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Ram Manohar Lohia


Ram Manohar Lohia (23 March 1910 – 12 October 1967) was an activist in the Indian independence movement and a socialist political leader. During the last phase of British rule in India, he worked with the Congress Radio which was broadcast secretly from various places in Bombay until 1942. Lohia lost to Nehru in 1962 general election, but entered Lok Sabha in 1963 by winning a by-poll.

Early Life

Lohia was born to a family of merchants. Following the death of his mother when he was two, he was raised primarily by his grandparents, although his father’s commitment to Indian nationalism influenced him during his childhood. Lohia attended Banaras Hindu University before earning a bachelor’s degree (1929) from the University of Calcutta and a doctorate (1932) from the University of Berlin, where he studied economics and politics.

Contribution in India Freedom

A vehement opponent of Indian participation on the side of Great Britain in World War II. According to Lohia, while India rule by British govt and we fighting for our freedom and rights. So in this situation how we can stand to defend British govt, while Britsh exploited us to our suffering. He was arrested for anti-British remarks in 1939 and again in 1940; the latter incident resulted in an 18-month imprisonment. With the emergence in 1942 of the Quit India movement—a campaign initiated by Mohandas K. Gandhi to urge the withdrawal of British authorities from India—Lohia and other CSP leaders (such as Jaya Prakash Narayan) mobilized support from the underground. For such resistance activities, he was jailed again in 1944–46.

Lohia active role in Politics after Independence

During and after India’s transition to independence in 1947, Lohia continued to play an active role in its politics. At loggerheads with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on several issues, however, Lohia and other CSP members left the Congress in 1948. He became a member of the Praja Socialist Party upon its formation in 1952, later Lohia established a new Socialist Party, for which he became chairman as well as the editor of its journal, Mankind.

Political Philosophy of Lohia

Indian politician and activist who was a prominent figure in socialist politics and in the movement toward Indian independence. Much of his career was devoted to combating injustice through the development of a distinctly Indian version of socialism. Lohia became actively involved in the Congress Socialist Party (CSP), founded that year as a left-wing group within the Indian National Congress. He led a vigorous and voluble campaign against English and he publicly questioned upper caste dominance and advocated caste-based affirmative action.

He was deeply influenced by thinkers of the West. Prominent among them was Karl Marx. Gandhi s concept of Satyagraha had made a strong impact on India. Lohia was impressed by the way in which millions of unarmed Indians fought the mighty British. He advocated the realization of socialist ideals through Satyagraha. He believed that the differences between the haves and the have-not’s, the rich and the poor, could be resolved by non-violent means. The biggest problem is to provide jobs for millions. Hence, using small machinery is the only solution. There are, of course, differences between capitalism and communism, but both rely on large-scale use of heavy machines. Mere change of ownership does not bring about equality. The very idea of mechanized industry should be changed.

Lohia's Ethical, Cultural and Moral Philosophy

English is a language known to a negligi­ble minority. Hence, Lohia strongly contended that it should no longer be used for the purposes of administration. The regional language should be the medium of instruction in schools and colleges. It is easier for children to learn through their mother tongue. English Language has created a gulf between the intellectuals and the common man.

Society must get rid of deep- rooted blind beliefs and superstitious old practices. Beginning with women in villages, every woman should be given justice. According to him, the emancipation of women was the foundation of social revolution; without this there can be no prosperity. He advised people to hold their heads high always, like human beings. Racial hatred is treachery to mankind. All men are equal. Lohia staged Satyagraha in an incident involving racialist prejudices in a restaurant in Jackson, a town in America. He followed what he preached. One terrible curse of our country is caste. There are many rungs in the caste system. Anyone who has wealth or belongs to one of the higher castes or knows English can prosper. But there are millions in this country who are not so fortunate. The same policy (reservation in politics and social programmes) should apply in political life.

Lohia: A Reformer

A spellbinding orator and a passionate and perceptive writer, he advocated for various socio-political reforms in his capacity as party leader, including the abolition of the caste system, the adoption of Hindi as India’s national language, and stronger protection of civil liberties. In 1963 Lohia was elected to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament), where he was noted for his sharp criticism of government policies. Although his parliamentary influence was ultimately limited, his progressive views, which he expressed in numerous publications, proved inspirational to many Indians. Lohia strove for the cause of women, being a slave to their husbands. A woman is not considered equal to a man. Lohia put forth 5 kinds of inequalities, and argued that each of these inequalities had independent roots and had to be fought separately and simultaneously unlike other socialists of that age who focused majorly on class-based inequality.

Gender Inequality Patriarchal mindset and gender discrimination is rooted in most societies modern or orthodox, though prevalence is more in latter
Racism Black skin color constitutes low status and ugliness, looks quite ironical considering most of the humanity in today’s world is ‘black’ (in darkness) where inner purity is substituted by outer appearances
Caste discrimination Lohia considered caste as ossified (stagnated) class, which turns country into arid desert of intellectual inadequacy which restricts opportunities, thus he refuted class system and tried to imbibe a sense of equality in society
Colonial exploitation Lohia considered national freedom as ‘grand passion’ of man, and considered foreign rule as evil which drains the national resources for foreign profits, thus tried to promote nationalism, independence from foreign rulers
Economic inequality Lohia stressed to abolished private ownership of means of production and establish ownership of whole community, and favored development of MSME rather than big industrialization (Capitalism -> Socialism)

Relevance of Lohia Philosophy

  • Lohia rightly pointed out one-size fits all approach won’t work to mitigate the above disparities, but stressed on bottom-up inclusive development.
  • Lohia warned that such discrimination would disturb global inner peace and freedom, and tried to change mindset of people and put forth real definition of beauty – based on inner conscience
  • Persecution of Rohingyas, Dalit lynching cases, Middle East crises, US Govt. recent immigration policy
  • Neo-colonialism by Western nation, China in Africa
  • Low developed nations still grapple with high GINI coefficients, Concentration of wealth in high-resource countries
Example: Nigeria, Libya, South Africa etc