details the position of Congress in respect of the brutal treatment meted out to arrested persons by the police.

His convocation address in 1929 of BHU makes excellent reading on his thinking of education and objects of the University. His speech in Gaya as president of the Hindu Mahasabha is given in full. Malaviya’s last message of November 1, 1946 is included in the last chapter to show that he was more misunderstood and his speech was then talked about as though it contained some secret message only to the Hindus. Pandey by publishing the message in the book clears this false idea. A work that could not have been timed better, especially for the younger generation.

PANDIT MADAN MOHAN MALVIYA AND THE FORMATIVE YEARS OF INDIAN NATIONALISM: Edited by Vishwanath Pandey; LG Publishers Distributors, 49, Gali No. 14, Pratap Nagar, Mayur Vihar Phase I, Delhi-110091. Rs. 1250.


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