Lal Bahadur Shastri
Lal Bahadur Shastri was born in 1905 in Prayag. His father Sharada Prasad, a schoolteacher at the local school, passed away when Lal Bahadur was barely a year and a half. Growing up without a father forced Lal Bahadur to accept responsibility at an early age. He was sent by his uncle to Varanasi to pursue his studies.
After a short stay with a family that treated him unkindly, Lal Bahadur stayed with a teacher, Mishraji. Mishraji often sat and told stories about how India lost her freedom to the British to young Lal Bahadur. These conversations later inspired Lal Bahadur to join the struggle for Indian freedom
At about this time Gandhiji came to Varanasi and spoke of his non-cooperation movement. Lal Bahadur took a keen interest in the growing movement and when the time came to boycott the schools, he did so by not appearing for his examinations. With just one year left for his graduation, the news was not taken well at home.
Neither his Uncle nor Mishraji supported Lal Bahadur’s action but his mother who had complete faith in him supported his decision as long as he promised not to renege from the task later. With his mother’s blessings, he became fully involved in the non-cooperation movement.
He was arrested for taking part in banned processions but released since it was his first offense. This was to be the first of many arrests for Lal Bahadur. He worked during the evenings in a khadi shop and studied while studying for the degree of Shastri (Bachelor) in Philosophy. Lal Bahadur graduated at the head of his class.
He then went on to do social work among the Harijans, working to make their lives better. Two years later he married Lalita Devi. Lai Bahadur and Lalita moved to Allahabad where Lal Bahadur served as secretary of the District Congress Committee.
He attended the 1929 Lahore session of the Congress, and upon his return to Allahabad actively spoke out against the British Raj and for “Puma Swaraj”. As protests continued more and more people were arrested for participating in the struggle. When Lalita Devi mentioned to Lai Bahadur that the jails were full, he replied in his characteristic fashion, “Yes, but there is still room for me.”
He was arrested a few days later. During his stay in jail, his wife gave birth to their first child Kusum. He had two other children, Hari and Suman. His total commitment to Gandhiji and the non-cooperation movement resulted in many jail terms.
Since the Congress party was banned by the British Government, Lal Bahadur and his associates spent their time traveling around India spreading Gandhiji’s message. He was soon arrested for these activities and jailed for seven months at an unknown location. Eighteen months later Lalita Devi was granted permission to meet her husband Lal Bahadur was finally released from prison in 1946.
On August 15, 1947, India gained independence. Lal Bahadur was appointed Minister of Police in Nehru’s cabinet. In 1951 Jawaharlal Nehru was re-elected Prime Minister for a second term, and Lal Bahadur was appointed General Secretary of the Lok Sabha.
While in Nehru’s cabinet, Lal Bahadur was entrusted with portfolios for Minister of Railways, Minister of Communications, and later Home Minister. He served as Nehru’s right hand.
On May 27, 1964, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru died. May of that year Lal Bahadur Shastri became India’s second Prime Minister. His term is best known for introducing measures to make India self-sufficient in food production.
In 1965 Pakistan attacked India on the Kashmiri front and Lal Bahadur Shastri responded in kind by punching toward Lahore. In 1966 a cease-fire was issued as a result of international pressure.
Lal Bahadur Shastri went to Tashkent to hold talks with Ayub Khan and an agreement was soon signed. Lal Bahadur passed away in Tashkent before returning home on January 11, 1966. He was posthumously conferred with the Bharat Ratna Award.