UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Apr 05

05 April 1908

Birth of Jagjivan Ram


What happened?

Independence activist and former union minister Babu Jagjivan Ram was born on 5 April 1908. His birth anniversary is observed as ‘Samata Diwas’ or ‘Equality Day’ all over India.

Biography

  • Jagjivan Ram was born in Chandwa in Bihar to a Dalit family. His father was in the British army but later left it and acquired a farming land in his native place.
  • He pursued his schooling at the nearby town of Arrah where he faced discrimination for the first time. He was considered ‘untouchable’ and had to drink water from a different pot. Jagjivan Ram protested against this by breaking the pot. The principal then had to remove the separate pot from the school.
  • In 1925, Jagjivan Ram met scholar Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and was greatly inspired by him. On Malaviya’s invitation, he joined the Banaras Hindu University.
  • Even at the university, Jagjivan Ram faced discrimination. This inspired him to protest against such social boycott of a section of society. He also organised the scheduled castes to protest against injustice.
  • After his stint at BHU, he joined the University of Calcutta from where he secured a B.Sc. degree in 1931.
  • He was noted by Subhas Chandra Bose because of his organisational skills. In 1935, he assisted with the formation of the All-India Depressed Classes League. He joined the Congress Party where he was appreciated as a brilliant spokesperson for the Depressed Classes.
  • In 1935, he proposed at a session of the Hindu Mahasabha that drinking water wells and temples be open to untouchables.
  • He took part in the freedom movement as well and was imprisoned during the Quit India Movement.
  • When Jawaharlal Nehru formed the provisional government, Jagjivan Ram became its youngest minister. After independence, he was appointed the country’s first labour minister.
  • He also held various other portfolios including railways, food and agriculture, transport and communications, irrigation and defence. The Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 was fought when he was the defence minister.
  • He also became India’s Deputy Prime Minister when Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister after the Emergency.
  • Jagjivan Ram was a member of the Parliament uninterrupted from 1936 to 1986 and this is a world record. He also holds another record for being the longest-serving cabinet minister in India (30 years).
  • He was a champion of social equality and equal rights for the Depressed Classes.
  • He passed away on 6 July 1986. His memorial at his cremation place is named ‘Samata Sthal’.
Also on this day
1922: Death of social reformer and women’s rights activist Pandita Ramabai. 1940: Death of missionary and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, “Deenabandhu” C. F. Andrews.

 

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.