Amritlal Sheth, popularly known as the lion of Saurashtra, was a journalist par
excellence, devoted to Gandhiji, committed to India’s freedom struggle, and a fearless protagonist
of the oppressed. He had the most eventful, adventurous and fruitful life. His contribution in the
field of journalism, in bringing to book the tyrant kings of the Princely States of Kathiawad,
taking the leadership of Dhoera Salt Satyagraha, risking his life for getting the documents on
Subhas Chandra Bose’s activities in Burma and Siam is an important chapter in the history of
Gujarat and modern India.
Varsha Das writes short, poems, art reviews, and books for children, also translates and
edits in Gujarati, Hindi and English. Her books are published by UNICEF, Ncert, Nbt, Sahitya
Akademi and others. She worked for the National Book Trust, India for 30 years. At present she is
the Director of National Gandhi Museum.
Amritlal Sheth popularly known as the lion of Saurashtra was one of those freedom fighters of
India whose patriotism and dare devil acts inspired many in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.
However, he is not quite known in other parts of the country.
Amritlal’s father was an extremely low paid school teacher. By his sheer strong will to study he
not only completed matriculation but found the teacher who taught him Law. Amritlal became a
successful lawyer and was hired by the Princely States. During such tenures he closely watched the
acts of atrocities committed by the kings on their subjects. Although he made efforts to help the
oppressed he found the environment of the Princely States stifling and therefore, resigned, and
went to Gandhiji for advice. Gandhiji asked him to work in Saurashtra.
Amritlal returned to Saurashtra. He wanted to voice the pain of common people and his passion for
exposing tyrant kings. His rich well wishers generously donated money and he started a weekly
newspaper called Saurashtra from Ranpur. Fearless Saurashtra created history in journalism.
Amritlal attended Second Round Table Conference London as a press correspondent and highlighted
the plight of Indians in the Princely States. Taking a huge risk Amritlal went to Burma and Siam
as a war correspondent with a mission to gather information about Subhas Chandra Bose’s
activities, and was successful in bringing all the relevant documents to India.
In 1930, he was one of the chosen leaders to lead Salt Satyagraha at Dholera. He inspired
innumerable youngsters to join in. Imprisoned several times by the British his I important
creation Saurashtra had to be shut down, but at the earliest opportunity he started Janmabhoomi
daily newspaper in Bombay. It played the same role on a larger scale as the Saurashtra did. He
participated in underground activities during the Quit India movement. At the same time just like
a lion went in the midst of communal riots in Bombay and had the courage to publish the truth
about the incidents in Janmabhoomi.
Amritlal founded Kathiawad Rajkiya Parishad, and Akhil Hind Rajasthan Parishad, to give voice to
mute and tortured subjects of the Princely States. He also founded Dholera Satyagraha Samiti, and
Indian Languages Newspaper Association which he headed for 8 years. The lion of Saurashtra
suddenly became silent in July 1954 after having led the most eventful, adventurous and fruitful
life. However, Amritlal Sheth, the legend will continue to live forever.
Amritlal Sheth himself had written a lot in his newspapers. Unfortunately, all of it is not
carefully preserved, but the books written by my mother Labhuben Mehta, other publications edited
by Manubhai Mehta, Rajul Dave, and Jayaben Shah, and Kantilal Shah’s book on Dholera Satyagraha
have provided invaluable information.
It is my great good fortune that I was asked by the Chairman of National Book Trust, Prof. Bipan
Chandra to write a biography of Amritlal Sheth, who happens to be my grandfather. I am indeed
grateful to Prof. Chandra. I am also thankful to all those who handled this small effort of mine
in the editorial and production departments.
This book for me has been an overwhelming journey in the lives of my ancestors, and also an
opportunity to pay my debt of gratitude to them.
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