MALAVIYA -- A PASSIONATE ADVOCATE OF HINDU MUSLIM UNITY
Acharya J.B. Kripalani
President, Indian National Congress
I had seen Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya often in the Congress Session and on the public platform. I had occasion to meet him and talk to him in Muzaffarpur where I was teacher in the local college when he came as a member of some economic committee. He was in the Central Assembly. This must have been round about 1916. He invited me join the Banaras Hindu University, which was then in the making as a Professor. I did not take the invitation quite seriously. This was good because afterwards when I had to work as his Personal Secretary, I found that such invitation were generally extended as an expression of his innate courtesy and those who applied to join the university on the mere invitation of Malaviyaji often had to cool their heelsfor months before anything tangible could materialize. From another view point too, I was glad that I did not take the offer seriously. I might have lost the valuable opportunity of working under Gandhiji in Champaran. However, the opportunity to serve the university came very naturally afterwards.
In 1917 my services in the Muzaffarpur college were dispensed by the Government because of political activities and my political influence upon the students. The last act for which the authorities decided to dismiss me was entertaining Gandhiji at Muzaffarpur where he had come to enquire into the condition of kisans under the British planters in Champaran. The work in Champaran being over, I was rather at a loose end. I was with Gandhiji in Bombay, when in 1918 Malaviyaji wrote him that he needed a Secretary for his political work. He had been elected to preside over the annual session of the Congress of 1918. Gandhiji suggested my name and I was packed off to Allahabad.
It was for me a new and valuable experience. For a young man interested in politics, it was a great opportunity. Malaviyaji had a very pleasing and attractive personality. He had a passionate love of the country. He was thoroughly imbued with Indian culture. His knowledge of Hindu religion, if not scholarly, was adequate. He often enlivened his talk and public speeches with quotations from the Ramayan, Mahabharata, the Upanishads and the Geeta. His personal life and habits were clean and simple. He had no conception of money nor did he care for it. He had just then left the legal profession to devote himself to service of the country as also the organization of the Banaras Hindu University, which he rightly considered as a great and fruitful work of his life. His appeal to the Hindu community was universal – from the princes to the masses. The native princes often consulted him in their troubles with the British authorities. He utilised his influence with them for getting big donations and endowments for the university. For the masses of the Hindus he was a great and pious Pandit, who was as learned in the ancient lore as in the modern knowledge and wisdom of the West.
He was an eloquent speaker both in English and Hindi. He had a rich melodious voice which Gandhiji characterised as Malaviyaji's silver voice. Often his eloquence lost something of his grace and effectiveness by the length of his speeches, a common falling with public men in India. Nevertheless he spoke against the Rowlatt Bill for six hours and kept the legislature spell bound. In his politics, Malaviyaji was midway between the liberals and the nationalists, the moderates and the extremists, as the followers of Gokhale and Tilak were respectively called. He never entirely approved of the Non-cooperation Movement of Gandhiji, but he never opposed it. Sometimes he made common cause with it, when leaders of the movement had been marched off to jail and there was a wave of repression as in 1930, when he squatted on a public road in Bombay before a police squadron and was arrested after a whole night of vigil. With Gandhiji his relations were like those of blood brother. And both admitted the claims of such a relation.
With all his modern outlook, he was orthodox in his personal life. However, this orthodoxy did not preclude him from going to England when he felt that the country’s service demanded it. He exercised his orthodoxy in food etc. giving offense to members of other communities. He was all for the uplift of the Harijans. As an orthodox Hindu, he was often mistrusted by Muslim leaders. But I know that he was passionate advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity.
He was the biggest public beggar in India, beaten only by Gandhiji. I can never forget how he induced donors to subscribe towards the Hindu University funds. Whenever he travelled, he had plans of the university buildings with him. He would spread out these plans before his rich fellow passengers and would sing the praise of this seat of learning, where Hindu religion and culture will be the subjects of special study along with all modern sciences. He would say: “In this ancient and holy place of Lord Vishwanath, on the bank of sacred Ganges, in the most ancient city and holy place of pilgrimage, in the city of Kashi, where great Raja Harishchandra gave in charity not only his kingdom but his son and wife, the city where great saints and rishis had lived through the ages and where some still had their abode, andwhere it was the ambition of ever Hindu, to pass his last days and breathe his last breath, where millions of Hindus mingled their ashes in mother Ganga, a place of learning where from ancient days students acquired the highest wisdom without paying fee and getting their meals free, I am establishing a University, which will combine ancient wisdom with knowledge of physical sciences and technology. There could be no greater charity than that of providing knowledge. Here is an opportunity for large hearted people to give liberally and to earn merit, gain the blessings of Lord Vishwanath, the Bholanath who is so easy to please.” All these were often said in his Hindi which in spite of his being a learned Pandit was such as could be understood by the common man. How many donations I have seen promised by fellow passengers in this way! In my flippancy I used to call this highway pick-pocketing for a worthy cause.
Malaviyaji was one of the shining lights of the freedom fight during three decades of this century. In later years his health, due to old age, did not permit to take active part in public affairs. But when anybody went to pay respect to him, he would show his keen interest in what was going on around him. It may be truly said of him that he passed almost the whole of his active life in the service of his country. He should be an example for the young men and women of India, of dedicated and untiring service for the motherland.... May his memory live and work among the young of today!
Even though we knew that he might not be with us long, the news of his death is painful. He was one of the pioneers in the national movement. He joined the Congress when he was a young man of 25. Ever since, he remained loyal to that organization even though he did not always endorse its policies. He was a great scholar of Sanskrit and a regular student of the Hindu Shastras. The nation mourns his loss.