BABU JAGJIVANRAM: A TRIBUTE
Speech at the function to pay tributes to the late Babu Jagjivan Ram dated 10-7-1986 Bhopal
When I think of Babu Jagjivan Ram, memories crowd my mind. He was not just a leader of the depressed castes, he was a great leader of the people of this country. I had many occasions to be closely associated with Babuji in our national struggle as an humble congress worker. He is often described as a Titan, as a colossus. I would consider him a multifaceted gem, every face of which shines brilliantly. Suffice it to say that he made his mark in all the tasks that he took up.
Born in a family bound in social shackles, he had to break them with all his might to come on the national scene. He was a freedom fighter, a social reformer and a champion of the downtrodden. He learnt from personal experience that the downtrodden had to be freed from tyranny to live a fuller life.
There is an anecdote about him when he was a student in Banaras. When barbers refused to shave him, he organised the people against them till they were compelled to shave the Harijans and cut their hair. This happened before 1920. Gradually he moved into the national movement and began actively participating in the. emancipation of the downtrodden.
He found that the emancipation of the downtrodden would lead to the emancipation of the country. At that point of time, he had to carry on the fight on two fronts-the first for the freedom of the country and secondly for the freedom of the depressed classes.
I recall, how he differed with Gandhijl as far back as 1931, when Gandhiji opposed the reservation for the depressed classes at the Round Table Conference in London in 1931. He was then just a young man of 23. He nevertheless dared to oppose the unquestioned leader of the nation when he had a difference of opinion and he kept it up until it was accepted by the nation,
The reservation incorporated in the Constitution for the depressed castes and the tribes owes mainly to the fight carried on by Babu Jagjivan Ram. It was on this issue that he organised the All-India Depressed Classes League way back in 1934 and had its branches established all over India. Ultimately it became a wing of the Indian National Congress. In 1937, when elections were called, he put up his own candidates for all the reserved seats in Bihar, got them elected and thus established their rights.
In 1936, an event happened in India which was of great significance. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar advised his followers to renounce Hinduism and embrace religions which accepted social equality. There was an exodus of the depressed castes from Hinduism to other religions. It was Babu Jagjivan Ram who resisted this and arrested the trend. He said that the fate of the depressed people will have to be decided within the fold of Hinduism and that the present was only an aberration introduced into Hinduism. He advised his followers to remain in the Hindu fold, the mainstream of India and fight for their emancipation.
These are only some aspects of the life of Babu Jagjivan Ram, the freedom fighter, the social reformer and the champion of the depressed classes. There was another Jagjivan Ram-the politician, the statesman and the administrator. He was a Member of Parliament and
remained on the national scene from 1946 onwards, till he breathed his last. I do not think there is any Indian who has achieved that distinction. He was cabinet minister of the Gavernment of India from 1946 to 1979 with a break of 28 months when he quit office under the Kamraj Plan. That again is a record.
He presided over various Ministries with unusual competence and efficiency. He left his imprint on the Ministry of Labour, Communications, Railways, Agriculture, Defence and various other Ministries. His finest hour was presiding over the Ministry of Defence when the battle for Bangladesh was fought and won. He was not one who drifted with history, but one of those rare personalities who made history.
The course of politics in India on many occasions changed mainly on account of Jagjivan Ram. The 1969 split in the Congress, in which he played a major role, changed the course of history of India. The 1977 split, when he left the Congress, again changed the course of our history. In 1979 too, his stand made all the difference to the course of events. Thereafter, he had no real occasion to play his role. But till then Babu Jogjivan Ram played a great role in the country’s politics directing the course of events of this nation.
When we look back we find in Babu Jagjivan Ram a rare personality-quiet and self-confident with great courage of conviction. Robust common sense that makes most people practical and successful-was characteristic of him as was his firmness of action. He strode like a Colossus across this sub-continent for nearly 50 years. In his passing away we have lost a source of wise counsel and advice from one of the greatest personalities of our times who has passed into our history.