I don’t know if many people have heard of a man from Uttarakhand called Paripurnanand Pinauli. I certainly had not. One morning, he came to my office to invite me to join hands with him and his friends to resurrect the memory of one of the forgotten heroes of the freedom movement and the Mahatma’s close friend, Abbas Tyabji. Pinauli, a freedom fighter and former MP, with some friends including Salman Khurshid, Minister of State for Minority Affairs, had located the grave of Tyabji in Mussoorie, where it lay in ruins. They had vowed to restore it and Southwood, Tyabji’s home, where Gandhi, Nehru and Azad often visited.
As a boy, Tyabji was sent to Britain for his education. He returned to practise at the Baroda High Court and rose to become its Chief Justice. He was known and respected for his impartiality while dealing with cases. In 1919, after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The Indian National Congress appointed him the chairman of a fact-finding committee. He cross-examined hundreds of witnesses and victims and their depositions made him cut off all links with Western elitism and become a lifelong comrade of Gandhi.
When Gandhi was arrested in Dandi, Tyabji was given the charge of the next phase of the Salt Satyagraha. On May 7, 1930, he launched the Dharasna Satyagraha. Gandhi wrote in his autobiography that it was under Tyabji’s influence that Gujarat accepted the non-cooperation movement even before the Congress did.
The most striking photograph of Tyabji is in the book Sulaimanis: Lives less Ordinary by Zafar Saifullah, where he is sitting with friends under a tree and playing the sitar. It is this much-splendoured personality that is resurrected by the Uttarakhand Freedom Fighters’ Association and Abbas Tyabji Trust. At a time when the polarisation between Hindus and Muslims is widening, we should join Pinauli and Khurshid in their endeavours to fulfil the dream of resurrecting the vision of Tyabji.
Syeda Hameed is a writer and Member, Planning Commission. The views expressed by the author are personal