Today is 2nd October, 2015. Besides the merry fact that you are reading my sunny blog today, it is also Lal Bahadur Shastri’s birthday.
For me, this is the sole reason I celebrate this day. I don’t have another. Or maybe, I don’t need another. Except that I am really glad your eyes are fixated on the line I am just writing. Hahaha. They still are. Lol, OK.
People say, Gandhi was born today. But then, you celebrate the birthdays of those whom you idolise, don’t you?
If you know what I mean.
You don’t? Well, let me just shrewdly say that I’m not too much into Gandhi and his ‘PEACEFUL’ philosophies.
It doesn’t run in my veins, y’see.
When someone bullies me, I don’t KEEP CALM AND SMILE. Dude, why should I?
Seriously, you know what runs through my mind when someone preached me the Gandhian philosophy of satyagraha and non violence? I presume my friend’s t-shirt says it all –
So, yes. India’s second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on the same date in 1904. He is popularly known as the ‘politician who made no money’. He dropped his caste identity in his early years and cut short his studies to join India’s freedom movement.
Here are some things you must know about the man; not because you should, but because I believe he deserves to be written about :
1. The story behind ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’.
When Lal Bahadur Shastri took over as a Prime Minister in 1964, India used to be a food importing country then. It depended on food imports from North America under the PL-480 scheme. In 1965, when we were at war with Pakistan, India faced drought as well. Keeping in mind, the food situation and the prevailing hunger, Shastri had urged the entire country to hold a fast for a day. Lal Bahadur Shastri knew and understood the significance of soldiers and farmers and gave the slogan during that period – *Jai Jawan Jai Kisan*.
2. Shastri’s conflict with American President Lyndon Johnson stands testimony to the fact that he was a man of his words.
Towards the end of 1965 and before his death on January 11, 1966; in an interview with an American journalist, Lal Bahadur Shastri, despite his dependency on America for food import, didn’t nod his head and said the war by America in Vietnam was an act of aggression. His statement wasn’t received well by the American counterpart who then stopped food exports to India under a ‘Stop-go-policy’. India was then in such a miserable situation that the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations had to appeal to the US to resume food exports.
Now that’s why I respect this man. Guts, I tell you!
3. He was against the prevalent caste system.
Lal Bahadur Shastri was born in Ramnagar of Varanasi in a Kayastha family, but because he didn’t believe in the caste system, he gave up his title. It was not until later, when he graduated from Kashi Vidyapeeth, the title of Shastri (scholar) was awarded to him.
4. As a minister in Jawahar Lal Nehru’s cabinet, Shastri framed rules FOR the people.
It was Shastri’s idea to use jets of water to disperse crowds, rather than lathi-charge. I wish the system still thrived.
5. Shastri was a feminist.
As a Transport Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first in India to make it possible for women to be appointed as conductors in transportation facilities.
6. His first address to the nation as a Prime Minister is still an inspiration.
“There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the crossroads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there needs to be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to the right or left. Our way is straight and clear—the building up of a socialist democracy at home with freedom and prosperity for all, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with all nations.”
I repeat, he stressed on a socialist democracy.
That’s what learnt people say. And being wise and well read doesn’t just mean you read law at London, it means that you take steps and inspire millions by sparking their lives.
7. His decisive leadership in the 1965 Pakistan war was an answer to the frequently asked question ‘After Nehru, WHO?’.
On August 31, 1965, one of his secretaries told him that the Pakistan army had crossed the international border with 100 battle tanks in the Chamb sector of Jammu. They told him that in a short span of time the Pakistan army would cut off Kashmir from the rest of India.
Without losing time he asked for the opening of a new front including Lahore. ‘Retaliate with full force’, he said. He told them, “Be prepared for war.” He didn’t wait for international reactions. The next day, newspapers reported that the Indian army was marching towards Lahore. It was a big morale booster for the country.
During those tense days, in his address to the nation from Red Fort on Independence day, he said: “Hathiyaron ka jawab hathiyaron se denge. (Force will be met with force). Hamara desh rahega toh hamara tiranga rahega (Our flag will survive only if our country does).”
Ask yourself this question now.
Is Shastri, who epitomised honesty and sincerity in public life, relevant today?
Does he not deserve his share of respect for his contribution to the freedom struggle of the nation?
I, Vaishnavi Ray, salute the ‘gentle giant’ who led India through the critical years of independence.