Rajesh Nayak


J.P. and His Total Revolution : Concept and Reality

One of the stalwarts of India’s freedom struggle, Jayapraksh Narayan quite often
symbolized in different degrees the rich heritage of successive stages through which
India’s freedom struggle progressed as well as of the reconstruction of an independent
India. Over the years, Jayaprakash’s thinking, theories and ideologies he propounded
changed considerably and yet Jayaprakash always remained the same. Change with
continuity remained the bedrock of Jayaprakash’s life. Inclusion and not exclusion was
his watchword as evident from his concept of Total Revolution used for the first time
in 1974 and ever since it has taken its place in Indian political discourse.

Jayaprakash Narayan appropriated in his concept of Total Revolution, every element
in different philosophies that had the potential to enrich the revolution and prevent its
decay and degeneration. He assimilated the revolutionary ethos of Marxism and
combined it with the comprehensive approach of Gandhi for transforming the society.
Marx believed that man was the measure of mankind; while Gandhi viewed man as the
centre of development. In total revolution, JP veered round to the Gandhian approach
of not relying solely on economic factors but also on social dimensions of change.
Total Revolution, as envisaged by JP, was a very comprehensive concept. It
encompassed political, economic, social, cultural, educational, moral and structural
aspects in their totality. It aimed at radical transformation not merely of material
conditions but also of the moral characters of the individuals. It is, however, to be
borne in mind that the idea of total revolution was implicit in many of Gandhi’s writings
and speeches. Subsequently, Vinoba Bhave, while stressing change in people’s hearts,
creating change in their lives and change in the social structure gave sufficient hints
for bringing about drastic change in the human lives and society. At least once he also
used the term Total Revolution.

Thus, far from being the sole innovation of Jayaprakash Narayan, his idea of Total
Revolution was a continuation of the preceding movement for non- violent revolution
through Bhoodan and Gramdan- the basic thrust of Sarvodaya movement. Indeed, JP
himself had remarked on one occasion, “There is hardly any difference between
Sarvodaya and Total Revolution. If there is any, then Sarvodaya is the goal and Total
Revolution the means. Total Revolution is basic change in all aspects of life. There
cannot be Sarvodaya without this.” Since mid 1940’s JP himself had been emphasizing
on the need for a social revolution for bringing about change in the structure of society
as well as an improvement in the character of the individuals comprising it.

Politically, the total revolution aimed at the establishment of people’s government for
JP was convinced that Indian democracy must be shaped into people’s democracy and
must be administered by the people only. He also recognized that for this to happen
one of the most important pre-conditions was to have a band of committed volunteers
or leaders who had moved away from the lure of power-politics and were prepared to
work for strengthening the common people politically. The Chhatra Yuva Vahini
(Student-Youth Struggle Brigade) was founded with this objective in view. He
advocated communitarian or party less democracy. Socially, it sought to create a
social system that can force the government to work for the upliftment of the lowest
man of the society especially Harijans and other weaker sections of the society. He
also stood for the consolidation of the suppressed and backward sections of the society
in their struggle against the exploiting classes. He firmly believed that the class
struggle was inevitable for “a struggle is implicit in change.” He also deplored the caste
system and dowry system. The continuance of the child marriage despite legal
prohibition disturbed him in no less degree. However, this struggle was to be largely
non-violent. Economically, he was of the view that notwithstanding the enactment
against Zamindari system and nationalization of banks, there was little improvement in
the position of the common masses. As early as 1968, about 10,000 people in a small
block of 12 villages called Musahari in Muzaffarpur district challeneged the hegemony
of the landlords, took over the harvests and held an armed procession through the
villages. The nationalization of banks only led to the capitalism of the bureaucracy with
little benefit accruing to labourers and the common people. Likewise, the education
system, as it evolved in the independent India, remained basically what it was under
the British rule. It was class education designed as an escalator to reach the top. He
laid more emphasis on vocational education.

Thus, Total Revolution was not solely meant to dislodge Mrs. Indira Gandhi from power
or reform those wield political power; its ambit was much wider. It was an effort to
create a new structure, a new culture, a new civilization and a new set of values. It
placed emphasis on internal and external change, changing the entire oppressive and
exploitative social frame from within and also from outside. JP also remarked, “This is
a golden opportunity for changing the entire moral climate of the country and bringing
about a moral revolution.” This is also to be recognized, however, that the most of
ideas advocated in total revolution have the elements of utopia in them.

The ideas under Total Revolution which JP advocated and worked for remain relevant
even today all over India more so in the state of Bihar. Caste rules the roost in Bihar
and even the parties are identified on the basis of caste dominating them. The
animosities between the parties run so deep, and at such personal levels that they can
be treated as natural enemies. All these leaders, ironically, happened to be the ardent
followers. They all have become power seekers to the core; this is contrary to what JP
had visualized. An in depth analysis of the present political scenario would reveal that
the situation as it is, was inherent in the total revolution itself. Political scenario has
even worsened further; state has traveled beyond criminalization of politics for the
examples politicization of criminals have been in plenty.

Economic inequity, as regards, land ownership persists giving rise to several private
militia, which is largely caste based. These include predominantly of the Bhumihars,
Rajputs, Yadavas and dalits. Correspondingly, the betrayal from JP’s followers has only
provided fertile ground for the emergence of the naxal movement. The massacre of
the lower people by such private militia has been taking place in Bihar. Socially caste
tension continues to exist and so is the dowry system and child marriage especially
among the lower caste people.

As a matter of fact JP himself had sympathized
with the cause of the naxal movement in 1969 while addressing a conference
of voluntary agencies; as they seemed to help the poor.
Likewise, there is very little change in the education pattern as JP would have
liked them to be. For pursuing higher education students continue to migrate
to other places mainly New Delhi. Youth, who were thought to be the vanguard
to carry forward the goal of total revolution, are largely ignorant of the total
revolution ideas.


Asst. Prof. History, J.P.University .Chapra(Bihar)
Mob- 09415649490