The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, December 8, 2002

JP’s elements, in his words
R. L. Singal

Transforming the Polity: Centenary Readings from Jayaprakash Narayan
edited by Ajit Bhattacharjea. Rupa. Pages 142. Rs 195.

THIS select anthology of Lok Nayak Jayapraksh Narayan’s writings and utterances, compiled and presented by veteran journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea, is an extremely useful introduction to the great revolutionary’s well-considered views and beliefs expressed during the last 50 years of his chequered career on social, political and economic issues that concern India and the world at large.

The subjects on which he has spoken have a wide range and significance. He has written on topics such as ethics in politics, role of the state, secular principles, estranged peoples, collapse of governance, etc. They are in a tone of seriousness that they obviously deserve, like while talking about the British Government’s Communal Award, Jayprakash wrote in 1935: "When we say the Communal Award is bad, what do we mean? Where does its badness lie? Does it lie in the fact that so many seats have been given to the Muslims and so many to the Hindus, or in the fact that it has become an instrument of communal discord? From the nationalist point of view it matters not a whit how many seats Muslims or Hindus have got. They are both Indians and, granting that seats do any good, whichever community benefits, the nation benefits. The mischief of the Communal Award is in its potency to take advantage of our foolishness in sowing seeds of discord." These words show the sharp and subtle mind of the writer in gauging the alien rulers’ Machiavellian intentions.


Similarly, describing a truly socialist way of life, quite distinct from the blind belief in the materialistic pursuit of goals, JP wrote in 1957: "Disciplining of the bodily appetites is essential for a moral life and the growth of the human personality and the blossoming of all human qualities and values…The socialist way of life is a way of sharing together the good things that common endeavour may make available…I believe that unless members of society learn to keep their wants under control, willing sharing of things may be difficult, if not impossible." This is the sine qua non of true socialism that JP preached and in fact lived in his own life. Perhaps very few people know that this stalwart of the freedom struggle, who had studied at three prestigious universities in the USA (the land of the superlatives) and seen affluence from close quarters, himself lived in a two-room apartment on the first floor of a primary school in Patna’s Kadam Kuan.

The present anthologist has given evidence of his wide-ranging study as also his judicious judgement in selecting these passages from the great leader’s numerous speeches and writings. These speeches, which include two convocation addresses to the students of Mysore and Benaras universities, were not written by ghost speechwriters that are often employed by present-day leaders; they are the outpourings of JP himself. They are a mirror to his mind and soul. Referring to Gandhiji’s South African satyagraha, JP writes: "It was then that freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life, and it has remained so ever since. Freedom, with the passing of years, transcended the mere freedom of my country and embraced freedom of man everywhere and from every sort of trammel—above all it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the spirit." These cardinal beliefs became an abiding agenda of his life and he never compromised with them in spite of Jawaharlal Nehru’s initial blandishments (Nehru once called him the future Prime Minister of India but later, because of JP’s outspoken criticism of his government’s policies, tried to belittle his contribution) and Indira Gandhi’s thoughtless accusations and threats which he brushed aside with disdain.

When Indira Gandhi was at the zenith of her power, and there was danger of using the police and the Army to quell people’s uprising, JP appealed to these forces not to obey illegal orders. When told by a journalist that his views had been described as "treasonable" by the Home Minister, JP said: "The loyalty of the Army is to the country, its flag and to the Constitution…If any party or party leader intends to use the Army as a means to further their party and power interests, it is the clear duty, to my mind, of the Army not to be so used."

About his appeal to the police, he candidly stated: "1 consider my duty to explain to the police that I am not asking them to rebel. They must do their duty. But they must not obey orders that are illegal or against their conscience. I do not think it dangerous. But if it is, it is a part of the peaceful total revolution."

Anybody keen to know JP and his mind will find the book absorbing.