Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Remembering Edmond Privat!

In my early salad days in Banaras Hindu University; Shayaji Gaikwad or Central Library used to be place of my wishful loitering-thanks goes to a side stack of this grand library where I first saw the name of Edmond Privat as an author of “The Clash of Loyalties”. Charmed by its name and themes on colonialism, I found reason to engage myself with the book that could be easily acknowledged as representative work of Edmond Privat and one of the best impartial books written by any Whiteman. This Swiss national was born in 1889, educated at Cambridge University and thoroughly kept his independent views as a journalist, scholar, moralist and the Chairman of European Committee for Indian independence from 1932to1939.

He came early in journalism in 1903 with a monthly journal L’a Juna Esperantisto {Young Esperantist} with his classmate-Hector Holder, who was also a successor of an artist with high reputes. With his forthright stand, he stood with the Indian independence movement for at least three decades; his entwining with India&Indians started with meeting towering icon, Tagore in 1926 at the place of Roman Rolland in Villanueva near the Geneva Lake. Next time, he met to Tagore in 1932, meanwhile in 1931-after the failure of IInd Round Table Conference, he met to his real inspiration Gandhi, first as an interpreter at the same house of French scholar Roman Rolland. Edmond Privat had unbeatable argument about the prevailing contradiction of his time; as a journalist he overtly stood against the individual and collective prejudices and never let himself aligned with the power mongered colonialists.

Today, it’s hard to trace even a tint of information about this very genuine friend of India who played so active role in Indian independence-its matter of grave concern to see such apathy from both the academic and government side. His close acquaintances with Gandhi given him the real concern for India and of course a special nomenclature as well-Anand {Joy}, for him and Bhakti {Devotion} for his wife. His impression for Gandhi rose to momentum in his very first meeting-he accompanied Gandhi during his meeting with Mussolini in Rome and remained with him even till reaching Mumbai. His proximity to Gandhi imparted him the closer senses of India’s plight and its exploitation carries by the graceful British. Verbatim of Edmond Privat has been beautifully placed by P.C.Roy Choudhury in his small though insightful work “Edmond Privat: A Forgotten Friend of India” as “I aspired and still aspire to be a citizen, not of an empire but of community of a free association of equals…what is there that we two nations cannot accomplish together”. Dr.Privat had lucidly written about his proximity with Gandhi and India in “Ank Indes Avet Gandhi” {French}-during his London days, he played very active role for Indian League with Krishna Menon.

Privat dreamt for an active conscious world with rethinking on present state of compartmentalization among the modern states. He vehementally the coercion of collective sin for its subdued ramifications over the individual spirits. Tracing of British character was a remarkable accomplishment from him-in his book “The English from Pirates to Prophets”, he analyses how the Saxon pirates landed in Great Britain and had set up ten kingdoms on the ruins of the Roman cities. Christian churches replaced the temples of Jupiter and the antique cult of the Druids in certain regions; this solid observation is a big question mark over the fabricated intellectual tradition of western world.

He was an active entity of international politics…his zest first started as reporter for famous French daily newspaper La Temps {The Times} in Russia and entire Central Europe. Here, he displayed his moral support for Polish independence; his book “The Odyssey of Poland” was hugely admired by the peoples including the remarkable liberal voices like, H.G.Wells and Roman Rolland. As a tireless journalist, he compiled his reporting experience of Central Europe in “Addventuroj de Pionorio” {Adventures of the Pioneer}…even later, he remained contributing for Socialistic French dailies like “Droit du Peuple {Right of the People}, Le Sentinell under the title of Le Peuple. As an internationalist and a great champion of freedom, he did fairly remarkable albeit his name is almost obscure in the country like India where he contributed with the most of makers of modern India. Two jewels of Indian politics-Gandhi and Nehru were very much impressed with this gentle Englishman for being active for freedom of nation…alas! Post independence, Edmond Privat never received his due which he was deserved gracefully. At least now, we need to revisit our foreign friends of independence movement…historiography have to take an essential turn now!
Atul Kumar Thakur
October27th 2010, Wednesday
New Delhi


  1. Nice reading an unusual article on a very special national friend.Thanks you a lot for such moralistic concern-a feeble reality now a days-Ranjan Sen,New Delhi

  2. Despite being a novice on such deeper political theme,I enjoyed the humane touch and sicerity in recalling a worthy national friend like Edmond Privat.Thanks for a vivd recalling...
    Amit Ganguly