Pre-Independence: Students very prominently and positively participated in the National Movement. This was very clearly evident in 1905,
when students protested against Lord Curzon’s decision of the partition of Bengal. This also had echoes in Northern India where students came out in large numbers to participate in the freedom movement in spite of the fact that the Indian National Congress at that time did not have a political outfit for the youth of the country.
From 1921 on wards, sporadic movements of young students started shaking the minds of the young people against English rule. A substantial part of this group undertook extreme revolutionary activities which then dominated the movement from 1925 on wards right up to 1942. The martyrs of the National movement like Khudiram bose in Bengal, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh etc. ignited the minds of students and youth across the country. During this period, youth groups were organized under different names, i.e. provincial Students Conference, Young India Forum, All Bengal Students Association, Central Provincial Youth Conference, and later the Students Congress.
Shaping of the Youth Congress: The actual shaping of the Youth Congress, in terms of flag, logo etc. actually took place after 1950 onwards and was initiated by Smt. Indira Gandhi followed by Sh. Ramlal Parik, Sh. Puran Singh Azad, Sh. K.V. Reddy, Sh. Brij Mohan Jain, Sh. Tulsidas Dasappa and in 1971 by myself. While tracing the history of the Youth Congress, we also find that Mr. Nariman, after whom the Nariman Point of present day Mumbai is named was deeply involved in Youth congress activities during the freedom movement.
Logo: The logo of the Youth Congress is the popular wheel which generates the power and strength, through which one can derive the dynamism for creation.
1950’s and 1960’s: Two major conferences of post-Independent India played a major part in shaping the Youth Congress structure. The first was the Tirupati session of the mid 1950’s and the second was the Panchmarhi session of the 1960’s. It was at Panchmarhi that the National Council and the National Advisory Committee came into being. The IYC Constitution was also drafted and adopted in this session. Prior to this, the Youth congress used to function through the AICC, as one of its constituent departments/cells. The Youth Cell used to coordinate Youth Congress and students’ activities throughout the country during this period.
Between 1949 and 1962, the Youth Congress was mainly engaged in constructive work such as the co-operative movement, mass literacy campaign, fight against untouchability, spreading of primary education, and national level social, cultural and sports activities. In 1962, the Youth Congress played a great role on the patriotic front against the Chinese aggression. It was from 1965 that the Youth Congress took on a more directly political role, especially against the right-wing reactionary forces, ultimately culminating in the historic split of the Congress in 1969 led by Smt. Indira Gandhi. Gradually, the Youth Congress began to undertake activities such as tree plantation, anti-dowry campaign, anti-hoarding, anti-smuggling campaigns.
First Elections of the Youth Congress: During the Indore session of the Congress in 1971, the National Council went into election on the direction of the then Prime Minister, Late Smt. Indira Gandhi. Priyaranjan Das Munsi got elected as first Youth Congress President in the organizational election held at 5, Rajendra Prasad Road, in which Sh. Vyalar Ravi and Sh. Nandini Satpathy acted as observers. There have been 14 more Presidents of the Indian Youth Congress since then, namely
1. Sh. Priyaranjan Das Munsi
2. Smt. Ambika Soni
3.Sh. Ramchandra Rath
4.Sh. Ghulam Nabi Azad
5.Sh. Tariq Anwar
6.Sh. Anand Sharma
7.Sh. Gurudas Kamat
8.Sh. Mukul Wasnik
9.Sh. Ramesh Chennitala
10.Sh. M.S. Bitta
11.Sh. Satyajeet Singh Gaekwad
12.Sh. Manish Tewari
13.Sh. Randeep Surjewala
14.Sh. Ashok Tanwar
15. Sh. Rajiv Satav
1970’s: Between 1976 to 1981, Sh. Sanjay Gandhi gave a new dimension to the Youth Congress activities. Campaigns such as the Each One Teach One literacy campaign, tree plantation campaign for the increase in forest cover became the base on which the National Literacy Mission and the Forest reservation campaign took shape during the time of Sh. Rajiv Gandhi. Campaigns on family planning and anti-dowry campaigns were also undertaken during this period.
Massive rallies of the Youth Congress were held in Ramlila Ground, Delhi in the 1950’s, addressed by Pandit Nehru and also on 9th August, 1974, the Youth Congress Foundation Day, which was addressed by Smt. Indira Gandhi and myself.
1980’s: Rajiv Gandhi took some historic decisions for the youth of the country. The most significant of these was the granting of electoral franchise to youth from the age of 18 years of age. This signaled a bug change in democratic parameters and directly gave youth a role in the process of nation-building. He also realized that democracy would be meaningless unless it was decentralized at the grassroots level, and this led to the formation of Panchayati Raj. The success of Panchayati Raj can be seen today on many folds. Firstly, it is the most vibrant system of democracy at the grassroots in operation today. 85% of funds under rural development are today being used for Panchayati Raj. Also, it was through Panchayati raj and the minimum 33% representation for women within the same that many women for the first time became directly involved in political life. It was one of the major steps towards the empowerment of women. As has already been mentioned, a campaign was undertaken during the time of Sh. Sanjay Gandhi for the increase in forest cover. This was further intensified during the time of Sh. Rajiv Gandhi, and forest cover, which had fallen by 25%, now registered an increase of 7%.
Rajiv Gandhi also took India to a new direction in terms of technological and scientific development, telecommunications and the development of Information Technology. He dreamt of a 21st century India, not as a poet, but as a power at par with the rest of the world. It is significant that the dream of Rajiv ji, in seeing India as a member of the G-8 has today been manifested, a direct recognition of the world that India is equal to the most powerful nations in the world. Insat A, B, Agni, Prithvi were all launched during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi. He initiated the telecommunications revolution, which has resulted in a massive increase in tele density across the country. Similarly, in the IT sector, India can today boast of the brightest talents of the world, with approximately 70% of the youth population between the ages of 25 and 40 being involved in this profession. Rajiv ji also did not believe in the quota system as such, but by giving an opportunity for a large number of youth to fight the elections based on their ability and winnability, he manifested his belief in the youth of the country.
Thus, one can say that Nehru’s concept of modern India was taken forward by Smt. Indira Gandhi, with the focus on the poorest of the poor and campaign such as Garibi Hatao. Rajiv ji gave a new direction to the youth movement of the country, and present day India is a manifestation of his dreams 20 years back. The contribution of Congress leaders such as Smt. Indira Gandhi, Late Sh. Ramlal Parik, Late Sh. Puran singh Azad and Late Sh. Tulsidas Dasappa in creating the infrastructure of the Youth Congress and identifying it as a positive centre of the national stream of youth should also not be forgotten.