~ by Nitin Siddhu
1947 is a year of great historical importance for India. After all, the nation got independence from a 200-year-old occupation of British EIC. Everyone was joyful, celebrating the newfound independence. Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Nehru were all over the news, books and articles about the journey of the nation to the freedom were being published. Unfortunately, stories many freedom fighters were lost in the dazzle and stature of Mahatma Gandhi and Pt. Nehru. Contributions of some of them are wrapped up in one or two paragraphs in our history books while others couldn’t even make it to the books. These brave hearts are now almost forgotten. One such name is RAJ NARAIN.
Born in an opulent Bhumihar family in Varanasi on March 15, 1917, Raj Narain was directly related to the royal family of the Benares State. He graduated from BHU (Banaras Hindu University). He was proactive both politically and socially, and became a member of Congress Socialist Party in 1934 and National Committee of Students Federation in 1939. He was President of the Banaras University Mandal Congress Committee and Member of District Congress Committee. He also worked as President of Student Congress.
He led protests in and around Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh during 1942 Quit India movement. He got police chasing him and went “underground” for three months and later got arrested on September 28, 1942 and detained till 1945. He also organized girls’ schools (in an era, when people didn’t really care about educating the girl child), study centre and labor organization.
He remained politically active after India gained its independence and joined Socialist Party led by Acharya Narendra Dev, Jayprakash Narayan and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. He was very close to Acharya Narendra Ddeva and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia used to describe him as “a person who has the heart of a lion and practices of Gandhi.” He admired Raj Narain a lot and even said that “If in India there could be just three or four people like him, dictatorship can never shadow the democracy.”
Raj Narain was imprisoned 58 times for a total period of 15 years in connection with students’ and socialist movements. He was elected to Uttar Pradesh Legislative assembly for two consecutive terms in 1952 and worked as a leader of opposition for 10 years. He was affiliated with many political parties during his lifetime. He also served the nation as Health Minister of India from March 24, 1977 to January 29, 1979 but was asked to resign along with Chaudhary Charan Singh for criticizing Janta Government.
Raj Narain opposed policies and practices of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, stood against her in 1971 Lok Sabha elections from Rai Bareilly, he faced defeat in the elections but he accused Mrs. Indira Gandhi of corrupt electoral practices and filed an election petition against her. Mrs. Indira Gandhi lost the suit against her on June 12, 1975 court set aside her election and disqualified her for contesting Lok Sabha election for next 6 years, which led to imposition of Emergency in India. Nation-wide protests started and people came on the streets against the tyranny of the govt. under the leadership of Jayprakash Narayan and Raj Narain. Upon imposition of emergency Raj Narayan was immediately arrested and imprisoned along with many leading opposition leaders like L.K. Advani and Morarji Desai.
Mrs. Gandhi lifted emergency in 1977, dissolved Lok Sabha and arranged fresh elections to the body. Narain, once again stood against her in the elections and this time he won by a margin of more than 50,000 votes.
He took his last breath on January 25, 1986 in New Delhi. He wasn’t only a great freedom fighter but also a politician who stood up for his principles, for what is right and didn’t hesitate to oppose the likes of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
The former Vice-President of India, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat released a commemorative stamp on him on March 23, 2007. Former CM of UP Mr. Akhilesh Yadav unveiled a statue at Chandrabhanu Gupta Agriculture College in memory of Raj Narain in 2012. The Independence did cost lakhs of lives, thousands of households were destroyed. It is our duty to work for the betterment of our nation, to make this India of their dreams.