~ By Aryaman Kumar
On a hot, dusty afternoon, a woman is toiling hard in her fields. Her ten months old baby is tied snugly to her back with a chunni. She has just received some important news. The Sannyasi has come to her village. He has helped many Kisans in the past. He heard of the illegal levies being forced upon the villagers and came to her village. She gazes afar and spots a saffron clad ascetic. With the baby on her back, she rushes towards the Sannyasi. As the distance closes, she is struck by the thought that this man did not look like a renunciate. He is young, well-built and exudes an aura of silent strength.
The Sannyasi is walking purposefully, but the woman’s bolt towards him stops him in his tracks. She bends, sprawls and prostrates before him, such so, that the baby now appears to be sitting on his mother’s back. The saffron robed man and the baby look at each other smilingly while the tears from the mother’s eyes have mixed with the brown soil.
The Sannyasi is Swami Sahajananda Saraswati. The year is 1930. The village is in Bihar, small enough to escape being plotted on the colonial map. The villagers have heard of a ‘Mahatma’, who saves the Kisans from the white rulers. For them, this Sannyasi is the Mahatma.
Born and raised in present day Uttar Pradesh, Swamiji was an individual whose life was shaped by the circumstances he found his enslaved nation in. Donning the saffron robe signaled to the world that he would now lead a life of detachment and cut off worldly ties. When he started his journey of social work and public service, many questioned him. Was it acceptable for a Sannyasi to get involved in the mundane? Swamiji would respond to these questions just once. In his soul stirring book ‘Gita Hridaya’, he wrote of uniting with the Higher by serving the crushed masses. The Bhagwad Gita encouraged Swamiji to execute and achieve ‘Karma Yoga’ – union with the Divine through righteous action.
After visiting many pockets of India and the concomitant long years of interaction with the Kisans, Swamiji understood that social action was a prerequisite to free the masses from the clutches of fear. For it was fear, the British had cleverly banked on. Fear would serve as a haunting spectre to deter any adventurous steps that the unlettered Kisan might take to reclaim his rightful destiny. Unfortunately for the colonists, the Swami had understood this.
Swamiji founded the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha in 1936. By then he was a major leader of the All India Kisan Sabha. His 25 years of public life had made him a respected name in the Indian National Movement. Swamiji was a planner par excellence. His effective use of meetings, conferences, rallies and mass demonstrations to popularise the Kisan Sabha programme was successful in uniting all sections of Indian society. This is borne true by the fact that one of Swamiji’s demonstrations at Patna in 1938 attracted 1 lakh peasants.
Another remarkable achievement of his was that he connected the hitherto disjointed farmer’s struggle with that of the worker and this was evident during the Dalmia Sugar Mill strike that he spearheaded. So inspiring was Swamiji’s persona and his actions, that even left leaning leaders like E.M.S Namboodiripad traveled from South India to meet him in Bihar. For it was Bihar, that was Swamiji’s ‘Karma Bhoomi’.
The slogan of ‘Zamindari Hatao’ (Abolish the Zamindari System) was the brainchild of Swami Sahajananda who gave this clarion call in 1935. Independent India would later see his dream turn itself into to reality.
By 1937, the Kisan Sabha and the Indian National Congress often clashed on the manner in which the Indian Liberation Movement was progressing. Swamiji and the Kisan Sabha wished for a break from the willing acceptance that the piecemeal reforms being peddled by the British were receiving. A year later, the rift became evident and the Kisan Sabha went its separate way. Later, it would be dominated by other factions and the Sabha soon split into two.
During the Quit India Movement (1942), Swami Sahajananda was a major factor in uniting the countrymen in their fight for freedom and for this reason he was arrested by the British. On hearing of his arrest, the All India Forward Bloc decided to observe the 28th of April as ‘All India Swami Sahajananda Day’.
Swamiji left the world on 26th June, 1950 to unite with the Higher.
Subhash Chandra Bose paid a glowing tribute to the saffron robed freedom fighter and patriot saint by calling him ‘the undisputed leader of the peasant movement in India and the idol of the masses and the hero of millions’.
Today, Swamiji’s legacy is a small college in Ghazipur named in his memory and an old commemorative stamp. Keeping in mind what he did for our nation, let us remember him. Let us honor him. Let us invoke his message which is, the spiritual man need not be a recluse and that attainment of the Divine was possible and indeed best done by righteous action – ‘Karma Yoga’.