A forgotten Op-ed writer – Indulal Yagnik
I have grown up listening to many stories from my grandfather. Being a bureaucrat, he lived an eventful life. But there is one story that he narrates even today with the same passion and wonder:
in his own words..
“It was 1958; I think…Maha Gujarat Movement was at its peak. Maha Gujarat movement’s agenda was simple. We wanted a state for ourselves, and the Congress didn’t want to give it. It began when a few students went to Congress office in Ahmedabad to meet Morarji Desai, then the Chief Minister of Mumbai State. Instead of meeting the students he ordered the police to beat them up. Nine of them died…NINE! On that day, there were two rallies taken out at the same time and absurdly close to each other.
One was of Jawaharlal Nehru & the other one was of Indulal Yagnik. When you get off at the railway station or bus stand, and ask for that location, the rickshaw fellow would ask; whose rally? If you say ‘Induchacha’, as Indulal Yagnik was called fondly, you’ll get a ride at half the rate. If you would say Nehru, well, they’ll simply refuse to go, even if you pay them 10 times the rate.
Induchacha’s rally had an attendance of more a lakh, while Nehru’s rally got an abysmal around five thousand, and that too, only congress cadre that didn’t go to Induchacha’s rally. Nehru was fuming…he felt so insulted that he left within half an hour!”
My grandfather chuckles with glee of a 10 year old who just beat his nemesis at some game in front of everyone. “If it wasn’t for Induchacha, we still wouldn’t have Gujarat. The sheer weight of him forced Nehru to give in. After all, Induchacha too was big name in the independence movement.” , he added.
He had pretty much taken retirement in the 50s when the Maha Gujarat movement picked up. Churning was going on for months, but the day students were beaten dead, he came out of retirement and in my grandpa’s words, “Congress felt an earthquake. Imagine a man who can get Lakhs of people to do what he wants them to, with one nod, one movement of the index finger. Now imagine he’s standing against you. ”
The deification of the Nehru clan by the Congress (I) since 70s has obscured many, many leaders from the history and minds of Indians, and it’s only a matter of academic debate which leader’s neglect is more criminal. But if we invent categories for it, Indulal Yagnik’s neglect has to come in the most heinous.
In a way, it fits, or at least rhymes. Both India’s architect Sardar Patel and Gujarat’s architect Indulal Yagnik have been neglected, disowned & forgotten by Congress’ sycophant driven ideology. Interestingly, it is Narendra Modi who hasn’t forgotten either of the them.
Indulal was born in Nadiad, Gujarat on 22nd February 1892, to Kanaiyalal Yagnik, who died young while still studying medicine. He studied in St Xaviers, Mumbai & took up Law in 1912. Even as a student, he used to write columns for Bombay Samachar and then Hindustan.
In 1915, he started “Navjivan” which is famous for its association with Gandhiji, and ran it till he entrusted it to Gandhiji in 1919.
He also started a publication called “Young Indian” (Remember? Subramanian Swamy press conference…Young Indian scams?) that too he ceded to the leadership of freedom struggle in order to help it. Nehru took it over, converted it into family property…at least de facto.
In 1917 he joined the movement full time and grew close to Gandhi and Sardar, but always refused to join the national leadership since his real interest lay in the upliftment of the poor and farmers in Gujarat. Throughout his public life, he was closely associated with KisanMahasabha.
He stayed in Europe for nearly five years (1925-31), wrote for numerous international publications and journals advocating Indian independence and came back brimming with new ideas. His stay in Ireland taught him a lot about propagation of nationalism and he came back with a firm belief that various national symbols like dress, sports etc are crucial to create nationalism and a few people claim that the idea of khadi being made a matter of the national identity was inspired from Induchacha.
During his stay at Dublin, he grew close to Irish Nationalist Movement, which had close allies in communists and that turned out to be the worst thing that ever happened to him. Throughout his life he maintained that he wasn’t a communist, but in the end he did carry the allegation to his pyre.
In Gujarat, he is remembered by a few as “Aandolan-purush”, a glorious rebel, a man who never went down without a fight. A prominent Gujarati writer says “There has been no one like him since and never will.”
Though he was a disciple of Gandhi, he was neither a sycophant not a meek yes-man. He had a distinct economic and social vision and never made an attempt to hide it. Though he supported swadeshi, he might have been the first leader to propagate rapid and large scale indigenous industrialisation and firmly believed that it will be the quickest and most efficient way to spread universal upliftment. He criticised many of Gandhi’s views, especially on economy. If one looks at Gujarat’s success story of last 50 years, Induchacha is on every page.
The economic model of Gujarat that has been working to a whole new level by the current CM Narendra Modi, is essentially the Induchacha Model. His work in the field of education, too who is remarkable. In the 1920s, he realised that women must be educated in order to awaken the conscience of the country and with that thought he planned for Gujarat Vidyapeeth and girls school, college to counter the stigma of co-ed in pre-independence India.
Though his life’s work may suggest so he wasn’t an anarchist. He represented the Ahmedabad constituency in parliament from 1957 to 1972, when he died without any worldly possession, without any trace.
Indulal Yagnik, a rag-tag Gandhian who was in all probability, India’s first op-ed writer and contributed to Indian freedom struggle as much as anyone else, and left a legacy with Navjivan and Young Indian in Indian freedom struggle is beyond question, is today sitting in sheer obscurity in the popular narrative of history, and if we don’t remember him, who will?