End of an era: Tribute
Surendra Mohan (1926-2010)
BY QURBAN ALI
With the demise of Surendra Mohan on December 18, 2010, India has lost one of the veteran socialist who would always be remembered for his simple life and political integrity.
Surendra Mohan was known for his intellectual honesty, moral uprightness and personal sacrifices. He was one of the founding General Secretaries of the Janata Party in 1977 and played a vital role in its historic victory. He was also spokesman of the Janata Party during 1977, General elections and played a crucial role during the elections and in the formation of the first non-congress government at the centre.
Despite imprisonment during emergency, he declined the job of a Union minister when Morarji Desai-led Janata Party came to power. He preferred to remain a worker of the party.
He died at time when he was planning to revive his old Socialist Party and drafted its Policy statement. The foundation Conference of the proposed party was slated to be on 17th May 2011.
Mohan was one of the founding General Secretaries of the Janata Party in 1977 and played a vital role in its historic victory. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha for a term from 1978-84. He remained with the Janata Party, Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular) and was finally the President of the recently formed Socialist Janata Party.
His associates and friends describe him as a "directory of Socialists" in India as well as as the ‘encyclopedia of socialist movement’. He had good connections with socialists in other countries and had personal rapport with Gandhians, civil society movements and intellectuals. He was an ideal socialist. Till the end he struggled for the deprived and the downtrodden. He made it a point to come to all programmes, big and small, for the causes he believed in. He was a fighter of socialist ideals for an egalitarian and just society.
Surendra Mohan was born in Ambala (United Punjab) on December 4, 1926.His romance with socialist movement started in 1942 during Quit India Movement when he was a student of eleventh standard at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) when he heard the names of Jayprakash Narayan and Dr Ramanohar Lohia and their historic role during Quit India Movement. But his first contact with the leaders of Congress Socialist Party (CSP) was in early 1946 when senior CSP leader Munshi Ahmed Din visited the DAV College Jullundar where he was a final year student of B.Sc and was working as General Secretary of the district unit of the Punjab Student Congress. In May 1946, Sardar Gurbaksh Singh, an organizer of Punjab CSP visited Ambala a CSP unit was formed at Ambala and Surendra Mohan was elected its district secretary.After the formation of Socialist Party in 1948, he became whole timer of the party at his native place Ambala and later became the district General Secretary of the party. In June 1950 he participated in a Satyagrah at Karehra village near Yamunangar against evictions of agricultural workers and was arrested and awarded two and half years of rigorous imprisonment. After the intervention by Jayprakash Narayan and Prof. Tilak Raj Chaddha and meeting with the then Punjab Chief Minister Gopi Chand Bhargava, he was released after seven months imprisonment by the end of January 1951. In July 1952 he was the Chairman of the reception committee of the State conference of the Punjab Socialist Party held at Ropar (now Roop Nagar) and inaugurated by Dr Rammanohar Lohia.For higher education he went to Dehradoon in October 1952, from where he obtained masters degree in sociology. In 1955 he joined Kashi Vidyapeeth as a lecturer of Sociology for two years and started writing for the Janata. In June 1958 Prem Bhasin the then joint Secretary of Praja Socialist Party (PSP), requested him to join Central office of the party to be a full-time political worker as organizer of the Samajwadi Yuwak Sabha. Surendra Mohan resigned from Kashi Vidyapeeth and after attending PSP’s National Conference at Pune in 1958 he joined the PSP’s central office in New Delhi. He proved his mettle in the Praja Socialist Party, Samyukta Socialist Party and Socialist Party and rose to become first its Joint Secretary, 1965-71 and later the General Secretary of the Socialist Party from 1972-77.
A political leader who believed in the power of ideas, Surendra Mohan was a prolific writer and regular columnist in many Hindi and English newspapers. He was also the Editor of the socialist journal Janata. Four collections of his essays in Hindi were published besides three books authored by him. He was associated with Peoples Union for Civil Liberties ever since its foundation and was very active in promoting human rights. During the last three decades of his life, he spent much of his energy with youth, social movements and people’s organizations like the National Alliance for Peoples Movements, Socialist Front, Rashtra Seva Dal. An internationalist at heart, he was active with Socialist International and supported Nepal’s democratic struggle. So committed was he to the cause of socialism that for several years he did not pay attention to getting married. One day his worried mother asked him when he would marry. Finally he married Manju Mohan in 1974. He was 85 and is survived by his wife, Ms Manju Mohan, a son and a daughter
A friend of all the pro-people initiatives in the country, he would be missed by a wide range of followers and admirers across the political spectrum, socialist workers, pro-people intellectuals and peoples movements across the country.
(Qurban Ali is a broadcast journalist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)