By Anurag Paul
The President’s Office announced the Bharat Ratna award to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) on the eve of his 153rd birth anniversary. Today, the award was given to his family for Malviya’s outstanding work in education field and the country’s freedom struggle.
Pandit Malviya is the 12th person to be honoured the highest civilian honour posthumously. Earlier recipients of the award include former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Lal Bahadur Shastri, along with first Governor General of free India C. Rajagopalachari, and former Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Madan Mohan Malaviya or Mahamana Malaviya was born on December 25, 1861 in Allahabad, in a family of six brothers and two sisters. He was a ardent social reformer, and looked beyond the then prevalent caste barrier. Malaviya made massive efforts for the entry of Dalits into any Hindu temple.
As an important figure of the non-cooperation movement Malaviya protested against the Simon Commission. In an act of delicious irony, Malaviya, borrowing from the ‘Buy British’ movement in England, started the ‘Swadeshi movement against the British rule. He also wrote a detailed criticism of the Montagu-Chelmsford proposal for Indian constitutional reforms in 1918.
Malaviya was a long standing member of the Congress party. As a paternal figure to many of the second wave Congress leaders, he influenced, among others, Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru. In his part Gandhi, who considered him as an elder brother, gave him the honorific title of ‘ Mahamana ’ or great soul.
A prolific journalist himself, he had been the chairman of the Hindustan Times from 1924 to 1946, and was instrumental in the launch of the newspapers Hindi edition. In his youth, he also founded the now defunct English language newspaper The Leader as well as the Hindi monthly called Maryada and the Hindi weekly titled Abhyudaya.
Being an ardent Hindu, he was also one of the founding members of the Gorakshak Mandal— intended to protect and preserve cows, which Hindus consider holy. The mandal, along with similar organisations, were instrumental in making the prohibition of cow slaughter an article in the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Being very active in the field of Indian Politics, he remained Congress President for a record number of four times- in 1909 (Lahore), in 1918 (Delhi), in 1930 (Delhi) and in 1932 (Calcutta).