Mukund Ramrao Jayakar

Mukund Ramrao Jayakar (1873-1959)


Mukund Ramrao Jayakar
Mukund Ramrao Jayakar
            Mukund Ramrao Jayakar was born on 13 November 1873 in Bombay in a middleclass family His father Ramrao was a junior official in the Bombay secretariat. His mother, Sonabai, was able to create a religious atmosphere in the family.
Mukund was brought up by his grandfather, Vasudeo Jagannath Kirtikar, after the early and untimely death of his father. Vasudeo was a reputed scholar, philosopher and lawyer and greatly influenced Jayakar. Thus Mukund was brought up in an ambience of scholastic studies, religiosity and sobriety resulting in his becoming a multifaceted personality. He was educated in the Elphinstone High School and St. Xavier College, Bombay. He graduated in 1895, and passed M.A. in 1897 and LL.B. in 1902. In 1903, he left for England, joined law and was called to the Bar in 1905. Returning to India the same year, he started practicing at the Bombay high court. In 1907, he joined the Bombay Law School as a professor but resigned in 1912, when a junior person, who was an Englishman, was appointed principal. He started practicing at the Bombay high court again and became one of the leading barristers of Bombay, M.C. Chagla, who at the time was working as assistant to Jinnah, writes, Jayakar was an erudite lawyer and argued his cases with words which were carefully chosen, and which bore the impress of a scholar. He rose to great eminence and eventually became a member of the Privy Council." Before becoming a member of the Privy Council, London, he had accepted an appointment as judge of the Federal Court of India in 1937.
At the age of twenty-six Jayakar married Sushilabai in 1899. They had one son and three daughters.
Jayakar had become keenly interested in politics but he did not join any political party formally, though his inclinations were towards Hindu Mahasabha, like those of Madan Mohan Malaviya, as he was deeply imbued in Hinduism. However, he played an important role, along with Tej Bahadur Sapru, as a Liberal and moderate leader, political negotiator and peacemaker. In 1918, the Poona District Conference at Lonavala was held under the chairmanship of Jayakar. “This Conference”, he said, “was an assertion of the political tenets of Maharashtra, professed since the days of Ranade, Tilak and Gokhale.” At this time, Jayakar was a follower of Annie Besant. He was a member of the Home Rule League deputation led by Mrs. Besant that waited upon Viceroy Lord Chelmsford and Secretary of State Montagu in November 1918. Later Jayakar was drawn towards Gandhi but never did he become a Gandhian. The deportation of B.G. Horniman (1919) editor of Bombay Chronicle brought them nearer, as Gandhi had taken up the Horniman’s illegal deportation case and closure of his paper. Jayakar revived Bombay Chronicle spending considerable time and money. He became the chairman of the Board of Directors of the paper.
The Congress Punjab Enquiry Committee (formed after the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy) brought Gandhi and Jayakar still closer when Jayakar replaced Motilal Nehru as a member of the Committee. The Congress had assigned Jayakar the work of writing the report and seeing it through the press. Gandhi collaborated with him in scrutinizing the final proofs. When the Report was ready it was decided to send someone with to London to inform the British public what really had happened in jallianwala Bagh and about the atrocities committed on the innocent public under Marshal Law. In a letter to Jayakar, Gandhi wrote on 28 March 1920, “I consider that I am the fittest to go, but my going is a virtual impossibility. You come next in my view, because you are student like me and we want a man of application and studious habits and possessing a level head”. However, the idea of sending someone to England with the report was dropped because of Jayakar’s illness. In July 1921, Gandhi came to Poona in connection with the Tilak anniversary and visited Jayakar, who was still ill and in bed. Jayakar gave twenty-five thousand rupees to Gandhi for the Tilak Swaraj Fund.
Jayakar was a powerful speaker both in the assemblies and outside. He was leader of the Swaraj Party in the Bombay Legislative Council (1923-26). His speeches were informative, thought-provoking, backed by statistical data. In 1926, he was elected to the Central Legislature, where he acted as deputy leader of the Nationalist Party (1926-30).
Along with Tej Bahadur Sapru, his role as a mediator and peacemaker gave a turn to history. The Gandhi-Irwin Pact (March 1931) was the outcome of ceaseless efforts of Jayakar-Sapru duo. He was mainly instrumental in effecting the Poona or Yerwada Pact between Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar (1932). Great was his work, along with Sapru, in a silent and unobstrusive manner. Their non-alignment with the Congress and Gandhi gave them a stature and they often struck a line of rapprochement when dark clouds were ominous. Jayakar participated in the three Round Table Conferences in London (1930-32) and took active part in the negotiations between the Indian leaders and the representatives of the British government. He was a keen observer of the political developments in the country and unhesitatingly warned the leaders when he thought, some wrong step was being taken which was not in the interest of the country. He wrote a strong letter on 21 January 1942, to Rajagopalachari, who was going to meet Jinnah, for a settlement of Hindu-Muslim question conceding to the Muslims fifty percent share in central and state legislatures as well as in government services. He wrote, “You have publicly spoken of the fifty-fifty basis being acceptable to you with Jinnah as Prime Minister. I am not worried about the Prime Ministership, which may go to Jinnah or anyone else. But it is my duty to warn you that the fifty-fifty basis at the Centre or in the Provinces or in the Services or administration will not be acceptable to the Hindus." He had written a similar letter to Gandhi before he went to meet Jinnah in his Malabar Hill residence in Bombay (September 1944) to offer him the Rajaji Formula which was virtual acceptance of Pakistan. Jayakar was a very upright man and a nationalist to the core.
       Apart from his interest in politics he was an eminent educationist. He had setup the Aryan Education Society and was its chairman for several years. He was a member of the Bombay University Reforms Committee (192425). In 1941, he was appointed chairman of the committee setup to consider the establishment of Maharashtra University, which materialised in the establishment of Poona University, Jayakar becoming its first vice-chancellor. He ably performed his duties for two terms (1948-56). He was instrumental in securing, and being generous in donating funds, to the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, enabling the publication of a critical edition of Mahabharata. He was an extremely erudite Sanskrit scholar. In 1924, he edited Studies in Vedanta written by his grandfather, V.J. Kirtikar. His contributions on Hindu law were widely acclaimed. As an educationist, he was invited by several universities to deliver convocation addresses.
Jayakar was a great lover of art and music and had spent several years in studying classical music and fine arts. His presidential address at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Bombay, is considered an outstanding and original contribution to modern music.
Jayakar was also greatly interested in social activities. He was the president of the Social Conference (founded by Ranade) held at Nasik in 1917. He also worked for the eradication of untouchability. In 1924, Jayakar, as a member of the Depressed Classes Mission, sought Gandhi’s help in assisting the Harijans build their own temples, schools and hostels in Bombay. A number of letters were exchanged between Gandhi and Jayakar on this issue.
Jayakar lived a very fruitful and varied life but patriotism and liberality were reflected in whatever he did. In spite of being a devout Hindu and close to several Hindu Mahasabha leaders, he was considered a liberal by even his enemies.
After a prolonged illness, he died on 10 March 1959 at Bombay at the ripe age of eight-six. His autobiography The Story of My Life, in two volumes, describes the events and personalities of the time in an objective and unobtrusive manner.

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