IN this biography of a journalist who was known as the ‘Lion of Saurashtra’, we get to learn of one of those freedom fighters of India whose patriotism and dare-devilry inspired many in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. It is good that the National Book Trust thought of bringing out this book as he can serve as a source of inspiration for our youth of today as because he is not really known in any other part of the country apart from Gujarat.
Born to a low-paid school teacher on August 25, 1891 at Limbadi, Amritalal Sheth was the second of three children. As there was no high school at Limbadi, he was sent to Vadhawan where he studied up to matriculation for which he qualified from Bombay. He did not have a pair of shoes even. So he had to borrow a pair to go to Bombay. His father’s pension after retirement was only five rupees. Amritlal’s condition was so pathetic that his mother used to borrow water-like buttermilk from the neighbours and mix it with khichri to give him to eat. At times even buttermilk was not available, so he used to have khichri with water.
He and his friend Swami Anand were enthused with the spirit of patriotism and would daily write ‘Vande Mataram’ on the blackboard in school. But the class teacher would come and rub it out as the Darbar Singh, the king of the princely state, had banned it as he did not want to annoy his English masters. While studying in school, he became a correspondent for Mahikanthe ane Revakanthe Gazetter where his six-line news item was published for the first time. He began his career as a school teacher, like his father. He got married, He did not attend college. He started working under the eminent barrister Popatlal Chudgami and passed the law exam in 1915 to become a High Court pleader. He started his legal practice in Surendranagar and soon built a roaring practice. He learnt that cheating and falsehood were intrinsic to legal trade and revolted against this.
He led the Salt Satyagraha at the seashore near Dholera on April 6, 1930 and defied the Salt Act. His 15-year old daughter Labhu also participated in the satyagraha on April 13. At his act of defiance, Amritlal was lodged in the Sabarmati Jail for launching the satyagraha.
Later he started his newspaper Janmabhoomi in which he printed the secret correspondence exchanged between Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. This annoyed Gandhi but later the issue was resolved. In 1948, Amritlal retired from Janmabhoomi and took to agriculture practice at his farm in Chandivali. On July 23, 1954, he suffered a massive heart attack and breathed his last on July 30, 1954.
(National Book Trust, India, Nehru Bhawan, 5 Institutional Area, Phase II, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070.)