A journalist, a newspaper founder, and a martyr


Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma, in the Hindustan Times:

“The immortals, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev had just attained martyrdom on the gallows of the British Raj. The country was astir, angry and aspiring to acts of supreme courage for the country’s liberation.

“Yet another kind of martyrdom, no less demanding, no less needed, was just round the corner. And its site was not the altar of freedom but the public square of humanity.

“The most savage communal violence had engulfed Kanpur’s mixed mohallas. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, teacher, journalist, founder of The Pratap and president of the UP Congress Committee in 1929, did not phone the police. He did not go to newspaper offices to fulminate against communalism. He did not lapse into prayer, wailing or rhetoric. He did just what Gandhi wanted satyagrahis to do in communally-charged situations.

“Over four days, Vidyarthi saved the lives of several hundreds of Hindus and Muslims from the blind fury of murderous hordes. On March 25, his biographer Anandi Prasad Mathur tells us, when Vidyarthi heard of violence having erupted in Maida Bazar, he left home for the locality, despite pleadings from his wife. ‘You fret for nothing,’ Vidyarthi told her, ‘I have not displeased any community, no one will harm me… God will help me…’

“A man running for his life asked Vidyarthi to save some people who were hiding nearby. Not for the first time that day Vidyarthi was in the direct line of death. Someone tried to save him by pulling him to a side gully. ‘Why are you dragging me?’ Vidyarthi said, ‘If these people’s anger is to be quenched by my blood, so be it…’

“And then blow upon blow raining on him, sharp instruments pierced his thin frame. Gandhi wrote in Young India: “The death of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi is one to be envied by us all… Let this noble example stimulate us all to similar effort should occasion arise again.”

Image: courtesy Hindustan Times

Read the full article: Incidentally, we must not forget

Also read: Thus spake the editor-in-chief of the Harijan

What a newspaper editor told Mahatma Gandhi

James W. Michaels: the man who reported Gandhi‘s death

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