In various streams of the freedom movement, we meet Yogendra Shukla ( 1896-1960) in different roles: what is common to all these roles is that he always worked with the highest commitment. If at an early stage of his life we find him living as an inmate of Sabarmati Ashram attracting the admiration of none other than Mahatma Gandhi, at a later stage we find him as a revolutionary planning the escape of Bhagat Singh from jail, then again we see him helping Jayapraksh Narayan in his great jail escape of 1942 , yet again we see him as a prominent socialist and kisan (farmer) leader! He was arrested by the colonial rulers for each one of these roles, altogether spending nearly 17 years in jail.
Known earlier as a brilliant student in Muzaffarpur ( Bihar), Yogendra was influenced by the sacrifice of Khudiram Bose. As a youth he participated in the non-cooperation movement. After his release from jail he spent some time with Gandhiji in his ashram, ultimately moving to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association of Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad as a founder member.
It is interesting to note here that Gandhiji never forgot his affection for him and during much later days would inquire about him. Perhaps the exceptionally high pressures senior freedom fighters exerted later for the release of Yogendra had something to do with this.
His nephew Vaikunth Shukla also followed his uncle in this revolutionary movement. Both uncle and nephew were known for their extraordinary determination and regarded as big threats by the colonial rulers. Vaikunth was hanged by them in 1934 while Yogendra was sentenced to the most rigorous imprisonment in the Andamans.
To draw attention to the ill treatment of political prisoners, Yogendra went on a protest fast in the course of his imprisonment and fasted there for 46 days. Following this he was shifted to Hazaribagh jail in 1937.
When the Congress government was formed in Bihar within the limitations of overall colonial government following some constitutional reforms, it gave high importance to the release of political prisoners. A high importance was accorded to the release of Yogendra Shukla. In fact it goes greatly to the credit of this government that when it found the colonial rulers to be reluctant regarding this, it was quite willing to resign on this issue! As a result, the colonial authorities had to relent. Yogendra Shukla was released
He was now elected as a member of the All India Congress Committee and subsequently as a member of the All India Kisan Sabha. Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) convinced him to join the Congress Socialist Party, functioning within the Congress, as a founder member. The colonial authorities did not relish their growing popularity and soon both Yogendra and JP were in Hazaribagh jail.
As news of the launching of the Quit India Movement reached beyond the jail walls, Yogendra played a big role in the famous jail break of some prominent prisoners which included himself, Jayaprakash Narayan, Shaligram Singh and others. As Jayaprakash was ill, Yogendra, helped by others, is stated to have walked for around 100 km. carrying the legendary leader on his shoulders, in the course of their run from Hazaribagh to Gaya.
As a result of the torture and ill treatment he had suffered in jail his health had deteriorated badly and in particular his eyes had been affected very adversely. But still he continued his work relentlessly. In December he participated in the planning of another jail back so that some more important freedom fighters could come out to help in the mobilization of the Quit India Movement.
As a result the search for him was intensified and a big reward was announced. Instead of the medical treatment he needed badly, he was again sent to jail. This time he was kept in Buxar jail with even more imposing restrictions. As independence came nearer, he was released in 1946.
After independence while taking up several issues of high social relevance he was also Praja Socialist Party member of the Bihar Legislative Council for some time. He breathed his last in 1960.
Known to be very bright intellectually and possessing great physical strength and endurance as a young man, Yogendra Shukla was very willing and in fact determined to sacrifice his all for the freedom of the country, for fighting imperialism and for creating an exploitation-free country. His entire life is a relentless pursuit of these objectives with the greatest determination. It is a symbol also of the fact that there was no rigid divide between the various streams of the freedom movement and that several freedom fighters could move from one to the other as the circumstances required and the 1942 Quit India Movement in particular proved to be a very important time for greater cooperation for various streams of the freedom movement.
While a postage stamp has been issued in memory of Yogendra and Vaikunth, these great freedom fighters deserve to be much more widely known. In particular the inspirational importance of the many-sided contributions of Yogendra Shukla which continued for nearly five decades in the face of the most overwhelming difficulties is very high indeed.
Bharat Dogra has contributed several books and booklets on the freedom movement. His latest books include When the Two Streams Met and Azadi ke Deewanon Ki Daastaan.