11 February 1968: Deendayal Upadhyaya, activist and economist, died

Known as a noted sociologist, political activist and philosopher, pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya played a pivotal role in developing outfits like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The latter was the foundation of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The reverend leader was found dead under mysterious circumstances near Mughal Sarai railway station on 11 February 1968. During his life and career, pandit Upadhyaya was a staunch opponent of Western democracy and secularism seeping into Indian life and culture.

Early life, struggle and career

Deendayal Upadhyaya was born on 25 September 1916 and raised in a typical middle-class Hindu family in UP. He was born in a literate family where many of his relatives and ancestors were scholarly and learned individuals in the pre-Independence India. He was no stranger to adversity even in his childhood. He lost his father before he was three and his mother passed away soon too. To make matters worse, his maternal grandfather died when Upadhyaya was only 10 year old. Thereafter, he was raised by his maternal uncle. He was a talented student and won a number of awards and medals in student life. After graduating from Kanpur University he qualified for civil services exam but chose to serve the people rather than earning a big salary and serve bureaucracy and government.  

Involvement with RSS

Even when he was an adolescent and student, Deendayal Upadhyaya was very much interested in social service. When he was doing graduation in Kanpur, he got involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS. He drew attention of Dr. Hedgewar, the RSS founder, which ensured his deeper involvement with the organisation.

Attachment with Bharatiya Jan Sangh

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a noted Politician founded Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1951 and Deendayal Upadhyaya was elected the entity’s first General Secretary. He held this position till December 1967. Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was much impressed by his perfectionism and intelligence and openly lauded Upadhyaya. The demise of Dr. Mookerjee in 1953 left the entire responsibility of the organisation on Upadhyaya. He played a pivotal role in making the Sangh as one of the country’s strongest political parties. He became Bharatiya Jan Sangh’s president in December 1967.

Career growth as writer

Deendayal Upadhyaya’s political activism and ideologies were not limited to his activities solely. The writer in him found a vent during the publication of a monthly journal Rashtradharm. He started publishing a daily named Swadesh and a weekly, Panchjanya, when he was involved with the RSS. He wrote Shankaracharya’s biography in Hindi and composed the historical drama Chandragupta Maurya. Apart from these, Upadhyaya wrote on other eminent figures of Indian history and penned compositions on Indian culture and heritage. His humanism and views on democracy are evident in his writings.


While Deendayal Upadhyaya rose in stature in the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1967, destiny proved to be the deterrent. He could carry on as the president for this organisation only for 43 days. His lifeless body was discovered near the Mughal Sarai railway station on 11 February 1968. The unexpected demise shocked the country, with political bigwigs like the then President of India Dr. Zakir Hussain and PM Indira Gandhi paying their homage. While a section of the BJP alleged vested political interest behind his death, it remains an unanswered mystery.


Also on this day

1957 - Actress Tina Munim (Now Tina Ambani) was born

1944 - Filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta was born

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