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How Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Was Killed By Blood Thirsty Mob During Hindu-Muslim Riots : An Eyewitness Account

Iqbal Krishna Kapoor, who described the closing scenes, before the enquiry committee, confirmed that Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was thoroughly disgusted with the behaviour of the police on 24 March. The local officials, although unable to restore confidence themselves, were reluctant to take Congressmen’s help to stem the tide of loot and arson. The City Kotwal was equally dilly-dallying. Even when the Superintendent of Police was apprised of the situation, he did not believe in the complaints against the behaviour of the police. The instance of 1927 riots was also cited when Munro, the District Magistrate, had made arrests in the very beginning, but Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi’s pleadings in March 1931 went unheeded.

The same sorry tale was narrated by Taqi Ahmad, Deputy Collector, who accompanied by only a few constables arrived on the spot. By that time the situation had worsened in the Etawah Bazaar. When Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi reached that spot, he discovered that a Hindu, aged about thirty, had protected the lives of about thirty Muslim men, women and children from the madness of the rioters. He was then requested by Kanahya Lal to rush to the rescue of Hindus in certain Muslim quarters. But he stayed back in Etawah Bazaar and gave priority to transportation of victims by lorry to a hospital. Although the Deputy Collector on duty promised to provide armed escort, yet at the time of departure he could not keep his promise. The victims had to be transported without escort.

In the meantime, the crowd from Etawah Bazaar had moved towards Bengali Mohal and perpetrated the most horrible atrocities there. When Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi reached there, he started rescuing victims from the houses that had been set on fire. The rescued Muslims were sent to Misri Bazaar and Ram Narain Bazaar and were looked after. According to an eyewitness account when the rescue lorry had left Naya Chowk, Ganesh Shankar met the rowdies. When he reached Chaubey Gola, after passing through Misri Bazaar and Machchli Bazaar, even the two constables accompanying him returned towards Naya Chowk. He was then left with only a few volunteers. Even the person in the lorry transporting the victims was shot at and injured, so he could not accompany him. Then Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi proceeded all alone to the riot-stricken area.

From all available accounts Madho Prasad was the only eye-witness who was with Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi till the end. According to his record of experiences on 25 March, he had gone to Chaubey Gola by 3 or 4.00 p.m. The place was somewhere near the mosque on the Meston Road, and the conditions in the lane were horrible. A large crowd had gathered on Nai Sarak, and some volunteers requested him to address the crowd. According to the findings of the Congress Enquiry Committee report, “there were two hundred Musalmans, Chunni Khan, Khalifa in the Akhara of Bhakku Pahalwan, and five or seven other prominent Musalmans shook hands with him and embraced him”. Thereafter Chunni Khan and his companions took him away to another trouble spot. From Chaubey Gola they too parted company. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was then left alone to face the mob.

What happened thereafter was narrated before the Enquiry Committee by another eye-witness, Ganpat Singh. According to him, in the act of saving the riot victims, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was trapped in the midst of two crowds, one from Makar Mandi side and the other from Naya Chowk. It was here that some people started attacking him with lathis. At the instance of one Muslim volunteer, he was spared as he had saved hundreds of Muslims. But soon after, another crowd attacked him. When some people started dragging him to a lane, he said that he won’t run away. As he had to die one day, he would prefer to die, while doing his duty. But his noble words had no effect on the assassins who attacked him from all sides. One of his companions died on the spot. Another volunteer was stabbed with a knife. Last came his turn and as the assassin approached him he bowed his head down only to be mowed down. He was then stabbed in the back and another man attacked him with a khanta (an axe). He fell down and the eye-witness fled to Naya Chowk. The time of this fatal incident occurred probably at 4.00 p.m. and the wounded saviour of riot victims lay on the ground unattended. As to when his body was removed to what place on that fatal night, could not be ascertained by the Commissions of Enquiry. Frantic search was made for his body, but the same could not be traced till late in the night. People talked about his having been seen near Chaubey Gola and thereafter his whereabouts were not known. The attack on him at Chaubey Gola was also confirmed by Maulana Khizr Muhammad who deposed before the enquiry committee.

According to his version, Gamesh Shankar Vidyarthi had left his house abruptly at 9.00 a.m. or so, bareheaded and barefooted. He was all the time frantically appealing to Muslims and Hindus to desist from killing one another. His was the lone figure trying to control the frenzied mobs. The two constables and the Deputy Collector had already parted company. Even the last few volunteers disappeared when the fatal moment came. He was thus left alone to die.

Two days later, his dead body was found lying stuffed in a gunny bag in a hospital. Though his face had been badly disfigured, he could be identified due to his white khadi clothes. His identity was further confirmed by the three letters found in his pocket which he had scribbled on the fateful morning of 25 March. According to Dev Vrat Sastri, his distinctive style of hair and the word GAJENDRA engraved on his arm proved decisive in the identification of his dead body. Shiva Narain Misra and Dr. Jawahar Lai Rohatgi took charge of the dead body. With the arrival of Purshottam Das Tandon and Bal Krishna Sharma from Karachi Congress, the cremation could take place at 7.30 a.m. on 29 March 1931. Thus ended the life of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi at the age of only forty-one years.

(This is an excerpt from Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, Publication Division by Dr. M.L Bhargava)

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Saquib Salim

Saquib Salim is a well known historian under whose supervision various museums (Red Fort, National Library, IFFI, Jallianwala Bagh etc.) were researched. To his credit Mr. Salim has more than 400 published articles on history, politics, culture and literature in English and Hindi. Before pursuing his research and masters in modern Indian History from JNU, he was an electrical engineering student at AMU. Presently, he works as a freelance/ independent history researcher, writer and works at www.awazthevoice.in