I am delighted to be
here today to inaugurate the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of Bharatiya
Vidya Bhavan and the 125th Birth Anniversary of its illustrious founder,
Dr. K.M. Munshi. Dr. K.M Munshi was a true visionary,
institution-builder and a great son of India. He was of a small build.
But there was nothing small in what he achieved during his life time. He
was a towering personality who became a legend in his own life time.
Munshiji demonstrated excellence in diverse fields of human endeavour.
He was a writer, speaker, novelist, lawyer, teacher, Indologist,
Constitutional expert, Administrator, Statesman, patriot and a promoter
and sustainer of cultural, ethical and moral values.
His endeavor of establishing Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, in 1938, was one of
the most important steps in a series of selfless efforts put in by him
in emancipating the citizenry of this nation. The founding of the Bhavan
echoed his deeply entrenched belief in the instrument of education,
which he firmly believed could offer wings to the growth and development
Born in the town of Bharuch, Gujarat, 125 years ago, Munshiji was always
an excellent student. His life was tremendously influenced by Sri
Aurobindo Ghosh. He took up law at the University of Bombay and enrolled
himself as an advocate in 1913. He acquired the reputation of a diligent
and hardworking lawyer within a short span of time.
During World War I, he was greatly influenced by Dr. Annie Besant’s Home
Rule Movement until he came across a relatively better concept of
governance which Gandhiji offered. This led him to offer his whole
hearted support for Sardar Patel’s Bardoli movement and Gandhiji’s salt
satyagraha. His active participation brought him in close quarters with
Gandhiji and Sardar Patel, who mobilized his active participation within
the Congress. He started the movement for a Parliamentary wing of the
Congress, became Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Board in 1938
and served in the Central Legislative Assembly in the 1930s.
Gandhiji ignited Munshiji’s zeal to serve the nation through active
politics. It is said that Aurobindo Ghosh instilled in him the love for
jnanayoga while Gandhiji made him a Karmayogi.
Munshiji’s solidarity and devotion to the cause of the nation was
unparalleled. When Nizam of Hyderabad was stubborn in acceding to the
Union, it was Munshiji who was sent as the Agent General of the
Government of India to Hyderabad in 1947. He served there until its
final accession in 1948. It is said that if Sardar Patel was the
architect of Hyderabad's accession to India, Munshiji was the engineer
in the field. Acknowledging Munshiji's role, Sardar Patel wrote: "On
behalf of the Government, I wish to say that we are deeply conscious of
the high sense of public duty that induced you to accept this office and
the very able manner in which you discharged the duties entrusted to you
which contributed in no small measure to the final result."
Munshiji’s contributions as Union Minister of Food and Agriculture from
1950-52 and Governor of the State of Uttar Pradesh from 1952 to 1957
were invaluable. He also made far reaching contribution to the shaping
of the Indian Constitution. His incisive understanding of law and
insight into India’s cultural fabric made him one of the most
outstanding members of the Constituent Assembly. What might amaze many
is that besides being on the Drafting committee, he was member of as
many as eleven Committees, which made him perhaps the only Indian who
played such a pervasive role in the drafting of the Constitution. The
principle of guaranteeing to every person equal protection of the laws
was the result of a draft jointly written by Munshiji and Dr. Ambedkar.
Munshiji's sense of equality did not confine itself to mere legal
protection. He strongly advocated widow remarriage and to set an
example, himself married a widow Lilavati Sheth in 1926. Societal
discrimination for delinquent children drove him to found a Children's
Home for delinquent children at Chembur, Bombay in 1939. His love and
service to countrymen was thus unparalleled and driven by a strong sense
of personal commitment.
A prolific writer and conscientious journalist, Munshiji started a
Gujarati monthly called Bhargava, was joint-editor of Young India, and
he started the Bhavan's Journal in 1954. Some of his better-known books
are: Gujarat and its Literature, Akhand Hindustan, Glory that was
Gujardesh, The Ruin that Britain Wrought, The End of an Era, and Shishu
ane Sakhi. He was also President of the Sanskrit Viswa Parishad, the
Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, and the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan.
Munshiji was one among three great dreamers of our country. One was
Mahatma Gandhi himself, who dreamt of a world without violence, a world
of love and compassion. The second dreamer was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
who dreamt of an India strong, united and democratic, playing an
important role in the world. Munshiji was the third dreamer. He dreamt
of a cultural renaissance built on modifying the spiritual heritage of
our country to suit modern conditions. He wanted to make sure that every
young person of his times and of the future should imbibe and benefit
from India’s cultural and spiritual heritage.
Munshiji wrote: “The values of a culture are recaptured for each
generation by a subtle process of re-interpretation, reintegration and
adaptation. When the Culture is living, the promising young man and
woman of the generation receive the impact of its fundamental values.
The sensitive and the vigorous among them become each a human
laboratory, which purifies the fundamental values relating them afresh
to the central idea; stimulates them to meet the needs of the times;
reintegrate the subsidiary values with the fresh vigour of the new
interpretation and shapes the traditions and institutions not only
without impairing the strength of the collective will, but by giving it
a new edge “. Three quarters of a century ago, Munshiji could foretell
the impending turmoil over moral and ethical values. He believed that
freedom would be meaningless and worthless unless cultural, ethical, and
moral values are enshrined in the hearts and minds of our people.
Munshiji therefore felt
the need to create an institution that could begin to bring about in a
small way a tangible change through education. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
which was started as an institution is now a massive cultural and
educational movement. It is a moral movement that steers people towards
a life guided by ethics. The Bhavan, is today rendering yeoman service
to the people of our nation and through them to entire human kind. The
Bhavan has not merely adopted, as its motto the Rig Vedic proclamation
“Vasudaiva Kutumbakam”, but proves it through its words and deeds.
What Munshiji expected to achieve through the Bhavan can be narrowed
down to three main points: Firstly, he wanted the other worldliness in
the outlook of people to be replaced by a sense of joy in the life as it
is to be lived. Secondly, he felt that outmoded traditions which stifle
the creative vitality of individual and collective life must be replaced
by a vigorous flexible attitude to life. And, thirdly, the fundamental
values which have given ageless inspiration to our culture had to be
captured afresh for our generation.
Movements such as the Bhavan are the need of the day. The Bhartiya Vidya
Bhavan has stood the test of time and been a beacon light guiding
Indians and foreigners alike in their path to live a balanced and
wholesome life. With 119 centers in India and around 7 centers abroad
including the United States and the United Kingdom, Munshiji’s dream of
promoting ethical and spiritual values in day to day life is
successfully accomplished by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. I pay my
compliments to the staff of Bharatiya Viday Bhawan for their tireless
efforts in translating Munshiji vision into reality.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan confers its highest honour - its Honorary
Membership on those who have rendered outstanding services to the people
of our country as well as the world. It has conferred this honour on
three outstanding citizens of our country today. Each one of them is a
brilliant star in their chosen field of activity. I congratulate Bhavan
on its wonderful choice.
Shrimati Kishori Amonkar, a towering maestro of Hindustani Shashtriya
Sangeet, and legendary performer of Jaipur-atrauli Gharana, has given us
pure joy for over half a century. Shrimati Ila Bhatt, Gandhian, is an
exemplary champion of social causes. Her work has brought her and our
country world renown and recognition. She has transformed poor and
under-privileged women into proud, confident, self-organized and
courageous citizens of our country. Shri. N.R. Narayanamoorthy, who led
our nation on the path of becoming a world leader in Information
Technology, is an inspiration to the youth of our country.
I take great pleasure in inaugurating the celebrations of the Platinum
Jubilee of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the 125th Birth Anniversary of its
great founder, Kulapati K.M. Munshi.