Babu Jagjivan Ram Biography
Babu Jagjivan Ram, who was affectionately known as Babuji, was born on the 5th of April, 1908. He was much more than a politician where he dedicated his life fighting for the freedom of the country and bringing the voices of the oppressed communities of the country. Being a Dalit leader himself, his contributions as a social reformer were immense apart from his other influences. He was a member of the First Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru’s interim Government where he was the youngest Minister and a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. Babu Jagivan Ram was among the few who gave a very strong emphasis on the importance of the principles of social justice that was cherished in the Indian Constitution. Babu Jagjivan Ram as a crusader of social justice was instrumental in the establishment of the All Indian Depressed Classes League in the year 1935. This organization primarily sought to provide welfare and equality for the untouchables in the caste ridden societies. He is also well known for the mass organization of movements that were dedicated for the welfare of the rural labour after he became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Bihar in the year 1937. Babu Jagjivan Ram went on to be a prominent member of the Indian National Congress where he worked whole heartedly for the party for over forty years in a wide range of port folios after which he also became the Deputy Prime Minister of India from 1977 to 1979.
Early life of Babu Jagjivan Ram:
Babu Jagjivan Ram was born in Chandwa region of the State of Bihar and had extremely humble social beginnings. After attending a local school for his preliminary education, Babu Jagjivan Ram moved on to middle school and subsequently accomplished his higher education. It was that this time that he had the first-hand experience of caste discrimination and social inequality and these encounters had a profound impact in his life. However, these instances did not deter him from accomplishing the goals he set out to achieve and these lived experiences later fueled his selfless battles for social justice and his quest of promoting equality among the oppressed classes. Babu Jagjivan Ram is well known for one of the incidences of his school days that involved his protest against religious separation and the practice of untouchability. In his school, there were two different pitchers for the purpose of drinking water for the students where one belonged exclusively to the Hindus and the other to the Muslims. When Babu Jagjivan Ram drank from the former, there was resentment owing to the fact that he belonged to the untouchable caste and the incident was conveyed to the Principal of the school. The solution was the installment of a third vessel that contained drinking water and was singularly meant for the untouchables. Babu Jagjivan Ram on seeing this move saw the further routinization of stratification and inequality an as a sign of protest broke the ‘untouchable’ pot twice before the Principal refused to install the third one. By the virtue of being a Dalit, the student years of Babu Jagjivan Ram were plagued with discrimination with instances where even the barbers refused to trim his hair. While in Banaras Hindu University, he was denied the basic student amenities of meals and other facilities despite his exemplary performance in the field of academics. This led him to consolidate the Scheduled Caste population in the premises and organize protests against the practice of inequality and social discrimination of various forms which he continued in the University of Calcutta. It was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose that noticed Babu Jagjivan Ram in Calcutta in the year 1928 at the Mazdoor Rally at the Wellington Square. Apart from taking part in political demonstrations that spoke for Dalit rights, Babu Jagjivan Ram also took part in humanitarian efforts. This was evident in the enormous relief efforts that he put to contain the aftermath of the earthquake of 1934 that tore Bihar. His wars against untouchability, inequality and oppression eventually manifested in such miscellaneous outcomes and were instrumental in moulding him into social reformer that he eventually became in the later years.
Family, personal life and outlook:
Babu Jagjivan Ram was born on the 5th of April, 1908 in a small village of Chandwa located at the district if Shahabad (now Bhojpur) in Bihar. His father Sobhi Ram and mother Vasanti Devi had their own farming lands in their native village of Chandwa. He was accompanied by his elder brother Sant Lal along with three sisters. Babu Jagjivan Ram’s father, Sobhi Ram originally was employed under the British Army and was posted at Peshawar. However, he left the colonial armed forces due to some differences and took to farming in his native lands. Sobhi Ram played a tremendous role in the upbringing of Babu Jagjivan Ram where he learnt the values of humanism, idealism and resilience from his father who was a strong believer of faith; he himself being the Mahant (religious superior) of the Shiv Narayani Sect who on his account of calligraphy skills took to writing and distributed many books on behalf of the sect. Unfortunately, Babu Jagjivan Raj lost his beloved father that a very young age and was left in an economically deprived situation. However, his mother Vasanti Devi did not let the harsh economic conditions deprive Babu Jagjivan Ram’s future and gave everything that she had to provide for his upbringing as well as education. Babu Jagjivan Ram on account of his experiences of caste discrimination was extremely vocal against social inequality and its malpractices. This led him to organize various mobilizations, demonstrations and conferences that sought justice for the oppressed and the discriminated. His views also resonated with those of Mahatma Gandhi’s and he involved himself in the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi to eradicate the foul custom of untouchability. Later on, Babu Jagjivan Ram actively participated in the freedom struggle for the independence of India where he took part in various movements like the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement. One of Babu Jagjivan Ram’s cornerstones in terms of his outlook was not only the assurance of the principles of equality among all the members of the society along with the prohibition of caste discrimination but also the adequate political representation of the Dalits for which he vigorously preached for the voting rights of the Dalits. On June 1935, Babu Jagjiva Ram was married to Indrani Devi who was the daughter of Dr. Birbal. Dr. Birbal was an accomplished medical practitioner who had actively served in the British Army. His excellence in his professional duty and especially for his contributions the Chin Lushai Expedition that lasted from 1889 to 1890 landed him the Victoria Medal that was presented to him by the then Viceroy to India, Lord Lansdowne. The couple was blessed with two children’ Suresh Kumar who was born on the 17th of July 1938 and Meira Kumar who was born on the 21st of May 1985. Unfortunately, the couple lost their son on the 21st of May, 1985 leaving the parents in grief and sorrow. Their daughter Meira Kumar grew up to be a Member of the Parliament for a total of five times where she also won his former seat from Sasaram consecutively in 2004 and 2009. She was the Minister for Social Justice in the previous United Progressive Alliance-1 Government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2004 to 2009. Meira Kumar also made history in the Indian politics by being the first ever woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha of the Indian Parliament in the year 2009.
Overview of the education of Babu Jagjivan Ram:
Babu Jagjivan Ram accomplished his preliminary education from a local school from January 1914. Despite the unfortunate death of his father and the impoverished economic situation of his family, he went on to join the English medium Aggrawal Middle School in Arrah in the year 1920 and subsequently joined Arrah Town School in the year 1922. Under the unmatched love and guidance of his mother, Babu Jagjivan Ram successfully secured a first division in his matriculation. Along his years as a student, he faced many instances of caste prejudice. However, Babu Jagjivan Ram did not falter form his path. After securing a first division, he joined the prestigious Banaras Hindu University where he was awarded the Birla Scholarship and soon after, he fruitfully accomplished the Inter Science Examination. His experiences of caste based discrimination did not end at the Banaras Hindu University. He eventually left Banaras Hindu University to join the University of Calcutta where he was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Sciences in the year 1931.
Parliamentary career of Babu Jagjivan Ram:
Babu Jagjivan Ram had been tremendously active in India’s freedom struggle from the British Raj long before Jawaharlal Nehru’s interim Government was set up. In his quest to emphasize on social equality, he laid the foundation to All India Depressed Classes League and the Akhil Bharatiya Ravidas Mahasabha in Calcutta in the year 1934. The following year, on the 19th of October, Babu Jagjivan Ram stood before the Hammond Commission in Ranchi where he, for the first time, demanded political rights of voting for the Dalits. His constant acts of dissent against the colonial authorities eventually got him arrested on the 10th of December, 1940. He was soon released and Babu Jagjivan Ram unified his efforts with Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha and was deeply involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement. In the new Independent India, perhaps the most important function accomplished by Babu Jagjivan Ram in his parliamentary career was his role as a member of the Constituent Assembly. The constitution Assembly had the most important task of penning a brand new Constitution that upheld the values of liberty, equality of opportunity and fraternity in the Soverign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India. For all the citizens to uphold these values and to ensure a just society for the people of India, Babu Jagjivan Ram while drafting the Constitution of India valiantly advocated for the social as well as political rights of the Dalit population and also rooted for the affirmative action based on caste for the government services as well as elected bodies. Babu Jagjivan Ram became the youngest member of the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru’s interim government in the year 1946 and subsequently became the Labour Minister in the first ever Cabinet of independent India and served as the Labour Minister till 1952. He laid out several policies and reforms that dealt directly with the welfare of the labours and represented the country in the International Labout Conference of the International Labour Organization that was held in Geneva on the 16th of August, 1947. He soon became an affiliate of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) from the year 1940 to the year 1977 and was also a delegate of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) from the year 1948 to the year 1977. Subsequently, Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet saw Babu Jagjivan Ram holding several key port folios concerning Communications from 1952 to 1956, Railways and Transport from 1956 to 1962 and Communications and Transport from 1962 to 1963. Babu Jagjivan Ram was also instrumental for the successful implementation of the Green Revolution during his tenure as the Union Minister for Food and Agriculture from the year 1967 to the year 1970. Previously, he also fulfilled the duties of the Minister for Labour, Employment and Rehabilitation form the year 1966 to the year 1967. Babu Jagjivan Ram then went on to become the President of the Congress of Indira Gandhi and took the responsibilities of the Minister of Defence from the year 1970 to the year 1974. The Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and the independence of Bangladesh tool place under his watch as the Defence Minister of India. He also held the post of the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation form the year 1974 to the year 1977. Babu Jagjivan Ram had a distinguished parliamentary career where he carried out his duties in the most immaculate fashion as possible. His uninterrupted involvement as a parliamentarian for more than five decades from 1936 to 1986 is a testament to his dedication for the welfare of the citizens of the country and is an unmatched record in its own right.
Positions held by Babu Jagjivan Ram:
The following are the official positions held by Babu Jagjivan Ram in his political tenure:
- He was a Member of the Central Legislature for over thirty years consecutively.
- He holds the record for being the longest-serving cabinet minister in India.
- He was the Union Minister of Labour, from the year 1946 to the year 1952.
- He was the Union Minister for Communications from the year 1952 to the year 1956.
- He was the Union Minister for Transport and Railways from the year 1956 to the year 1962.
- He was the Union Minister for Transport and Communications, from the year 1962 to the year 1963.
- He was the Union Minister for Labour, Employment and Rehabilitation, from the year 1966 to the year 1967.
- He was the Union Minister for Food and Agriculture from the year 1967 to the year 1970.
- He was the Union Minister of Defence for the following terms: 1970–1974, 1977–1979.
- He was the Union Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, from the year 1974 to the year 1977.
- He was the Deputy Prime Minister of India, from the 24th of March, 1977 to the 28th of July, 1979.
- He served as President of the Bharat Scouts and Guides from September 1976 to April 1983.
Legacy of Babu Jagjivan Ram:
Babu Jagjivan Ram’s fierce repertoire as a Dalit leader of the Indian National Congress has led to the celebration of his personality and his contributions to the people of India across the country. The site of his cremation has been built into a memorial called Samata Sthal to honour his legacy. The country observes his birth anniversary as ‘Equality Day’ or the ‘Samata Diwas’ to commemorate Babu Jagjivan Ram’s continuous battle against caste discrimination and various forms of social oppression and his endeavour to promote a society of welfare and equality. An honorary doctorate was conferred to his name by the Andhra University on the year 1973. The premises of the same varsity saw the unveiling of his statue on his one hundredth and first birth anniversary in the year 2001. In honour of Babu Jagjivan Ram, the WAM-1, that happens to be the first locomotive that was built indigenously, was named after him. The training academy of the Railway Protection Force is also named after Babu Jagjivan Ram. The Banaras Hindu University in the year 2007 arranged a Babu Jagjivan Ram Chair in the faculty for Social Sciences that is exclusively dedicated to the study of economic backwardness and caste discrimination. To uphold the vision of Babu Jagjivan Ram, the 'Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation' has been established by the Ministry of Social Justice in New Delhi. The year 2015 saw the establishment of the Babu Jagjeevan Ram English Medium Secondary School in Mahatma Gandhi Nagar in the Yerawada neighbourhood of the city of Pune.