Govind Ballabh Pant
September 10 marks the birth anniversary of an eminent and illustrious personality Govind Ballabh Pant. He fought colonial oppression tooth and nail while also working tirelessly in various positions in the nation's newly minted political landscape.
Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, India's economy is now the seventh largest in the world, despite being a victim of British economic drain policy. The road from a shaky post-partition economy to one of the world's superpowers has not been easy. However, even before any accolades are bestowed upon contemporary policymakers, administrators, or citizens, it would be an unforgivable bias to fail to recognise the role of Indian freedom fighters. The entire nineteenth and twentieth centuries are replete with stories of bravery and legends of sacrifice made by stalwarts of the Indian national movement.
Govind Ballabh Pant was not only a pivotal figure in India's independence struggle, but also one of its architects. He was a pivotal figure in the Indian government, alongside leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabh Bhai Patel. He came from a well-educated and traditional family in Khoont village, near Almora. He chose to study law after graduating from Allahabad University. However, those were also the heights of the country's national movement.
As early as 1914, he spoke out against the inhumane practise of Coolie Beggar, which was prevalent in the Kumaon region of the former United Provinces. Local villagers would be forced to carry visiting British officers' luggage and run other subhuman errands for them without pay. As a result, a movement against the Raj erupted, and GB Pant assisted a local group in successfully challenging the practise. The initiative's success piqued MK Gandhi's interest as well. When he officially entered politics in 1921, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the erstwhile United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.
As a brilliant lawyer, he was initially appointed by the Congress party to represent Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, and other revolutionaries involved in the Kakori case in the mid 1920s. When the people of the country were outraged by the racial overtones of the British-appointed Simon commission in 1928, GB Pant and other fellow nationalists openly expressed their displeasure. In fact, in his autobiography, Jawaharlal Nehru praised Pant's bravery in participating in the anti-Simon protests. As British soldiers retaliated against the protesters, he suffered an agonising spine injury.
In 1940, he faced the British government's wrath once more when he was imprisoned for supporting Gandhi's Satyagraha. Despite the threats, he became even more engrossed in the freedom movement. Pant became one of the leaders at the forefront of signing the Quit India resolution in 1942, when the entire country was bubbling with the fervour of the Quit India Movement. This provided the draconian colonial Raj with another opportunity to arrest him. He spent three years in Ahmednagar Fort prison, along with other members of the then-Congress working committee, until March 1945, despite deteriorating health.
Although he had previously served as the first chief minister of the United Provinces, he was re-elected in 1946. He not only succeeded in abolishing the exploitative Zamindari system in this country, but he also revolutionised laws governing women's inheritance and marriage. Nehru appointed him to the Union Cabinet as Minister of Home Affairs on January 10, 1955, in New Delhi. In this capacity, he not only contributed to the massive linguistic reorganisation of Indian states, but he also advocated for Hindi to be designated as the official language of the government.
In 1957, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna for his distinguished contributions to the nation. This has given everyone in his home state a great deal of pride. Despite the fact that Uttarakhand became a separate state only in 2000, Pant had already begun to consider multidimensional development for the mountainous regions long before 1947. He emphasised the establishment of schools, hospitals, and banks in the hill towns of former Uttar Pradesh to ensure economic and social growth. He insisted on allowing girls to attend schools at a time when formal education for most women was still a distant dream.
Historians describe him as a man with an iron will, a moniker he carried with him until his death in 1961. Today, he is a living example of how a strong vision and philanthropic outlook can change the world around you.
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