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    In the melee of centenary celebrations these days, one great mind who has attracted little attention is that of Swami Sahajanand. The transformational character of his career and his commitment to the cause of the peasants saw him at loggerheads with many of the frontline nationalist leaders. Nevertheless, he emerges as one of the most outstanding peasant leader the country has ever seen. He represents one of the most important stream of struggle among the several struggles which saw India acquire its independence. The contemporaneity of his career acquires an added meaning as the issues for which he struggled still beleaguers most part of the countryside, which is especially true for a state like Bihar.

swami sahajanad saraswati
swami sahajanad saraswati
swami sahajanad saraswati
swami sahajanad saraswati
Early life and career

    Born in 1889 in the Ghazipur District of Eastern U.P. he became a renouncer at a very early stage of his life. It was the religious life of meditation and study which engaged him until 1914 after which he became a social activist, initially involving himself with the status struggle of Bhmihars. By the early twenties, Sahajanand’s interests shifted to Gandhian politics of the freedom movement, and then in the late twenties and early thirties to the politics of peasant activism. In these transitions he was not only entering new arenas of activism, but in that very process engaging in ideological and political conflict with his former allies. For example, the leading figures in the Bhumihar-Brahman, Mahasabha with whom Sahajanand was associated in the teens and twenties, were also among the largest land controllers of Bihar and hence his most vigorous antagonists in his peasant activism phase. And by the same token, his admiration for Gandhi shifted in the middle and late thirties to sharp opposition over the issue of peasant rights within the context of the struggle for political freedom from the British.

His personality

     Before attempting any hasty slotting of his personality on the basis of his association with any one cause, it should be borne in mind that he was an activist constantly on the leading edge of social, cultural, and political change which for him had to be transformational in character. He himself writes in ‘Mera Jeevan Sangharsh’, I am gradually moving ahead .. I have learnt from my experiences. And this much I can say that I have always moved ahead . This process is an ongoing one.

Swami ji and kisan sabha

    On the basis of experiences gathered from his social activism, Sahajanand formed the West Patna Kisan Sabha in 1928. His struggle against the brazen exploitation of the peasants by the zamindars and the economic backwardness in the countryside created the platform for the Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha. As the scope of the struggle widened, it moved through the stages of struggle on economic issues like rent and forced labour to soon cover the much broader issue of the abolition of Zamindari system. The struggle in the area of politics strengthened the organisation and there was a time when in Bihar alone there were more than two lakh members of Kisan Sabha. The strength in which the peasants demonstrated in front of the Bihar Assembly in 1936 still remains unparalleled.

Swami ji on present problem

     The novelty of Swamiji's career lies in his ability to be always sensitive to his surrounding and transform his ideas and activities in the interest of justice and equity. Hence, given his background in representing the interests of peasant tenants in the early and middle 1930s, it is not surprising to find him arguing the case for agricultural labourers and the rural poor on the margins of the Indian social experience. In his tract 'Khet Mazdoor' he asks, "But who cares for the poor?" In the essays of this tract he vividly describes their condition and their history and submits proposals for change that in many respects have as much relevance today as they did in 1941, when it was written

Relevance of Swami ji in the present

     In his political life he came across politicians of all shades and the affinity and difference which he developed with them on the twin issues of freedom struggle and peasant movement made him more sensitised and multidimensional. He was one of the few members of AICC who opposed the demand for Pakistan. He also opposed the undemocratic manner in which the Constituent Assembly was convened. He remained committed to the idea of an exploitation free socialist India both before and after the independence. His career exemplifies the broad spectrum of Indian experience from the religious and cultural to the social and political activism. There are some direct lessons to be drawn from the life and career of Swami Sahajanand which are very relevant for us today. First, how a meaningful political struggle can be combined successfully with social and economic struggle and, secondly, what should be the nature and form of peasant organisation and struggle in the changing context of rural society. In 1944, in the 8th session of All India Kisan Sabha held at Vijayawada, Swamiji in his presidential speech said, “The middle and big peasantry are trying to use Kisan Sabha for their own benefit, whereas I want to use it for arousing consciousness among the least privileged class of peasants. In my opinion it is the landless peasants and agricultural labourer who are the real Kisan Sabha. It is they who will form the backbone of this struggle in the years to come.”

      Such was the personality of Swamiji, he was a fighter to the core and remained uncompromising on the issues concerning the rights of the peasants. There are few in Indian history who can measure his height and he remains one of the most relevant personality for the present society, as much of the countryside is still under the severe clutches of exploitation.

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