S. Srinivasa Iyengar

S. Srinivasa Iyengar


Gauhati, 1926

Srinivasa Iyengar was born on September 11, 1874 to an orthodox Shri Vaishnava Brahmin who was a respected and affluent landowner of Ramanathapuram (Ramnad) district, Madras. He commenced practice at the Madras High Court in 1898, and advanced to the top of the profession in an incredibly short time.

His intimate knowledge of Hindu Dharma Shastras and the great classics of jurisprudence and constitutional law coupled with his original inquiring mind made him a legal thinker in his own right; his edition of Mayne's Hindu Law in 1939 was hailed as a classic. Besides law, Srinivasa Iyengar's other interests were education, social reform, and politics.

Among his early influences were Sir Sankaran Nair (who presided over the Amraoti Congress) and C. Vijayaraghavachariar (who presided over the Nagpur Congress 1920). He was also an admirer of Gokhale (in whose name he endowed a prize) and later of Mahatma.

Although Srinivasa Iyengar started feeling concerned about the developing political situation in India post 1910, it was only in 1920 that he took the plunge into politics, having resigned from the office of Advocate General. He presided over the Madras Provincial Conference in 1920 at Tirunelveli, gave up his princely practice at the Bar, resigned the membership of the Legislative Council (to which he had been returned by the Registered Graduates) returned the C.I.E. to the Government and took a leading part in Congress affairs.

He actively participated in the Congress sessions from Ahmedabad (1921) to Lahore (1929) and gave an unparalleled lead to the Congress in Madras for about ten years. After the Congress had decided on Council - Entry he led the party to victory in Madras in 1926 and was himself elected from Madras to the Central Assembly and also acted as Leader for a time when Motilal Nehru was away from India.

Srinivasa lyengar presided over the Gauhati session of the Indian National Congress in December 1926 and during his tenure of presidency did a great deal to bring about a rapprochement between the leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities, and his efforts were crowned with success at the Madras Congress in December 1927 where the resolution on Hindu Muslim unity was passed with general all - round support.

It was also about this time that he published 'Swaraj Constitution', outlining a federal scheme of government for future India. When the All - Parties Report (known as the Nehru Report) was published in 1928 outlining a constitution for India in terms of 'Dominion Status', Srinivasa Iyengar organised the Independence League with himself as President and Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose as Secretaries.

The differences between Motilal Nehru and Srinivasa Iyengar on the issue of 'Dominion Status' versus 'Independence' became acute during 1929, and although it was decided finally in favour of Independence at the Lahore Congress in December, he decided to retire from active public life early in 1930.

He made, however, a brief return to political life in 1939 as a dynamo of political thought, rather than an organisation man. He died suddenly on May 19, at his residence in Madras. Srinivasa Iyengar was undoubtedly the most brilliant, the most dynamic and the most versatile of the South Indian leaders during the 'between the wars' period.

By his extensive educative tours in Madras, he carried the message of Nationalism to the remotest villages, and it was to his credit that he made the Madras Province Congress - minded. His great intellectual distinction, the singular purity of his personal life and his powerful advocacy of Indian's case for independence won for him numerous admirers all over India. Young Kamaraj of Virudhunagar was one of Srinivasa Iyengar's many finds, and among his staunchest supporters were Satyamurti, Muthuranga Mudaliar and Subhas Chandra Bose.

Srinivasa Iyengar was a believer in 'linked leadership', by which he meant that a real leader should maintain meaningful contacts with all the cadres in the political organisation and from the national to the village level. In recent decades, his ideal has been put to practice with great success.

"The general policy of Congressmen in the Assembly and the various Councils should be one of resistance to every activity, governmental or other, that may impede the nation's progress towards Swaraj."

From the Presidential Address - S. Srinivasa Iyengar I.N.C. Session, 1926, Gauhati.

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