About The Series
The object of this series is to record, for the present and future generations, the story of the struggles and achievements of the eminent sons and daughters of India who have been mainly instrumental in our national renaissance and the attainment of independence. Except in a few cases, such authoritative biographies have not been available.
The biographies are planned ashandy volumes written by knowledgeable people and giving a brief account, in simple words, of the life and activities of the eminent leaders and of their times. They are not intended either to be comprehensive studies or to replace the more elaborate biographies.
The work of writing these lives has been entrusted to different people. It has, therefore, not been possible to publish the biographies in a chronological order. It is hoped, however, that within a short period all eminent national personalities will figure in this series.
Shri R.R. Diwakar is the General Editor of the series.
During our struggle for Independence, Mahatma Gandhi used to say: "I can keep India intact and its freedom intact only if I have goodwill towards the whole of the human family, and not merely for the human family which inhabits this little spot of earth called India." The oneness of India was emphasised by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the Unity of India, and most of his other works. And as a true follower of Gandhi and Nehru, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi through his writings laid the greatest emphasis on the oneness of humanity and he even saw God in the midst of the teeming millions, the poor and downtrodden.
The national integration and communal harmony was vital to the existence of our nation and the same could only be accomplished through contributions of individuals, groups and institutions, was emphasised by Sri Vidyarthi throughout his life. As an individual, he became the very embodiment of national unity, national integration and communal amity; and staked his very life for that. In order to ingratiate himself in a group of selfless volunteers, he formed the Sewa Dal and founded the Sewa Ashram at Narwal (Kanpur). To further universal brotherhood he got established the Hindustani Biradari, which exists even today under the stewardship of Sri Paripurnanand of Kanpur.
As for institutional contribution, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi began as a Home Rule Leaguer, and outshone other contemporary leaders as a Swarajist and Congressman. He made his name as a satyagrahi and followed dictates of Mahatma Gandhi to the letter. The success of the Kanpur Session of the Indian National Congress projected him as a national leader. Even as a Congres site he continued his contribution to the Indian Trade Union movement and his championship of the kisans in Rae Bareli and Champaran, Through the columns of the Pratap he exposed the miserable plight of not only the kisans in India, but also of the coolies under the Indentured Labour system, which had made them the helots of the British Empire.
During 1926-29 Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi made his mark as a Legislator in the U.P. Council. Although he was basically opposed to Council Entry programme of the Swarajists, but once chosen to stand as a candidate, he showed that he enjoyed the confidence of the masses in Kanpur. His speeches in the Council, all in Hindi, hitherto unpublished, show his remarkable grasp of the problems facing the province.
However, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had proclaimed the ideal of purnaswarajya at the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress in December 1929, and thereafter launched the Civil Disobedience Movement, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarathi plunged headlong into that. As Pandit Nehru had become President of the All India Congress, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was selected to succeed Panditji as President of the U.P. Provincial Congress Committee. And during his presidentship followed the great Civil Resistance campaign in the most disciplined manner. How meticulously that was planned is evident from the original minutes of the U.P.C.C. over which he presided. Being at the helm he was nominated as the Director of the U.P. Satyagraha movement and was jailed. Released on 10 March 1931, he was caught in the whirlwind of communal riots at Kanpur, as a sequel to the hartal due to the execution of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdeo and Rajguru.
It was an irony of fate that the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh was followed by that of Sri Vidyarthi. Few people knew that Bhagat Singh received his precepts from Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. The contacts between the two remained till the end, when Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi visited him in Lahore jail to dissuade him from fasting unto death. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, although himself a votary of non-violence, was the preceptor, guide and philosopher for the revolutionaries. His efforts to help the accused in the Mainpuri Conspiracy Case and Kakori Case were praiseworthy.
No wonder the Pratap office became a rendezvous for young revolutionaries, it became a training ground not only for them but also intellectuals. A host of editors, writers and poets owed their works to the inspiration given by Sri Vidyarthi. He also became a publisher for revolutionary literature and fearlessly published their correspondence. His connections with arch revolutionary Raja Mahendra Pratap are little known. The great editor was himself a voracious reader and a writer of repute. He had a fire and zeal in him that made him one of the most popular and respected leaders of his times. Pandit Nehru at one time acclaimed him as a gem of Kanpur.
So when the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting expressed a desire to have his biography written in the Builders of Modem India series, I readily offered to do so. In the course of my writing out the present biography, I was fortunate in having secured the guidance of Sri Paripumanand who made available to me the relevant material about the Hindustani Biradari when I wrote to him or met him personally. The work was facilitated by the availability of original files of the Pratap and the Prabha.
Besides the above, my meeting with Srimati Bimla Vidyarthi, daughter of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi at Kanpur, her personal reminiscences about family life, relations and the last stages of the Pratap were very helpful in understanding the man.
I am indebted to one and all for the help rendered and the facilities provided to me.
IN THE POLITICAL ARENA
IN THE SERVICE OF LITERATURE
MARTYR FOR COMMUNAL AMITY
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