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Bajaj,Jamnalal (1889-1942)

Jamnalal was born on November 4, 1889, at Kasi-Ka-Bas village in Jaipur State. His father Kaniram was a poor man. His mother’s name was Brindibai. Jamnala’s father Kaniram had a distant but a millionaire relation named Seth Bachhraj of Wardha. He had a widowed daughter-in-law who had no issue. Seth Bachhraj accompanied by his wife Sadibai once visited Kaniram’s poor house when they were in search of a suitable child for adoption in the family.

Sadibai attracted by Jamnalal asked Birdibai to allow her to adopt the child as her son. With utmost reluctance Jamnalal was allowed to go to Seth Bachhraj as his adopted son at the age of four. Kaniram stoutly resisted Seth Bachhraj’s offer to compensate him for this adoption and asked him to sink a well for the village in lieu of this gesture.

Jamnalal was married at the age of 13 to Janakidevi, daughter of Seth Girdharilal Jijodia of Jaora in Indore State. Seth Girdharilal was a wealthy businessman of Jaora. Jankidevi was then only nine years old. The marriage was typical case of child marriage, so common in those days.

From 1896, when Jamnalal was seven, he was sent to school. He picked up the three R’s and acquired nodding acquaintance with the English language. His education was through the medium of Marathi, but he achieved workable mastery over Gujrati, Hindi and English as he grew in years.

Jamnalal felt attracted to a number of eminent leaders in public life. He met Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. He spent some time with Rabindranath Tagore. He came in contact with Lokmanya Tilak whose journal, the Kesari, he had been reading since childhood. He appreciated the assertive tone of Tilak’s writings. But Jamnalal’s spiritual urge for a guide and Guru could only be slaked by Gandhiji.

At an early age of 17 Jamnalal Bajaj renounced his wealth which he had inherited from Seth Bachhraj as his adopted son. After the death of Seth Bachhraj, Jamnalal always felt that he had no moral right to enjoy the wealth he had once renounced. In 1908 Jamnalal became an Honorary Magistrate. Ten years later he was given the title of Rai Bahadur. In 1915 he met Gandhiji and felt that he had at last found his spiritual guide. Gandhiji was also attracted to this earnest young man. So the contacts grew closer and closer.

In 1920 Jamnalal took a momentous decision which was to change the whole course of his life. He decided to request Gandhiji to treat him as his ‘fifth son’. Gandhiji was first surprised at this strange request, but he gladly agreed to it.

In 1920 Jamnalal Bajaj was unanimously elected as Chairman of the Reception Committee of the Nagpur Session of the Indian National Congress. He functioned as the Treasurer of the Indian National Congress practically throughout his life. In 1921 he joined the Non-Cooperation movement and founded the Satyagraha Ashram at Wardha under the guidance of Acharya Vinoba Bhave. In this very year he surrendered the title of Rai Bahadur in pursuance of a resolution passed by the Congress.

In 1923 Jamnalal Bajaj led the National Flag Satyagraha at Nagpur and was sentenced to 18 month’s imprisonment. In 1924 he founded the Gandhi Seva Sangh. In the same year he was elected the President of the Nagpur Pradesh Congress Committee and Treasurer of the Charkha Sangh in 1925. He also founded the Sasta Sahitya Mandal,

which has its Head Office now in Delhi. It publishes national but cheap books in Hindi.

Jamnalal Bajaj also carried on his noble work for the upliftment of the Harijans. He became the Secretary of the Anti-untouchability Committee of the Indian National Congress and conduted incessant propoganda it favour of Temple Entry. In 1928 he threw open his own Lakshminarayan Temple at Wardha to the Harijans. In 1930 he was elected Leader of the Salt Satyagraha Camp at Vile Parle, Bombay.

In 1936 Jamnalal Bajaj gave Segaon village as a gift to Gandhiji who named it ‘ Sevagram ‘ and founded his Ashram there. In 1938 he was elected President of the Jaipur State Praja Mandal. In 1939 he was interned in Jaipur in consequence of the Satyagraha campaign in the State for democratic rights. In 1941 he was arrested for anti-war propaganda during Individual Civil Disobedience Movement. In 1941 he founded the Goseva Sangha at Wardha for the service of the cows.

On February 11, 1942 Jamnalal Bajaj died all of a sudden on account of hemorrhage due to high blood pressure. Mahatma Gandhi in his article published in the Harijan after the death of Jamnalal Bajaj wrote: “ Never was a mortal blessed with a ‘son’ like him…There is hardly any activity of mine in which I did not receive his full-hearted co-operation and in which it did not prove to be of the greatest value.”

Jamnalal Bajaj was a born ascetic. Having come from a society in which women were denied even ordinary rights or fair treatment, Jamnalal made it his life’s mission to provide good education for women.

He hated the idea of untouchablity and made a fervent appeal to the Hindus to take the unfortunate Harijan brethren into their fold and befriend them in all humility as a matter of penance for all their sins of omission and commission.

Jamnalal’s religious attitude was summed up very aptly by Acharya Kakasaheb Kalelkar when he stated that “Jamnalal had outgrown the constraints of sect and community and creed.”

As regards education, Jamnalal Bajaj had faith in the cult of national education. He strongly supported the scheme of Basic education advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.

Jamnalal’s ideas about nationalism were evident right from his early age. He was anxious for the liberation of the Motherland from foreign domination, as he was for the liberation of his own soul from the shackles of “Maya’ Jamnalal Bajaj actively supported Gandhji’s movements for the attainment of Swaraj.

In respect of economic problems, Jamnalal Bajaj felt that Swaraj was to be achieved through Khadi and village industries. He believed with Gandhiji that the economic salvation of the country could be achieved only through the Charkha and the cottage industries by providing full employment to the masses.

Jamnalal’s mode of life was devoid of all ostentations in spite of his being brought up in a wealthy family.

Jamnalal Bajaj was, according to Mahatma Gandhi, ‘a fisher of men’ who trained thousand of workers in the country for diverse activities initiated by the Father of the Nation. Paying a tribute to Jamnalalji, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel observed; “Bapu lost a true son, Jankidevi and the family a true shelter, the country loyal servant, the Congress a stately pillar, and many institutions their true patron.”

Author : Shriman Narayan