SPEECH AT PRAYER MEETING ,DELHI,
Monday, June 2, 1947 …………
I spoke yesterday of the invaluable work that Jawaharlal is doing. I had described him as the uncrowned king of India. He cannot be replaces today when the Englishmen are withdrawing their authority from India. He, who was educated at Harrow and Cambridge and became a barrister, is greatly needed to carry on the negotiations with the English-men. But the time is fast approaching when India will have to elect the first president of the Republic. I would have proposed the name of Chakrayya, had he been alive. I would wish with all my heart to have a brave, selfless and pure-hearted scavenger girl to be our first President. It is no vain dream. We can certainly come across such Harijan girls if only we make an effort to find them. Had I not selected little Gulnar, the late Maulana Mahomed Ali’s daughter? But the silly girl went and married Shuaib Qureshi. At one time she led the life of a fakir and had met me when the Ali Brothers were in jail. Gulnar is now the proud mother of many bright children, but she cannot now be my successor. Our future President will have no need to know English. Of course he will be assisted by men who are proficient in political matters and who also know foreign languages. These dreams, however, can be realized only if we devote all our attention to our villages instead of killing each other.
LETTER TO PRABHAKAR,NEW DELHI,
June 4, 1947
I have your letter. It is your duty to make Anasuya a genuine worker. It will be good to send Rs. 10 a moth to Chakrayya’s mother. From his belongings whatever belongs to the Ashram may be retained but the Ashram is bound to return the rest to his mother. Besides his mother, whom did Chakrayya leave behind? What do they do? Where do they live? Do they have any of Chakrayya’s qualities? We should do for them, in however small a measure, what Chakrayya would have done if he had lived longer. It becomes our duty to fully understand it. Now that Kishorelalbhai is not there, Chimanlal, Balvantsinha, Chhaganlal and the others should decide things among themselves. There is no need to consult me. By all means write about Chakrayya whatever you think proper. But it will be good to send it to me before sending it over to Harijan.I have already written about my impressions, you must have read it. I have written what I believe. If what Lilavatibehn says is true—and I think it is—then he certainly deserves to be the first President of independent India. He who is devoted to God and is a brave servant of the people can become President. I have no doubt about it. Perhaps I had said something to this effect in Godhra in the year 1917 or 1918 as President of the Political Conference. I had said that I would have no peace until and unless a Chamar or some such [untouchable] became President of India. Vijayabehn told me everything about her sister. I have given her the right advice. Write to Chakrayya’s close relatives on my behalf that they should all become sevaksor sevikasas Chakrayya was. It will be good if they resist all temptations.
If all the leaders join the Cabinet, it will be very difficult to maintain contact with the people at large. The result will be that opportunists and enemies of the Congress will incite the people and our poor people will easily fall a prey to their propaganda. That is why I suggested even in my prayer speech that a Harijan like Chakrayya or a Harijan girl should be made the nation’s first President and Jawaharlal should become the Prime Minister. If similar arrangements are made in the provinces too, we shall have gained two ends at the same time. The leaders will be able to keep in touch with the people and young men and women will get trained.
SPEECH AT PRAYER MEETING, NEW DELHI,
June 27, 1947
The third question is: “Who will be the President of the Indian Republic? Will it be some Englishman, and if it is not to be an Englishman then should we not have Jawaharlal Nehru? For he is a highly educated man, can speak English and French and has large experience of foreign countries.” My answer is that if I have my way the President of the Indian Republic will be a chaste and brave Bhangi girl. If an English girl of 17 could become the British Queen and later even Empress of India, there is no reason why a Bhangi girl of robust love of her people and unimpeachable integrity of character should not become the first President of the Indian Republic.
It is not necessary that the President should be a highly educated person knowing many languages. We do not want to display our pride to the world by electing a learned Brahmin or a Kshatriya as the President of India. By electing a Harijan girl to that office we shall demonstrate our soul-force. we shall show to the world that in India there is no one high and no one low. Only the girl should be clean in body and mind. She should be chaste as Sita and her eyes should radiate light. Sita had such radiance that Ravana could not touch her. If I can find such a girl she will be our first President. We shall all salute her and set a new example before the world. After all she does not have to concern herself with running the Government of India. She will have a cabinet of ministers and she will act on its advice. She will merely have to sign papers. All the Indians, be they caste Hindus or Muslims or followers of some other faith, should declare with one voice that whoever may be the President they will all salute him. This is real moral power. All the rest is falsehood. If such a girl of my dreams becomes President, I shall be her servant and I shall not expect from the Government even my upkeep. I shall make Jawaharlal, Sardar Patel and Rajendra Babu her ministers and therefore her servants.
On May 28, 1947, Chakrayya died after being operated on for a brain tumour in Bombay.Gandhi was in Delhi at the time. In his prayer meeting at what was then called Bhangi Colony, on May 31, 1947, he said: “I feel like crying over his death, but I cannot cry…”
“… The time is fast approaching,” he said, “when India will have to elect the first President of India. I would have proposed the name of Chakrayya had he been alive…”
No one among the nation’s senior leaders then nor later is known to have reacted to this. At any rate, I have not come across any reference in Nehru’s, CR’s, Patel’s or Prasad’s writings to Chakrayya.
Chancing upon the Chakrayya reference I tried to get some information on him. But no, no luck. I tried friends in Andhra, friends in the Congress, Dalits and Dalit specialists, Gandhi experts. Blank.
No photo could I find of Chakrayya, why, not even his full name.
Was he from ‘Andhra’ Andhra or the Telangana region, was he Mala or Madiga, where did he study, did he study at all?
‘Kahan ke pathik, kahan kinha hai gamanava…’ is a Tulsidas song in which the women of a village Rama is passing through with Sita and Lakshman, ask the Prince of Ayodhya: where are you, traveller, from, and to which place are you headed? ‘Kaun gram, kaun thaam he baasii…’ – which is your village, which the home you reside in…?
Blank. Total blank. Perhaps this column will yield a shower of details on him.
All I could gather was that the young man had joined Gandhi at Sevagram in 1935 and become an expert khadi worker.
A harijan khadi worker for India’s first President?
Image Source : Indian Express