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Ravishankar Shukla (2 August 1877, Sagar – 31 December 1956, Delhi) was a leader of the Indian National Congress, Indian independence movement activist, the Premier of the Central Provinces and Berar from 27 April 1946 to 25 January 1950, the first Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh state from 26 January 1950 to 31 October 1956 and then the first chief minister of the reorganised Madhya Pradesh state from 1 November 1956 until his death on 31 December 1956.
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Born into a wealthy family, his father and grandfather were rich and scholarly. His father, Pandit Jagganath Shukla, came of a family which had resisted British rulers for three generations and his mother, Tulsi Devi, was industrious and a capable manageress. Young Ravishankar's earliest years were passed in a scholarly atmosphere heavily charged with Indian classics, Shri Ramcharit Manas and Gita. He was admitted to Sunderlal Guru’s Pathshala in Sagar. It was one of the six Pathshalas established by the British in Central Provinces. On every lunar fortnight of Amavasya and Purnima, the students would offer the Guru a Seedha which consisted of wheat, rice and salt, for in those days the teachers were accepting only a token salary from the government. In the year 1885, at the age of 8, Ravishankar completed his primary education. The cousins Pt. Gajadhar Shukla and Pt. Jagganath Shukla moved to Rajnandgaon as partners in CP & Bengal Cotton Mills. They preferred and embraced a strenuous life, they were both gifted with good physique and they enjoyed wrestling bouts in the Akharas. Pandit Jagganath Shukla continued to be a partner in the cotton mills, till after a few years when he moved to Raipur.
Ravishankar continued his schooling at Rajnandgaon and subsequently at Raipur High School. From here some of his schoolmates, Thakur Hanuman Singh, Govindlal Purohit and Rewati Mohan Sen, would remain his lifelong friends. He then shifted to Jabalpur and joined Robertson College (whose premises then were what is today the Model High School in front of the High Court of Jabalpur) and completed the Intermediate in the year 1895 aged 18 years. The same year he shifted to Nagpur and joined Hislop College for the graduation course. In those days Hislop College was affiliated to Calcutta University.At Hislop College Nagpur, his young mind was influenced when he witnessed the Ganesh Festival which in those days was not just a religious ritual but had become a great social movement where patriotism was displayed by singing patriotic songs in the processions going round the town. The songs portrayed Shivaji’s patriotism and asked youngsters to be united for the 'national awakening'. The credit for popularising the Ganesh festival with nationalism was due to Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Early Life And Career (1898-1908)
When the 13th Congress took place in 1898 in the nearby town of Amrawati one of his Professors, Bhageerath Prasad, decided to attend it and took along with him his student Ravishankar Shukla to the Congress. This was the first contact between Pt. Shukla and the Congress. Later the authorities removed Prof. Bhageerath Prasad from the college for attending the Congress and for his anti British views. Pandit Shukla graduated in 1899, aged 22 years. Among his friends in the college were Bhagwati Charan Dubey, Moolchandra Tiwari, Pyarelal Mishra and Madhav Rao Sapre. The same year he joined Hislop College as a Fellow for six months to study Law. During this period the British Government charged Bal Gangadhar Tilak for treason and the case went into the court of British Judge Mr. Strachi. Pandit Shukla and his colleagues in the law college would often delve deep into the proceedings of the case. This, combined with the articles published in ‘Kesari’, tremendously inspired young Pandit Shukla. He read the translation of "Geeta-Rahasya by Tilak", compiled by his colleague Madhav Rao Sapre.
In the year 1900 there was famine in Chhatisgarh. Pt. Shukla, then a young man of 23 years, wrote a letter to Chief Commissioner of the State expressing his desire to serve in someway, the famine-affected people of the area. The Chief Commissioner got this letter on Saturday. On Sunday, when he met Rev. Bitton the principal of Hislop College in a YMCA meeting, the chief commissioner made up his mind and offered Pt. Shukla a position to work as a famine officer at Borda camp (44 miles from Raipur towards Saraipali and 8 miles from Sirpur). The young Pt. Shukla served the famine-affected people with such zest and vigour that he became a hero for the people of Saraipali. The impact was such that they would remember him with gratitude and reverence for many years to come.
In the year 1901 Pt. Shukla came to Jabalpur and met his father’s friends, among them Bihari Lal Khajanchi, Devi Prasad Choudhary and Rayees Gokul Das. He decided to continue his study of law while attending the law courts of Jabalpur as an apprentice.
Ravishankar married Bhawani Devi, then sixteen years of age, in June 1902. Six months after their marriage, the plague epidemic spread in the town of Jabalpur. Pt.Shukla in those days was residing in Andher-Deo. It was here that Bhawani Devi fell a victim of the dreaded plague. It was as if plague was now testing Pandit Shukla. With courage he nursed Bhawani Devi. He treated her with both the Ayurvedic system and modern medicine. The doctor advised him to administer meat juice to her. Born in a stout Vaishnav family where staunch vegetarianism was practised for generations, to save her life, he decided to experiment with doctor’s advice and served her Brand’s Essence of Mutton and Chicken. The Vaidya advised him to administer her the mica-ash. With the spread of the epidemic the servants and the milkman died and the entire neighborhood was empty. He heartily continued nursing her on a day and night battle which lasted a full month and five days and finally saved her from the clutches of the dreaded disease. As soon as she was out of danger he decided to immediately move to Rajnandgaon. On January 20, 1903 he reached Rajnandgaon and, now that she was cured, he garlanded her with empty tin cans of Brand’s Essence and explained to her how he was compelled to resort to this treatment to save her life.
Pandit Shukla would build moral character and instill the best human qualities among his fellows by the example of his own conduct. Chhatisgharh State Agency requested Pt. Shukla to be tutor to Maharaja Rudra Pratap Deo of Bastar and Raja Thakur Yadunath Singh of Kawardha states during the period 1904-1906. For a brief period he also taught Raja Lal Bahadur Singh of Khairagarh. While in Khairagarh, Pt. Shukla joined the Theosophical Society of India to ponder the ancient heritage of Hindu religion. He noticed the ‘Arya Bal Bodhni’, the monthly magazine of Theosophical Society, and soon the writings of Anne Besent greatly influenced Pandit Shukla. In 1903 he became a member of the society. Her article ‘Idea of Hindu University’ gave him a new scientific perspective of Hindu philosophy. When he read books ‘Hidden side of things’ by Leadbetter and ‘Ancient Wisdom’ by Anne Besant, his probing mind got answers to many unanswered queries.
The aura of Pt. Shukla’s personality, pure character, cultural introspection and teachings greatly benefited the royal princes of the States of Chhatisgarh. In 1904 he took along with him the Maharaja of Bastar to Congress session at Bombay, where he saw Barrister Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi for the first time, who had just arrived from South Africa. There were no microphones in those days and the voice of Gandhiji was not audible. There was some disturbance and he had to close his speech. Gandhiji said to the audience, ”Now you may not listen to me but a time will come when you will have to listen to me.”
In 1906 and the beginning of 1907, during his last days in Khairagarh, Pt. Shukla privately appeared for Law exams conducted by Calcutta University at Allahabad. After passing the exams, he came back to Rajnandgaon to start legal practice.
Pt. Jagganath Shukla bought in 1907 a spacious house in Raipur. It was located near the lake at Burhapara in Raipur. The new house would become the hectic nerve centre of the town and all of Central India, from where the freedom struggle against the British would be guided and fought. It was here that some of the boys of the family would be goaded by the British and taken into custody for long imprisonments, solitary confinements and torture for their anti-British stance. And where one and all would come for solace and advice from Pt.Shukla.
Within a few years of starting his legal practice, Pt.Shukla was a great success as a pleader in the courts of Raipur. His unfailing courtesy of conduct, expression and a clean record of legal service earned him clientage at all levels of society, all over Chhatisgarh and beyond. Soon the Bar Association of Raipur came under his influence. Whenever standing against other leading lawyers he would thoroughly prepare the case and would assemble his arguments with tact and facts. His talent, extraordinary intellect and will to fight any obstacles made him the leading lawyer of the state. Many times he would take up cases without charging a fee from resourceless, poor and needy persons and fight for them against prominent lawyers.
Struggle For Indian Independence 1909-1935 This was the beginning of the Swadeshi Andolan and the nation was plunging into the freedom movement. Vande Mataram was echoing in the air and “Lal-Bal-Pal’ with their forceful ovation were beginning a revolution. Sri Aurobindo’s message “To my Fellow Countrymen” deeply influenced Pt. Shukla. Vaman Rao Lakhe, Thakur Hanuman Singh and Laxman Rao Udirkar would all frequently meet Pt. Shukla and then they would all delve deep into issues of this revolution sweeping the country. Pt. Shukla would often suggest that it was Tilak’s method that would be most suitable to bring political change.
In the year 1910 Congress session was held at Benaras presided over by Wederan, a British civilian. Pt. Shukla came to this Congress as a delegate. Here he met Mahamana Pandit Madanmohan Malviya and from then onward theirs would be a lifelong association. At the same time, the Kanyakubja Mahasabha session also took place in Benaras. Pt. Shukla participated in this session as well. On his return from Benaras after the Congress he established the state Kanyakubja Sabha whose first session was held in Nagpur in March 1912. In subsequent years he organised Mahasabhas at Raipur and Jabalpur. By the year 1917 Pt. Shukla was acknowledged as the leader of his community throughout the Hindi region of Central Provinces and Uttar Pradesh. These ties would later prove to be invaluable to Pt. Shukla in winning support for the Congress.
From the year 1915 Pt. Shukla attended every Congress Session held annually. In 1915 the Congress session took place at Bombay under the presidency of Satyendra Prassanna Sinha (Lord Sinha). Pt. Shukla went to this Congress, and he along with other delegates of Central Province stayed at Marwari Sitaram School. On the ground floor of the same school were staying Gandhiji, Kasturba, and students of Sabarmati Ashram. During this Congress Pt. Shukla was greatly influenced by participating in Gandhiji’s morning prayers and seeing his daily routine and simple living style.He was so greatly moved by the dedication, courage, and conviction of Mahatma Gandhi that as soon as the motion of Non-Cooperation was passed by Indian National Congress, he retired from his lucrative career of lawyer to aid the movement.
Pt. Shukla had a strong conviction of the importance of the role of Hindi as a national language, for the pride of the country and the natural convenience it could bring to the child entering school vis a vis English as a medium of teaching. He always took the lead and constantly pursued the cause of Hindi as the national language. No one had realised it then that, the impact of the zest of Pandit Shukla for incorporating Hindi into the mainstream of the nation as a working language throughout educational, administrative and legislative wings, would in future see almost all government offices in the country using the language. The parliament of India then adopted Hindi as the national language. In 1916 was held the seventh session of Antar Bhartiya Sammelan of Hindi at Jabalpur, in which Pt. Shukla participated. After its success, he launched Madhya Pradesh Hindi Sahitya Sammelan and held its first session at Raipur in 1918. In the fifth session of the Sahitya Sammelan, held at Nagpur in March 1922, he for the first time proposed to incorporate Hindi instead of English as Raj Bhasha.
A British Minister, Sir Montegue was sent to India in 1917 to assess the situation of unrest arising in India after the first world-war. To express the public opinion before the British government, meetings were held all over the country. One such meeting, held in Raipur on 26 August 1917, was addressed by Pt. Shukla: there he called upon his countrymen to make sacrifices and to fight for our rights, otherwise he said we will always remain a colony of the British.
Political Apprenticeship A special session of Congress was called at Calcutta in September 1919 under the presidency of Lala Ljpat Rai to assess political situation in the country. Pt. Shukla went to Calcutta to attend the session and there he invited the Congress to hold its next session at Central Provinces.
When the British enacted the Rowlatt Act, it was a challenge to the Indian freedom movement. It was from this point that Mahatma Gandhi started his civil disobedience movement with truth and non-violence as principles. The Satyagraha movement, as it would be known, created the atmosphere of a great revolution in the country. Pt. Shukla did not abandon his legal practice but would now devote most of his time and resources on the national movement. He gave up all his stylish clothes made using English yarn and got them all consigned to the fire, symbolic of emergence into a new era, and instead now the Shukla household would have only Khadi hand woven, using cotton. In the year 1921 Pt. Shukla became a member of the All India Congress Committee. In July that year a large public meeting was organised by Pt. Shukla at Raipur to protest against the arrest of Pt. Makhan Lal Chaturvedi, the editor of Karmvir at Bilaspur. Sh. Raghvendra Rao also spoke in this meeting. In May that year, to awaken the masses and to propagate the political programme of Gandhiji, Pt. Shukla organised a political conference at Jabalpur, followed by Sagar in November and Hoshangabad in January 1922. It was in this tense atmosphere that the Prince of Wales decided to visit India. There was a total boycott of his visit and the non-cooperation movement was spreading like a wild fire.
While Gandhiji was planning mass civil disobedience at Bardoli, the terrible tragedy at Chauri-Chaura stirred his conscience and he abruptly suspended the mass civil disobedience movement. In March 1922 the Raipur district political conference was organised by Pt. Shukla. The masses of Central Provinces and those of Chhatisgarh in particular were all enthusiastically involved in this conference. The Raipur district administration decided to have five free tickets for witnessing the conference. Pt. Shukla decided that no one would be allowed the free entry in the conference. On knowing this the Raipur district administration decided to force their entry into the conference venue. Dwarika Prasad Mishra, one of the lieutenants of Pt. Shukla at Raipur, informed him that the district administration planned to arrest him if he would oppose their forced entry into the conference. He decided to stand guard along with his volunteers and to block the entry of the officials. Sh Waman Rao Lakhe, Madhav Rao Sapre, Sh. Raghvendra Rao and Dwarika Prasad Mishra all stood behind him at the entrance gate. The two Raipur district officials, Ali Hassan Rizvi the magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, decided to enter the meeting by force, but when blocked by Pt. Shukla, they arrested him by handcuffing him and took him to city kotwali. As soon as the news of Pt. Shukla’s arrest spread in town, it was as if the entire town had come out of their houses and surrounded the city kotwali: it was like a sea of people in all directions. The district administration became scared and immediately resorted to calling in armed police, because they had just then realised that the public had really gone wild seeing their lion in the cage. The incident was given wide coverage in the national dailies as headlines. His arrest awakened nationalist sentiments in the police force and sixteen policemen of the Raipur administration submitted their resignations.
Nagpur University was created in 1923. Before this all the colleges of the state were affiliated to Allahabad and Calcutta Universities. Sir Vipin Krishna Bose, the vice-chancellor of the University, appointed Pandit Shukla as the member of the executive committee of the University.
Home Rule Movement
Pandit Shukla had become a member of the Raipur District Council in 1921. He believed that through these local bodies the freedom struggle could best be fought. Alongside this he wanted to propagate education and an awakening for freedom among the masses. In 1922 the State Government handed over the management of schools to the District Council. Pandit Shukla established contacts with the teachers of these schools and to induce nationalism in them he organised teachers' conferences. There were 310 schools under the district council, and 900 teachers in these schools. Every year about 30,000 students were studying in these schools. These conventions of teachers worked to improve teaching methods, health, cleanliness, and patriotism. Pandit Shukla remained the president of Raipur District Council from 1927 to 1937. Here is given the brief summary of the prominent works and the atmosphere created for National Awakening & Freedom Struggle taken up by the District Council under the presidency of Pandit Shukla:
Raipur District Counil & Civil Disobedience
1. The District Council decided to conduct all its proceedings & business in Hindi. The District Collector would return back all the proceedings of the District Council sent to him in Hindi and wrote that all proceedings be sent to him in English only. To this Pandit Shukla replied to the Collector that you have got a translator with you, please get it translated in English yourself. Despite all the difficulties created by the District Authorities the District Council continued its work in Hindi under Pandit Shukla.
2. The District Council made it a rule that in all the schools before beginning of the study session or other important events the students will necessarily unfurl the National Flag and sing "Vandemataram". The District Collector objected to this. Pandit Shukla wrote back to him that even your Governor Mr. Gavan stands up when "Vandematram" is sung, so why should you object to this.
3. As president of the District Council Pandit shukla had asked all teachers to actively participate in the freedom movement. The District Collector and the State Government strongly objected to this and demanded an explanation from the District Council. To this Pandit Shukla sent a very courageous reply saying that to participate in the national freedom movement is duty of every citizen of this country.
4. When Congress in its Lahore session decided that the country's national aim is to obtain complete freedom and to celebrate 26 January 1930 as the day of Independence, the Raipur District Council decided to celebrate this national day of freedom in all schools and accordingly all headmasters were advised to organise the Independence Day. On objections raised by district authorities Pandit Shukla wrote back to them that unfurling of our National Flag and singing of National Anthem is not a crime.
Here is copy of one of the several letters written by Pandit Shukla to Dy. Commissioner Raipur Mr. Y. N. Sukhthankar ICS: 23 February 1930 : I am in receipt of your D. O. letter dated the 14th inst. regarding the greeting of revenue officers by school boys with the National Flag and national songs. I feel sure you must be realising that National Flag is an embodiment of the most patriotic sentiments of the nation, whether dependent or independent or whether within British Empire or outside it. A flag is said to be the necessity for all nations. It is a dire necessity for India, where we have to cultivate in our children the same sentiments towards our National Flag which the infurling of the Union Jack evokes in the English breasts. When even the honourable ministers of the Crown and along with highly placed European revenue officers have received such greetings and have in true English spirit stood up in all reverence when the national song was sung, it is too late in the day for you and any one else to object to such greetings by National Flag and by national song. As administrative head of the District Council I have issued instructions to greet all visitors, official or non-official with National Flag and national song. Revenue officers are not the only persons to be greeted. There is no resolution of the district Council but if you require one I shall place the matter before the District Council and send you a copy of the resolution.
5. All the schools under the District Council mounted Pictures of the Leaders on the walls in school premises. Instructions were issued to school authorities to safeguard these pictures. Several attempts were made by district officials to destroy these pictures but the school staff did not allow them to touch these pictures.
6. The District Council established a press. Besides work of District Council the press was also undertaking outside jobs including the posters etc. of the Congress for distribution in public. The District Authorities were quite unhappy with this but the press continued its work.
7. The District Council established post-offices in all rural schools where only teachers worked as post-masters. The information on national movement printed in the Council press were taken up for distribution right up to the villages through these post offices.
8. Annual education conferences were organised by the District Council where chosen educationists and intellectuals participated. A magazine "Utthaan" was published monthly where " History of Ireland" appeared as a serial.
To propagate education and patriotism the Raipur District Council had done exceptional work under its President Pandit Shukla. The former state home-member and Governor Mr. Raghvendra Rao wrote, " For inducing high patriotism and to educate the masses a systematic method and public morale have to be entwined together -- This belief has been very enthusiastically implemented under the devoted guidance of District Council President Pandit Shukla---I hope other districts will follow this example. "
Angry at the patriotic stance of the Raipur District Council the then Local Self Minister of the State Government, Shri Ramrao Deshmukh on 12 June 1930 dissolved the Raipur District Council and asked the District Collector to manage the Council. This special officer on taking over the District Council banned the singing of "Vandemataram" and unfurling of the National Flag. Several teachers were arrested for participating in the freedom movement.
Despite these atrocities the Raipur District Council's patriotism did not change. Because of his work Pandit Shukla had become so popular that even while being in jail he was reelected as president of the District Council. When Pandit shukla was released from the jail his first work was to reinstate all those teachers who were victimised for their participation in freedom struggle or for their nationalistic views.
Lahore Congress had resolved for total freedom and on 26 January 1930 entire nation took a pledge for total freedom. A National Week was celebrated between 6 April to 13 April 1930. The Satyagrah Andolan was started with Mahatma Gandhi's Dandi March. On this occasion Pandit Shukla, Pandit DP Mishra and Seth Govind Das together went to meet Gandhiji.
In a meeting of State Congress Committee held at Raipur, Pandit Dwarika Prasad Mishra suggested to name Hindi speaking part of Central Provinces as Mahakoshal. In the beginning of 1930 Pandit Shukla & Pt. D. P. Mishra along with Chief of Mahakoshal Congress Committee Seth Govind Das toured entire Central Provinces to propagate the importance of Satyagrah Andolan. Pandit Shukla developed a force of young man to extensively propagate the Andolan.
The popular song Ranbheri Baj Chuki Veervar Pahno Kesaria Bana was sung with such fervour on Lezim that listeners were mesmerized. Selected ten students putting on a Kesaria Bana travelled from Raipur to Jabalpur, singing the song at all stations where train stopped. On 28 April all prominent leaders of the State were arrested. Pandit Shukla was arrested at Gondia while returning from Balaghat. Next day he was produced before a British Magistrate Lily at Jabalpur. When the Magistrate asked him, "What is your profession?" Pandit Shukla replied, " A Law Maker, but now a Law Breaker". Pandit Shukla was imprisoned for two years. This Magistrate Lily later became secretary of Pandit Shukla when the first Congress Cabinet of the State was formed.
Initially Pandit Shukla was kept in Jabalpur Jail but was soon shifted to Seoni Jail. In Seoni jail Loknayak Madhav Shri Ane and Vaman Rao Joshi of Vidarbh were also serving the internment along with him. Pandit Shukla was interned in Seoni Jail for several months. During this period he had to fight against atrocities of the jail life. One of the jail regulation was to take thumb impressions of each prisoner for his identification. Shri Vaman Rao Joshi was called by jail authorities and his thumb impression was taken. When he returned the jail-mates seeing black ink marks on his palm asked him,"What was the matter?".To this Sh. Joshi replied,"They have taken my finger prints and that during his internment in 1907 also he had given his finger prints for identification".Three days later Pandit Shukla was called in to the jail superintendent's office for giving his finger prints. Pandit Shukla showed them the jail manual and made it clear to them that the superintendent of the jail isn't authorised to take the finger prints. When the news came to Pandit Shukla that the Government was contemplating filing a case against him for violating the jail rules, he consulted law experts and asked authorities to permit him to have access to a list of more than 100 law books. When Government saw that it is very difficult to deal with him, it dropped the idea of filing a case against him. He refused to talk to police officers on this matter. The Seoni administration got in touch with Jabalpur head quarter which in turn advised Collector Seoni to take action on his own. Finally a Magistrate was called but Pandit Shukla refused to appear before him without any notice being served on him. The jail warden gathered jail employees to use force on Pandit Shukla to get his thumb impression. Pandit Shukla warned them that he will not give his thumb impression willfully and if force is used the Government will be entirely responsible. But the authorities were bent upon taking his thumb impression. All of them together forcibly tried to open his fist but the strong will and the bodily strength of Pandit Shukla prevailed and despite a 40 minute effort they were unsuccessful in opening his fist. The result of this incidence was such that on fourth day after this incidence the Nagpur Head Office issued an order circulating it all over the State that unless ordered by the DIG Police no thumb impressions of any political prisoners will be taken. This was a rare incidence of courage where he fought for justice to save his self-esteem against the British Administration.
In the beginning of 1931 Gandhi-Irwin pact took place. Accordingly all political prisoners who were imprisoned during 'Savinay Avangya Bhang Andolan' were released from the jails. On 13 March Pandit shukla along with other political prisoners of the State was released from the jail. The overwhelmed public in Raipur gave him a rousing reception like a Royal Prince.
In April the Congress Adhiveshan took place at Karachi under the presidentship of Vallabh Bhai Patel. Despite the pact with Gandhiji Sardar Bhagat Sing and two of his colleagues were hanged. The entire nation was saddened with this news. Mahatma Gandhi proceeded to London to participate in the round table conference. Just two days before his arrival the British Government had decided to humiliate Congress and in January 1932 they put ban on many Congress related organisations. Mahatma Gandhi was arrested on 4 January and arrests followed in the rest of the country. To oppose Gandhiji's arrest public meetings were held at Jabalpur, Sagar, Raipur and Nagpur. For two months Pandit Shukla had been consolidating the war committees and in April Pandit Shukla was arrested charged as dictator of the 'Andolan'.He was charged with creating rebellion against the British Government and was ordered imprisonment of two years. In the jail all facilities usually provided to political prisoners were withdrawn and he was given solitary confinement.
The British prime Minister Ramsey McDonald enacted a bill to separate Harjans from the Hindu masses. To oppose this Gandhiji in Yerveda jail went into the historical fast. The Hindus and Harijans all over the country united and Gadhiji broke his fast. Soon Gandhiji was released from jail and he decided to devote the entire year on Harijan work. For nine months Gandhiji toured all over the nation. Pandit Shukla along with his volunteers accompanied and organised Gandhiji's Mahakoshal tour. Gandhiji entered Mahakoshal in last week of November 1933.Pandit Shukla along with Gandhiji travelled for over 600 miles in Chhattisgarh, Seoni, Chhindwara, Betul, Jabalpur,Sagar and Balaghat.
While imprisoned Pandit Shukla was again elected president of Raipur District Council on 24 October 1930. Angered on this the State Government on 19 October 1930 by an extraordinary gazette took over the Raipur District Council for three years. The Government stopped all the patriotic programmes run by the District Council under Pandit Shukla. On 8 March 1934 the Council's work was again handed over to Pandit Shukla. He got all the programmes of the Council restarted which were closed by the Government.
To infuse national awakening in the State Pandit Shukla started a Weekly Hindi Magazine Mahakoshal from Nagpur in 1935. Next year this was shifted to Raipur from where it is now published as a prominent Daily.
With the emphasis of Congress on encouraging the Legislature and the Executive, Pandit Shukla decided to consolidate the Raipur District Council. On 9th, 10th and 11 December 1935 the Council organised a conference which was inaugurated by Pandit Makhan Lal Chaturvedi and the closing session was addressed by the Congress President Babu Rajendra Prasad. In the conference organised by the District Council next year on 15 December 1936, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was the special invitee. Welcoming him Pandit shukla said,"The State Government is not liking the independent working of the Council and is trying to bring in such lagislation so as to jeoperdise the freedom and effectiveness of such institutions in the State, but very soon the public of the State will give an appropriate reply to the British Rulers".Later when Pandit Shukla joined the State Cabinet as Education & Agriculture Minister he resigned from the Raipur District Council and a devout Congressman of Raipur Mahant Laxmi Narayan Das took over the presidentship of the Council.
The British authorities had formed the Central Provinces and Berar in 1861 by uniting the former State of Nagpur with the Territory of Saugor-Nerbudda. In so doing they brought together the Hindi and Marathi speaking people of the former and the Hindi speaking people of the latter. The two linguistic regions which comprised the province had distinctive societies, and developed in course of time differing economies. The annexation of the Marathi territory of Berar to the Central Provinces in 1902 added to these complexities. Berar was an area of surplus revenues, and the utilisation of these revenues in the Central Provinces after 1902 aroused strong opposition from the politicians of Berar. In 1919 Marathi Congressman dominated provincial politics from the capital city of Nagpur. But subsequently they started dividing. The non-Brahmins and Harijans formed parties in opposition to the Congress, and the Congress itself got divided into rival groups of Congressman and Tilkaites. The leader of the Gandhian faction in the Marathi Congress until 1925 was the Marwari millionaire, Jamnalal Bajaj. The Maharashtrian Brahmin community which led the Marathi Congress since 1900 regarded Lokmanya Tilak as their political guru and, for reasons of ideology, as from their unwillingness to surrender political power, they resented Gandhiji’s attempt to interfere in the politics of their region. Gandhiji overcame this difficulty by appointing Bajaj as his first lieutenant in the Marathi region. Bajaj used his social position and financial resources but by 1925 a forthright and ambitious Moreshwar Abhyankar, a barrister in Nagpur succeeded him as leader of the Gandhian Congress.
In 1935 after the Congress had agreed to enter the Council the elections for 'Kendriya Dhara Sabha' took place. In the elections Congress emerged as the largest single organisation. Congress had won all over Mahakoshal, Nagpur and Vidarbh. Soon in 1936 the elections for 'Prantiya Dhara Sabha' also took place. Like other six States, Central Provinces & Berar won with overwhelming and decisive victory for the Congress.
Using his social and economic resources Pt. Shukla won widespread support for the Congress among the urban middle, landed and labouring classes as the party pledged to replace British rule with a government that would serve the interests of all. As a result, the leaders of the Congress won an overwhelming majority of Hindi seats at the elections, and in so doing laid strong claims to help form a government under the new constitution. In the meeting of the Legislative Council Congress Party held on 14 July 1937 Pandit Shukla proposed the name of Dr. Narayan Bhaskar Khare to be the leader of the party in the Council, which was accepted. Pandit Shukla, Pt. Dwarika Prasad Mishra, Sh. Ram Rao Deshmukh, Sh. Purushottam Balwant Gole, Sh. Durga Shankar Mehta, Barrister Mohd. Yusuf Sharif were members of the Cabinet.
Pt. Shukla on taking charge of the Education Ministry proposed a new programme to bring in basic changes in the method of education. He believed that during the 150 years of the British Rule the Government had deliberately adopted such methods as to get very few educated. He believed that such an education system which was not imparting self-reliance, building moral character and professionalism was of no use and has to be effectively changed. With the view that for prosperity of democracy, education of masses with emphasis on self-reliance has to be done, he introduced 'Vidya-Mandir' education programme. Mahatma Gandhi found that his own principles of basic education are embedded in 'Vidya-Mandir' education plan. Pt. Shukla appointed a committee under the presidentship of Sh. Zakir Hussain of Jamia Milia to prepare the curriculum for Vidya-Mandir scheme. Spinning, Weaving,Agriculture, Social Studies, General Science, Mathematics, Geography, Mother-Tongue, Music and Drawing were introduced for primary education. Mahatma Gandhi gave his blessings for success of the programme.
The Cabinet of Dr. Khare lacked unity from the beginning. Dr. Khare was invariably surrounded by outsiders rather than his own cabinet colleagues. The internal bickering within the cabinet rose so high that the Central Parliamentary Board had to intervene. On 24 May 1938 the Congress members of the State Legislative Assembly were invited at Pachmarhi. The chief of the Congress Parliamentary Board Sardar Patel, Moulana Azad and Sh. Jamna Lal Bajaj had come to Pachmarhi to find a solution of this problem. The members of the High Command after hearing both the factions got them to agree on a compromise formula, but Dr. Khare despite the advice of Babu Rajendra Prasad insisted on resignation of three ministers from Mahakoshal. Pt. Shukla, Pt. Mishra and Sh Mehta refused to submit their resignations without such instructions from Congress High Command. On 20 July 1938 Dr. Khare asked the British Governor of the State to dismiss these three Ministers or else he said to the Governor, "I am submitting my resignation".The British Governor had no hesitation in dismissing the three Ministers.
This act of Dr. Khare was not taken kindly by the High Command and after taking disciplinary action on him, he was asked to resign. To review the situation a meeting of Congress High Command was held in Wardha on 21 to 23 July under the Presidentship of Subhas Chandra Bose. Moulana Azad, Sardar Patel and Babu Rajendra Prasad all were of the view that Dr. Khare should resign for the wrong he had done.
The Congress Legislative Assembly Members met at Wardha on 26 July under the Congress President Subhas Chandra Bose and elected Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla as their leader.
Being elected leader of the Congress Party in the Legislative Assembly, Pt. Shukla was invited by the Governor to form his Government. Pt. Dwarika Prasad Mishra, Pt. Durga Shankar Mehta, Sambhaji Rao Gokhle, Chhagan Lal Bharuka were members of his Cabinet. From August 1938 to November 1939 this Cabinet remained in office. During this period of one year at the time of Haripura Congress Adhivation, Pt. Shukla had suggested Tripuri ( Jabalpur ) as the next venue of Congress Adhivation under the Presidentship of Subhas Chandra Bose. Tripuri Congress proceeded under quite unusual circumstances. Mahatma Gandhi had announced Pattabhi Sitaramaya as his nominee but Subhas Chandra Bose stood against him and won the Presidentship under all odds. Gandhiji had taken up fast-un-to-death at Rajkot, therefore he couldn't come to Tripuri. Subhas Chandra Bose was in a high fever. A resolution by Pt. Panth when moved in Congress Working Committee, it was felt that the majority in the Working Committee has faith in Mahatma Gandhi. Under these unusual circumstances Subhas Chandra Bose decided to resign from the Presidentship and Babu Rajendra Prasad came in as a trouble-shooter and assumed charge of interim President of the Congress.
So far there was no popular Congress minded English daily news paper published in the Central Provinces and Berar. With this in view Pandit Shukla formed a Limited Company and started " Nagpur Times" to propagate Congress views of national importance. This paper had to later face ire of the Government in subsequent years of Andolan. The paper was severely penalised several times and had to face difficult financial situation, but undauntingly it maintained its propagation of national policy of Congress.
On 1 September 1939 Germany declared war on Poland. Within two days this war took shape of World War. Without taking the opinion of Indian Constituent Assembly or Legislative Assemblies of the States the then British Viceroy enjoined India in the World War. Congress opposed this and like other Congress ruled states the Cabinet in CP & Berar submitted its resignation in November 1939 and reverted to the task of opposing the War.
Until independence the locus of power in the Indian National Congress clearly rested with the Congress President and his Working Committee. With the formation of the Interim Government, however, the Congress was faced with the critical problem of determining how the Congress movement could be adopted to its dual role in the new republic. Specifically what was to be the relation between the Congress in its new function as ruling party and the Congress in its other function as mass organisation ? In the process of evolving a workable relationship between the two, the Congress was confronted by demands from the mass movement for the direct control of the parliamentary leadership and the government policy-making process.
In 1946 Nehru was elected President of the Congress. One month later, as the leader of the party, he was asked by the Viceroy to form an Interim Government. The decision to join the Interim Government placed upon the Congress the responsibility of working out its policy in regard to certain fundamental issues. What should be the relationship between the Congress organisation and the new Government?More specifically, should Nehru continue as Congress President as well as the leader of the Interim Government, or should the two roles be separately allotted? If separate, what was to be the relationship between the leader of the Interim Government and the Congress President ?
All these problems were discussed by the Congress Working Committee at a meeting late in August on the eve of the assumption of power by the Interim Government. Pandit Shukla attended the meeting The majority agreed that Nehru, as leader of the Interim Government, should resign from the Congress presidency.
Architect of Madhya Pradesh
Pandit Shukla was a great administrator.He was one of the first nationalist leaders to realise the sufferings of the people in the states ruled by Indian Princes.In July 1946,Pandit Shukla pointedly observed that no princely state could prevail militarily against the army of independent India.Sardar Patel was overwhelmed to see smooth merger of princely states with the Indian Union in CP & Berar. During his Chief Ministership there was an all round development of Madhya Pradesh.The introduction of various schemes, establishment of industries, commissioning of Bhilai Steel Plant and starting of many Universities were amongst the great achievements.The state of Madhya Pradesh remained fully peaceful during his regime.Shuklaji had played the leading role in the merger of states, particularly the merger of Hyderabad into the Republic which Vallabh Bhai Patel appreciated whole heartedly. In spite of being very religious minded, he was very liberal to other religions.He laid special emphasis on the upliftment of women.He was a staunch opponent of illiteracy, purdah and dowry system.
He died on 31 December 1956, at the age of eighty at New Delhi and was survived by his wife, six sons (Pt. Ambika Charan Shukla, Pt. Bhagwati Charan Shukla, Pt. Ishwari Charan Shukla, Pt. Girijia Charan Shukla, Pt. Shyama Charan Shukla, and Pt. Vidya Charan Shukla) and two daughters.Pandit Shukla dominated the Indian political scene, not only before the ten years of his Premier and Chief Ministership, but for decades after his passing away.Ravishankar Shukla has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest Indians.
- Shyama Charan Shukla elder son and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh
- Vidya Charan Shukla his son and prominent Indian politician.
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