Author: George Gheverghese Joseph
Publisher: Orient Longman
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8125024956
Whereas many a good book in the genre of political biography exists, this work which deals with the life and times of George Joseph is a work of true distinction. A prima facie title to distinction of the book is who the subject was.
George Joseph, a Kerala Christian, was a stalwart fighter for India’s freedom. Between 1915-38, as a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, the Nehrus, Rajagopalachari, Vallabh Bhai Patel and others, he played an important, and at times even a defining role, in shaping the policies of various organizations engaged in the Indian struggle. Yet he remains a forgotten figure, a giant without footprints. His disappearance from public memory prompted the author – his grandson – to write this biography.
The originality of the book lies in its exposition of the relation of a South Indian Christian intellectual to the early politics of nationalism which was intrinsically exclusivist in nature. George Joseph’s penetrating observations on the limited nature of the engagement of nationalism in both religion and in minority rights are illuminating.
The book begins with a vivid description of the Syrian Christian community to which he belonged. The information on the community is particularly valuable in removing misconception about its history, status in society, and culture. It is in Madurai as a lawyer that he developed his deep concern for the whole range of rights, human and civil, which have become canonical today. The rights permeate and straddle the issues of communalism, religion, caste, gender and secularism.
In his espousal of these issues, he fought in private counsels and in public, drawing upon his vast erudition in the law and the constitution, and his considerable intellectual gifts. In the course of his life of fifty years, he led the Vaikkom Satyagraha in Kerala for a period, championed the cause of the’ Criminal Tribes’ of Tamil Nadu, and helped the mill workers of Madurai to set up one of the earliest trade unions in India. During the last years of his life, he became a champion of the interests of Christians in India, while supporting a form of secularism that encouraged uniform treatment for all religious groups in India on matters relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance.
A Forgotten Figure
Background and History
The Syrian Christians of Kerala
George Joseph in Britain
The Road to Madurai
George Joseph and the Home Rule Movement
The Call of the Mahatma: Sojourn in the North
Chauri Chaura and the Aftermath
To Undo a Great Wrong: The Vaikkom Satyagraha
The Return to Madurai
The Metamorphosis of George Joseph
Travancore and Simla: His Last Days