By Atul Dev
Dharam Yash Dev, my father, was an extraordinary man; a man devoted to serving causes that are only part of fading memories today; a man dedicated to make India truly independent; a man passionately involved in the welfare of Indians overseas; a man principled to a fault and an intellectual of commanding heights.
On 17 August 2010 we remember a great soul who would have been a 100 years old (b: 17 Aug 1910 at Vill: Borikhel, District: Mianwali, State: West Punjab, now in Pakistan) had GOD not snatched him away from us on 9 Jan 1983. Dharam Yash Dev was a man of many parts — a student activist, journalist, freedom fighter, author, diplomat, political activist, social activist and later India’s most investigative journalist; he was a multifaceted personality.
In his student days in England he actively participated in the freedom movement led by the late Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and VK Krishna Menon. This association turned into a deep friendship over the years. In fact their association dated back to days when Sir Seewoosagur was a member of the India Students Association and later the founding Chair of the Indian Students Central Association in London. My father was further drawn into intense political activity due to the direct influence of Sir Seewoosagur when he was Chair of the London Branch of the Indian National Congress.
On his return to India, while he joined the Pioneer as their War Correspondent in Burma, he plunged into the freedom movement to find himself jailed along with stalwarts like Deshbandhu Gupta and Aruna Asaf Ali. But his passion was Indians overseas and he authored the first ever study on “Our Countrymen Abroad”. A book that carries a foreword by Jawaharlal Nehru and was published by Acharya JB Kriplani.
Independence was close his contribution to the dialogues and eventual failure of the Cripps Mission is well recorded in the archives of India. Soon thereafter he found himself active as Director of Publicity, Constituent Assembly of India, working with Dr Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel, who were the main people overseeing the Constitution Drafting Committee’s work. My mother and he were some of very few privileged people to have been in the Central Hall of Parliament when the famous “Tryst With Destiny” speech was delivered by Nehru. All photographs and press releases of the occasion were released by him.
It was in recognition (he would have hated me if I use the word ‘reward’) of his abilities and his passionate feelings for Indians overseas, that free India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, appointed him as India’s first High Commissioner to Mauritius in 1948. Soon after the declaration of Independence of India, he found himself in a new avatar, as India’s First High Commissioner to Mauritius. When my father arrived in Mauritius in 1948 it was a great reunion of the days spent together in London with Sir Seewoosagur. It is also well known that the Labour Party in Mauritius was greatly influenced by my father’s presence in Mauritius.
To quote, Anand Mulloo, who wrote on the Labour Movement in Mauritius, in an article dated 15 Sep 1998 –
“But underneath, the population were impatient for political development as everywhere in Mauritius the Indian flag was flowing on the declaration of Indian independence and the rural population identified themselves thoroughly with independent India, the source of their pride, dignity and inspiration. In the same year, Mr Dharam Yash Dev was nominated as the first Indian High Commissioner in Mauritius and Ramgoolam seized this opportunity to ride on the popular crest of Indian nationalism by associating himself closely with Yash Dev. He built a closer Mauritius-India friendship relation on historical, emotional and diplomatic levels.”
On his return to India my father plunged into active journalism and soon earned the plaudit from no less an editor as Rusi Karanjia, who headlined in Blitz, “Dharam Yash Dev – India’s Most Investigative Journalist”. The Illustrated Weekly of India reported 10 of India’s most investigated stories – three of these were attributed to him – the VIP Car Thief story, the Nagarwala death mystery and the Jayanti Teja saga of bribery and corruption in high places. The VIP Car Thief case was raised and debated in Parliament for over 11 years, eventually being rescued by the declaration of Emergency in 1975. He was also actively involved in the investigations of the Lal Bahadur Shastri murder inquiry along with stalwarts like Prakash Vir Shastri and Hari Vishnu Kamath.
In his later years he spent time with projects taken up by Rotary Club of Delhi including the setting up of the Blind School near Oberoi Hotel. He passed away a disappointed man seeing people follow a distorted value system which was not what people had fought for during the freedom movement. Power at all cost was their new mantra!
When he passed away in Delhi in 1983, his most affectionate obituaries were carried by the media in Mauritius — Mauritius Times in particular, written by its Founder-Editor Beekrumsing Ramlallah. His role in Mauritius can best be gauged by the numerous references made to his contribution during the country’s freedom struggle through the labour movement headed by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.
Dharam Yash Dev had left a mark and a name in the history of Mauritius, an association that we, the members of his family, greatly cherish and remember with pride.
* Published in print edition on 20 August 2010