On January 4th falls the birth anniversary of a World Peace Lover. He was a visionary and missionary par excellent, whose love for world peace was not confined to mere talks, seminars and resolutions. He was Mahatma Gandhi’s Doctor of Village Industries who showed to the mankind as to how to organize one’s own life for peace. He literally translating the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and he was truly “His Master’s Voice”. Like his Master Mahatma Gandhi, his words are also living words.
This is none other than Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa (JCK). He was born on January 4, 1892 and died on the martyrdom day of his master Mahatma Gandhi, on January 30, 1960.
I had no opportunity to meet both Mahatma Gandhi and J.C.Kumarappa, but their teachings continue to influence me even today. I am getting much convinced than ever before that only by organizing one’s own day-to-day life for peace mankind can individually and collectively help establish World Peace.
Why I say JCK’s words are living words as that of Mahatma Gandhi? In this connection I would love to quote here some extracts of what JCK said in his speech delivered before the World Congress for Peace at Vienna on January 24, 1953.
“The philosophy of non-violence and truth of Gandhiji has its deep roots in the way of life developed over thousands of years by the Hindus to lead us to peace. Hence to understand the Gandhian way of peace it is necessary to remind ourselves of this ancient background.
They held Truth is God and Dharma is purpose of existence of man. Nay, each creature – sentient and insentient – has its own Dharma. The Dharma of man is to express himself in peace. Dharma is neither religion nor duty as is often indifferently translated. These latter are but expressions of Dharma but not all of it. Just as to produce flowers is the nature of the rose plant and to exude fragrance is of the very nature of the rose, so should the production of peace be the very existence of man. We may say flowering is the Dharma of the rose and peace is the Dharma of man. Anything that produces conflict is Adharma.
The Dharma of the strong is the protection of the weak. The all powerful America, fighting small nations, is Adharma. It belongs to the animal kingdom. The Dharma of the tiger may be to kill but not that of man.
The malady the world is suffering from today is mainly due to economic factors.
If the way of Dharma leads to peace then any act that is Adharma will lead to violence. These global conflicts are not isolated incidents. They are the culminations of innumerable small acts performed by simple people innocently. Though the responsibility for wars may immediately be placed on some leaders, yet the real causes can be traced to our daily acts. For instance, city people buy milk without asking whether the calf has been fed or the children of the milkman have had their quota. When the milk we buy is not surplus but has been squeezed out of the mouths of calves and children with prior claims, our acts are Adharmic and we create violence, which, when accumulated, breaks out into world catastrophes. Hence we see the real remedy lies in the consumer being closely associated with the producer and the distributor. This means decentralization of production and a move towards self-sufficiency. This has been Gandhiji’s suggestion for banishing the causes of war.
On the production side today the goods are turned out on a mass scale with standardized methods, from raw materials secured from the ends of the earth from under-developed people. All this is Adharmic. Similarly, distribution has no natural urge but is stimulated by all manner of artificial multiplicity of wants. This again is Adharmic and leads to violence.
Because of these underlying causes the atmosphere is surcharged with a fear of acquisitive interests being upset by a spreading sense of social justice. The American bloc represents private property and individual profits, while Russia, China and associated countries stand for social justice. The handful of American vested interests desire to stop the ever-growing consciousness of the masses for a square deal. Here is the world situation in a nutshell. America attempts to cordon off the awakening of the masses along the political line starting from Korea, China, Burma, India, Iraq and Jordan etc. going on to West Germany. To this end the U.S.A. is moving heaven and earth to get a foothold on all these countries by fair means or foul – by wars, by finance, by pretended social service and goodwill etc. Let us be awake to the dangers around us and be forewarned.
The American way is heading directly towards international conflicts all along the line and their ultimate interest is financial. To call a halt we should resort to methods which are also Dharmic if we aim at permanence. Here also Gandhiji had indicated the way of non-violent non-co-operation with the offender which may finally result in the launching of a Sayagraha movement.
In the economic field this will result in a boycott of all trade transactions with the offender and thus isolating him from the rest of human society. If we apply this sanction all nations should stop dealing in American goods.
In this Congress over 70 nations are represented. If all these countries decide on one common course of action it cannot be long before the U.S.A. authorities can be called to order. On the other hand, a mere threat of armed might will only challenge them to a greater and more rapid production of armaments. This may even be an attraction to the manufacturers and merchants of death as an opportunity for acquiring greater wealth.
This course of action brings promotion of World Peace within the reach of every single one of us. We need not feel helpless before the great ones of the earth. Everyone can contribute his mite. This is a great privilege and a responsibility: It call for self-control and sacrifice in the cause of peace. Are we prepared to shoulder our share of work?”
How prophetic the above words of JCK were! The same went into deaf ears. What happened in Iraq recently JCK foresaw as early as in 1953. Let it not happen to India. Let Indian leadership take a leaf from the above lessons.
Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa was not a fanatic Hindu. He was born in an orthodox Christian family of Madurai in Tamilnadu State of India. His father S.D.Cornelius (1851-1917) was then an officer in the Public Works Department of the then Government of Madras. His mother Esther Rajanayakam (1856-1924) was not a learned woman in the sense of possessing a university education. She came of devout Christian stock of South India. She had read widely for her generation, especially in Tamil. She spent her life of comparative simplicity in the practice of the tenets of Jesus. Her piety, her sympathy for and love of her neighbors she expressed by her attempt, however humble it may have been, to help those in distress. Her life and actions made an impression on JCK’s child-mind much greater than many volumes of theology could have done. Her ways of inculcating religion were simple and unique.
Cornelius couple had total twelve children – six girls and six boys. The elder two boys died in childhood. The eldest daughter Dorachi who married Rev.G.Kantayya too died at an early age. Rest nine children lived.
JCK’s parents believed in giving the children, boy or girl the best of education and all their property was sun in education of their children.
Of the nine children who lived long, JCK (Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa) was the sixth child. He was M.A. (Columbia), B.Sc. (Business Administration)(Syracuse), F.S.A.A.(London).
The following are the other eight children:
1. Sornam Elizabeth, born in 1878. She was B.A. (Madras), served as member of the Senate of Madras University, was a member of the Madras City Corporation. She has travelled widely in the East and West. She founded “Vidyodays” Girls High School, at Tyagrayanagar, Madras. She married Paul Appasamy, who was the Chief Judge of the Madras Civil Court.
2. Jane Rajamani, born in 1892, educated in Medical College, Madras and practiced privately, married C. V. Narasiah, Barrister, practicing in Coimbatore.
3. Jagadisan Mohandas Kumarappa, born in 1886. He was M.A. (Harvard), S.T. (Boston), M.A., Ph.D.(Columbia). He was Emeritus Director of Tata’s Scholl of Social Sciences, Andheri, Mumbai.
4. James Thambithurai Cornelius, born in 1889. He was M.A. (Ohio), M.D. (Cincinatti), B.P.H. (Johns Hopkins), Ph.D. (London). He served as a Health Officer of Uttar Pradesh Government and after retirement served as Professor of Bacteriology and Hygiene in the Christian Medical College, Vellore.
5. Grace Pappammal, born in 1891. She was educated in Herkimer Folks Institute in New York. She married James W. Godfrey, a Barrister practicing in Durban in South Africa.
6. Kamala Gertrude, born in 1893. She was educated at the Pennsylvania Women’s College, Pittsburg, America. She served in Madras Christian College as Professor of Chemistry. Married Dr.Eddy Asirvatham, who was first Lecturer of Comparative Religions in the Boston University and then Head of the Political Science Department, Nagpur University.
7. Prema Margaret, born in 1895. She was L.M. (Rotunda-Dublin) and was practicing as a Physician. Later she joined Government Service and was the Women’s Health Officer in Coimbatore District.
8. Bharathan Kumarappa, born in 1896. He was B.A. (Hons) (Madras), B.D. (Hartford), Ph.D. (Edinburgh), Ph.D. (London). He was Professor of Philosophy in Madras Christian College. He was the Assistant Secretary of the All-India Village Industries Association for ten years. He also served the United Nations as India’s representative on the Social Commission.
After education Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa (JCK) worked as an Incorporated Accountant in London till 1919 and later in Bombay till he joined Gandhiji in 1929.
In 1927 Kumarappa went to USA on a holiday for a few months at the instance of his elder brother, who was in USA. After a month’s stay there, he wanted to do some solid work. He joined Syracuse University and took his B.Sc. degree in Business Administration in 1928. The next year on the advice of his profession he went over to the Columbia University to study public finance. For this he was preparing his Master’s Essay on the Bombay Municipal Finance. His Principal Professor Dr.E.R.A.Soligman had seen a press report in the New York Times of a casual lecture Kumarappa had delivered in a church “Why then is India poor?”. The Professor was so much taken up with it that he insister that Kumarappa’s Master’s Essay should be on the cause of Indian poverty through public finance. This study convinced Kumarappa of British injustice and exploitation and he turned a nationalist. With this change of heart, he wanted to be an Indian first and foremost and he, therefore, took up the original Hindu name of his family “Kumarappa”.
On his return to India from USA in 1929, it was suggested to Kumarappa that he should publish his study of Indian public finance and the story of the British exploitation in India through their taxation. He was negotiating with some publishers in India for the publication of his work. That time he was told that the subject was one in which Gandhiji would be intensely interested and he was urged to submit the manuscript to him first. Kumarappa welcomed this suggestion and showed the manuscript to Gandhiji. That was the first time he was meeting Gandhiji. This meeting ultimately dragged him to Gandhian work and in due course he turned out to be one of the closest associates of Gandhiji. Kumarappa did not mind leaving his lucrative practice of chartered accountancy and the western-style sophisticated life in order to join Gandhiji.
In 1929 at the instance of Gandhiji, Kumarappa carried out an economic survey of 50 villages in Gujarat. Later in 1930 he was made editorial in charge of the “Young India”. His writings landed him to one year’s imprisonment in 1931. He served as a convener of the Congress Select Committee which inquired into the financial obligations between Great Britain and India. Towards the end of 1931, he was placed again in the editorial charge of the “Young India”. The years 1932 and 1933 were spent by him in prison. In 1934 he worked on the Managing Committee of the Bihar Central Earthquake Relief Committee until the formation of the All India Village Industries Association towards the end of that year.
In the middle of December 1947 top-ranking constructive workers from Wardha went and met Bapu (Gandhiji) in Delhi. During the course of their discussions, the idea of forging a Lok Sevak Sangh took shape. When Kumarappa met Bapu on one of those days, Bapu explained his idea of the Lok Sevak Sangh and asked him to convene a meeting of all the prominent constructive workers in Sevagram on the 2nd of February, 1948. Gandhiji had also prepared an outline of the constitution of Lok Sevak Sangh which reads in parts as below:
“The Sangh shall affiliate the following autonomous bodies: All India Spinners Association, All India Village Industries Association, Hindustani Talimi Sangh, Harijan Sevak Sangh, Go Seva Sangh,……”.
Gandhiji died on 30th January, 1948, three days before the proposed meeting at Sevagram. That meeting was however held after some months. The heads of above said institutions met, but got into endless discussions. Many of the Congress leaders had also attended the meeting.
After the partition and independence, the country had plunged into an unprecedented blood-bath. There was gloom all round and under such circumstances it was hardly possible for the political leaders to leave their posts of responsibilities to take up the formation of Lok Seva Sangh. This was quite understandable. But the autonomous institutions especially mentioned by Gandhiji could have taken up the initiative in their hands to forge a Lok Sevak Sangh of Bapu’s conception.
Some of the constructive workers expected two of the eminent leaders, Shri Vinoba Bhave and Shri Kishorelal Mashruvala to guide them. Shri Vinoba Bhave was interested in a loose sort of a brotherhood. He wanted no organized institution. Shri Kishorelal Mashruwala simply pleaded his inability to take up the responsibility. After the refusal of both these stalwarts, confusion prevailed amongst the rank and file. No one had any love even for the name of ‘Lok Sevak Sangh’ handed down by Bapu. Many alternate names came to be suggested viz. Milapi Sangh, Samyukta Sangh, Sarvodaya Samatha, Satyagraha Samaj, Ahimsa Mandal and many other permutations and combinations.
After some meetings the nomenclature “Akhil Bharat Sarva Seva Sangh” finally came to be accepted. Even then there was an endless controversy as to whether the institutions mentioned above would merely defederate or merge. After some meetings and discussions, the idea of merger was accepted. JCK learnt to his great dismay that the constructive workers themselves stood in the way of advancing Gandhiji’s ideals.
All these contributed to a depressive feeling of JCK not being wanted in that circle any more. When such a feeling entered into the mind of a person like Kumarappa who was so active all his life giving birth to the All India Village Industries Association in the year 1934 and nurturing it so carefully for fourteen years, it was natural he wanted to remove himself away from this circle in the name of retirement.
In the beginning Kumarappa removed himself to a village about 18 miles away from Wardha and began to engage himself actively in Agrarian Research Work. This was a fundamental research work that Kumarappa wanted to pursue and complete in his life-time. For this project certain amount was first promised, but later as the work progressed the promised amount made itself scarce. This project thus got stifled and died still-born.
Ultimately in 1954 Kumarappa removed himself to Gandhiniketan Ashram at Kallupatti in Madurai District. He had been suffering from high blood pressure and this affected him many times during his retirement. He had to be in the hospital also for quite a long time. At this stage, it was conceived that as a humble homage his 69th birthday be celebrated on a nation wide scale on the 4th of January 1960. A national committee was formed for that purpose with the then Chief Minister of Madras Shri K. Kamaraj as its Chairman. In response to a public appeal made by this committee, Kumarappa’s 69th birthday was celebrated all over the country with all grandeur and solemnity. The main function was arranged in Rajaji Hall in Madras. Glowing tributes were showered praising the selfless services rendered by this Gandhian Economist. Kumarappa attended this meeting sitting silently on dias. He was overwhelmed and all the symptoms of ill health had temporarily taken leave and left him completely to enjoy himself. With a contended and happy heart and with all his ailments almost vanishing Kumarappa attained the feat of the Lord on the 30th of January 1960 just after 25 days of the celebrations and exactly on the same day after his Guru and mentor, Mahatma Gandhi fell a martyr to an assassin’s bullet. Thus came the end of a great man.
As a peace lover I pay my tributes to this great lover of World Peace, who has shown to mankind as to how to organize one’s own life for peace. I have taken pains to write the above so that the present generation and future generations at least learn that like Mahatma Gandhi such a man to walked on this earth with flesh and blood and his prophetic words went into deaf years.