In 1922, Dr Ambedkar famously called Swami Shraddhanand “the greatest and most sincere champion of the Untouchables”
Swami Shraddhanand, (birth name: Lala Munshiram Vij) was born on Phalguna Krishna Paksha, Dwitiya 1912 Vikrama Samvata corresponding to 22 February 1856 CE in the village of Talwan in the Jalandhar District of the Punjab Province of India. He was the youngest child in the family of Lala Nanak Chand, who was a Police Inspector in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) under the rule of the British East India Company. He was a great advocate of the Indian education system and an Arya Samaj missionary who propagated the teachings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. His pioneer works included the establishment of educational institutions like the Gurukul Kangri University, and played a key role in the Sangathan (consolidation) of Sanatan Hindu Dharma and the Shuddhi (re-conversion), a Hindu reform movement in the 1920s.
Swami Shraddhanand, whose childhood name was Brihaspati Vij was the youngest son of Lala Nanak Chand, a Police Inspector working with the British East India Company in United Province Region (Now Uttar Pradesh). He was born on Phalguna Krishna Paksha, Dwitiya 1912 Vikrama Samvata corresponding to 22 February 1856 in the village of Talwan in the Jalandhar District of the Punjab Province of India. His father used to call him Munshiram with love and this name became more popular than his proper name, and this name remained with him till he took Sanayas in 1917 and adopted a new name as Swami Shraddhanand.
When Swami Dayanand visited Bareilly to deliver lectures organised by Arya Samaj, he got a chance to meet him, as his father was a police inspector who was in charge of handling the security arrangements of the event. This event was attended by many prominent personalities and senior British officers, therefore, his father advised him to participate in the event. Swami Dayanand’s courage, skill, and strong personality left a deep imprint. He formally joined Arya Samaj after this incident.
Arya Samaj was active in the education sector and had opened many schools popularly known as Dayanand Anglo Vedic (DAV) for promoting Bharatiya education on Vedic lines. In 1897, when Lala Lekh Ram was assassinated, Shraddhananda succeeded him. He headed the ‘Punjab Arya Pratinidhi Sabha’, and started its monthly journal, Arya Musafir. In 1902 he established a Gurukul in Kangri, India near Haridwar. This school is now recognized as Gurukul Kangri University.
In 1917, Mahatma Munshi Ram took sannyasa as “Swami Shradhanand Saraswati”.Swami Shraddhanand established gurukul Indraprashtha in Aravali near Faridabad, Haryana.
Swami Shraddhanand’s mission of liberating the country was invaluable. ‘Marshal Law’ in Punjab and ‘Rowlatt Act’ were forced upon Bharatiyas. In 1917, Shraddhananda left Gurukul to become an active member of the Hindu reform movements and the Indian Independence movement. He began working with the Congress, which he invited to hold its session at Amritsar in 1919. This was because of the Jalianwala massacre, and no one in the Congress Committee agreed to have a session at Amritsar. Shraddhananda presided over the session.
He also joined the nationwide protest against the Rowlatt Act. The same year he protested in front of a posse of Gurkha soldiers at the Clock Tower in Chandni Chowk, then was allowed to proceed. In the early 1920s, he emerged as an important force in the Hindu Sangathan (consolidation) movement. which was a by-product of the now revitalised Hindu Maha Sabha.
Swami Shraddhanand had given a speech at Delhi’s Jama Masjid in the year 1922. He recited Ved Mantras first and gave an inspiring speech. This was an extraordinary moment in the History of the world. He wrote on religious and spiritual issues in both Hindi and Urdu. He also founded two prominent newspapers: the Urdu ‘Tej’ and the Hindi ‘Arjun’. He promoted Hindi in the Devanagri script, helped the poor and promoted the education of women. By 1923, he left the social arena and plunged whole-heartedly into his earlier work of the Shuddhi Movement (COMING BACK INTO FOLD OF HINDU DHARMA). In late 1923, he became the president of Bhartiya Hindu Shuddhi Sabha. He started a campaign for bringing converted Hindus back into the fold of Hindu Dharma. He opened an office in Agra. There were many Rajputs at Agra, Bharatpur, Mathura etc. who had been converted to Islam that time only; but they wanted to come back to Hindu Dharma. Five lakh Rajput Muslims were ready to be Hindus again. Swami Shraddhanand was leading this campaign. He organised a huge gathering for this purpose and brought them back into their original religion. Many villages got back into the fold of Hindu Dharma. This mission created a new consciousness, a new energy and enthusiasm among Hindus and the number of Hindu organisations increased. A Muslim woman named Ajgari Begum from Karachi was initiated into Hindu Dharma. This incident created a furore among Muslims. In 1922, Dr Ambedkar called Shraddhananda “the greatest and most sincere champion of the Untouchables”.
A Muslim fanatic, Abdul Rashid reached Swamiji’s residence at Delhi on 23rd December 1926 and said that he wished to discuss Islam with Swamiji. He had covered himself with a blanket. He had hidden a gun inside the blanket. Mr Dharmapal who was in the service of Swamiji was accompanying Swamiji. He asked for a glass of water. After giving him water when Dharmapal went inside taking the glass, Rashid fired gunshots at Swamiji. Dharmapal had caught Rashid. By the time people gathered there Swamiji was no more. Swami Shraddhanand was the victim of fanatic Islam; but He attained martyrdom and His Name is immortal. Swami Shraddhanand, a revolutionary and social reformer will remain alive among the memories of generations to come.
Quotes about Swami Shraddhanand
• “It is a notorious fact that many prominent Hindus who had offended the religious susceptibilities of the Muslims either by their writings or by their part in the Shudhi movement have been murdered by some fanatic Musalmans. First to suffer was Swami Shradhanand, who was shot by Abdul Rashid on 23rd December 1926 when he was lying in his sick bed.”
-B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
• “The Arya Samaj was the first Hindu movement to take up a bold stand in this context. Maharshi Dayanand himself had showed up Muhammad for the sort of man he was. Soon after, however, the Arya Samaj was silenced effectively by a series of murders, notably that of Pandit Lekhram and Swami Shraddhanand. The British were inclined to permit fair criticism, particularly that which was based on Islamic sources. But they could not prevent Muslim assassins from taking the law in their own hands.”
-Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1998). Freedom of expression: Secular theocracy versus liberal democracy. Ch. 6
• “A new type of wisdom, though within the four walls of Islamic fanaticism and day-dreaming, dawned upon Khwaja Hasan Nizami in the early years of the 20th century. He was no ordinary pen-pusher or paid mullah in some suburban mosque. On the contrary, he was a highly placed ‘divine’ in the hierarchy of Nizamuddin Auliya’s prestigious silsilã, and widely honoured in the Muslim world. He published in 1920 a big book, Fãtami Dãwat-i-Islam, in which he advocated all means, fair and foul, by which Hindus were to be converted to Islam. He advised the mullahs to concentrate on Hindu ‘untouchables’, and convert them en masse so that Muslims could achieve parity of population with the Hindus. He disclosed in the introduction to his book that he had consulted many Muslim leaders including the Agha Khan regarding the soundness of his scheme, and that all of them had agreed with the caution that the scheme should be kept a closely guarded secret. Unfortunately for the Khwaja, the scheme came to the notice of Swami Shraddhanand who exposed it, fought it tooth and nail, and frustrated it completely by means of his Shuddhi Movement.”
-Goel, Sita Ram (1995). Muslim separatism: Causes and consequences.
• “The book Hindu Sangathan, Saviour of the Dying Race (1926) by Swami Shraddhanand… was a true milestone in the development of Hindu revivalism.”
– Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 375
• “The reason whySwami Shraddhanand is rarely given due attention in studies of Hindu nationalism is that by his courageous commitment to reform and equality, this pioneer contradicted the negative stereotype so starkly that our experts prefer to keep him out of view.”
– Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of “Hindu fascism”. I.272
• “The first great achievement of the Tablighi Jamaat was the cold-blooded murder of Swami Shraddhanand. The swami had been lionized by Muslims when he supported the Khilafat agitation during the first Non-Cooperation movement (1921-22). “But as he was closely associated with the šuddhi movement… a section of Muslims cherished bitter hatred against him. On 23 December 1926, when the Swami after a serious attack of pneumonia was lying in his bed, a Muslim entered into his room on false pretext and stabbed him with a dagger.”
-R. C. Majumdar (ed.), The History And Culture of the Indian People, Volume XI, Struggle For Freedom, Second Edition, Bombay, 1978, pp. 435-36. Quoted in: Sita Ram Goel: Time for Stock Tacking, App. 1
• “The same Abdul Bari spoke in a different tone in September 1923. Professor Francis Robinson reports: “Abdul Bari, the erstwhile apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity, came to the fore again. Now he spoke the language of the zealot. He urged the Muslims to sacrifice cows without regard to Hindu feelings, and declared: ‘If the commandments of the Shariat are to be trampled under foot then it will be the same to us whether the decision is arrived on the plains of Delhi or on the hilltops of Simla. We are determined to non-cooperate with every enemy of Islam, be he in Anatolia or Arabia or at Agra or Benares.” The immediate provocation for Abdul Bari’s outburst was the Shuddhi Movement started by Swami Shraddhanand in the summer of 1923. Swamiji in turn had been led to pursue this path in response to a book, Fãtimî Dãwat-i-Islãm, by Hasan Nizami… Swamiji had written a pamphlet, The Hour of Danger, in which he had warned Hindu society to be on its guard against mischievous Muslim machinations. According to his biographer, J.T.F. Jordens, “In his pamphlet the Swami went on to show how Nizami in his own introduction referred to his consultations with many Muslim leaders, including the Agha Khan, and how all had agreed that the publication of his work should remain a carefully kept secret, within the Muslim community. The single purpose of the pamphlet was to describe all the means, fair and foul, by which Hindus could be induced to become Muslims…. The Swami felt that he had uncovered a giant conspiracy. His pamphlet consisted practically entirely of quotations from Nizami’s work, showing how all Muslims should be involved in the fight for the spread of Islam: how pirs, fakirs, politicians, peasants, zamindars, hakims, etc. could be used and what their allotted task should be. It also stressed the need for secrecy and for an extensive spy network.’
• Abdul Bari should have denounced Hasan Nizami who had hatched a plot against the Hindus without any provocation whatsoever on the part of the latter. But the self-righteous Mullah and the authoritative interpreter of the Shariat, had done just the opposite. He had joined his voice with that of the other Mullahs in egging upon a Muslim fanatic to murder Swami Shraddhanand. The Mullahs of Deoband had offered special prayers for the soul of the assassin.”
-Sita Ram Goel, Muslim Separatism – Causes and Consequences with reference to J.T.F. Jordens, Swami Shradhananda: His Life and Causes, New Delhi, 1981, and Francis Robinson, Separatism Among Indian Muslims, Delhi, 1975
• “The Urdu pamphlet Daî Islâm by Khwaja Hasan Nizami came into his hands. He immediately wrote in answer a pamphlet, the title of which clearly expressed his violent reaction: ‘The Hour of Danger: Hindus, be on your guard! The order has been given to attack and destroy the fortress of your religion in the hidden dead of night!’ (…) The Swami found out that the pamphlet was in fact only the introduction to a larger volume called Fâtamî Dawat-i-Islâm, which had been published as early as 1920, years before the shuddhi of the Malkanas started. In this the Swami saw proof that the Muslim reaction of the day was not merely against the shuddhi and sangathan movements, but rather was part of a sinister plot hatched years earlier. In his pamphlet the Swami went on to show how Nizami in his own introduction referred to his consultations with many Muslim leaders, including the Aga Khan, and how all had agreed that the publication of his work should remain a carefully kept secret within the Muslim community. The single purpose of the pamphlet was to describe all the means, fair and foul, by which Hindus could be induced to become Muslims. (…) In the conclusion of his own booklet, the Swami suggested some ways in which the Muslim threat could be countered. The openness and ethics of his methods stood in strong contrast with Nizami’s tactics.”
-Prof. J.T.F. Jordens, “Swami Shraddhanand, His Life and Causes” (OUP, Delhi 1981). (p.140-141)
• “Some of his writings about the Muslims expressed harsh and provocative judgments. But (….) they were invariably written in response to writings or pronouncements of Muslims which either vehemently attacked Hinduism, the Arya Samaj, and the Swami himself, or which supported methods such as (…) the killing of apostates, and the use of devious and unfair means of propaganda.” He himself “never advocated unfair, underhand or violent methods”. -Prof. J.T.F. Jordens, (Jordens 1981: 174-175) quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Hindu Dharma and the Culture Wars. (2019). New Delhi : Rupa.
Aryapathik Lekh Ram.Swami Shraddhanand (Lala Munshi Ram), Jallandhar. 2020 Vik.
J. T. F. Jordens. Swami Shraddhanand: His Life and Causes, Oxford University Press, 1981
K.N. Kapur. Swami Shraddhanand, Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Jallandhar, 1978
Vishwanath PrasadVarma. Swami Shraddhanand . Modern Indian Political Thought, Lakshmi Narain Agarwal, 1961