Baba’s Explainer – Jay Prakash Narayan (JP)

  • IASbaba
  • October 13, 2022
  • 0
Indian Polity & Constitution
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  • GS-1: The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country. 

Context: Union Home Minister Amit Shah unveiled a 15-foot statue of Jayaprakash Narayan or JP on his 120th birth anniversary on October 11, at the socialist icon’s birthplace, Sitab Diara village in Bihar’s Saran district.

  • Leaders from across the political spectrum paid tribute to the freedom fighter and anti-Emergency campaigner.
  • Who was Jayaprakash Narayan, what movement did he lead and who are the political leaders whose careers kick-started at the time? We explain.
Who was JP?
  • JP was born in 1902 in Bihar’s Sitab Diara, a village prone to frequent-flooding, after which his family moved to a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Balia district.
  • He quit college to join the non-cooperation movement, before going to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx.
    • Jayaprakash came to the conclusion that Marxism was the best strategy for easing the suffering of the masses after hearing news of the Bolsheviks’ victory in the Russian Civil War.
  • He returned to India in 1929 and joined the freedom struggle and the Indian National Congress, upon the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru and drawn by a speech by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
    • Maulana was a master orator, and when he urged people to stop studying English, Jayaprakash was “swept away and briefly lifted to the skies” as he put it. The momentary sensation of riding on a strong wind of a great idea left imprints on his inner being”.
    • With only 20 days left until his exams, Jayaprakash took Maulana’s advice to heart and left Bihar National College. Jayaprakash enrolled in the Rajendra Prasad-founded Bihar Vidyapeeth and became one of Anugraha Narayan Sinha’s original students.
  • In 1932 he was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for his participation in the civil disobedience movement against British rule in India.
  • Upon release he took a leading part in the formation of the Congress Socialist Party, a left-wing group within the Congress Party
  • He was imprisoned by the British again in 1939 for his opposition to Indian participation in World War II on the side of Britain, but he subsequently made a dramatic escape and for a short time tried to organize violent resistance to the government before his recapture in 1943.
  • After his release in 1946 he tried to persuade the Congress leaders to adopt a more militant policy against British rule.
  • In 1948 he, together with most of the Congress Socialists, left the Congress Party and in 1952 formed the Socialist Party, which was merged with J B Kripalani’s Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party to form the Praja Socialist Party
  • While Nehru was keen on JP joining the Union government, JP sought to distance himself from electoral politics, opting to focus on social causes
  • He was disillusioned with political parties and called for communitarian democracy. Parties, he believed, were centralised and susceptible to moral and financial corruption.
    • Soon becoming dissatisfied with party politics, he announced in 1954 that he would thenceforth devote his life exclusively to the Bhoodan Yajna Movement.
    • Bhoodan movement founded by Vinoba Bhave demanded that land be distributed among the landless.
What was the JP Movement?
  • Students in Gujarat began demonstrating in late 1973, in response to mounting mess bills. The protests became widespread in the state, with workers, teachers and several other groups joining in the movement, calling for a change in government.
  • JP saw the youth of Gujarat that had been able to bring about political change as an alternative route from electoral politics, and recognised the power of students in helping him realise his ideas of a new politics, distinct from the one he had grown weary of.
  • The protests against corruption grew widespread, and students of Bihar began their movement in March 1974. The students approached JP, who left his self-imposed political exile and led the movement.
  • In 1974 Narayan suddenly burst on the national political scene as a severe critic of what he saw as the corrupt and increasingly undemocratic government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • At a rally in Patna on June 5, he called for Sampoorna Kranti (Total Revolution).
    • He advocated a program of social transformation by participation of youth in social activities.
  • Although he gained a following from students and opposition politicians, there was less enthusiasm from the masses.
  • The next year a lower court convicted Gandhi of corrupt election practices, and Narayan called for her resignation. Instead, she declared a national emergency and this propelled JP to emerge as National face against the anti-emergency movement.
What was JPs opposition to Emergency?
  • When Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency on June 25, 1975, JP shifted his focus to opposing authoritarian rule and opposition parties looked to him for leadership.
  • The Socialists were naturally drawn to him ideologically, while the RSS and its political front the Jana Sangh sought to return to the mainstream, and were happy to be dissolved into the Janata Party that JP had formed.
  • As a repressive measure by Indira Gandhi government to crackdown on political opposition, JP was jailed Narayan along with other opposition leaders.
    • In prison his health broke down. He was released after five months but never regained his health.
  • However, JP is celebrated for launching a popular, mass movement against the Indira Gandhi government. Upon Narayan’s call, a large number of young people joined the JP movement.
  • On January 18, 1977, Indira Gandhi declared the emergency to be over and called for elections. Under JP’s direction, the Janata Party was created as a vehicle for the diverse Indira Gandhi opposition.
  • The Janata Party was elected into office and established the first centrally located non-Congress government after Indira Gandhi and her party were defeated in elections in 1977. Narayan advised the victorious Janata party in its choice of leaders to head the new administration.
What was his view on communalism and Majoritarianism?
  • In order to rebuild politics and the state from the grassroots level, where real power would be with people’s movements, JP had to engage with the RSS and the Jana Sangh, despite disagreeing with them on many counts.
  • During an address to a national conference in 1968, JP said that while every religious community had its own version of communalism, Hindu communalism was more dangerous than the others because “Hindu communalism can easily masquerade as Indian nationalism and denounce all opposition to it as being anti-national”.
    • He further stated that “such kind of masquerading is pregnant with national disintegration, because members of other communities can never accept the position of second class citizens. Such a situation, therefore, has in it the seeds of perpetual conflict and ultimate disruption”

Main Practice Question: Discuss the contributions made by Jayaprakash Narayan to pre and post independent India.

Note: Write answer his question in the comment section.

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