Late Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Ji devoted his whole life in constant struggle against oppression and inhumanity. He described himself in the words “I am a fighter against oppression and injustice, whether practiced by bureaucracy, zamindars, capitalists or high caste. I have fought all my life against oppression and inhumanity and may God give me strength to fight on till the last”. Vidhyarthi Ji was born at Allahabad in 1890 and his father Shri Jai Narain was a teacher in a school in Madhya Pradesh. He was a poor but deeply religious person and dedicated to high ideals. He could not study further due to poverty and became a clerk in the currency office and later a teacher in high school in Kanpur. His real interest, however, was journalism and public life.
Shortly he came under the influence of the nationalist upsurge, which was taking place in the country.
Late Shri Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi (1890-1931)
He became an agent of the well-known revolutionary Hindi and Urdu journals – Karamyogi and Swarajya and began contributing to them. He adopted the pen name of ‘Vidyarthi’ – the seeker of knowledge. He attracted the notice of Pt. Mahabir Prasad Dwivedi, the doyen of Hindi journalism who offered him the job of a sub-editor in his famous literary monthly, “The Saraswati”, in 1911. He thus served his apprenticeship under two of the greatest figures in Hindi literature and journalism. In 1913 Ganesh Shankar came back to Kanpur and launched his career of a crusading journalist and freedom fighter, which was only to end with his death 18 years later.
He founded PRATAP, his famous revolutionary weekly, which identified itself with the cause of the oppressed wherever they might be. He first met Gandhi ji in 1916 in Lucknow and threw himself whole-heartedly in the national movement. He took a leading part in the Home Rule Movement of 1917-18 and led the first strike of textile workers in Kanpur. In 1920 he launched the daily edition of PRATAP and it was in this year that he was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment for championing the cause of peasants of Rae Bareli. He was released in 1922 and almost immediately sent to jail again, for delivering a “seditious” speech as the President of the Provincial Political Conference at Fatehgarh. He was released in 1924, greatly shattered in health, but he knew no respite and immediately launched himself in the preparation for the Congress Session at Kanpur in 1925. In 1925, when the Congress decided to contest elections of Provincial Legislative Councils and organized the Swaraj Party, Ganesh Shankar won a resounding victory on its behalf, from Kanpur and served as a Member of the UP legislative Council till 1929 when he resigned at the behest of the Congress.
In 1929 he was elected the President of the UP Congress Committee and was appointed the first leader to lead the Satyagrah movement in U.P in 1930. While he was about to proceed to Karachi to attend the Congress Session, Kanpur fell into an orgy of communal rioting. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi threw himself in the midst of furious mobs and saved the life of thousands of innocent persons belonging to both the Hindu and Muslim communities. It was on this mission of mercy that he was butchered to death by a maddened mob in 1931. The Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial (GSVM) Medical College, Kanpur is named in his remembrance.