Kids’ Org.: A Man Of Words
Intro: “The preservation of freedom is not the task of soldiers alone. The whole nation has to be strong.”
Children, there are few people who practice what they say. Lal Bahadur Shastri was one such person. He was one of India’s beloved Prime Ministers who stood for austerity and ethics in public life. His slogan of Jai jawan and jai kisan echoes in our hearts even today. Lal Bahadur Shastri was one of those great Indians who have left an indelible impression on our collective life. His contributions to public life were outstanding as they were made in the closest proximity to the life of the common man in India. He was looked upon by Indians as one who shared their ideals, hopes and aspirations.
|Once when he was six years old; he went to an orchard with his friends. He was standing below while his friends were climbing the trees. Lal Bahadur plucked a flower from a bush in the garden.The gardener came in the meantime and saw Lal Bahadur with the flower. The boys on the trees climbed down and quickly ran away. But Lal Bahadur was stunned and stood still. The gardener caught Lal Bahadur and beat him severely. Lal Bahadur wept and said, “Please do not beat me. I have lost my father.” The gardener said, “In that case, you must be more responsible and learn better behaviour, my boy.” The words of the gardener had a great effect on him. He swore to himself, “I shall behave better in future.”|
On October 2nd, 1904 at Mughalsarai, seven miles from Kashi a little baby boy was born to Sharada Prasad and Ramdulari Devi. They named him Lal Bahadur. They fondly called him ‘Nanhe’. Lal Bahadur’s parents were agriculturists who lived a life of honesty and integrity. His father passed away when he was very small. Courage and self-respect were two virtues, which took deep root in Nanhe from his childhood.
Even as a little boy, he loved to read books. He was fond of Guru Nanak’s verses and used to repeat the following lines: “0 Nanak! Be tiny like grass; for other plants will wither away, but grass will remain ever green.” Though he was short for his age he was not timid. Like the grass he always looked fresh and smiling.
|Despite the fact that he was very poor his self-respect did not allow him to ask his friends for money. Once while in Kashi, he went with his friends to see a fair on the banks of the Ganga. On the way back he had no money for the boat fare. His self-respect did not allow him to ask his friends for money. His friends boarded the boat. When the boat had moved away, Lal Bahadur jumped into river and swam to the other side of the river.|
When Mahatma Gandhi started the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ Lal Bahadur actively participated in it. He called on people not to pay land revenue and taxes to the government. On this account he was sent to prison for two and a half years. Lal Bahadur’s virtues shone even in the prison. He was a model to others in discipline and restraint. Many political prisoners used to quarrel among themselves and they used to cringe for small favours before the officials of the prison. But Lal Bahadur used to give up his comforts for others.
Once when he was in prison, one of his daughters fell seriously ill. The officers agreed to let him visit his daughter saying, “We will let you out for a short time but on the condition that you should give in writing that you will not take part in the Freedom Movement during this period.” Lal Bahadur did not wish to participate in the Freedom Movement during his temporary release from prison; but he replied, “I will not give it in writing. But I shall not take part and I will return”.The officers knew that he was truthful and therefore they did not insist on a written agreement. Lal Bahadur was released for fifteen days. But sadly his daughter died before he reached home. After performing the final rites he returned to prison even before the expiry of the period.
He passed a year in the prison when news came to him that his son was sick with influenza. Lal Bahadur was permitted unconditionally to go home for a week. But the fever did not come down in a week’s time. Lal Bahadur got ready to go back to prison. The boy pleaded with tearful eyes and urged, “Father, please stay…” For a moment Lal Bahadur’s mind was shaken. Tears rolled down from his eyes. But the next moment he bade good-bye to all and left his home for prison. Luckily his son survived.
Thus, he brushed aside all thoughts of personal happiness and plunged into the Freedom Struggle. Finally India got Freedom in 1947 when Lal Bahadur was 43. When Govind Vallabh Pant became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Lal Bahadur was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to Pant. Pant praised him and said, “I have never seen a more likable, hard-working, devoted, trustworthy and a non-controversial man.”
After India became a Republic, he was appointed as the Railways and Transport Minister in the Central Cabinet. Lal Bahadur identified himself with the Railways so much that he felt he was responsible if anything went wrong in his Department. When he was the Railway Minister, 144 passengers died in an accident that took place near Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu. Just three months before this, an accident had occurred at Mehboob Nagar in which 112 people died. Lal Bahadur though was in no way responsible for these accidents, was very much pained. He felt he could not escape the moral responsibility for them. When the Mehboob Nagar accident took place, he submitted his resignation letter to Pandit Nehru, who was the prime minister then. But Nehru did not accept it. But when the Ariyalur accident took place Shastri said, ‘”I must do penance for this. Let me go.” So strong was his sense of responsibility that he did not care if he was losing a prestigious post.
After Nehru’s death on May 27, 1964 the responsibility came on the shoulders of Shastriji. It was decided that Lal Bahadur Shastri was the only person responsible enough to pilot the nation. Thus he was elected the Prime Minister of India, when he was 60 years of age.The first problem that he had to face after he became the Prime Minister was one caused by Pakistan. Pakistan started to create trouble along the Indian border in order to capture Kashmir for itself. He first tried to earn the goodwill and support of other nations for India. He visited Russia, Egypt, Canada and Britain and explained to the leaders of those nations, India’s stand against Pakistan. He even tried to reason with President Ayub Khan of Pakistan to settle down in peace. His efforts did pay off when both countries agreed to stop fighting. When Lal Bahadur was praised for his worthy efforts he just replied, “I am just an ordinary man and not a very bright man.”
But Pakistani soldiers entered Kashmir in disguise and were engaged in forcibly occupying areas, which belonged to India. An enraged Lal Bahadur gave full freedom to the Commander of the Army to go forth in war. He said, “Go forward and strike. Force will be met with force. It does not matter if we are destroyed. We will fight to the last to maintain the high honour of the Indian nation and its flag.” The Army and the Air Force functioned like the two arms of a single body under Shastri’s guidance and fought the1965 war with Pakistan heroically. The invaders were beaten. During the war when there was shortage of food he introduced the concept of fasting once a week which he himself used to religiously follow.
He was a simple man with simple living. People used to call him the ‘homeless’ Home Minister because he did not have a house of his own. He had rented a small house in Allahabad where he used to stay whenever he went to the city.Such was the simplicity of our great leader.
— Aniket Raja