Bharat Ratna Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant (10 September 1887 -- 7 March 1961) was a statesman of India, an Indian independence activist, and one of the foremost political leaders from Uttarakhand (then in United Provinces) and of the movement to establish Hindi as the official language of India.
17 Jul 1937 -- 27 Dec 1954.
He served as Union Home Minister from 1955-1961. In 1955, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna.As Home minister, his chief achievement was the re-organisation of States along linguistic lines. He was also responsible for the establishment of Hindi as an official language of the central government and a few states.
Departing from past policy, the government actively encouraged attendance at the mela, flagging the presence of prominent (p. 192 ) government figures at the festival, to communicate its one‐ness with as wide a public as possible.But with the emphasis on the mela as a tamasha, a spectacle of the union of modern and traditional India, the administration lost sight of the demands of crowd control and planning. The 1954 mela ended in a tragedy of mass death after a crowd crush on the most auspicious bathing day, Mauni Amavasya (February 3). It is not precisely known how many people died, although estimates varied from the UP government's official figure of 316 (253 women, 49 men, and 14 children), to rumors of more than 1,000.
The authors of the recent travel guide 100 Things to Do Before You Die advise travelers to read the eleventh chapter of Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, which gives an account of the tragedy based on newspaper research, thinly veiled as the "Pul Mela," so that they may fully appreciate the risks they take by attending a mela—this suggests that it could be the last thing you do before you die.
The cause of the deaths in such writing is generally reduced to the actions of a band of naked sadhus who attacked a dense crowd of pilgrims with their weapons, causing a "stampede" in a congested sector of the mela grounds.
A Prime Minister's Pilgrimage
In the lead‐up to the mela, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru became personally involved in the arrangements and visited the site, even though it was technically the jurisdiction of the UP government. 19 On another visit to the mela on Paush Purnima, in the presence of media photographers, he paused to dip his hand into the sacred waters of the sangam, which the media construed as him performing aachaman (a purification ritual done with the right hand).
The Leader reported that Nehru's "presence in the mela area was the foremost attraction to the pilgrims who were seen running this way or that, wherever the Congress Chief went, to have 'darshan' of their beloved leader." This adulation of Nehru was not confined to the mela area alone; as with previous festivals, it was noted that "Anand Bhavan, the home of the Prime Minister, has almost become another place of pilgrimage."
As Amrita Bazaar Patrika reported the Paush Purnima visit, Nehru was at the sangam to "see that everything was alright at Kumbh Nagar." The Patrika noted that when questioned whether he had had a dip in the sangam the Prime Minister ambiguously replied: " 'I had not a bodily dip but other dips.' He was very fond of the sangam, but he was to behave in a restrained way, jokingly he said."
Newspapers on several occasions advertised lists of "distinguished pilgrims" on their front pages, some of whom included the President of India, Rajendra Prasad; the President of the UN General Assembly, Vijayalaksmi Pandit; UP Chief Minister, Govind Ballabh Pant; Union Railway Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri; a number of ministers from both the central and UP governments; and Chief Ministers from other states. These VIPs, according to one writer, were attracted (p. 196 ) to the mela to enjoy the "pleasing and sublime part of being just one with the mass of the people of India."
They are all coming here, from Ministers to mendicants, for a dip in sacred streams and for being caught up in the little ceremonies on the banks of the eternal Ganga.
As an entity believed to have defied time, and especially imperial rule, the mela was interpreted in the press as a unique and apt symbol of independent India:
The Kumbh is the most ancient extant dynamic spiritual institution in the world. It has sustained the vital flow that has held together and nursed the glorious cultural heritage and unity of India. It has even today immense emotional and nation‐wide pull. In it one visualises not only the epitome of a national spirit but seeds of international amity and peace.