Jayaprakash Narayan (11 October 1902 – 8 October 1979), widely known as JP Narayan, Jayaprakash, or Loknayak, was an Indian independence activist and political leader, remembered especially for leading the opposition to Indira Gandhi in the 1970s and for giving a call for peaceful Total Revolution. His biography, Jayaprakash, was written by his nationalist friend and an eminent writer of Hindi literature, Ramavriksha Benipuri. In 1998, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in recognition of his social work. Other awards include theMagsaysay award for Public Service in 1965. The airport of Patna is also named after him.
Jayprakash Narayan was born in a Kayastha Family in Sitabdiara Siwan, Bihar. When he was a child, he had many pets. One day, his pigeon died and he did not eat food for two days afterward. His father Harsudayal was a junior official in the canal department of the State government and was often touring the region. Jayaprakash, called Baul affectionately, was left with his grandmother to study in Sitabdiara. There was no high school in the village, so Jayaprakash was sent to Patna to study in the Collegiate School. He excelled in school. His essay, “The present state of Hindi in Bihar”, won a best essay award. He entered the Patna College on a Government scholarship.Jayaprakash Narayan joined “Bihar Vidyapeeth” founded by Dr. Rajendra Prasad for motivating young meritorious youths and was among the first students of eminent Gandhian Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha , a close colleague of M. K. Gandhi who later became first Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar.
Though JP was practically a committed Marxist, he was convinced that the communists in India must join the main stream of the struggle for National Liberation even if it was under the hegemony of the so-called bourgeoisie. On his way back to India, he had met Clemenus Dutt, brother of Rajani Palme Dutt and other communist leaders in London and discussed with them the issue of India’s freedom & revolution. JP, who had read Lenin’s famous “Colonial thesis” calling upon the communists in the “Slave” countries to take active part in the national freedom struggle, was not convinced of Dutt’s argument. Later when JP joined the nationalist freedom movement, he was surprised to find that Indian communists were following the line which Clemenus Dutt advocated. JP could not understand the rationality of the fight against the Indian National Congress which was fighting for the freedom of the country.
After returning to India, Narayan joined the Indian National Congress on the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1929; Mahatma Gandhi became his mentor in the Congress. He shared the same house at kadam kuan in Patna with his close friend and nationalist Ganga Sharan Sinha (Shrivastava). with whom he shared the most cordial and lasting friendship. During the Indian independence movement he was arrested, jailed, and tortured several times by the British. He won particular fame during the Quit India movement.
After being jailed in 1932 for civil disobedience against British rule, Narayan was imprisoned in Nasik Jail, where he met Ram Manohar Lohia, Minoo Masani, Achyut Patwardhan, Ashok Mehta, Yusuf Desai and other national leaders. After his release, the Congress Socialist Party, or (CSP), a left-wing group within the Congress, was formed with Acharya Narendra Deva as President and Narayan as General secretary.
During the Quit India Movement of 1942, when senior Congress leaders were arrested in the early stages, JP, Lohia and Basawon Singh (Sinha) were at the forefront of the agitations. Leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan and Aruna Asaf Ali were described as “the political children of Gandhi but recent students of Karl Marx.” He was also a great advocate of corelation “SAHJEEVAN”
Initially a defender of physical force, Narayan was won over to Gandhi’s position on nonviolence and advocated the use of satyagrahas to achieve the ideals of democratic socialism. Furthermore, he became deeply disillusioned with the practical experience of socialism in Nehru’s India.
After independence and the death of Mahatma Gandhi, Narayan, Acharya Narendra Dev and Basawon Singh (Sinha) led the CSP out of Congress to become the opposition Socialist Party, which later took the name Praja Socialist Party. Basawon Singh (Sinha) became the first leader of the opposition in the state and assembly of Bihar and Acharya Narendra Deva became the first leader of opposition in the state and assembly of U.P. His party is the first national party who distributed tickets on caste line. This was the point where Jayaprakash Narayan disagreed with the party principles and pursued Sarvodey and Lokniti.
On April 19, 1954, Narayan announced in Gaya that he was dedicating his life (Jeevandan) to Vinoba Bhave’s Sarvodaya movement and its Bhoodan campaign, which promoted distributing land to Harijans (untouchables). He gave up his land, set up an ashram in Hazaribagh, and worked towards uplifting the village.
In 1957, Narayan formally broke with the Praja Socialist Party in order to pursue lokniti [Polity of the people], as opposed to rajniti [Polity of the state]. By this time, Narayan had become convinced that lokniti should be non-partisan in order to build a consensus-based, classless, participatory democracy which he termed Sarvodaya. Narayan became an important figure in the India-wide network of Gandhian Sarvodaya workers.
In 1964, Narayan was vilified across the political spectrum for arguing in an article in the Hindustan Times that India had a responsibility to keep its promise to allow self-determination to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He hit back at critics in a second article, dismissing the Indian version of the “domino theory” which held that the rest of India’s states would disintegrate if Kashmir were allowed its promised freedom. In his graceful if old-fashioned style, Narayan ridiculed the premise that “the states of India are held together by force and not by the sentiment of a common nationality. It is an assumption that makes a mockery of the Indian Nation and a tyrant of the Indian State”.
Narayan returned to prominence in State politics in the late 1960s. In 1974, he led the student’s movement in the state of Bihar which gradually developed into a popular people’s movement known as the Bihar movement. It was during this movement that JP gave a call for peaceful Total Revolution Together with V. M. Tarkunde, he founded the Citizens for Democracy in 1974 and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in 1976, both NGOs, to uphold and defend civil liberties.
When Indira Gandhi was found guilty of violating electoral laws by the Allahabad High Court, Narayan called for Indira to resign, and advocated a program of social transformation which he termedSampoorna kraanti [Total Revolution]. Instead she proclaimed a national Emergency on the midnight of June 25, 1975, immediately after Narayan had called for the PM’s resignation and had asked the military and the police to disregard unconstitutional and immoral orders; JP, opposition leaders, and dissenting members of her own party (the ‘Young Turks’) were arrested on that day.
Jayaprakash Narayan attracted a gathering of 100,000 people at the Ramlila Grounds and thunderously recited Rashtrakavi Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar”s wonderfully evocative poetry: Singhasan Khaali Karo Ke Janata Aaati Hai.
Narayan was kept as detenu at Chandigarh even after he had asked for a month’s parole for mobilising relief in areas of Bihar gravely affected by flood. His health suddenly deteriorated on October 24, and he was released on November 12; diagnosis at Jaslok Hospital, Bombay, revealed kidney failure; he would be on dialysis for the rest of his life.
“Free JP” campaign was launched in UK by Surur Hoda and chaired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Noel- Baker for the release of Jayaprakash Narayan.
After Indira revoked the emergency on January 18, 1977 and announced elections, it was under JP’s guidance that the Janata Party (a vehicle for the broad spectrum of the anti-Indira Gandhi opposition) was formed. The Janata Party was voted into power, and became the first non-Congress party to form a government at the Centre. On the call of Narayan many youngesters joined the J P movement.
Jayaprakash Narayan died on 8 October 1979 due to effects of diabetes and heart ailments; but a few months before that, in March 1979, his death was erroneously announced by the Indian prime minister to the parliament as he lay fighting for his life in Jaslok Hospital, causing a brief wave of national mourning, including the suspension of parliament and regular radio broadcasting, and closure of schools and shops. When he was told about the gaffe a few weeks later, he smiled.
The then Prime Minister of India Shri Charan Singh declared 07 days mourning on the death of Jayaprakash Narayan calling him, ” the conscience of the nation”