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A Page from History :India’s true friend Deenabandhu



By O P Sharma


Few of the English men served the Indians and they fondly need to be remembered. Of them, Charles Freer Andrew, one of the rarest Britisher was deeply attached with India and the Indian people. He loved India as much as any patriotic Indian did and even upheld the cause of freedom. His identification with our people was so absolute that Indians accepted him as their own social leader.
Charles Freer Andrews, affectionately called by Indian as Deenabandu, a friend of the poor, or the brother of the humble, was born on February 12, 1871 at Newcastle (England) in an orthodox Christian family. His father was holding strict views on religion and personal freedom. Charles certainly learned from his father his courage to stand alone and other virtues.
After a brilliant academic career, Adnrews won university scholarship and entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1890 at the age of 19.

Arrival in India
He came to Delhi, India on March 20, 1904 and subsequently joined the staff of the St Stephen’s College, Delhi where his close friend, an Indian Christian nationalist Suchil K. Rudra was the Vice Principal. At the St. Stephens College, he got opportunities to meet many leaders of Indian public opinion such as GK Gokhale, Lajpat Rai, Tej Bhadur Sapru and Dadabhai Nauroji. By 1907, Andrews amply realized how Indians were being humiliated in their own country and how India had been impoverished by its British rulers.
In 1907, when the Principal of the St Stephen College retired, he insisted on the appointment of SK Rudra for the post while himself refusing to accept the position. Then they both brought the college to the full current of national life and often engaging the students to work for weaker sections in Delhi. Andrew’s public criticism of Government policies invited the wrath of the Britishs and he was soon put under strict police surveillance.
He was deeply pained to see the treatment meted out to Indians in their own country at the hands of the alien power. He developed friendship with Maulevi Zaka Ullah, a devout Muslim, Munshi Ram who later led the Arya Samaj, Swami Shadhanand and few other nationalists. He had realized that India was destined to change rapidly and to come into its own.
Bond with Tagore
Andrews met Rabindra Nath Tagore in England in 1912 and was drawn to him both for the compelling beauty of his poetry and by his admiration for moral nobility of his social and political thought. Their meeting of mind was the beginning of a life-long friendship. Next year, he visited Shanti Niketan and from then on frequently referred to Tagore as his ‘Guru’ from whom he learnt to appreciate the essence of Indian culture and also the moral basis of the movement for Independence. Tagore and Andrews held each other in great esteem. About Andrews, Tagore said, “I had the privilege of knowing his extra ordinary love for India.
Wider Horizons
At the time when Andrews chose India as the field of his life work, political excitement and activity were at their peak and the spirit of nationalism was evident throughout the country. He saw the change and decided to side openly with the Indians in realizing their legitimate right to Independence. This stand, no doubt, made him suspect in the eyes of the British, but rendered him close to several prominent national leaders.
Andrews & Mahatma
In 1913, Andrews was asked by Gopal Krishan Gokhale to go to South Africa and help in the resistance of the Indian community to discriminatory legislation and the deplorable condition of labour there. Accordingly, on January 1, 1914, Andrews landed at Durband and in presence of “White onlookers” met Gandhihji by touching his feet in a gesture of respect. This visit to South Africa in 1914 made Gandhiji and Andrews friends for life. Their common passion for truth and service of the poor was deeper than their many differences of opinion about methods and programmes. Gandhiji found in Andrews a brother who would rush to this side in times of need. To Andrews, Gandhiji was a source of great inspiration.
Andrews spared no efforts to publicly advocate total independence. From 1920, onwards, he worked together with the other freedom fighters pleading all the time that protests should be peaceful and constitutional. He plunged himself into the task of interpreting the aims of Gandhiji to the British Government and the public.
Concern for poor
His political activity did not deter him to work selflessly for the poor and earned from Gandhiji the title “Deenabandhu” the friend and brother of the humble. In India he was always working among the poor and took part in various relief and other programmes. .
During 1925 and 1927, Andrews was elected president of the Trade Union Congress. He was an ardent crusader against untouchability and worked with Dr Ambedkar in formulating the Harijan (Dalits) demands in 1933.
Deenababandhu passed away in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on April 5, 1940. Paying tribute to him on his death, Mahatma Gandhi said, “In the death of C F Andrews not only England but humanity has lost a true son and servant. In my opinion, Charles Andrews was one of the greatest and best of English man and because he was a good son of England, he became also a son of India. I have not known a better man or a better Christian. He was a true friend of the poor and downtrodden.” On his birth anniversary on January 12, the people still fondly remember his service to the society in India(Starline Syndicate Service)



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