J. B. Kripalani was born at Hyderabad in Sind in 1888 in an upper middle class Hindu family. Those were days of the Bengal partition when there was ferment among students. Kripalani also caught the spirit and raised enough trouble for the authorities of the Wilson College that he was forced to migrate to the quieter atmosphere of the D.J. Sind College at Karachi but he continued to be involved in nationalist activities.
When the Principal of the College made an indiscreet remark about Indians being liars, there was an immediate strike in which Kripalani and his fellow students got their first lesson in political agitation. From 1912 to 1917 he worked as a Professor of English and History at Muzaffarpur College in Bihar.
For a short period, he taught at the Benares Hindu University (1919-20) and from 1920 to 1927 he served as the Principal of the Gujarat Vidyapeeth founded by Mahatma Gandhi. He became fully engrossed in the Ashram work from 1927 and in the political movements of the Indian National Congress.
It was during his days at the Gujarat Vidyapeeth that he came to be called Acharya Kripalani. He first came into contact with Gandhi ji in 1917 during the Champaran Satyagraha and that proved to be a turning point in his life. Another turning point in his life was his marriage with Sucheta in 1936. It turned out to be the happiest partnership of his life.
He steadily built up his position in the organisation, and from 1934 to 1945 he served as the General Secretary where he worked silently in the party organisation. He took part in all the Congress movements from 1921 onwards.
He was arrested in 1942 during the Quit India movement and released along with the other Congress leaders in 1945. He was elected President of the Indian National Congress in November 1946 and steered the organisation through the critical days of the transfer of power. He was succeeded by Dr Rajendra Prasad.
Kripalani has written a number of books on Gandhian philosophy.
“For an unarmed people to fight Great Britain at a time when all its armed might was mobilised, when the inexhaustible resources of America were at its disposal, appeared sheer folly. But then these men forgot that when the Congress under Gandhi ji's lead took to revolutionary politics, it abandoned conventional political wisdom. It dared to risk and achieve. Was the Congress wise when it made the Khilafat issue, which it scarcely understood, its own? Was it again wise to resort to Salt Satyagraha to achieve independence? There was apparently no connection between salt and Independence. And what wisdom could there have been in Gandhi ji walking with a flock of unarmed followers for 21 days to pick up a pinch of salt on the sea-shore? What political or any other wisdom could there be in Pandit Motilal Nehru manufacturing salt in his study in a laboratory test tube on a spirit lamp from a lamp of clay? What wisdom was there in selecting individual satyagrahis to walk from place to place shouting anti-war slogans till they were arrested? The fact is, the Congress under Gandhi ji's lead has never done the conventionally obvious thing, and if it does so before the freedom fight is over and complete independence won, it will have missed its revolutionary role.”
From the Presidential Address - J.B. Kripalani I.N.C. Session, 1946, Meerut