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Jamnalal Bajaj

(1889 – 1942) – (Rajasthan)

Jamnalal Bajaj (Aged 53) was born on November 4, 1889, into a well-to-do Agarwal family in Kashi Ka Bas, near Sikar, Rajasthan. He was the third son of Kaniram and Birdibai. However, he was later adopted by Seth Bachhraj (Bajaj) and his wife Sadibai Bachhraj (Bajaj), a rich Rajasthani merchant couple settled in Wardha, Maharashtra. Under the tutelage of Seth Bachhraj, Jamnalal got involved in the family business. During the First World War, the British government solicited funds and appointed Jamnalal an honorary magistrate. He conferred on him the title of Rai Bahadur when he provided money for the war fund.\

Upon Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa, Jamnalal became interested in Gandhi’s principles, such as Ahimsa (non-violence) and his dedication to the poor. He was impressed by the Ashram’s routine of prayer and physical work. He brought his wife Jankidevi and his children to live in the Ashram, gave up the title of Rai Bahadur conferred on him by the British government, and joined the non-co-operation movement in 1921. Later, in 1923, he participated in the flag Satyagraha and was detained by British forces, which earned him national admiration.

He wanted Gandhi to move to Wardha and make it the center of his activities. After the Dandi March in April 1930, Gandhi moved to Sevagram, a small village near Wardha, to live close to the rural populace. Bajaj was interested in initiatives such as the removal of untouchability, promotion of Hindi, and Khadi and village industries.

To eradicate untouchability, he fought the non-admission of Harijans into Hindu temples in his hometown of Wardha. He opened his family temple, the Laxmi Narayan Mandir, in Wardha, for the Harijans in 1928, as orthodox Hindu priests and Brahmins objected. He began a campaign by eating a meal with Harijans and opening public wells to them. He opened several wells in his fields and gardens.

Bajaj differed with Gandhi when he disagreed with Congress contesting the 1938 elections to the legislature. When the Congress Working Committee informally decided to make him the President of the Haripura Session of the Congress, which Gandhi personally approved, he chose to pass the honor to Subhas Chandra Bose. He passed away on February 11, 1942.