1965 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service
BIOGRAPHY of Jayaprakash Narayan
JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN was born on October 11, 1902 in the tiny village of Sitabdiara, in the state of Bihar in Northern India. His father was a farmer and minor provincial irrigation official.
"As a boy, like most boys of those days," NARAYAN recalls, "I was an ardent nationalist and leaned toward the revolutionary cult of which Bengal was the noble leader at that time. . . .Before my revolutionary leanings could mature, Gandhi's first non-cooperation movement swept over the land as a strangely uplifting hurricane. I, too, was one of the thousands of young men who, like leaves in the storm, were swept away and momentarily lifted up to the skies. That brief experience of soaring up with the winds of a great idea left imprints on the inner being that time and much familiarity with ugliness or reality have not removed. It was then that freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life, and has remained so ever since."
NARAYAN was 18 when Gandhi visited his district and urged students to withdraw from local government-supported high schools. Although only a few weeks short of graduation from Patna College, the local high school, NARAYAN withdrewover the furious objections of his parents. They then tried to get him to enroll in Benares Hindu University, but he refused because Gandhi's non-cooperation campaign called for boycott of all educational institutions aided by the British. Instead he decided to complete his studies in the United States where he heard it was possible for poor students to work their way through college. He sailed from Calcutta in August 1922 leaving his young wife Prabhabati Deviwhom he had married while still in his teenswith his parents. She later engaged in social service work and, like her husband, became deeply involved in the movement for independence.
NARAYAN remained in America for seven years. During that time he studied at four different universities and worked at whatever jobs he could getin a vineyard, a canning plant, a foundry, a stockyard, a terracotta factory, and as salesman of a hair-straightener and complexion cream in the Negro quarter of Chicago.
"This was the first time in my life," NARAYAN later recalled, "that I had worked with my hands and earned something. It left a deep impression. . . .The equality of human beings and the dignity of labor became real things to me."
NARAYAN enrolled first at the University of California at Berkeley where he studied natural science. He later transferred to the University of Iowa, because the tuition was cheaper, and from there to the University of Wisconsin. It was at Wisconsin that he became a convert to Soviet Communism. He joined a Marxist study group where he became friends with a young instructor in the German Department, Avrom Landy. Landy gave him some of his own translations of works by Marx and arranged for him to meet several American and Mexican Communist Party officials. NARAYAN read the writings of Marx and Trotsky "voraciously," and pamphlets by the Indian Communist, M. N. Roy, "completed the conversion."
"Freedom," NARAYAN has written about this period, "still remained the unchanging goal, but the Marxian science of revolution seemed to offer a surer and quicker road to it than Gandhi's technique of civil disobedience and non-cooperation. . . .At the same time, Marxism provided another beacon light for me: equality and brotherhood. Freedom was not enough. It must mean freedom for alleven the lowliestand this freedom must include freedom from exploitation, from hunger, from poverty."
Following a three-month illness NARAYAN returned to the University of Wisconsin and switched to the social sciences on Landy's advice. When Landy was given a lectureship at Ohio State University, NARAYAN went with him. Here he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree on August 31, 1928. He earned his Master of Arts in Economics the following year. His thesis, "Societal Variations," argued that change in human society is the result of improvements in the tools of production.
NARAYAN returned to India in October of 1929 to find that "nationalism was reaching white heat." Early the next year, following Lord Irwin's refusal to agree to unrestricted dominion status for India, Mahatma Gandhi and his followers launched a full-scale independence movement. "Naturally," says NARAYAN, "I plunged into the fray with all my heart. . . .But I did not find the Indian Communists anywhere on the battle lines. . . .Worse, I came to know that they were denouncing the national movement as bourgeois and Mahatma Gandhi as a lackey of the Indian bourgeoisie. . . .My differences with the CPI (Communist Party of India) thus marked the beginning of my ideological alienation from Soviet Russia. . . ."
Unable to reconcile his Marxism with "Soviet dictated policy," NARAYAN joined the Congress Party in January 1930. Both Gandhi and Nehru were impressed with the young man and Nehru appointed him director of the Labor Research Department of the Congress Party. Within a short time he helped organize the civil disobedience movement. In 1932 he was arrested by the British for participation in this movement and sentenced to Nasik Central Prison. There he met a group of similarly disposed young radicals. Some, like NARAYAN, were Marxists, others socialists, but they all shared a growing dissatisfaction with the "vagueness" of Congress Party policy and the lack of an adequate program for social change.
Upon their release they banded together to form the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) on May 17, 1934, as a party within the Congress Party. The goal of the CSP was to change the middle class domination of the Congress and to "link the movement for national freedom with the movement for economic and social emancipation of the masses."
Following Hitler's rise to power and the subsequent Soviet sanction of popular front coalitions throughout the world, the Communist Party of India (CPI) offered its support to the Indian National Congress as a National Front. In spite of the opposition of some of his leading colleagues, NARAYAN welcomed this new policy. "I began," he said, "to dream of the possibility of a united socialist-communist party and of the rapid strides that both the freedom movement and Indian socialism could make under such united leadership."
In January 1936, largely on NARAYAN's recommendation as General Secretary, the CSP agreed to establish a united front with the Communists. Membership in the CSP was opened to individual communists, and it was agreed they would work together in the trade union movement. By 1938 most of South India was controlled by the CPI; they dominated the powerful All-India Trade Union Conference and were moving to control the Congress Socialist Party.
"That nightmarish experience resulted in one great good," said NARAYAN. "We learned, some of us with not little regret that. . .when the Communist parties talk of united front, it is always a ruse and at best a temporary policy dictated by the exigencies of the situation. . .and that the Communists can never think of sharing power with anyone, except as a makeshift with convenient stooges."
In March 1940 the CSP leadership decided to expel all communist members. CSP units in the South moved in a block to the Communist Party, and so many others joined them that one socialist leader called the CSP "all but finished."
NARAYANs final break with the Indian Communists came in 1941, when, following Hitler's attack on Russia, Indian Communists dropped all talk of freedom and urged support of the Allied war effort. NARAYAN denounced them for playing the imperialist game, and, impatient with the slowness of the freedom movement, he split from the Congress Party and demanded a complete boycott of the government until the British left India.
He was arrested and sent to Hazaribagh Prison in a remote part of Bihar. On the night of November 8, 1942 he and five fellow inmates escaped, scaling a 22-foot wall with the aid of a rope made of their clothing. Eluding capture for nearly a year, he traveled about India, working with the underground freedom movement to recruit and train saboteurs.
He was captured again near Lahore in September 1943 while on his way to Kashmir to rouse the Pathan tribesmen against the British. Tales of the brutality of his confinement circulated throughout India. Finally released on April 12, 1946 he emerged as the hero of the underground freedom movement.
NARAYAN immediately accepted an appointment to the Congress Working Committee, believing that the socialists could eventually wrest control of the party. Still advocating armed struggle NARAYAN wrote that "the fire of revolution alone can burn down the edifice of imperialism together with the supporting edifices of feudalism and communism."
On August 15, 1947 when Britain gave India its freedom, formal Partition of the subcontinent became effective. Riots had erupted between Hindus and Muslims during negotiations. In the weeks following independence violence and killings engulfed all of the Punjab and many other cities and states as well. One estimate states that "as many as 100,000 men, women and children were killed in the orgy of communal anger as nearly five million refugees crossed into India from Pakistan and an almost equal number of Muslims journeyed in the opposite direction."
Gandhi had opposed Partition and left the negotiations to undertake a village-by-village walking tour in eastern Bengal in an effort to restore calm. When renewed violence broke out, he began to fast in an appeal to leaders of both sides to stop the killings. On January 30, 1948 he was assassinated in New Delhi.
The increasingly powerful conservatives in the Congress Party, in 1947, had defeated Gandhi's proposal of NARAYAN for the presidency of the party. Pointing to the need for national unity, they now outlawed political parties within Congress; this resulted in most Socialists, led by NARAYAN, leaving the Congress Party in 1948.
NARAYAN meanwhile was continuing his critical examination of Marxist theories. Looking at Soviet Russia he saw overcentralization of political and economic authority as "not only the absence of socialism, but also of its negation." He began to believe, as Gandhi, that good ends could never be achieved by bad means. Speaking to the Eighth National Congress of the Socialist Party in Madras in 1950, NARAYAN stated: "The aims of the socialist movement. . . .[are] the creation of a society of free and equal peoples. . . based on certain values of human and social life, values which should never be sacrificed in the name of theory or the Party line or expediency of any sort."
India's first national election was held in 1951. Nehru's Congress Party won a decisive victory; the Socialist Party came in third, behind the Communists. In the aftermath of this defeat, NARAYAN sought to bolster the position of the Socialist Party by merging with the Kissan Mazdoor Praja Party into the Praja (Peoples) Socialist Party (PSP). The merger gave further emphasis to NARAYANs shift toward Gandhism, as the Kissan Mazdoor Praja Party in the 1951 election had supported Gandhi's ideals of nonviolence, redistribution of land, and the rehabilitation of villages.
In 1953 Prime Minister Nehru invited NARAYAN and the Praja Socialists to consider merging with the Congress Party. As a basis for coalition the Socialists presented a 14-point minimum program which included nationalization of banking, insurance and mining, and a constitutional change to permit sweeping land reforms. These proposals were too drastic for the Congress Party to accept, and negotiations for a PSP-Congress Party alliance fell through. Nevertheless, NARAYAN called Nehru's offer "a statesmanlike step," and promised to continue to meet with him.
At the time of Nehru's offer, NARAYAN was already involved in the Bhoodan Movement. This voluntary land reform began in 1951 when Vinoba Bhave, on one of his frequent walking tours, was approached by a group of poor peasants who begged his help in getting land so they could raise food for their families. Turning to the crowd, Bhave asked, "Are there any among you who will give land to your brothers so that they may not die of starvation?" One landlord stepped forward and offered 100 acres.
Out of this incident, Bhave* was inspired to devote the rest of his life to soliciting voluntary donations of land to alleviate the plight of India's huge landless rural population. His goal was 50 million acres, enough to give five acres to every family. Within a few months of walking about the countryside, he had been given 20,000 acres. Bhoodan quickly caught the imagination of the country. It "lit a moral fire and loosed a fervor for non-political constructive work" that drew to it, among many others, JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN.
Recalling this time, NARAYAN says, there were two factors in the situation which. . .forced me to give it serious thought. One was the author himself of bhoodan. . . .When a person like Vinoba had started something it could not just be brushed aside as a stunt or a futile gesture. The other was the steady growth of the movement."
Not long afterwards, NARAYAN went to see Bhave, while he was traveling about the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh, to discuss the land distribution problem. It was then he decided to join Bhave's movement. After the 1951 elections, NARAYAN made a trip to the Gaya district of Bihar as a Bhoodan worker. "My brief experience," he said, "was exhilarating beyond expectations. Within a week nearly seven thousand acres of land were obtained as a giftmost of them spontaneous and from small holders . . . ."
As the movement progressed it took new forms. In 1952, in the village of Mangroth in Uttar Pradesh, gramdan (gift of village) was announced, later came sampattidan (gift of wealth), and shramdan (gift of labor).
NARAYAN has stated that the use of the word dan was perhaps unfortunate; in modern usage it connotes charity, whereas Bhave meant it in the classical sense of "sharing together." Thus bhoodan signified distribution of the land to the landless. Gramdan was equitable sharing together of the lands of the village by the people of the village. Sampattidan demonstrated that the methodology of the new revolution was not restricted to the problem of land, but could be applied to the entire social field. Finally, as NARAYAN said, "If we have nothing to give let us give our serviceshramdanour love and goodwillfremdan."
In bhoodan, NARAYAN saw the essence of Mahatma Gandhi's theory of trusteeshipthat man is not the master of what he possesses but only a trustee of what in reality belongs to society. And a trustee should take from his trust no more than what is necessary to fulfill his needs and give all the rest back to society.
Shortly after the announcement of the Mangroth gramdan, NARAYAN made a special trip to the village to see for himself what had happened there. "What I saw," he recounted, "opened a new vista into the future. It was thrilling to visualize the great moral, economic, political and social revolution that would sweep over the country if Mangroth was repeated in every village. And I could find no reason to suppose that what had happened in Mangroth could not happen in all the villages of India. The people of Mangroth were by no means angels.
"Vinoba's movement thus supplied an answer to the question I had long been asking: could Gandhiji's philosophy offer a practical method to accomplish the social revolution? In a brilliant extension and development of Gandhiji's work, Vinoba demonstrated that there was such a method."
NARAYAN saw it as a two-pronged method. One prong, a mass campaign of what Gandhi termed "conversion" (satyagrahathe technique of non-violent protest to achieve change of heart), to persuade men to give up those ideas, ways and values of life that have been found harmful and to accept in their place certain others. The other prong "to devise a program of self-help and self-government through which menfirst those living in small communitiesmay learn to manage their own affairs and, moved by the new ideas and values, cooperate together to create new institutions and forms of social life. . . .The revolution in ideas as represented by bhoodan, sampattidan and gramdan and the revolution in the outward organization of society represented by community ownership of land and community self-government together constitute a full revolutionary program that is different both from revolutions of violence and revolutions made by law."
On April 18, 1954 the Sixth Sarvodaya Conference began at Bodh Gaya under the leadership of Vinoba Bhave. Most of India's political notables were in attendance, including Prime Minister Nehru, President Rajendra Prasad, Vice President Radhakrishna, head of the Praja Socialist Party Acharya Kripalani and many others. On the second day of the Conference JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN rose to announce that he was making a jeevandanan offer of his life. He was giving up politics to devote himself to the Bhoodan Movement and the sarvodaya (service) ideal. This decision, NARAYAN emphasized, was in no sense a repudiation of his long-held ideals, but rather, "that I had realized that those ideals could be achieved and preserved better through Bhoodan or the Gandhian way."
Thus, at the age of 50 NARAYAN gave up political power and leadership
Shortly after this dramatic announcement, a journalist who visited "J.P."as colleagues and most of the press referred to himdescribed him as "tall and handsome, as if chiseled by some ancient Greek sculptor and brought to life. His eyes are warm and have a touch of sadness; he speaks slowly and softly. But underneath the gentleness one feels a barely restrained violence, and an occasional flash of fire will remind one that after all he has been an underground guerilla leader. What seems to underline this is a certain immediacy and directness: 'do it now.' J.P. is impatient of any interval between the conception of an idea and its execution. As a revolutionist, he said in effect, 'I am against the British rule; therefore I shall act.' As a Gandhian, he shows the same quality. 'Why wait for the stateless society,' he asks. Start living nowby cooperation, by non-violence, by village self-rule.' "
Many people, both in and out of government, were critical of NARAYANs decision to leave politics. India was a new nation, its government still inexperienced, and many factions were struggling for power. They believed that NARAYAN was in a strategic position to give leadership.
In 1958 an interviewer put the question directly to him: "Practically speaking, wouldn't you be more useful if you participated in active politics, using your ability to correct the mistakes you see, or even more specifically, to rally middle ground political forces as an effective opposition to the present government, or as an alternative to it? NARAYANS answer was, "No. I'm convinced we have to work in this other method, beginning over, beginning from the bottom."
Three years after announcing his withdrawal from politics, NARAYAN also withdrew from membership in the Praja Socialist Party. "It was not the ugliness of politics that repelled me," he wrote, "but the attraction of the new politics of sarvodaya that drew me. . . .politics of the people I have called it, as distinct from the politics of party and power."
Sarvodayaideal of servicewas Gandhi's plan for national reconstruction through decentralization and village self-rule. Following the Mahatma's death, it was kept alive by a small band of his followers led by Bhave. While Bhave was the acknowledged leader and symbol of sarvodaya, JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN became the second most important figure, not only because of the prestige he so dramatically brought to the movement, but also because of his leadership in energizing its programs and propagating its ideas.
In seeking to see the state "reduced to the absolute minimum," NARAYAN was drawing on his abhorrence of the centralization of power in the totalitarian states and in what he saw as an "authoritarian trend" in the planning and administration of India's "parliamentary democracy." In economic planning, he saw India as "having become ensnared in the economics of production and marketing, when we should be facing up to our real economics, those of employment and distribution. What we need is large-scale development of small-scale production. We are a capital-poor, labor-rich economy. It is both sound economics and simple humanity to develop the kind of economy which is demanded by the facts."
The political and economic road for India, NARAYAN believed, could only be found through sarvodaya. As NARAYAN described it, villagers would give up ownership of their land and pool it in the name of the village. They would then apportion the land according to family need, including every cultivator, even the heretofore landless laborers. The land would be farmed individually, but with mutual help. By improved farming and by supplementary cottage industries worked by village artisans and farmers with spare time, the village would provide itself with its basic needs. The villagers would plan and manage their own affairs by conference and consensus. Each village would have full political, judicial and revenue collecting powers, but would cooperate with others in ever-widening circles for common benefit.
The "institutions" of the sarvodaya structure, he noted, are designed to eliminate "errors" in the present society. If there is no big landlord, there will be no exploitation of landless laborers. If there is no powerful political office, there will be no abuse of power.
But, as NARAYAN was the first to point out, institutions can only facilitate, they cannot guarantee. "What is needed," he said, "is a revolution in attitude." To encourage a spirit of cooperation, self-discipline, and responsibility to community, he saw the need for a "vast band of selfless workers" who would live in the villages, animating the people with the sarvodaya principles and guiding them in the village reconstruction program.
At the time NARAYAN joined the Bhoodan Movement, there were some 10,000 sarvodaya workers, most of them former participants in Gandhi's old village-oriented "Constructive Program." NARAYAN, "equally at home in London drawing rooms and New York lecture halls, or sitting cross legged on coir mats," became their spokesman at meetings with city and state officials, government leaders and the villagers themselves.
When NARAYAN made his jeevandan in 1954, the Bhoodan Movement had overfulfilled its land gift quota and there seemed a reasonable prospect that Bhave would raise 50 million acres in the five year period he had set for himself. Over the next few years, however, the movement began to lose its momentum, and by 1958 the gifts of land had stabilized at just under five million acres.
Critics claimed that most of the land given was of poor quality or even unusable because of rocky or arid soil, and that the landless often did not have the physical means to cultivate such land as was arable. There were practical and organizational problems of redistribution, readjustment of scattered land parcels to make them workable, development of cooperative methods, and raising the educational level of illiterate peasants and landless workers.
In recognition of these problems, Bhave encouraged city dwellers to make gifts of money for the purchase of bullocks, farm implements, seeds and fertilizers. The government, through its Community Development Program, also provided some assistance.
In contrast to the normally slower pace of bhoodan, however, NARAYAN saw the trends of centralization and large-scale planning increasing rapidly. Like Gandhi, he believed that India should not imitate the experience of the Westand of Russiawith "industrial gigantism, the horrors of urban living, and the uprooting of the people from organic connection with their environment."
Nothing would really change in India, he believed, until the ordinary Indian villager is changed. Therefore, a new institution of democracy had to be created that would answer the problems of economic freedom and individual liberty of the rural masses.
In the Bhoodan Movement he saw the first link in a long chain. The problems arising from the land gift must be worked out in common. Hitherto, decisions had always been made by outsidersrulers, landlords, the government; now the people must learn to manage their own affairs. "In this way," he said, "the people will be set in motion, and traditional passivism and inertia will be overcome. People who have lived lives of humiliation will learn confidence in themselves. Members of different castes, who would otherwise never know each other, come together in an atmosphere of shared purpose. They learn to accept a common responsibility for their actions."
NARAYAN discussed his ideas for a new form of decentralized democracy, especially the question of indirect elections, with several political leaders following the Mysore Gramdan Conference in 1957. Their response was favorable, and they encouraged him to put them down on paper. In September 1959 he outlined his ideas and proposals in a paper entitled "A Plea for Reconstruction of Indian Polity." In it he set forth his concept of the formal structure that democracy would require in India to function and develop properly, "the ways and means by which more and mere people could govern themselves more and more."
NARAYAN was disturbed by what he perceived as inherent in parliamentary democracy: "The issue of power in such a state is decided not by the fictitious 'people' but by a balance between political parties and such organized interests as industrialists and bankers and powerful labor unions." Another serious fault he saw was the party system which "creates dissensions, exaggerates differences, and often puts party interests over the national interest." Its system of general elections too, he called expensive, "appallingly wasteful," and tending to favor demagoguery.
In discussing the shape of the political organization or polity that he believed most desirable for India, NARAYAN stated: "The problem of present-day civilization is . . . . man is ordered about and manipulated by forces beyond his ken and controlirrespective of whether it is a 'democracy' or dictatorship. The problem is to put man in touch with man, so that they may live together in meaningful, understandable, controlled relationships. In short, the problem is to recreate the human community." The foundations of Indian polity "must be self-governing, self-sufficient, agro-industrial, urbo-rural, local communities." The highest political institution of the local community would be the general assemblythe gram sabha, of which all adults would be considered members. The selection of the executive bodythe panchayatwould be by general agreement or by drawing lots.
The responsibilities given to the gram sabha and the panchayat should be the "essential problems of life"food, clothing and shelter, eradication of unemployment, education and medical care. To those who might question if the village panchayats, as they are today, would be able to function this way, NARAYAN replied. "The only way to make the villages self-governing, self-reliant and self-sufficient is to throw upon them real responsibility. "
The next level of NARAYANs proposed political structure is the regional community. Here, the gram panchayats would be integrated into the panchayat samiti. The samiti would be elected by the gram panchayats collectively and not by their members because "it is the gram panchayat as a body that represents the village community and not its members." As an autonomous, self-governing community, the panchayat samiti would play a key role in the political and economic life of the country, particularly in the processes of planning and development.
The third level is the district council, elected from the panchayat samitis of the district, again, by consensus of the samitis, as such.
In a similar manner, all the district councils of a state would come together to create the state assembly. The state assemblies, in like manner, would elect the lok sabha (parliament). "Thus the political institution at each level is an integration of all the institutions at the lower level."
Such a political organization, NARAYAN pointed out, also accords with a pattern that Gandhi visualized. "In this structure, composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever widening, never ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual. . . .
Critics of his proposals for reconstruction dismissed NARAYAN as a "theoretician, out of touch with reality." They pointed out that the plan made no provision for the cities, offered no place for entrepreneurs, industrialists and progressive farmers, and allowed for no shortcuts to economic growth and transformation. Yet others noted that the recommendations made by the "hard-headed Gujarati businessman and politician," Balwantrai G. Mehta and his colleagues, in their report of the "Team for the Study of Community Projects and National Extension Service, bore a distinct resemblance to NARAYAN s plan for reconstruction.
Appointed by the Government of India in 1957 to review Community Development programs, the Balwantrai Mehta Committee recommended "democratic decentralization" as the remedy for revitalizing and invigorating the programs and for making community development a truly people's movement.
The Community Development program, started in 1952, was designed to transform the social and economic life of the villages of rural India through the active participation and initiative of the village community. The response from the villages, however, had not come up to expectations. The existing caste and power groups maintained their stranglehold and the people's participation remained minimal. The Committee, therefore, recommended the creation of an inter-connected system of democratic local government institutions at the village, block and district levels. The Team also recommended that there should be a genuine transfer of power, responsibilities and adequate resources to these institutions; that all developmental programs at these levels should be channeled through them; and that the system evolved should be such as would facilitate progressive devolution and dispersal of power and responsibility in the future.
Following acceptance by the Government and the Planning Commission, this system of democratic decentralizationpanchayati rajwas first introduced in Rajasthan in 1959, to be extended into the other states as quickly as possible.
For NARAYAN, acceptance by the Congress Party of the ideal of panchayati raj was a "great satisfaction." As president of the All-India Panchayat Parishad and the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development (AVARD), NARAYAN gave active support to the development of panchayati raj, even as he continued to press for further changes he considered necessary to its success.
In an article entitled "Panchayati-RajConditions for Its Success," which appeared in Amrita Bazar Patrika in April 1961, NARAYAN listed six conditions essential to making it the basis of a true participatory democracy: education of the people in the widest sense of the term by disinterested, non-partisan agencies engaged in social service or tasks of rural development; non-interference by political parties; a real devolution of power"the people must be trusted;" local authority at each level of the three tiers of authority and administration should be given its own minimum resources; the panchayati raj should be able, as soon as possible, to exercise real authority over the civil servants under its charge, who should be fully accountable to it; and finally, "and as important as any of the previous conditions," elections to village panchayatis should be held without any contests because "the village today is a much divided house. . . .To introduce electoral contests into the village is to throw a monkey wrench into the works."
NARAYAN continued to press his case for participating democracy in an article written for Searchlight in April 1961 entitled, "Swaraj for the People." In summing up India's decade of democratic experience, the most striking fact he saw emerging was that the people of the country have felt left out. They had the opportunity of participating in two general elections, but beyond that they have had nothing further to do with it. "My concept of participating democracy, " said NARAYAN, "is what Gandhiji often used to emphasize; namely, that as you proceed from the bottom level of government to the top, each higher level should have less and less functions and powers. . . .In such a system the people at each level would have the fullest opportunity to manage all those affairs that might pertain to that level. Such a system of democracy could give the people a stake in democracy as well as the sensation of swaraj (selfrule).
Even as he developed and refined his "new politics," NARAYAN continued to keep a watchful eye on the politics of party and power and to speak out when he felt they were wrong. To be, as one writer has called him, "the gadfly on the Indian elephant." NARAYAN played a dominant role in rousing public opinion against Soviet brutalities in Hungary in 1956 and against China's aggression in Tibet four years later.
In a scathing speech in Bombay on November 11, 1956 he denounced the Nehru government's "perverse and false" view of the Hungarian uprising. Commenting on Krishna Menon's attempt to depict the slaughter in Budapest as Hungary's "domestic affair," NARAYAN said, "As an Indian, I hang my head in shame that a spokesman of my country should have gone so far in cynical disregard of truth and the fundamental principles of freedom and peace that are said to guide our international conduct." To condone the Russians in Hungary, while condemning the British and French in Suez, he said, "is to make use of a double standard which, to say the least, is unworthy of this country." One observer, calling him the "voice of the loyal opposition," said "there could be no higher tribute to his success in this role than Nehru's. . . attempts to justify India's original stand on Hungary even as he modified it to conform more closely to the facts."
In 1959 when Chinese troops invaded Tibet NARAYAN called the process by which Nehru sought to portray Tibet as a purely Chinese concern a "motheaten, imperialistic formula," and urged that the case of Tibet be discussed in the United Nations. He helped organize the Afro-Asian Committee for Tibetan Freedom to mobilize public opinion on the two continents in favor of self-determination for Tibet. This led to the formation in 1960 of a permanent non-official body, the Afro-Asian Council, of which NARAYAN is president. It is dedicated to the defense of human rights and to work for the speedy end of colonialism in Asia and Africa, and to uphold the rights of all peoples to self-determination.
NARAYAN not only speaks out against injustice but tries to be a peace maker. He set up the Nagaland Peace Movement, contacting the underground leaders of the Naga tribes in the northeastern frontier of India in an effort to stop the fighting there and persuade the rebels not to secede. In 1963 he led the peace mission which resulted in a roundtable conference between representatives of the Nagas and the Indian government.
As chairman of the Indo-Pakistan Conciliation Group, he brought together a group of like-minded moderates in both countries in the hopes of starting "a dialogue on the Kashmir problem in the spirit of non-violence." In 1964 he led a delegation to Pakistan on behalf of the Conciliation Group in an effort to talk with President Ayub Khan and others.
Another cause NARAYAN has espoused is that of the Shanti SenaPeace Brigadewhich is affiliated with the World Peace Brigade, of which he is a co-chairman. The Shanti Sena is mainly employed to counteract Hindu-Moslem tensions. His aim is to have brigade members in every major Indian city in sufficient numbers to intervene when communal tensions threaten to erupt in conflict.
He has also been increasingly involved in the activities of the World Peace Brigade. In May 1962 he attended a rally in Tanganyika where the brigade debated, but later decided against, sending volunteers on a non-violent march into Northern Rhodesia to offer satyagraha against racial discrimination.
NARAYAN took a leading part in the Anti-Nuclear Arms Committee Convention in New Delhi, June 16-19, 1962. This Convention brought together many of the leading scientists and thinkers of the world to share their concerns about world safety and the international arms race, and to appeal to governments, parliaments and responsible individuals to strive for complete disarmament and immediate cessation of all nuclear tests. In support of these beliefs NARAYAN agreed to sail with Lord Russell to the Christmas Islands to "do satyagraha" against the nuclear tests there.
Domestically, some of his strongest criticisms have been aimed at his government's successive Five Year Plans. The Nehru government's emphasis on rapid industrial development and centralization, he warned, could lead to concentration of immense economic and political power in the hands of a few. He has continued a relentless battle against bigotry, casteism, and the resurgence of racial nationalism. India's caste system, he says, is a "complete negation of democracy. . . .it maintains a veritable devil's workshop of idleness because it ordains that certain castes may not perform any honest manual labor." Again, he reminds, "Everyone is the son of GodBrahmin, Rajput, Indians, Americans. The souls of all men are the same."
By general consensus, NARAYAN is considered the third most popular leader in India todayafter Nehru and Bhavebut the size of his following is difficult to determine. One political observer calls him an "all-Indian figure, one of the last of the old charismatic leaders like Nehru and Gandhi. His name is still a household word in North India, but the younger generation in Bombay, Bengal and the south is less familiar with him. . . . He has been out of the political limelight too long." On the other hand, an official in the Ministry of Agriculture says, "J. P. is a pure man, widely respected for his ideals. He's now concentrating on bhoodan, panchayats and the Peace Brigade, but he. . .has wide, national influence."
The newspaper Bharat Jyoti Bombay, June 2, 1963, summing up some of NARAYANs achievements on the occasion of his 61st birthday, stated: "NARAYAN is still a politician although he has shed much of his politics . . . .Great positions were his for the mere asking. But he declined to walk in the Nehru lobby at the cost of the principle for which he had been and is still working. . . ."
Because NARAYANs ruthless criticism of national policies is considered to be open-minded and honest, and therefore is respected even by those who disagree, his opinions carry a unique authority in the public life of India. Believing like Gandhi, that "man and his welfare should be the center of our thinking and the goal of our journey," NARAYAN is working through direct human contact and without the aid of any political institution for the benefit of the thousands of villagers in whom he has inspired a sense of democracy and individual consciousness.
Intellectuals also hear him. One political writer has said, "Whatever the specific merits of that particular (Bhoodan) Movement, it is an indication of what can be carried out in India in the way of social reform when the old, atavistic religious instinct is awakened and properly channeled. It may not be equal to the administrative complexities of such a massive movement of land redistribution; but the mere fact that it could attract such a man as the ax-Marxist JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN proves beyond a doubt that India can devise methods of social reform that might be incomparably superior to anything devised elsewhere."
NARAYAN himself has said, "I am not for a moment suggesting that I have arrived at a flawless solution of social problems or that sarvodaya is the last word in social philosophy. . . .I am forever pressing forward with the quest for democracy and for discovering ways and means by which more and more people could govern themselves more and more."
He adds: "A society which denies man his freedom in truth denies his humanity, because if the freedom of the spirit is taken away, then man becomes only an animal. . . .We must have our bread to eat. But the bread must be not only for us; it must also be for others. If we are concerned with our own bread, then that is materialism. If we are concerned with other people's bread, then that is spiritualism.
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Bharat Jyoti. Bombay, June 2, 1963.
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______. "Jayaprakash: The Far-off Freedom," Ibid. March 1, 1958.
______. "Jayaprakash: The Road Back to Gandhi," Ibid. January 3, 1958.
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______. The Dual Revolution. Tanjore: Sarvodaya Prachuralaya (Akhila Bharat Sarva Seva Sangh), 1959.
______.The Evolution Towards Sarvodaya. Tanjore: Sarvodaya Prachuralaya, 1957.
______. "The Need to Re-think," Hindustan Times. Delhi. May 15, 1964.
______. "Panchayati Raj-I: Condition for Its Success, ' Amrita Bazar Patrika. Calcutta. April 4, 1961.
______. A Picture of Sarvodaya Social Order. Tanjore: Sarvodaya Prachuralaya, 1957.
______. "Reconstruction of Indian Polity," Kurukshetra. Delhi. Vol. 9, no. 7, April 1961.
______. "Rediscovery of Mahatma Gandhi," Kurukshetra. Delhi. Vol. 9, no. 4, January 1961.
______. Socialism, Sarvodaya and Democracy. Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1964.
______. Socialism to Sarvodaya. Madras: Socialist Book Center, 1956.
______. "Swaraj for People-I," Searchlight. Patanna, India. April 14, 1961.
______. Towards a New Society. New Delhi: Office for Asian Affairs, Congress for Cultural Freedom, 1958.
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*The first Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership made in 1958 recognized Acharya Vinoba Bhave "for his furtherance of the cause of arousing his countrymen toward voluntary action in relieving social injustice and economic inequalities."
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