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Purushottam Das Tandon

Purushottam Das Tandon

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Purushottam Das Tandon पुरुषोत्तम दास टंडन (August 1, 1882 – July 1, 1962), was a freedom fighter from Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

 in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, of Punjabi
Punjabi people
The Punjabi people , ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ), also Panjabi people, are an Indo-Aryan group from South Asia. They are the second largest of the many ethnic groups in South Asia. They originate in the Punjab region, which has been been the location of some of the oldest civilizations in the world including, the...

 Khatri
Khatri
Khatri is a caste from the northern Indian subcontinent. Khatris in India are mostly from Punjab, region but later they migrated to regions like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu, Uttarkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber...

descent. He is widely remembered for his efforts in achieving the Official Language of India status for Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

. He was customarily given the title Rajarshi
Rajarshi
Rajarshi or Rajarishi is, in Hinduism and Hindu mythology, a royal saint and rishi.-Order:A Rajarshi is a king who turned into a royal sage, or Rajarshi...

(Etymology: Raja + Rishi = Royal Saint). He was awarded the Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna is the Republic of India's highest civilian award, awarded for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order." Unlike knights, holders of the Bharat Ratna...

, India's highest civilian award, in the year 1961.

Early life


Purushottam Das Tandon was born at Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

. After obtaining a degree in law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 and an MA
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 in history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, he started practising in 1906 and joined the bar of Allahabad High Court
High Courts of India
India's unitary judicial system is made up of the Supreme Court of India at the national level, for the entire country and the 21 High Courts at the State level. These courts have jurisdiction over a state, a union territory or a group of states and union territories...

 in 1908 as a junior to Tej Bahadur Sapru. He gave up practise in 1921 to concentrate on public activities.

Freedom struggle


He was a member of Congress Party
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

 since his student days in 1899. In 1906, he represented Allahabad in the AICC
All India Congress Committee
The All India Congress Committee is the Presidium or central decision-making assembly of the Indian National Congress Party. It is composed of members elected from State-level Pradesh Congress Committees and can have as many as a thousand members...

. He was associated with the Congress Party committee that studied the Jallianwala Bagh incident in 1919. He was also a part of the Lok Sevak Sangh. In the 1920s and 1930s he was arrested for participating in the Non-Cooperation movement
Non-cooperation movement
The non-cooperation movement was a significant phase of the Indian struggle for freedom from British rule which lasted for years. This movement, which lasted from September 1920 to February 1922 and was led by Mohandas Gandhi, and supported by the Indian National Congress. It aimed to resist...

 and Salt Satyagraha
Salt Satyagraha
The Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagrahah began with the Dandi March on March 12, 1930, and was an important part of the Indian independence movement. It was a campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly in colonial India, and triggered the wider...

 respectively. He and Nehru were among the people arrested even before Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

 returned from the Round Table Conference at London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1931. He was known for his efforts in farmers’ movements and he served as the President, Bihar
Bihar
Bihar is a state in eastern India. It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at and 3rd largest by population. Almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India....

 Provincial Kisan Sabha in 1934. He worked as the Speaker
Speaker (politics)
The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the...

 of the Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly
Legislative Assembly is the name given in some countries to either a legislature, or to one of its branch.The name is used by a number of member-states of the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as a number of Latin American countries....

 of the present-day Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

 for a period of 13 years, from July 31, 1937 to August 10, 1950. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India
Constituent Assembly of India
The Constituent Assembly of India was elected to write the Constitution of India, and following independence served as the nation's first Parliament.-Nature of the Assembly:...

 in 1946.

Post-Independence


He tried for the position of the President of the Congress Party unsuccessfully against Pattabhi Sitaramayya in 1948 but contested successfully against Acharya Kriplani in the controversial and difficult 1950 election to head the Nagpur
Nagpur
Nāgpur is a city and winter capital of the state of Maharashtra, the largest city in central India and third largest city in Maharashtra after Mumbai and Pune...

 session. He was elected to the Lok Sabha
Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha or House of the People is the lower house of the Parliament of India. Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by direct election under universal adult suffrage. As of 2009, there have been fifteen Lok Sabhas elected by the people of India...

 in 1952 and the Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament of India. Rajya means "state," and Sabha means "assembly hall" in Sanskrit. Membership is limited to 250 members, 12 of whom are chosen by the President of India for their expertise in specific fields of art, literature,...

 in 1956. He retired from active public life after that due to indifferent health. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna is the Republic of India's highest civilian award, awarded for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order." Unlike knights, holders of the Bharat Ratna...

, India’s highest civilian award in 1961.

Religious tolerance


Several controversies and contradictions abound in the life of Purushottam Das Tandon. While he emphasized the similarities between Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 and Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 cultures, he is regarded to have carried the image of a soft Hindu nationalist leader. He was not as successful as Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

 in summoning religious ideals to aspects of Public Service despite being associated with the moderate Radha Soami
Radha Soami
Radhasoami is a philosophical organization originating in 19th century India, and considered by adherents as a true way to attain God realization...

 cult. He and KM Munshi were among those who strongly opposed religious propagation and conversion of a people of one religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 to another; they strongly argued in the constituent assembly
Constituent Assembly of India
The Constituent Assembly of India was elected to write the Constitution of India, and following independence served as the nation's first Parliament.-Nature of the Assembly:...

 for a condemnation in the constitution
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

 of religious conversion.

Partition of India


On June 12, 1947, the Congress Working Committee
Congress Working Committee
Congress Working Committee is the executive committee of the Congress Party in India, it typically consisting of fifteen members elected from the All India Congress Committee or AICC, and is headed by the Working President....

 met and passed a resolution accepting the Partition of India
Partition of India
The Partition of India was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics that led to the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India on 14 and 15...

. When the same had to be ratified on 14 June by the AICC
All India Congress Committee
The All India Congress Committee is the Presidium or central decision-making assembly of the Indian National Congress Party. It is composed of members elected from State-level Pradesh Congress Committees and can have as many as a thousand members...

, one of the dissenting voices came from Tandon. On that occasion, he said, “Acceptance of the resolution will be an abject surrender to the British and the Muslim League. The admission of the Working Committee was an admission of weakness and the result of a sense of despair. The Partition would not benefit either community – the Hindus in Pakistan and the Muslims in India would both live in fear.” Thus, it can be argued that he was against partition. However, another school of thought believes that his reluctance in sharing power with the Muslim League in the provinces after the 1937 elections with the argument that the Congress Party has achieved majority on its own may have precipitated matters towards partition.

Relations with Nehru


He and Nehru had good relations in the beginning; Nehru who commended the “No Tax” campaign started by Tandon in 1930. In the 1940s the differences between them increased. While Tandon was not perceived to be power-hungry, his relation with Nehru was not on good terms and he was believed to be a protégé of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was an Indian barrister and statesman, one of the leaders of the Indian National Congress and one of the founding fathers of India...

. In 1950, his successful election to the post of Congress President against Acharya Kriplani, who was widely believed to be backed by Nehru, put the latter in a tight spot. The relations between the party and the government suffered during that period. Subsequently, it became a sort of unwritten norm for the leader of the government to also be the party president or at the least, have a pliable candidate in the post.

Advocation of Hindi


While it is acknowledged that he brought Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

 to the forefront through his activities in the Hindi Prachar Sabhas, his exclusion of other alternatives bordered on chauvinism
Chauvinism
Chauvinism, in its original and primary meaning, is an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belief in national superiority and glory. It is an eponym of a possibly fictional French soldier Nicolas Chauvin who was credited with many superhuman feats in the Napoleonic wars.By extension it has come...

 despite Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

 and other leaders advocating the adoption of Hindustani
Hindustani language
Hindi-Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language and the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan. It is also known as Hindustani , and historically, as Hindavi or Rekhta...

, a mixture of Hindi and Urdu as the National language. He insisted on the usage of Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

 script and the rejection of the Urdu script as well as words with Arabic-Persian roots. This led to him being called a political reactionary
Reactionary
The term reactionary refers to viewpoints that seek to return to a previous state in a society. The term is meant to describe one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is "radical". While it has not been generally considered a term of praise it has been adopted as a self-description by...

 by Nehru. His attitude towards the Sanskritisation or making the language more formal was also controversial. His insistence on the usage of numerals of devanagari script over the international system and his debates in the constituent assembly
Constituent Assembly of India
The Constituent Assembly of India was elected to write the Constitution of India, and following independence served as the nation's first Parliament.-Nature of the Assembly:...

 on adoption of Hindi as the official language irked Dravidian
Dravidian languages
The Dravidian language family includes approximately 85 genetically related languages, spoken by about 217 million people. They are mainly spoken in southern India and parts of eastern and central India as well as in northeastern Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, and...

 leaders. His stand became all the more inexplicable since he held a conviction that mother-tongue is the most ideal as a medium of instruction.

Anecdotes

  • A Speaker
    Speaker (politics)
    The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the...

     is supposed to be impartial and hence, speakers generally do not participate in their party meetings. Tandon, however, used to participate actively in his party meetings, as he was clear in his conscience that since he could separate these into different compartments, there should not be any issue. When he was questioned on this stand on the floor of the house, he offered to step down if any of the members of the house lacked confidence in him. No member pressed the issue.

  • As a staunch believer in ahimsa
    Ahimsa
    Ahimsa is a term meaning to do no harm . The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hims – to strike; himsa is injury or harm, a-himsa is the opposite of this, i.e. non harming or nonviolence. It is an important tenet of the Indian religions...

    , he started using rubber
    Rubber
    Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

     chappals to avoid usage of leather.

  • Rajarshi Purushottam Das Tandon was at the time a Member of Parliament. Once, when he went to collect his salary cheque in the Parliament Office, he asked the clerk there to transfer the amount directly to a “Public Service Fund”. The officials over there were pleasantly surprised by his generosity. One of his colleagues standing nearby said: “There are hardly four hundred rupees as your allowance for the whole month. And you are donating the entire amount for social service?” Tandon ji humbly replied – “You see, I have seven sons and all are earning sufficiently to raise their families; each one sends me one hundred rupees per month. I spend only about rupees three to four hundred from that and the rest goes to some philanthropic causes. This allowance as a Member-of-Parliament is again extra for some one like me. Why should I save it for myself or my family? It was because of this natural austerity and detachment from selfish possessions that he was called a “Rajarshi”.

External links