Balraj Madhok was a prominent Indian political activist and politician who held originally from Gilgit Baltistan which is now in Pakistan. He was an activist of the Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Madhok helped launch the RSS in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. He worked later for the political party Jammu Praja Parishad for representing the interests of Hindus. He rose to become the president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) party and led its successful contest in the general election of 1967. He later resigned from the party due to political differences with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L. K. Advani.
Balraj Madhok was born on 25 February 1920 in Skardu, Baltistan; which is now in Pakistan. His family was a Jammu-based Arya Samaj Khatri family.
His father Jagannath Madhok worked as a Government official of Jammu and Kashmir in the Ladakh division. His father hailed from Jallen, in the Gujranwala district of West Punjab. Madhok spent his early childhood at Jallen.
Later he studied in Srinagar, at the Prince of Wales College in Jammu. In 1940, he graduated with B. A. Honours in History from the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College (DAV College) in Lahore.
Career in Teaching and Politics
In 1938, while studying in Jammu, Madhok joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which he found to be close to the Arya Samaj way of thinking. In 1942, he was appointed as a pracharak (full-time worker) for the RSS in Jammu, for building up the RSS network in Jammu.
In 1944, he moved to Srinagar and joined as a lecturer of History at the DAV College. He continued to work as an RSS organiser. He expanded the RSS network in the Kashmir Valley. After the Partition of India, the Hindu refugees started arriving in Srinagar, and they also joined the RSS branches. It is said that Madhok gathered advance intelligence of the invasion by the Pakistani raiders on 21 October and passed it on to the authorities. He also mobilized 200 RSS volunteers to defend Srinagar. Later, when the state of Jammu and Kashmir joined India and Sheikh Abdullah was appointed as the Prime Minister of Kashmir, Madhok moved back to Jammu.
In November 1947, he co-founded the Praja Parishad party, which demanded the complete unification of Jammu and Kashmir with India. This was in contrast to the loose autonomy negotiated between Abdullah and Nehru which was later embodied in the Article 370 of the Constitution. Madhok was externed from Jammu and Kashmir by Sheikh Abdullah as a result of his political stance.
In 1948, Madhok moved to Delhi and started teaching at the Panjab University College, which was established for the education of refugees from West Punjab. Later, he became a lecturer of history at the DAV College in Delhi.
In 1951, he launched the student union of the Sangh Parivar which was later known as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He also joined Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in the formation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the political party of the Sangh Parivar. The Bengal branch of the Jana Sangh was established by Mukherjee, and the Panjab and Delhi branch was established by Madhok.
Madhok served as the secretary of the Panjab branch and later became a member of the Working Committee of the national organization. He was part of the RSS-dominated Working Committee of the Jana Sangh in 1954, which ousted the traditional politician from the Delhi branch of the party, and it was reconstituted with RSS pracharaks at the helm.
In the 1961 bye-election to the second Lok Sabha, Madhok won the seat from New Delhi constituency as Jan Sangh candidate. In 1966, Madhok became the President of the Jana Sangh and led the party in the fourth general election of 1967, he won from South Delhi while winning 35 seats in the Lok Sabha, its highest tally.
Madhok tried to create a coalition of rightist forces along with the Swatantra Party. The Congress party split in 1969 was seen as an opportunity by him to expand the Jana Sangh. However, the move was opposed by A. B. Vajpayee, who represented the hardliner RSS faction. Madhok denounced what in his opinion was the party’s ‘leftist’ leanings and the influence of the RSS. His stance led to his marginalisation in the party. In 1973, L. K. Advani, who became the President of the party, expelled Madhok from the party for three years on the charge of leaking party documents to the media. Madhok maintained that he was a victim of his rivals’ conspiracy.
Madhok was arrested during the Emergency (1975–1977), and was imprisoned for 18 months under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). In 1977, he joined the Janata Party, in which Jana Sangh merged. He resigned in 1979 and tried to revive Jana Sangh under the name Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which did not meet with success. After his expulsion in 1973, Madhok became a pungent critic of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders- Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and their policies.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, Madhok had blessed Narendra Modi for being the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and said that Advani; whom he considered his protege who left him to join the Vajpayee camp; should have accepted the decision with grace. Madhok spoke to Narendra Modi and told him, “You will be the Prime Minister of India and BJP will get full majority”.
He married Kamla, who was a professor at the Delhi University. He had two daughters. During his last years, he resided in the New Rajinder Nagar area of New Delhi. The road to his house was later named after his father, as Jagannath Madhok Lane.
On 2 May 2016, he died at the age of 96. He had been admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi for a month. His death was condoled by many including Lal Krishna Advani and the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who visited Madhok’s residence to pay his last respects.
Balraj Madhok has authored more than thirty books, in Hindi and English. A good number of them were on the Kashmir conflict, and some were on Hindu nationalism, and on general political affairs. He also edited ‘Organiser’, an RSS-inspired publication, in 1948–49; and Hindi weekly Veer Arjun in 1948.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah
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