Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia- the last socialist in India
The world is gripped by two ideologies- Free enterprise capitalism that exploits the downtrodden and working class on one hand and Marxist socialism and communism that curbs individual freedom. There is also a third stream that consists of non Marxist varieties of socialism, which claims to give best of both worlds and ensure that the society is free from exploitation and also that individual liberty is not compromised. When we think of this variety of 'socialism', Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia invariably comes to our mind.
Brief life history
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia was born on 23rd March 1910 in Akbarpur, Ambedkarnagar District, Uttar Pradesh. His father, Hira Lal was a nationalist. His lost his mother at an early age. He was introduced to nationalist movement in his very childhood. He got an opportunity to meet Mahatma Gandhi in the course of Satyagraha when he was hardly ten years old. He got his education in Benaras Hindu University. He was also educated in Calcutta and Berlin universities.
His role on freedom struggle
Dr. Loha was initiated to independence movement when he was not even in his teens. His father took him along on a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi. He participated in satyagraha at age of ten years. He mixed his student career with independence movement. When he came to know that Maharaja of Bikaner, a close ally of British, was attending League of Nations Assembly, he entered visitors gallery and protested from there. He also created public opinion by writing letters to editors of many newspaper. This courageous and unique action made him very prominent. He organized 'Association of European Indians' of which he became secretary.
Dr. Lohia also played an important role in formulating foreign policy of Independent India even before actual independence. He was active in Congress Socialist Party. He was also associated with foreign affairs department of Congress.
Dr. Lohia saw in second world war an opportunity for collapse of the British. He actively participated in movement for boycotting all British institutions. He made many fierce speeches. This irritated the British government, which led to his arrest on 24th May 1939. But the government also feared youth reaction. So, he was released just the next day.
Dr. Lohia was also an eminent writer. His pen was a weapon that British government feared. This is evident from the fact that his article 'Satyagraha Now' in Harijan on first June 1940 led to his arrest and a jail sentence for two years. It is worth mention that even the magistrate while delivering his sentence praised Dr Lohia as "a top class scholar, civilized gentleman, having liberal ideology and high moral character".
The Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi had to say about him: "I cannot sit quiet as long as Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia is in prison. I do not yet know a person braver and simpler than him. He never propagated violence. Whatever he has done has increased his esteem and his honor."
Dr. Lohia made best use of his pen against British rule not only in India but also abroad. He used a secret printing press for making and distributing literature, pamphlets, posters etc on theme of 'Do or die' in the year 1942 when many leaders were in jail. He also made many broadcasts from a secret radio. The secret radio was called 'Congress Radio'. Dr. Lohia was underground most of the time during which period he operated from places like Calcutta, Nepal. In May 1944, the British police captured him. He was brutally tortured in the infamous Lahore jail. On Gandhiji's pressure, Dr. Lohia and Jai Prakash Narain were released.
Dr. Lohia did not restrict himself only to Indian mainland activities. Most freedom fighters were confined to their particular regions or at best, Indian mainland. But Dr. Lohia had contacts with the leaders in Nepal and Goa also. Goa was not in British India and so Pt Nehru did not favor Dr. Lohia participating in any movement there. But Gandhi had different view. Lohia intervened in politics of Goa and helped Communist movement there. Dr. Lohia was arrested by authorities in Goa and imprisoned for a brief spell after which He was expelled. Gandhi resented the action of Goan government. In response to arrest and expulsion of Dr. Lohia, Gandhi said: "The little Portuguese settlement can ill afford to ape its bad manners. In free India, Goa cannot be allowed to exist as a separate entity in laws of the free state."
Gandhi's words were not empty. Eventually, Goa was also liberated by Independent India armed forces. Gandhi also remarked: :....it is ridiculous .... to write of Portugal as the motherland of the Indians of Goa. Their mother country is as much India as is mine. Goa is outside British India, but it is within geographical India as a whole."
Lohia repeatedly attempted to enter Goa but he gave up his attempt on Gandhi's advice.
Dr. Lohia had contact with Nepal politicians as well as mentioned earlier in this article. He brought a parallel movement to Bring Nepal within Indian state. Although he had good rapport with popular Nepalese leaders- Koiralas and Nepal Congress, public opinion in Nepal was opposed to his move.
His role in Free India
Dr. Lohia was not in power politics. He chose to remain outside government. He formed socialist Party. He was a genuine left wing leader. He was always on side of toiling millions. He became a member of parliament in 1963. His views on conditions of poor are very significant. He raised the issue of huge spending of Rs. 25,000/- per day on Prime Minister whereas a vast sizable population had to love on three annas a day. Pt Nehru challenged this saying that the official figure according to plannin commission was fifteen anna. This controversy is known as 'Teen anna pandrah anna' (three anna- fifteen anna).
Dr. Lohia was not just an intellectual socialist. There are many Left wing revolutionaries who live lavishly. He was socialist not just by head but also by heart. When he saw a large number of doctors around him when he was sick, he got annoyed. When vast millions are without basic facilities including medical care, Dr. Lohia could not digest the spectacle of so many doctors attending on him.
Admirably, Dr. Lohia never cared for money. He was a true missionary. He said what he thought and did what he said. It is worth mention that he left behind no property or bank balance when he died. He died on 12th October 1967. He was unmarried. There is an incident worth recall. In 1933, he was to return to India. He had no money left for airfare. He raised necessary money by writing an article on a national issue.
Dr. Lohia was more eminent than any other leader in opposition camp. It is worth recall that Svetlana, Stalin's daughter had married Brijesh Singh, an Indian communist and uncle of Dinesh Singh, an influential congress leader and one time external affairs minister. Swetlana was desperately moving here and there for extending her visa. To her mind came Dr. Lohia. She contacted him when he was busy in election campaign. Lohia promised her to fight and not leave and he would fight her case in parliament. Dr. Lohia took full advantage of Swetlana issue and said- "This is the difference between Europe and India. The daughter of Stalin is running around in circles to extend her visa while the daughter of Nehru is India's prime minister.
Dr. Lohia believed in equality of gender. He opposed all inequality based on gender, caste or creed. He believed in mass movements. He would say- Live communities do not wait for five years. We witnessed a mass movement aimed at 'total revolution' led by Jai Prakash Narain following Lohia'a ideas. Howsoever well meaning, it goes without saying that the Lohia socialists had no concrete blue print for nation's progress. Mere pious wishes do not help. Mass movements without concrete future plan for nation building ultimately lead to chaos, disorder and anarchy. Total revolution is an abstract term that means nothing. Contrast with this with Nehru's vision of 'socialistic pattern of society'. Nehru firmly believed that equitable distribution of wealth follows and not precedes wealth production. First you have to generate wealth. Any other way will make the rich poor but will not help the poor. Distribution of poverty is not socialism. Equitable Distribution of wealth is socialism.
Lack of concrete plan for building socialism in India led to a negative movement for opposing Congress for opposition sake only. This led to joining of diverse forces- right wing communal elements to left radicals only for ousting Congress. Consequently, many non congress SVD (Samyukta Vidhayak Dal) governments were formed in several states. Ironically, some of these included also rebel congress. Thus even the Congress rebels became non congress or anti congress and fitted in the anti congress movement of Lohia socialists. There is no doubt that such opportunism leads nowhere. That is why most Lohia followers are today following caste and region politics.
He viewed that there should be same education for all- rich and poor. He wanted to abolish private schools and instead upgrade government schools. Dr. Lohia was against everything inherited from British. This even extended to absurdity. He opposed English very blindly. Such opposition has been very damaging to Hindi speaking regions. He would say that British ruled with bullet and English language (bandook ki goli aur angrezi ki boli). Opposition to English was so blind that even the sign boards on shops and number plates on vehicles were damaged by mobs under influence of Lohia's ideology. He little realized that eminent Indian writers like Dr. S. Radha Krishnan, C. Raja Gopalachari, Sarojani Naidu wrote in English. Dr. Lohia would also have campaigned abroad for independence in English. It is not only the British who use bullet and English. Indians also need bullets and English both.
Though a Left revolutionary leader, he was opposed to Marxism as well as to capitalism. He viewed that there is same technique of production in capitalism and Marxism. In capitalism means of production are owned and managed by capitalists. Communism needs a centralized state and political party. Both are repressive. He favored a decentralized economy and disliked use of heavy machinery. He would rather promote village and small units. This is near to Gandhian and sarvodaya concepts. His concept of socialism is rather vague. This naturally led to decay of Non Marxist socialist concept. The Non Marxist socialism degenerated to regional and caste politics. Today, we have regional political parties that claim succession of Lohia ideology but these are 'socialist' in name but really caste and region based.
Despite utter failure of Lohia Brand socialism, we can say without fear of contradiction that he was most selfless and honest leader. His stature is and will remain far above the arm chair revolutionaries who live luxuriously and pay lip sympathy to people's cause. It is about such people that a poet wrote-
Kaum Ke gham men khatey hain hukkam ke saath; Ranj leader ko bahut hai magar araam ke sath'. (Worried about nation, he dines with the rulers. The leader is very serious but comfortably).
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