By Sunil Sonker
Mussoorie, 19 Sep: Historian Gopal Bhardwaj, in a conversation with Garhwal Post, today, in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the foundation stone of a university in Aligarh in the name of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh, said that the Raja had a lot of connection with Mussoorie. After independence, Mahendra Pratap Singh often used to come to the town as he had a kothi near Picture Palace, where his daughter Bhakti Devi used to live. Presently it has become a hotel.
Bhardwaj recalled that Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh (1 December, 1886 – 29 April 1979) was a freedom fighter, journalist, writer, revolutionary, and President of the Provisional Government of India in exile from Kabul in 1915 during the First World War. He served with Government of India and was a social reformer. He also formed the Executive Board of India in Japan during World War II in 1940. He also participated in the Balkan War in the year 1911 along with his fellow students of Mayo College. In honour of his services, the Government of India issued a postage stamp in his honour. He was also known as Aryan Peshwa.
In 1895, Pratap was admitted to the Government High School in Aligarh, but he soon joined the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental Collegiate School, which later became the Aligarh Muslim University. To bring India on par with European countries, Pratap founded the independent indigenous technical institute, Prem Mahavidyalaya, in his palace in Vrindavan in May 1909. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1932. In 1913, he participated in Gandhi’s campaign in South Africa. He traveled around the world to create awareness about the situation in Afghanistan and India.
In 1925, he went on a mission to Tibet and met the Dalai Lama. He was primarily on an informal economic mission on behalf of Afghanistan, but he also wanted to expose British brutalities in India.
He was Involved in the Swadeshi movement, decided to promote small industries with indigenous goods and local artisans. He was very much against social evils, especially untouchability. To put an end to this evil, he had a meal with a ‘Tamta’ family from Almora in 1911 and a ‘Mehtar’ family from Agra in 1912. He started a movement to burn foreign-made clothes in his state. On 20 December 1914, at the age of 28, Pratap left India for the third time with a desire to free India from the clutches of British colonial rule by seeking outside support.
During World War I in 1915 (his 28th birthday), Pratap established India’s first provisional government in Kabul, Afghanistan, with himself as president, Maulvi Barkatullah Pradhan as Minister, and Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi as Home Minister, declaring Jihad on the British. Anti-British forces supported his movement, but because of his apparent loyalty to the British, the Amir kept delaying the campaign to overthrow British rule in India.
He formed the Executive Board of India in Japan during World War II in 1940. In the end the British government agreed and Raja Mahendra Pratap was allowed to return to India from Tokyo. He returned to India after 32 years on a Parisian ship, and landed in Madras on 9 August, 1946. On reaching India, he immediately reached Wardha to meet Mahatma Gandhi. Even after independence, he continued his struggle for the transfer of power to the common people. His vision was that Panchayat Raj was the only tool that could put real power in the hands of the people and reduce corruption and bureaucratic hurdles. He was President of the Indian Freedom Fighters Association and also the President of All India Jat Mahasabha. He was a member of the 2nd Lok Sabha from 1957–1962. He was elected as an independent candidate in the 1957 Lok Sabha election from Mathura Lok Sabha constituency defeating Bharatiya Jana Sangh (which later evolved into BJP) candidate and future Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Bhardwaj said that, after independence, King Mahendra Pratap continued to come to Mussoorie to meet his daughter at Bhakti Bhawan. Raja Mahendra Pratap occasionally visited Gopal Bhardwaj’s father, who was an astrologer. He said that the grandson of Raja Mahendra Pratap still lives near Dehradun Max Hospital. Bhardwaj expressed happiness that a university is being built in the name of Raja Mahendra Pratap, acknowledging his contribution to India.