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A Piece on ‘The Man of Peace’

A Piece on ‘The Man of Peace’

Lal Bahadur Shastri Collage

Who is ‘Nanhaji?’ Why did his death raise questions? This awe-inspiring piece takes us into a magnificent expedition of storytelling by blending past and present-depicting the innumerable contributions of ‘Nanhaji’ towards the development of our nation- and that too through the mouth of Tarini Khuro, a famous fictional character created by Satyajit Ray

By Somashis Gupta

“…and Hariram screamed ‘Nanhaji nahi rahe’ reading the Dainik Jagaran”, I could hear Tarini Khuro as I approached the portico of his heritage building in Bishop Lefroy Road. I realized the evening adda had gathered momentum. I was late again.

“I along with other frequenters of Dabbu Tea stall of Assi Ghat was not just dejected but equally flabbergasted” Khuro continued as Ientered the living room.

“Who is Nanhaji, Khuro?” I asked.

Ignoring me he went on, “Soon the newspaper vendor ran out of stock which otherwise lasted till late afternoon. I still remember the day quite clearly. People were seen in small gathering wondering and mourning his death not only in Varanasi but all around the country. It was the day when India stood still.”

“Who died Khuro?” I asked again.

“If you join late you need to wait” Khuro expressed his vexation. He never liked late comer, an observation I made since childhood.

“What exactly happened? I understand people were mourning but why wondering? Was there a doubt?” Paltu was confused.

“Well, undoubtedly it was doubtable” Khuro continued after a sipping his Makaibari,“when a healthy man suddenly dies question is bound to rise.”

“Why Khuro? Why do you think so?” immediately the group reacted.

“Well, officially he succumbed to a massive heart attack, but rumours were he was murdered.”

“Murdered? How?”

“His dead body had changed colour and apparently people could see blood oozing out from the body, clear symptoms of poisoning. In fact there is a young man, Anuj Dhar, he has compiled a paper, I suggest you all to check that out.”

“Oh! Yes he is a researcher on Netaji” I said.

“Not only on Netaji, but also a detailed report on the death of this man. In fact based on his research Vivek Agnihotri, a filmmaker, has created a Hindi movie in 2019, called “The Tashkent Files“.” Khuro continued, “you must see their work if you are interested.”

“But Khuro, what made him so popular as you said ‘India stood still’, why so?” Sudip expressed his doubt.

“Well” Khuro started, “you all use Amul products don’t you?”

We nodded.

Verghese Kurien with Lal Bahadur Shastri
“Father of the White Revolution” in India Verghese Kurien with Shastri ji

“Do you know we were a milk deficit country initially? It was only in 1965 that this man started the National Dairy Development Board making India self-sufficient in milk production. It generated employment and also transformed India into the world’s largest milk producer.”

“Is that what made him so popular? I am not too fond of milk” Abhishek joked.

“No there is more. Do you know about the Bengal famine which led to the death of about 4 million people?”

“Yes Khuro.”

“Well in spite of all the efforts of the Government of India the shortage of food continued until this great man initiated the Green Revolution which made India self-reliant in food grain production.”

Green Revolution
Underlining the need to boost India’s food production, Shastri ji promoted the Green Revolution in India in 1965.

“Oh! Lal Bahadur Shastri” I reacted.

“Yes but do you know he was initially Lal Bahadur Shrivastav?”Khuro informed.

“Really?”

“Yes he dropped off his caste-derived surname and took up Shastri. He worked immensely for the Harijans. One of his famous quotes was ‘India will have to hang down her head in shame if even one person isleft who is said in any way to be untouchable’.”

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“Besides this he was also a man of utmost honesty. Let me narrate two incidents” Khuro paused for a sip on his fresh cup of Makaibari which just arrived.

“Sometime in the year 1965, Shastriji bought a Fiat car after taking a loan of rupees 5,000 from Punjab National Bank. His loan was approved much earlier than usual. He sent in a letter to the bank advising the bank that even the common man should have the same privilege. But unfortunately he died in Tashkent the nextyear before repaying the loan. But his wife paid the entire loan back to the bank from her family pension following the ideologies of her late husband on honesty and integrity.”

Shastri ji's Fiat Car
Shastri ji’s Fiat Car

“Wow and these days we have people borrowing crores from banks and running away” I said.

“Yes, that is how it is. Let me tell you another incident.  In the year 1956, there were two major railway accident in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu killing as many as 112 people and 144 respectively. Shastriji taking moral responsibility tendered his resignation though it was definitely not his fault.”

“I wish we had more leaders like him” Paltu expressed.

“There is more, Shastri’s decisions on policies were always compassionate and with benevolence showing a strong humane angle of him. Those were times when to control a mob the police used to resort to Lathi Charge, a procurement from the British era. Shastri changed that and water cannons were used instead since then.”

Khuro continued, “He was also greatly concerned regarding the common men. He introduced the third class compartment in the Indian railways to help the poorer section to travel. Besides he also introduced a female regiment in the police department empower the women of the country.”

“And last but the best is he always preferred the path of peace yetstrong when required. I remember he once said- ‘If Pakistan has any ideas of annexing any part of our territories by force, it should think afresh. I want to state categorically that force will be met with force, and aggression against us will never be allowed to succeed.’ ”

All this left us thinking…!

Khuro don’t you think Shastri was a blend of the tricolour?” I said.

Khuro was confused and so were the others.

“Well you see he was a strong and courageous man, so saffron. He always preferred the path of peace, so white, and he resolved the food crisis with the Green revolution, and finally he practiced honesty and justice, so The Ashok Chakra- All depicting the Indian Flag- What do you think?”

Sharing this adda session with Tarini Khuro about our second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri , our Nanhaji ,’ The Man of Peace’ on his 117th Birthday.

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