Written in 26 weekly articles by Swami Shraddhanand, known as the Mahatma before Mahatma Gandhi was so called


Indian National Congress Group Convenssion 1885_Konkani_Vishwakosh

There were many attempts to establish an Indian style education purely based on Indian values. The Kangri Gurukul of the Arya Samaj was based on Vedic values. Mahatma Gandhi called it as basic education based on hand spinning and crafts. Rabindranath Tagore also founded it on ancient Tapovans, as he called. The history of Indian education surely would trace its origins in these early attempts before India became an independent country.

Book Review
Book title: Inside Congress (Bombay, Phoenix Publications1946)

Articles written by Swami Shraddanand, 1926 in his English Weekly, Liberator, with introduction by Mahatma Gandhi, published in Young India and another by Mahatma himself in 1927, Young India. Tributes, one by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and another by Lala Lajpat Rai, Foreword by Desh Bhandu Gupta, then Member of the Central Constituent Assembly, Delhi.

This is a rare book. K.K.S.Murthi of the famed Select Bookshop in Bangalore, where I used to visit him every week without fail whenever I am in the city has put into my hand as I was taking leave of him, saying, “here is a little book you might be interested. Please have a look at it”.

He knows my choice of books and it is here who had piled before me very large volumes, why, even the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica along with other rare and sought after classic books on Greece and Rome.

As I got into my car way back home I just opened the almost throw-away stage book. I was so drawn by its contents and started reading it and I forgot myself and so absorbed in the little books of some 206 pages, poorly printed and bonded. Only when my car driver reminded me I found myself woken up from the total absorption in the book.

What is that book and who is the author? It is the book in 26 short articles telling the beginning of the Indian National Congress from 1885 to 1926, the first thirty years of the national movement. The author is the great nationalist, patriot, the Arya Samajist, the heir to the great Dayanand Saraswati and also the founder of the Kangri Gurukulam in Haridwar.

It was the first indigenous Indian school based on Indian values, a true bold experiment in education as an alternative to the then British model and also an alternative to the English medium and the Gurukulam taught only in Hindi. He founded it in 1902, gave up all his personal belongings, Rupees forty thousand and also his sons to the cause. The founder, Swami Shraddhanand was a remarkable leader, a giant of a man, a robust figure and a man too willing to sacrifice his all for the cause he took up.

Nehru pays a great tribute to the physical courage of the Swami. Lala Lajpat Rai, a fellow Punjabi also calls the Swami as a great and daring soul. He became a sanyasi in 1917. So too, the Mahatma Gandhi’s own tribute. He was the forceful champion of the untouchables and as a matter of historic fact, it was only after a year, Gandhi incorporated untouchability as one of the Congress programmes. He was the Chairman of the Reception Committee of the Amritsar Congress in 1919. At the end of the book, there are also two articles, one by Ramsay MacDonald, later Prime Minister of Britain and also by C.F.Andrews who too knew him so well.

As readers of this generation might not know about the Swamiji, here I like to put some facts first. He was born as Lala Munshi Ram. For his selflessness and sacrifices he was first called as the Mahatma before our own great Mahatma took on this title. The Swami was present in Lahore when A.O.Hume, the founder of the Congress went around in Punjab to select members for the Indian National Congress. I very much wish the present day Congress men and women, in particular; Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi get to read this small book. Also, the many senior leaders who are around the mother-son duo.

Indians of that day, as they are ironically even today, the many titled, in fact the Swami calls the early Congress supporters as oligarchs! Many Hume contacts promised to join and very soon backtracked! Very soon the rival party, one ironically titled as also patriotic, the Muslim League was started by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s anti-Congress Muslim (miscalled Patriotic)League.

The Swami became close to the Congress origins and growth from the very beginning and from 1888 onwards the book is perhaps the only record of the first forty years of the Congress organization which in its very crucial period saw the boycott of the foreign clothes, the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

In fact the book covers in vivid detail the very controversies; how Indians were always disunited, always suspicious of each other and also the Hindu-Muslim divide from the very beginning. The most tragic part of our nationalist is the Hindu-Muslim divide. How at the very height of his career, the Swami had the unique distinction of addressing the Hindu-Muslim audience on the very pulpit of the Jama Masjid in Delhi and there was a great cry of joy of unity when he expounded the Hindu Muslim unity by quoting from the Vedas!

It is a great tragedy that he was assassinated by a very fanatical Muslim when he was in the bed in 1926. Swami Shraddhanand is the first victim of the Hindu-Muslim communalism. Another Mahatma, in 1948, became another victim of the very same communalism. There are many small details that are engrossing in this small book or booklet. They all, in my opinion, must guide us, the Congressmen and other nationalist-minded youngsters.

How India falls a victim for every foreign invasion. Even now, can we say that the younger generation has awakened to the historic condemnation of the vice of subjugation for uncritical fury and fanaticism?

India has to awake today to the very challenges of communalism and backward mindedness. A great nation has to become a modern nation. We have to live in the present. We have to look around at best, not at the back. We have to look forward.

We have to look at the religious challenges all across the nations. The refugees flight to Europe and how the next years would be preoccupied by the refugee’s crisis. This crisis would engulf the entire world. The USA can’t be immune any longer. So too other great nations including India and China. So too the rich Gulf countries.

The UN has to be strengthened and India has a role to play. If India plays its role in a wise way, the very Indian aspirations to become a global player would come into our own lap, so to say. India can revitalize the UN and also become member of the Security Council that has failed in the present instance and India can gain its global status on playing its role as its moral obligation towards a larger humanity. Jai Hind.

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