K R Narayanan: A Dalit journalist who became the 10th president of India

KR Narayanan was elected the first Dalit President of the country in 1997. Narayanan was elected the tenth President of India with a record 956,290 votes. He was supported by the ruling United Front and the Congress as well as the opposition.
K R Narayanan, former President of India
K R Narayanan, former President of IndiaPic- Internet

New Delhi— KR Narayanan was born as Kocheril Raman Narayanan on 27 October 1920 in Uzhavoor village in Kottayam district of Kerala (erstwhile Travancore Kingdom). His family belonged to the Parvan caste, which was traditionally considered 'untouchable'. Narayanan's remarkable journey to the highest position began in village. According to a report, Narayanan was born on 04 February 1921, but his uncle did not know his actual date of birth and instead chose a random date of 27 October, 1920 in the school records. However, later Narayanan kept it as the official date.

Narayanan's father Kocheril Raman Vaidya was an Ayurvedic physician. They had 7 children including KR Narayanan (K R Narayanan Biography in Hindi). The financial condition of the family was not good. Narayanan studied in a missionary school located about 8 km from his home, usually he used to cover this distance on foot every day to go to school. He was a very talented student. His dedication to studies won him a scholarship from the Royal family of Travancore, which enabled him to study in college.

Academic Prowess opens doors to London

Narayanan earned Honors degree in English Literature. Later, he became the first Dalit to obtain a Master's degree in English Literature with a first class from the University of Travancore.

The academic brilliance earned him a a scholarship by TATAs to study at the prestigious University of London. This was followed by further education at the London School of Economics, where he specialized in political science. In London he studied political science under Harold Laski, the great political scientist.

Laski,s recommendation letter in his favour, addressed to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proved handy for Narayanan as Nehru invited him to join the Indian Foreign Service. In the year 1949, Narayanan started his career with the Indian Foreign Service. Where in the early days he served in important embassies in Rangoon, Tokyo, London, Canberra and Hanoi. Due to his working skills, he was appointed as India's ambassador to Turkey and China. While his stint at Rangoon (Burma) he met his future wife, Tint Tint a Burmese woman who subsequently took on the name Usha. They got married in 1950 at New Delhi after Nehru granted special permission for an IFS officer to marry a foreign national.

Narayanan had an illustrious career as a diplomat and was named by Nehru as the country's best diplomat in 1955. He served as the Indian Ambassador to Thailand, Turkey and China. He also served as Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. Apart from this, he also taught students as a professor at Delhi School of Economics. After retirement in 1978, he became the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Narayanan was recalled from his retirement and was made Ambassador to America from 1980 to 1984.

Entry into politics

KR Naranan entered politics in the year 1984, when he fought Lok Sabha elections for the first time. He won from Ottappalam seat in Kerala with a handsome margin. KR Narayanan contested the general elections for three consecutive times on the Indian National Congress ticket and won with a huge majority. He was also a Minister of State in Rajiv Gandhi's government. Throughout his political career, he held various ministerial positions in the administrations of Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Occupying the Post of President: A Proud moment for the Marginalised section of India

In the year 1992, KR Narayanan was elected as the Vice President of India. At that time the President of the country was Shankar Dayal Sharma. Subsequently in the year 1997, Narayanan was elected as the tenth President of India defeating former Chief Election Commissioner. He became the first person from Kerala and the first Dalit to hold this prestigious post. It was a historic moment when he was elected as the tenth President of India.

There is no doubt that KR Narayanan (K R Narayanan Biography in Hindi) was an efficient President. He had questioned the government's decision to dismiss state governments on two occasions during his presidency. As an efficient and responsible President he initiated the practice of explaining his actions in office to the nation through Rashtrapati Bhavan communiques. It was during his tenure as President that the brutal Laxmanpur Bathe Massacre took place. K. R Narayanan called the incident a “national shame”. He also expressed shock when Australian citizen Graham Steins was burnt to death along with his children in Odisha; he said that “it was a barbarous crime, belonging to the inventory of black deeds.”

He is still fondly remembered for his meticulous adherence to the constitutional norms of the presidency of the country and his unwavering commitment to maintaining the dignity and independence of the office.

KR Narayanan authored and co-authored various works on Indian politics and international relations.

Two of his books India and America: Essays in Understanding (1984) and Non-Alignment in Contemporary International Relations (1981) are testimony to his understanding of foreign relations and reflect the experience he had gathered as a diplomat.

Indictment of NDA government in Gujarat Riots

In an interview to The Hindu He had criticized the Vajpayee government for the handling of the riots he said “There was governmental and administrative support for the communal riots in Gujarat. I met him personally and talked to him directly. But Vajpayee did not do anything effective."

Beyond his political achievements, Narayanan was famous for his intellectual work and decisions. He was a profound thinker and an omniscient speaker, who had a deep understanding of both Indian and global affairs and always worked in the interest of the country.

KR Narayanan died on 9 November 2005 in Delhi. His illustrious journey from an ordinary company in Kerala to the Rashtrapati Bhavan reflects the social and democratic essence of the Indian political system.

His life and contributions are an iconic source of inspiration for unsung people in India and across the world. At a time when the lower castes were exposed to various hindrances in pursuing education.

Honoring his legacy there are several institutes named after him

K.R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi. The Centre was inaugurated by Narayanan himself in February 2005, months before his death the same year. Originally called The Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, It was later renamed after him.

K.R. Narayanan Institute of Visual Science and Arts was established by the Government of Kerala in Kottayam, the native district of K.R. Narayanan.

K.R. Narayanan became a source of inspiration long before he entered the rarefied precincts of Raisina Hills. Securing scholarship to study abroad in pre-independent India proves his academic acumen. He has left a long lasting legacy.K. R Narayanan’s endeavor pushed open many doors that were shut for the people from the Downtrodden society. The fact, that he started his career in illustrious mainstream English newspapers like Times of India and Hindu at a time when the literacy rate of the entire Indian population was in single digits should inspire the aspiring journalists from the Dalit Community. There has been a long lasting demand to bestow Bharat Ratna on the great man. But, notwithstanding the Bharat Ratna, he remains the guiding star of inspiration for millions of Indians.

K R Narayanan, former President of India
Action 2023: An Effective Campaign to Protect Sewage Workers in Indian Cities
K R Narayanan, former President of India
50 Years of the World's First Women-Only Police Station: PM Indira Gandhi Gave a Pen for the Inaugural Signature
K R Narayanan, former President of India
Colonial Patronage to Popular Culture: How Bengal's Durga Puja Evolved

You can also join our WhatsApp group to get premium and selected news of The Mooknayak on WhatsApp. Click here to join the WhatsApp group.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The Mooknayak English - Voice Of The Voiceless