Pandit Malaviya was not merely a great man, great as speaker, Parliamentarian, educationist and nationalist, he was also a great tradition of a pure, exclusive and rigid culture to fight foreign domination, a cultural othodox in its social bearings, tolerant of revoultionary views but not of revolutionary action. (which is almost an adequate definition of the moderate consitutionalism of the twenties when Malaviya was so much before the public eye), broadminded in planning social reforms, but hesitant even reluctant in the actual application of them pinning its political faith to the liberalism of Burke and Morley and critical of the novel and extraordinary effective political experiment of Mahatma Gandhi, accepting Western democracy creed of an earlier generation but boggling at their later and logical developments.
Pandit Malaviya’s greatness in contradiction
Nothing is said here in disparagement of this great man he was great because of this contradiction in him. He wanted to the last to see if the culture he was born in and of which, he was an eloquent exponent could not render service in its integrity in the stormy arena of the Indian political and social revolution. For during the last 25 years, ever since the advent of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian politics, what had been happening in India has all the features of a revolution. Now it was at once Malaviya’s error and glory to treat it as a reformer movement-freedom broadening down from precedent to precedent.
The Moderates and Liberals made up their mind quickly enough they left the Congress and formed their own debating meet, the Liberal Conference. But Malaviya was pulled in different ways. He was the one great Indian leader who presided over the annual session of both the National Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha and whom the British Government, his Congress leadership not with standing, always treated as a slightly misguided Liberal constitutionalist (they arrested his a number of times but detained him for long only once.) It is good to remember that not once but thrice he was elected President of the Congress (1909, 1918 and 1933), and that he was also the President of the Hindu Mahasabha for an equal number of times (1923, 1924 and 1936). And when in the troubled days of the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1920, he resigned from the Central Legislative Assembly, he did not do so as a Congress man obeying the party mandate for he stayed on while the others were out, made a record speech lasting for two hours and a half on a rather unimportant taxation measures putting into the Parliament his love learnt over a life time, and went out of the Assembly Chamber never to return. There were widespread regrets in official circles-one Central administrator even suggesting that left to him self Panditji would never have left the Legislature, but it was the sinister influence of one of his industrialist friends which determined his course of action.
A ray sanctity, purity and fineness in him
Indeed Malaviya always enjoyed a peculiar privilege-he was always accepted every where even when the constituency of political and social conduct apparently demanded otherwise. A signatory to the Poona-Pact-an unsatisfactory political agreement, hastily drawn up under the threat of a great impending calamity-Malaviya was elected President of the Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha; a champion of Hinduism and Hindu rights, during the First Round Table Conference when most of the Congress leaders were in prison. Malaviya with the help of Dr. Ansari and other nearly succeeded in devising a communal settlement in India, bypassing the deliberations at St. James’ Palace in London. The doors of the Congress were always open to him his advice was always sought by the Mahatma who gave Malaviya the status of an elder. Yet Madan Mohan Malaviya was always more than a Congressman (or less than one, as one looked at it). One remembers an occasion at Delhi railway platform when the hand some, frail turbaned old Pandit was going through a crowd to board the train. Everybody who saw him at once bowed-casual passengers, English officials, policemen, and even railway porters. There was something in him, a ray of sanctity, a rare purity and fineness which made people admire even when they did not believe.
Pandit Malaviya’s uniqueness
For there were several things about the Pandit which caused surprise to people not used to his way to thinking. To call on him on a winter morning at the residence of the Vice-Chancellor of the Hindu University, to be sent for, and to find him scantily clad and preparing his meagre meal in one corner of the courtyard with his own hands (not all the members of the family were allowed to do it for him) amazed one. And the KAYAKALPA experiment which even Gandhiji admitted made Malaviya look 10 years younger and the effect of which lasted for such a short while that it also produced its peculiar impression. Used to the essential simplicity of the revolutionary mode of thin kind of the last few decades, one was not resilent enough to react these things with the appropriate emotion, but one had a kind of admiration, all the same.
Pandit Malaviya hated Purdah and in his own way, fought untouchability. I must say ‘in his own way,’ for, for a long time it was not quite clear if untouchables were really admitted to the Hindu University until a statement from the then Vice-Chancellor. Dr. Radhakrishnan, put the matter beyond all doubt. And the Pandit. was not quite happy over the Poona Pact-for, did he not write to Mahatma Gandhi a letter immediately after, referring to the latter’s “pride of asceticism”?
So young India must at last make it a choice Will it be Malaviya or Jawaharlal Nehru ? For, even Gandhiji, so great, so persuasive in his influence today, can only be a splendid episode. The future does not perhaps, belong even to him.