Jayaprakash Narayan

Jayaprakash Narayan was an Indian independence activist and political leader. Popularly referred to as JP or Lok Nayak which means “The People’s Hero”. He was born on October 11, 1902 in rural Bihar. He moved to United States in 1922 to pursue higher studies. He did several odd jobs there to pay for his education and these experiences were critical is shaping his ideas regarding the difficulties faced by the working class. According to his biographers, Allan and Wendy Scarfe, he returned to India from America ‘convinced that the central problem of human society was inequality of wealth, property, rank, culture and opportunity’. (Reference- Book: J.P, His Biography, page 33)

In the budding stage of his political mind, it was the influence of Marxism Socialism that had the strongest impact on him. He was convinced about dialectical materialism and the necessity of class war. But when he came to India, the Current of nationalism was most powerful subsiding the possibility of a communist revolution, he decided to join freedom movement. For this purpose, he joined the Indian National Congress. He opposed Gandhi’s social philosophy and argued that it gives an opportunity to the princes to exploit the paupers.

He rejected Gandhism as ‘timid economic analysis’ ‘ineffective moralising’ and therefore made Marxian Socialism as the basis of his ideas of socio-economic order. However, he was drawn towards Gandhism with regard to its emphasis on decentralisation in administration and commitment to certain ethical values in politics.

In 1948 he, along with most of the Congress Socialists, left the Congress Party and in 1952 formed the Praja Socialist Party. Soon he become 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 interest in politics was re-ignited in the late 1950s and once again he became active in political activities. In 1974, he burst on the Indian political scene as a severe critic of what he saw as the corrupt and undemocratic government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He led the Bihar Movement which was initiated by students in Bihar in 1974 in protest against the corruption in the government of Bihar. Also, called Total Revolution Movement (Sampoorna Kranti) and JP Movement, it later turned against PM Indira Gandhi’s government at the centre and became a satyagraha of sorts.

Among his major works is his ‘Why Socialism’ where he advanced his arguments for adopting socialism in India. He made an analysis of the socio-economic conditions of India. He stated that the main cause of inequalities is the inequality of rank, of culture and of opportunity. The unequal distribution of wealth, accumulation and concentration of wealth results in exploitation as the accumulation and concentration of wealth makes it easier for some to exploit money.

He believed that a democratic society offers the chances for socialism to come into existence. Otherwise the bureaucratic state emerges with the support of the capitalist class. At this point people will resort to violent means. Hence, democracy is the only system for a free, non-violent socialist society.

Reference- J. P., His Biography [Book by Allan Scarfe]

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