Independence activist

Meet the independence and socialist activist who called for “total revolution”

Jayapraksh Narayan is commonly referred to as JP and Lok Nayak for his activities and action against the government led by Indira Gandhi in the mid-1970s, for whose overthrow he called for ‘Sampoorna Kranti’ or ‘Total Revolution’. He was a socialist, an independence activist and a mass leader. He has received several awards for his contributions to the country, including the Magsaysay Award and the Bharat Ratna Award.

Born on October 11, 1902 in Ballia district of Bihar, he was the fourth child of Phul Rani Devi (mother) and Harsu Dayal (father). He left his village at the age of nine to enroll in seventh grade at a school in Patna. He stayed in a student hostel where he made several friends (Krishna Singh, former CM of Bihar), Anugrah Narayan Sinha (first Deputy CM of Bihar), and others who later gained popularity in the politics and academics.

He continued his studies in the United States at Berkeley in the 1920s. He picked grapes and packed fruit to pay for his studies and support himself. During the same period, he gained first-hand experience of working-class life. He returned to India in 1929 and joined the Indian National Congress under the mentorship of Mahatama Gandhi.

Activism during independence

He gained initial fame during the Quit India movement and civil disobedience, where he was imprisoned for protesting against British rule. He founded the Socialist Congress Party (CSP) after being released from prison. He took an important step in 1974 when he brought to the fore problems such as unemployment, inflation and lack of supply of goods and raw materials.

He organized roadside rallies with the youth of Bihar, and the government tried hard to stop the unrest. He said, “This is a revolution, my friends! We are not here just to see the Vidhan Sabha dissolved; this is just one milestone on our journey. But we have a long way to go. After 27 years of freedom, the people of this country are ravaged by hunger, rising prices, corruption…oppressed by all kinds of injustice…it’s total revolution we want, nothing less,” said Wikipedia.

Call for “total revolution”

It was at this time that Lok Nayak called for a peaceful “total revolution”. Shortly after, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was found guilty by the High Court in Allahabad of violating election laws. He seized the opportunity and demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister and Indira. He led various programs under the slogan “Total Revolution” against the government. Immediately afterwards, Gandhi declared a state of emergency on June 25, 1975. Many leaders of his party were detained and arrested by state police.

Narayan drew over a million people to Ramlila Ground in New Delhi and recited “Singhasan Khaali Karo Ke Janata Aaati Hai”, a famous line from Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. He was widely known as the mass leader who showed the country that young people wanted jobs, development and dedication to good governance from the government instead of responding to ideological motives.

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Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera