Jay Prakash Narayan was born in a Middle Class Kayasth family on october 11th 1902 in sitabdiara in Saran District, in Bihar, Kayasths are a non-Brahmin caste whose members are more educated than others. J.P. was 17 before he saw a tramcar - he was brought up in a village until he ws 11 or 12, when he ame to Patna to study. He loved rural people. In 1921 he was a student at Patna Science college. He was a good student and had won a scholarship, but abandoned his studies at Gandhi’s call to boycott British edu ational institutions, he joined the non cooperation movement.
He married Prabhadevi, age 14 - this cemented ties with some of the foremost political figures of Bihar. She was cultured, refined, an ideal housewife and a patriot rolled into one. When he decided to study in USA - as many Indians did by work-study, she refused to accompany him and stayed with Gandhi in his ashram.
JP’s family was poor, so when he heard that you could work and go to college in USA, he arrived in California in October 1922 and stayed seven years. Life was not easy, he worked in mines, factories and slaughter houses, as a shoeshine boy, and even cleaned commodes in hotels during vacations. 3-4 boys lived in a single room and cooked their own food. After graduation, he got a scholarship, and an assistantship in his department so he could live in some comfort. He came under marxist propaganda and joined the Communist party. In 1929 JP returned to india, he joined the Congress party, because Communists were in an anti-national role. Nehru put him in charge of the Labour Relations Department of the AICC and when the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1932 started, JP was Acting General Secretary of AICC functioning underground (as police were trying to catch them. ) During the Second World War, JP’s exploits fired the imagination of India’s youth. He was arrested soon after the war began -- was in Hazaribagh Prison for nine months. He was released by the end of 1940, but in 1941 he was again detained without trial in the Deoli Detention Camp in Rajasthan. He went on hunger-strike. He really fasted, but the communists ate at night secretly!
Early in 1942, he was moved to Hazaribagh jail. On November 8th he and some friends escaped by trying dhotis together. They crossed over into Nepal, but the police fired on them so they returned to india and remained incognito, underground for nine months. In September 1943, he was arrested and held incommunicado in Lahore Fort. He was not beaten , but wasn’t allowed to sleep. They tried to force him to confess that he and Gandhi were pro-Japanese! He was in various prisons until 1946.
JP was converted by Gandhi, from Marxism to Sarvodaya. It is a real tragedy that his conversion to Gandhism was so slow that by the time he renounced Marxism and committed self to Sarvodaya. Gandhiji had passed away. In 1952 JP fasted for 21 days, as self-correction - in fulfillment of a vow. At the end he wrote renouncing Marxism.
In 1954 JP joined the Bhoodan Movement and the All India Sarva Seva Sangh. He built his ashram at Sekhodeora in Gaya district, Bihar. he spent many years wandering from village to village asking for bhoodan, the gift of land. Bhoodan Yagna began in A.P. - it won over the communists terrorism. If communism comes to India JP said it would come over Vinobhaji’s and his own corpses. JP was Very sad at times at the lack of generosity- if landowners gave less than 1/12th of the land - hd’d give it bacl!
he beame India’s conscience - keeper - in 1956 he raised his powerful voice in defence of the freedom of the people of Hungary against the Soviet tanks - when Nehru was silent! Again in 1960 he was the champion of the peace-loving people of Tibet when overrun by Chinese Communist forces - the GOI watched in silence. In mid 60s he intervened in Nagaland and brought peace.
He was against their violence and terrorism, but knew it came from the need to share land. JP settled down in Muzzafarpur district in Bihar to campaign and persuade the Naxalites to accept the peaceful way to revolution. He told people in violent revolution the old social order is destroyed only when they win, and the new social order begins only thereafter and proceeds slowly from stage to stage. In nonviolent revolution, both the process slowly from stage to stage. In Nonviolent revolution, both the process of transformation of the ol social order and the reconstruction of the new go together side by side. He said the violence came because of persistent poverty, unemployment, and socio economic injustices - so the problem stems not ONLY from Naxalites, but from politicians, landowners, administrators or moneylenders.
Bangladesh, 1971 : and other Peace Efforts :
JP went on a world tour to awaken the conscience of the world at the wanton killing of people in Bangladesh.
78 decoits laid down their arms between 1971-2 at the feet of JP and the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh - in all 267 surrendered. Gandhiji said : "All jails should be hospitals. Crime is a disease, and the criminal is a diseased person. He acquired it from society. You cannot reform the criminal without reforming society - ge rid of exaploitation, inequality, injustive, dishonesty and corruption in society. The cure is through love; touch his heart and appeal to his reason "JP found the businessmen were more intractable than the dacoits!
He refused to accept public offices but was always available for consultation and advice until the day he died. He suffered from diabetes, heart trouble, and kidney failure. He had his first heart attach in 1971, in 1972 he retired from politics at age 70, but in October 1973 he came back. He was upset by the economic ollapse, erosion in civil literties, Garibi hatao slogn strong student groups in Gujarat and Bihar. he said corruption is Public Enemy Number One. The biggest party in India is caste. He discarded the sacred thread. JP wanted to strengthen democracy at the grasstoots . He attempted to get electoral reform.
JP sid 1/3 to 1/2 time in school would be for social service and national development e.g. liquidation of illiteracy, non-formal education of out of school group between 5-25 years At age. he tried to transform the present educational system with introduction of a large non-formal element e.g. part-time education, correspondence course, self-study programmes, etc. he wanted to expand elementary and pre-sachool education. he said we should de-link University degrees and eligibility for public employment. Although Rs.1350 crores are spent on the educational system, only 25% of 6-14 years old receive primary education and only 7% of the age group 15-25 yeras in Secondary Schools and Colleges. As much as 70% of the total population remains untouched.
JP the Phoenix
Old and sick, yet he was invincible as the Phoenix - a mythical brid, after living 5-6000 years, it burns itslef up and then arises for another cycle, with renewed youth.
He started a new organisation called Citizens For Democracy - not a political party, the purposes were to :
Students prevented anyone entering the Legislalive Assembly - 10,000 strong crowd - police fired on a peaceful crowd - police fired on a peaceful crowd in Gaya and killed 8 and injured 15. The Gaya bar Association took out a silent procession asking suspension of police officers, urged release of lawyers, teachers and students who were arrested. JP led a silent procession in Patna with lips sealed with pieces of saffron cloth and hands clapsed behind their backs - an 8 km. journey. Practically all of Patna cheered the processionists, housetop people showered them with flowers and garlands.
He worked tirelessly to lay bare the pernicious effects of caste and untouchability in all spheres of public life. He worked to lay the foundations for a free and fearless press in regional languages to uphold, preserve, fight for and enlarge democracy.
He led half a million people in a march to Raj Bhavan to present 2 million signatures demanding the dissolution of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha. Students boycotted colleges, arrests mounted to 1800, including 65 student leaders. Police intolerance was mounting - JP and others went on a 12 hour fast against their indiscriminate arrests, lathi - charges on peaceful demonstrators, and beating of students and detenues in jail. JP called a three day Bandh which was a fantastic success - 13 lives were lost, many were injured - Bihar Government deployed 5,000 BSF, 10,000 Central Reserve Police, 13 Batallions of the Bihar Military Police, 42,000 regular Bihar Police, 2,500 Railway Protection Force, and 80,000 Home Guards. JP respectfully warned Mrs.Gandhi not to play with fire. They demanded all the Ministry and Assembly out. If not, the PM must quit her post. JP announced a four point People’s Government:
Congress I fought heavily against JP who travelled all over speaking to large crowds - he met the PM in November and they came to no agreement. He was perpelexed as to why she called him. At a public meeting she said she would rather resgn than yield to pressure for dismissal of Ministries and dissolution of Assemblies. Novermber 4th, 1974 was in Patna, a major turning point in independent India’s history. Armed might by Government, all successes to Patna sealed and under strict surveillance - trains, steamers and buses were cancelled. With the armed forces mentioned above, a 71 year old gandhian, JP, a Nonviolent freedom fighter waged war on corruption. It pitted JP directly against the PM, then 57, at the peak of her power. With JP were students, middle and lower classes, small peasants, landless laborers, the oppressed. What happened is a sordid story - over 4,000 persons were arrested before the 4th. Government air dropped 1,000s of copies of an orer warning people who defiend Section 144 with the consdquence. 363 students were whisked away to an unknown destinatio. 300 magistrates were deployed for duty - over 3,000 leaders were put behind bars - YET people took out a procession 15-40,000 peaceful citiens - Police used lathis and teargas. It was clear - the GOI, and the State of Bihar were DEFEATED in the battle of Bihar. On November 18th, JP Day, the largest crowed ever assembled at Gandhi Maidan - JP wept.
JP’s movement brought hope back to people. It brought courage. People felt they could bring change for the better. JP was infusing life into the democratic system. he had shaken two decades of the status quo. He had four outstanding urges; love of individual liberty, love of country, a passion for social justice, and deep relgiious and spiritual values.
JP and Indira were in the death struggle - it was JP’s dark night of the soul. But a gleam of light came out of the darkness and the Janata Party came in on March 22, 1977.
Gandhi was India’s first Libertor. JP was India’s second Libertor from domestic despotism. He brought mass awakening particularly among youth. He relied on the power of the masses. he lived and died in (1979) believing in people’s democracy and collective leadership.
Books on Jay Prakash Narayan
Bhattacharjea, Ajit Jayaprakash Narayan : A Political Biography new Delhi: Vihas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., 1975
Masani, Minoo : Jay Prakash narayan : Mission partly Accomplished MacMillan Co. of India Ltd.
Sharad, Onkar, Jayprakash Narayan Allahabad : Sahitya Bhawan Pvt. Ltd. 1976.