Rafi Ahmed Kidwai was a freedom fighter, politician, and socialist. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly and was born 124 years ago on 18th February 1894.
Born in Masauli, U.P. on 18th February 1894, Kidwai was inducted into politics by his uncle, a politician, and a lawyer named Vilayat Ali, who took him to attend meetings of the Khilafat Organisation. Kidwai completed his B.A. from M.A.O. College, Aligarh, in 1918. However, he gave up on his LLB due to his involvement in the Khilafat and Non-co-operation movement in 1919-1920. During this period, Kidwai became very close to the Nehru family. He went on to serve as personal secretary to both Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the constituent assembly, Kidwai was a part of the Committee for Rules and Procedure, as well as the sub-committee to study the effect of migration of population on the composition of the constituent assembly.
He was one of only two Muslims in Jawaharlal Nehru’s first cabinet, alongside Abul Kalam Azad. Kidwai was known for his quiet disposition and unwillingness to speak in public. Jawaharlal Nehru noted that “It was a joke among us. He was always a quiet worker and speaking in public was always somewhat distasteful to him. He spoke quite enough and more in private groups but not in public meetings.” At the same time, Nehru fondly recalled that “he probably knew more individuals in India as colleagues, friends, and comrades than anybody I know of.”
Post-independence, Kidwai became India’s first Minister for Communications. During his 2-year tenure, his prominent contribution was to launch night airmail service across India. Subsequently, Kidwai was appointed as Minister for Agriculture. He was instrumental in reducing food shortages at a time where food rationing was the norm.
To honour his memory, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (which was established by him) instituted the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for Indian researchers in the agricultural field. Further, in 2011, the Postal Staff College, Ghaziabad was renamed as Rafi Ahmed Kidwai National Postal Academy, to commemorate Kidwai.
Read more about him here.
(Dhruv Mehrotra is an intern with CLPR. He is currently pursuing his 3rd-year law school from NLSIU, Bengaluru.)