Updated: March 16, 2015 9:35:59 am
Narayan Desai, who spread thoughts and ideas of Mahatma Gandhi through his series of “Gandhi Katha”, passed away early on Sunday at Vedchhi in Gujarat’s Tapi district. He was 90.
Son of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal secretary Mahadevbhai Desai, Narayan Desai served as the Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth. Due to his prolonged illness, he had quit the post early this month. He is survived by daughter Sanghamitra and sons Nachiketa and Aflatoon.
His last rites were performed on the banks of Tapi at Vedchhi on Sunday afternoon. He was given a guard of honour.
Born in Valsad in 1924, Desai spent his childhood in Mahatma Gandhi’s company and imbibed his values. Later, he wrote a four-volume biography of Gandhi in Gujarati — Maru Jivan Ej Mari Vani (My Life Is My Message) — to pay tribute to his father.
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“Narayan Bhai Desai will be remembered as a scholarly personality who brought Gandhi ji closer to the masses. Sad to hear of his demise. RIP (sic),” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Twitter message. Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel said also expressed her profound grief over Desai’s death.
In 2004, Desai began spreading Gandhian ideology by holding “Gandhi Katha” in different parts of the country and also abroad. His “Katha” has now been compiled into a book. Besides Gandhi Ashram on the banks of Sabarmati river, he lived at Sevagram near Wardha in Maharashtra. After his marriage to Uttara Chaudhury, daughter of freedom fighters Nabakrushna Chaudhury and Malatidevi Chaudhury, Desai moved to Vedchhi, a tribal village (60 km from Surat) in south Gujarat, to work as teacher along with his wife at Nai Taleem school.
After coming in contact with Vinoba Bhave, who had launched Bhoodan movement, Desai extensively travelled across Gujarat on foot, collecting land from the rich and distributing the same among the landless villagers. He later started the mouthpiece of Bhoodan movement, Bhoomiputra (Son of the Soil), and remained its editor till 1959.
Desai later joined the Akhil Bharatiya Shanti Sena Mandal (Indian Peace Brigade), headed by Jayaprakash Narayan. As the general secretary of the Shanti Sena, he recruited and trained peace volunteers throughout the country.
He was also instrumental in the setting up of Peace Brigades International and was elected as the chairman of the War Resisters’ International. He along with a Pakistani peace group were awarded the UNESCO prize for International Peace.
He was active in the campaign against the imposition of emergency and brought out a magazine defying the censorship laws. As a close associate of JP, he played an important role in the formation of Janata Party, and helped it arrive at a consensus with associating parties on the name of Morarji Desai as Prime Minister.
He later set up the Institute for Total Revolution at Vedchhi to impart training in non-violence and Gandhian way of life.
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