UK rectifies a mistake of the past

Shailesh Vora with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Cameron (File)

Shyamji Krishna Varma, called to the bar in London in 1884, was expelled for backing independence for India. British Justice Minister Shailesh Vara presented the reinstatement certificate to Prime Minister Narendra Modi…..reports Asian Lite News

British Justice Secretary Shailesh Vora presenting the documents to Modi
British Justice Secretary Shailesh Vara presenting the documents to Modi in the presence of Prime Minister David Cameron

More than a century after being disbarred for advocating independence for India, the nationalist leader and barrister Shyamji Krishna Varma has been posthumously reinstated by London’s Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, the Guardian reported.

In a belated rewriting of colonial history, the Inn’s governing council, at the heart of the legal establishment, has acknowledged that Varma (1857-1930) was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and “did not receive an entirely fair hearing”.

Modi considers Shyamji Krishna Varma as one of his ideals and has sought to preserve his legacy in the hearts and minds of a billion Indians. He managed to get his ashes from Switzerland to the creation of Kranti Teerth, a memorial. 

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said: “I am delighted that Shyamji Krishna Varma has been posthumously reinstated to the Bar. He was from the Indian state of Gujarat, and as Britain’s first Gujarati minister, and a lawyer myself, I am particularly pleased at his reinstatement. My team and I have worked closely with the Inner Temple, and it is fitting that we can make this presentation as part of prime minister Modi’s historic visit to Britain.”

Varma may have slipped from public memory in the UK but in the years before the first world war he was a prominent lawyer and political propagandist. His reputation is preserved in India where a university in the state of Gujarat was named in his honour.

This year a barrister in Delhi wrote to the Inner Temple pointing out that whereas Mahatma Gandhi had been retrospectively rehabilitated by the Inn as long ago as 1988, Varma still endured public disgrace.

Gandhi was expelled by the benchers of the Inner Temple in 1922 after being convicted of sedition for organising protests, including the salt march which was part of the boycott of British goods.

Varma, who went to school in Mumbai and studied at Balliol College, Oxford, was disbarred not for having a criminal record but merely for writing letters to the Times arguing for Indian home rule.

In London, Varma was called to the bar in 1884. He founded India House in Highgate as a hostel for Indian students who faced racist attitudes when seeking accommodation in the capital. Lenin and Gandhi were among those who visited him there.

PROFILE from Wikipedia:

Shyamji Krishnavarma (Shyamji Krishna Nakhua) (1857–1930) was an Indian revolutionary fighter, lawyer and journalist who founded the Indian Home Rule Society, India House and The Indian Sociologist in London.

A graduate of Balliol College, Krishna Varma was a noted scholar in Sanskrit and other Indian languages. He pursued a brief legal career in India and served as the Divan of a number of Indian princely states in India. He had, however, differences with Crown authority, was dismissed following a supposed conspiracy of local British officials at Junagadh and chose to return to England. An admirer of Dayanand Saraswati’s approach of Cultural nationalism, and of Herbert Spencer, Krishna Varma believed in Spencer’s dictum “Resistance to aggression is not simply justified, but imperative”.

In 1905 he founded the India House and The Indian Sociologist, which rapidly developed as an organised meeting point for radical nationalists among Indian students in Britain at the time and one of the most prominent centres for revolutionary Indian nationalism outside India. Most famous among the members of this organisation was Veer Savarkar. Krishna Varma moved to Paris in 1907, avoiding prosecution. He died in 1930.