Remembering Rai Bahadur Munshi Hariprasad Tamta राय बहादुर मुंशी हरिप्रसाद टम्टा की याद में

Remembering Rai Bahadur Munshi Hariprasad Tamta राय बहादुर मुंशी हरिप्रसाद टम्टा की याद में

Uday Tamta


riends, today we, once again, are here to remember the first industrialist of Kumaon hills, social worker, renowned emancipator and the most revered personality of the past century — Rai Bahadur Munshi Hariprasad Tamta on his 128th birth anniversary.

He was born in a middle class copper artisan family of Almora on August 26, 1887 and earned his laurels by two ways, firstly through social reformation and secondly through his good offices creating jobs for unemployed people of all sections of society, directly or indirectly.

With a view to rehabilitating all those who had been rendered jobless by the East India Company by taking forests under its management and banning the mining and processing of iron and copper ores in the hilly terrain of Kumaon, he came forward to establish the first industry of Kumaon at Almora in the early twentieth century. That industry provided employment to many people, directly or indirectly.

Not only that he also came forward to reestablish social harmony among different classes of the society that had been shattered very badly during the Gorkha rule from 1790 to 1815 in Kumaon. Even at the young age of 26 he arranged for the journey of renowned freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai to Almora, who saw the plight of downtrodden masses for himself and named that community with a very respected nomenclature of Shilpkar, which ultimately took mandatory shape after independence when the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act of 1950 was enacted by the Union of India.

Sir Henry Ramsay, the Commissioner of Kumaon and the virtual ruler of Kumaon right from 1856 to 1884 had a very sympathetic attitude towards the suffering downtrodden masses, yet the lower Indian authorities were not in a mood to give them their due share on account of their inherent despise towards all those and things did not improve much. After retirement of Sir Ramsay in 1884, things came back to their place and the plight of the downtrodden masses at the hands of the government officials resumed with an enhanced amount of abhorrence and bitterness.

Despite their full abilities, they were being denied government jobs. It is just by coincidence that when Sir Henry was still living at Almora after his retirement, a child with the name of Hari was born at Almora in 1887 as if he had been sent by the providence itself to bring humanity in once again. As soon as he grew a little young, he started looking up for the redressing of their grievances with a right vision. He, like Dr. Ambedkar, did not go to write an airy book as ‘Annihilation of Caste’. He knew well that the caste system was so much writ deep into the primary instinct of people, it would certainly take many more centuries to meet an end and accordingly he chose the path of esteem and affection whereby the feeling of hatred against the down trodden lessened to great extent.

He, while proceeding ahead on that pathway, firstly laid his hand in the the field of education and thereby brought in social harmony among different shades of society. In that process he started a weekly news paper named ‘Samta’ (Equality) in 1934 through which he spread the message of social harmony. That paper, luckily, is still continuing.

He simultaneously made contacts with high British officials and brought the matter of discrimination against them to their notice. He had, by then, become so much popular that he was elected the Chairman of the Municipality of Almora, that was considered the cradle of casteism those days and the feeling of looking down upon the down trodden people was at its peak and the population of his own class was very thin and small!

Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant was the member of State Assembly that was established under the Montegue Chelmsford Reforms from 1923 to 1926. So long as he remained there, nothing against the weaker masses went on there, but he was succeeded by Shri Badri Datt Pandey as the member of the State Assembly in 1926. Shri Pandey was not considered to have an ardently affectionate heart for Shilpkars and as a result thereof, nothing concrete towards the betterment of their fate came out.

During that period a seat allocated for the Shilpkars as per the above reforms in the State Assembly at Lucknow, remained vacant for more than a decade due to his feeling of contempt towards Shilpkars. Munshi Hariprasad Tamta agitated that matter seriously, at first with the then Governor of U.P. Sir Malcomn Hailey, but by the time he was looking into the matter, his term of the Governorship expired in 1934.

Munshi ji did not leave the matter there alone. He later brought this case before the new Governor Sir Harry Graham Haig, who took over the charge from Sir Hailey in 1934 and ultimately they were forced to nominate Shri Ramprasad Tamta as the member of the State Assembly in 1937, but by then the Government of India Act of 1935 passed by the British Parliament had come into force and that nomination of Shri Ramprasad fell almost infructuous.

 rai bahadur tamta
Due to his sincere attempts educated youth from Shilpkar community found it very easy to enter into government jobs. Before the partition of the country, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar had demanded a Separate Vote for the members of downtrodden masses. That matter came up for consideration at the Round Table Conference in London in 1931. Dr. Ambedkar represented the downtrodden masses, while Gandhiji was the representative of the Indian National Congress. Gandhi ji was said to be of the view that the division of Hindus into four castes was justified and a status quo in that position should be maintained. So accordingly he (Gandhi ji ) absented himself from the first and second meetings deliberately.

But when he appeared in the third session he opposed vehemently that demand of Dr. Ambedkar, even though the British members were quite aware of the fact that after Independence, the downtrodden masses would not get justice at the hands of the majority community, so they were convinced with the evidence brought out by Dr. Ambedkar in support of his demand for a separate vote. Gandhi ji thereupon went under a fast unto death against the demand of Dr. Ambedkar and as a result thereof he (Dr. Ambedkar) was forced to withdraw his demand. Munshi Hariprasadji, who also had sent an intercontinental telegram from Almora in support of his demand for a separate vote was shocked very much on knowing that Dr. Ambedkar was forced to withdraw his demand in order to save the precious life of Gandhi ji.

uday tamta
This article is by Uday Tamta (Views expressed are his own. Courtesy: Facebook) 

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