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Jayaprakash Narayan


Jayaprakash Narayan 11 October 1902 – 8 October 1979), popularly referred to as JP or Lok Nayak, was an Indian independence activist, theorist, socialist and political leader. He is also known as the "Hero of Quit India Movement" and he is remembered for leading the mid-1970s opposition against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for whose overthrow he had called for a "total revolution". In 1999, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in recognition of his social work. Other awards include the Magsaysay award for Public Service in 1965.

Early life of JP

Narayan was educated at universities in the United States, where he became a Marxist. Upon his return to India in 1929, he joined the Congress Party. In 1932 he was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for his participation in the civil disobedience movement against British rule in India. Upon release he took a leading part in the formation of the Congress Socialist Party, a left-wing group within the Congress Party, the organization that led the campaign for Indian independence. He was imprisoned by the British again in 1939 for his opposition to Indian participation in World War II on the side of Britain, but he subsequently made a dramatic escape and for a short time tried to organize violent resistance to the government before his recapture in 1943. After his release in 1946 he tried to persuade the Congress leaders to adopt a more militant policy against British rule.

JP Journey after Independence

In 1948 he, together with most of the Congress Socialists, left the Congress Party and in 1952 formed the Praja Socialist Party. Soon becoming dissatisfied with party politics, he announced in 1954 that he would thenceforth devote his life exclusively to the Bhoodan Yajna Movement, founded by Vinoba Bhave, which demanded that land be distributed among the landless. His continuing interest in political problems, however, was revealed when in 1959 he argued for a “reconstruction of Indian polity” by means of a four-tier hierarchy of village, district, state, and union councils.
In 1974 Narayan suddenly burst on the Indian political scene as a severe critic of what he saw as the corrupt and increasingly undemocratic government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Although he gained a following from students and opposition politicians, there was less enthusiasm from the masses. The next year a lower court convicted Gandhi of corrupt election practices, and Narayan called for her resignation. Instead, she declared a national emergency and jailed Narayan and other opposition leaders. In prison his health broke down. He was released after five months but never regained his health. When Gandhi and her party were defeated in elections in 1977, Narayan advised the victorious Janata party in its choice of leaders to head the new administration.

Political view of JP

He joined the Indian National Congress on the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1929; Mahatma Gandhi became his mentor in the Congress. He founded Congress Socialist Party, or (CSP), a left-wing group within the Congress, with Acharya Narendra Deva as President and Narayan as General secretary. Jayaprakash Narayan call for social justice and prevention of exploitation of poor by the few rich. He advocated a program of social transformation which he termed Sampoorna kraanti, "total revolution". He was aiming at uprooting of corruption from political and social life in India.
JP announced the intro­duction of Gram Swarajya and establishing people’s government. Explaining the term ‘peoples government’, JP stated that it would be a small unit of democracy at the village, panchayat, or the block level, at all the three levels, if possible. He opined that democracy gives no assurance for a better life to the people in the future when they are socially and economically neglected. He opined that only a peaceful revolution could bring about some change in the society. JP strongly believed that for democracy to be a lively and effective instrument there is an urgent need for a strong opposition, powerful public opinion, free and fear­less press, ideological and moral pressure from the academicians, and trade unions. He, in fact, advised the people to revise their thinking and attitude towards democratic functioning in India.

JP philosophy

JP call for social justice mainly for the reconstruction of the society on the basis of equality and the elimina­tion of poverty, oppression and exploitation. His commitment to socialist and humanistic ideas was very evident in the idea of total revolution. Total revolution was a device for bringing about a Gandhian humanist version of an ideal society. According to JP how the revolution should move on the propaganda for public education, and constructive programmes consisting of creating consciousness about various social evils such as dowry system, caste conflicts, communalism and untouchability. Thus, JP had a very clear perspective of the social ideals and objectives when he took upon the task of guiding the Indian masses for a concrete action.

Jayaprakash Narayan’s Concept of “Total Revolution”

Jaya Prakash once stated that Total Revolution is a combination of seven revolu­tions, and these Seven Revolutions are:
  • Political,
  • Social,
  • Economic,
  • Cultural,
  • Ideological or Intellectual,
  • Educational
  • Spiritual
The main motive being to bring in a change in the existing society that is in tune with the ideals of the Sarvodaya. JP had a very idealistic notion of soci­ety and it is in this endeavor, he shifted from Marxism to Socialism and later towards Sarvodaya.

Significance of JP philosophy:

  • JP created spark in the youth to protest against misrule
  • He stood up to authoritarian government
  • Provided the center around which the various strands of opposition to central government gathered
  • Key role in ending "one party rule"
  • He was humanist, democrate, compassionate who want to eliminate poverty and suffering of people and ardent aupporter of Left-wing politics
  • He was against party politics instead advanced concept of politics by people without political parties

JP Relevance in Contemporary India:

  • Electoral politics is too deep rooted to be totally rejected. It's not desirable either.
  • However, pressure groups like NGOs and civil society can imbibe his methods of influencing government from outside electoral politics
  • Following his example, the likes of Anna Hazare were able to get the government to act In public interest
  • "Right to recall" philosophy seems to be partially modeled on JP's philosophy of rejecting an unresponsive government