Jayaprakash Narayan


Jayaprakash Narayan ( 11 October 1902 – 8 October 1979), commonly referred to as JP or Lok Nayak (Hindi for The People’s Leader), was an Indian independence activist, theorist, communist and political leader, remembered especially for leading the mid-1970s opposition against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for whose overthrow he called a “total revolution”.

Early life and family

Jayaprakash Narayan was born on 11 October 1902 in a village in Saran district of Bihar, British India, into a Hindu Kayastha family as the fourth child of Harsu Dayal Srivastava and Phul Rani Devi. His father was a junior official in the Canal Department of the State government. He studied at the collegiate school at Patna where he made a reading habit. Along with magazines like ‘Saraswati’, ‘Prabha’ and ‘Pratap’, he also studies the ‘Bhagwad Gita’. An excellent student, he excelled in his studies and accomplished school in 1918. He won a District merit scholarship to Patna College. For his higher studies, he went to the United States in 1922. He did several odd jobs to pay for his education there and these experiences made him aware of the difficulties faced by the working class. He initially enrolled at Berkeley and later transferred to The University of Iowa when fees at Berkeley was doubled. In October 1920, 18-year-old Narayan got married to Braj Kishore Prasad’s 14-year-old daughter Prabhavati Devi, a freedom fighter in her own right, their ages being normal marriageable ages at those times. After their wedding, since Narayan was working in Patna and it was difficult for his wife to stay with him, on the invitation of Gandhi, Prabhavati became an inmate at Sabarmati Ashram (Ahmedabad).

Political career

Narayan returned from the US to India in late 1929 as a Marxist. He came with Indian National Congress on the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1929; Mahatma Gandhi became his mentor in the Congress. He shared a house at Kadam Kuan in Patna with his close friend and nationalist Ganga Sharan Singh (Sinha). with whom he shared the warmest and lasting friendship. He won particular fame during the Quit India movement.

After being imprisoned in 1932 for civil disobedience against British rule, Narayan was imprisoned in Nasik Jail, where he met Ram Manohar Lohia, Minoo Masani, Achyut Patwardhan, Ashok Mehta, Basawon Singh (Sinha), Yusuf Desai, C K Narayanaswami and other national leaders. After his imprisonment tenure over, the Congress Socialist Party, or (CSP), a left-wing group within the Congress, was formed with Acharya Narendra Deva as President and Narayan as General Secretary.

When Mahatma Gandhi established the Quit India Movement in August 1942, Yogendra Shukla scaled the wall of Hazaribagh Central Jail along with Jayaprakash Narayan, Suraj Narayan Singh, Gulab Chand Gupta, Pandit Ramnandan Mishra, Shaligram Singh, and Shyam Badhwar, with a goal to start an underground movement for freedom. Many young socialist leaders like Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Chhotubhai Puranik, Aruna Asaf Ali, etc. took initiative in the underground movement. As Jayaprakash Narayan was ill, Yogendra Shukla walked to Gaya with Jayaprakash Narayan on his shoulders, a distance of about 124 kilometers. He also worked as the Chairman of Anugrah Smarak Nidhi (Anugrah Narayan Memorial Fund). From 1947 to 1953, Jayaprakash Narayan was President of All India Railwaymen’s Federation, the biggest labor union in the Indian Railways. He gained much prominence as a politician in the late 1960s. After the nation suffered great inflation and unemployment among other problems in 1974, the Nav Nirman Andolan movement of Gujarat asked Jayaprakash to lead a peaceful agitation.

In his seventies at the time, Narayan led a silent procession at Patna. The procession was lathi charged but nothing could shatter the patriot’s spirit. He called a large crowd at Gandhi Maidan on 5 June 1974 and called for a total revolution. These events culminated in the popular people’s movement known as the Bihar Movement. A severe critic of the undemocratic government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he collaborated with V. M. Tarkunde to found the NGOs the Citizens for Democracy in 1974 and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in 1976 with the aim of upholding and defending civil liberties.

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