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A centenarian freedom fighter who declined Nehru?s offers

Dr Rai Ram Charan Agrawal, who celebrated his 100th birthday on December 13, 2005, is still hale and hearty and recalls the events and incidents that took place even several decades back without any difficulty.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2006 00:19 IST

Dr Rai Ram Charan Agrawal, who celebrated his 100th birthday on December 13, 2005, is still hale and hearty and recalls the events and incidents that took place even several decades back without any difficulty.

He took an active part in the freedom movement of the country and remained in prison for several months. He could attend his daughter's marriage only after he was released on parole for just one week. His son Rai Prem Prakash, who was a two-year-old child in 1942, was taken to Naini jail in one of the food baskets, to facilitate a meeting with his father.

Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Agrawal was jailed when the Quit India Movement was at its peak in 1942. His offence was unique. He had given shelter to Amir Raza, who was deputy collector and had refused to order firing on the agitating Hindus and was subsequently dismissed from his job.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (who was popularly known as Frontier Gandhi), Motilal Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Dr S Radhakrishnan, Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and many others were among those legendary leaders, who visited his famous Badi Kothi residence in Daraganj area. Besides, Pandit Kamlapati Tripathi and HN Bahuguna were his personal friends.

He was fond of inviting friends and dignitaries and throwing party. Jawaharlal Nehru was specially instructed by his father to take his sisters Vijai Laxmi Pandit and Krishna Hutheesingh to Agrawal's residence for enjoying vegetarian dishes.

But, this never means that he liked the company of dignitaries only. He has also helped thousands of people in getting educated.

Renowned poet Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala' used to frequently visit his garden to write poems and litterateur Rahul Sankrityayan stayed with him for more than a year to complete his book. Besides, Dr Ram Kumar Verma, his classmate in Allahabad University, and Mahadevi Verma also visited him regularly.

When asked about his association with Pandit Nehru, he recalled: Panditji was a straight forward person. Once I met him after the Independence, he offered membership of Rajya Sabha to me. But, I politely refused his offer. Then he was quick to extend several other offers, including the post of ambassador. However, I urged him not to bind me with any such responsibility. This was enough to annoy him and he retorted: "You don't want to leave UP, you don't want to leave Allahabad and you don't want to leave Daraganj."

When asked as to how he participated in the freedom movement while he was a zamindar and used to realise revenue from the farmers, he said: Despite being the biggest zamindar of eastern UP, my family was very popular among farmers.

Many freedom fighters had even approached the farmers and asked them to stop paying taxes to us but they said they won't do so because they were feeling protected by the zamindar.

"Lal Bahadur Shastri and Muzaffar Hussain came to me and congratulated me for taking care of the farmers," he added. "Shastriji had even visited my residence when he was Prime Minister. Many people, including Vijai Laxmi Pandit and Indira Gandhi, participated in that dinner," he recalls.

Agrawal narrated an interesting story about Babu Jagjivan Ram, former Deputy Prime Minister. "I had invited him for dinner. But my wife Late Vindhyavasini Devi, who was an orthodox woman, did not agree to let her utensils be used for the purpose. But, I was adamant. Anyway, my daughter Madhumalti solved the problem. Madhumalti brought earthen pots from a potter. Besides, banana leaves were also used in the feast.

Agrawal, who still reads newspapers with the help of magnifying glass, is fond of relishing sweets and rich food. His daughter-in-law Annapurna Agrawal says the secret behind his sound health is walking and gardening.