Like most Indians of my generations, I knew and admired Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya from a distance. There is only one occasion when I had the privilege of meeting him. This was in the year 1931 when he was in the United Kingdom for the second round table conference. We had invited him to visit Oxford and he came and spoke to the Majlis on the failure of the negotiations with the British government.
Many of us do not remember today that agreement among all Indians at the Conference was almost achieved at one stage. It was, I think, the late Aga khan who had formulated proposals based on joint electorates which were generally acceptable to almost all the delegates. Differences arose over one or two seats in Bengal and one seat in Punjab. My recollection is that even the Bengal tangle was resolved but there was disagreement over one seat in Punjab which was to be allotted to the Muslims. The difference was whether it should come out of the Hindu or the Sikh quota. Looking back today, the issue seems trivial. Many of us felt even those days it was a trivial issue and therefore we were very sore that our leaders had not succeeded in solving the problem. When the President of the Majlis suggested that I should move the vote of thanks to the distinguished visitors, I was first reluctant, but agreed when the President told me that I was free to express my dissatisfaction with the outcome of the conference. I spoke briefly but somewhat strongly of the sense of disappointment and humiliation of the Indian students in Britain that this issue had not been resolved by our leaders.
Most politicians would have ignored such remarks from the callow student at a students’ function, but to my surprise, Pandit Malaviya rose again after my vote of thanks and addressed us for almost an hour explaining the circumstances in which the negotiations had failed. What impressed us even more and made me feel both ashamed and happy, he gave us a pledge that immediately on his return to India he would devote all his energies to a satisfactory solution of the communal problem. Students of history will remember that soon after return to India, Pandit Malaviya did convene an All Parties Conference and made earnest efforts for satisfactory solution of the differences among the Indian communities. His efforts did not unfortunately succeed, but we all admired him for the attempt. His deportment at the meeting at Oxford and this action thereafter made a deep impression on me and I recall with admiration the graciousness and magnanimity with which he responded to the criticism of a young student.
New Delhi, 20 November, 1961
You are the pride of Bharat and Bharat is proud of you….