Indian American lawmaker saddened by Indian political hacks’ attack on his freedom fighter grandfather
Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna has asked his detractors in Indian media to attack him instead of his freedom fighter grandfather after he decried opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi’s expulsion from Indian Parliament.
Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley in the House of Representatives, had described Gandhi’s expulsion after his conviction in a criminal defamation case as “a deep betrayal of Gandhian philosophy and India’s deepest values.”
Read: Ro Khanna bows out of Senate race (March 27, 2023)
“This is not what my grandfather sacrificed years in jail for,” he tweeted Friday calling upon Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get the Lok Sabha secretariat’s decision to disqualify the four term member reversed “for the sake of democracy.”
“@narendramodi you have the power to reverse this decision for the the sake of Indian democracy,” he tweeted.
But his criticism only irked some Indian political hacks who launched a tirade against his maternal grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar suggesting he had supported then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule in 1975.
A hurt Khanna tweeted Tuesday, “It’s sad to see people maligning my grandfather who worked for Lala Lajpat Rai, was jailed in 31-32 and 41-45, and wrote two letters to Indira Gandhi opposing the emergency, leaving parliament right after.”
“Attack me. Don’t attack India’s freedom fighters. And facts matter,” he added.
“It’s sad to see Indian political hacks attacking freedom fighters who spent years in jail for human rights,” Khanna told the American Bazaar.
Observers noted that only recenyly State run All India Radio in its documentary celebrating 75 years of Indian independence — Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsava— had hailed Vidyalankar, a “social worker and freedom fighter” born in pre-partition Punjab as a “great son of the soil.”
According to all India Radio, in 1931 “Vidyalankar was sentenced to two years in jail for his editorial on the failure of the Round Table Conferences. He was also imprisoned for two years during Quit India movement. During the communal clashes in 1947, he organized rescue squads for people.”
Born in Bhera, Shahpur District (now Sargodha District), in pre-partition India on Dec 6, 1902, Vidyalankar was involved in the independence movement and became a member of the Indian National Congress before India’s independence in 1947.
During his imprisonment during the 1930s and 1940s, Vidyalankar led worker study circles on political, social and economic subjects. He believed that workers should develop an Indian national feeling, regarding every Indian (regardless of caste, creed, language or ethnicity) as a brother.
While he was in jail, he wrote four books in Hindi (Aaj Ki Duniya, Aaj Ka Manav Sansar, Bharat Ka Naya Itihas and Manav Sangharsh) and one in English (Evolution and Progress of the Human Race), according to Wikipedia. Vidyalankar later wrote National Integration and the Teaching of History.
After independence, Vidyalankar served as Minister of Education, Labor and Languages in the Government of Punjab from 1957 to 1962 and was a member of the First (1952–1956), Third (1962–1967) and Fifth (1971–1977) Lok Sabhas.
Vidyalankar served as personal secretary of Lala Lajpat Rai from December 1926 till his demise. He worked among Harijans through Achhut Uddhar Mandal and Harijans Seva Sangh between 1933 to 1940.
After independence, Vidyalankar served as president of the Punjab branch of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, leader of the Indian delegation to International Labour Organisation, leader of goodwill delegation to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan. He was also the director of National Mineral Development Corporation.
He was also a member of AICC Bangladesh committee setup in 1971 to maxamise the relief efforts for the refugees from Bangladesh.
Read: Ro Khanna elected co-chair of India caucus (February 7, 2023)
Read: House passes Ro Khanna’s sanctions waiver for India (July 15, 2022)