Monday, December 20, 2010
A B Shah The founder of Secularist movement in India
A. B. SHAH
(Amritlal Bhikku Shah)
A B Shah played a crucial role in the Indian Humanist, secular movement.
Right from 1964 when I met him for the first time, I continued my friendship
with him until he passed away in 1982.
The Koneru Kutumbarao conducted a humanist training camp at Avanigadda in
Krishna district in 1966. A B Shah made his presence felt on all the days by
taking part in discussions and serving as a source of encouragement. He made
it a point to get the Telugu speeches translated into English so that he could
follow what others had to say.
Aavula Gopala Krishna Murthy, as Principal, undertook
the translation task for the benefit of A B Shah. A B Shah appreciated the
spirited speeches of Raavipudi Venkatadri, Tripuraneni Venkateswara Rao, and
Among other participants were Malladi Rama Murthy, G V Krishna Rao,
Kalluri Basaveswara Rao, Meka Chakrapani, Ch. Rajareddy, M V Ramanayya,
Tripuraneni Gokulchand, Bachu Venkateswarlu, and Gavini Venkataswami.
I turned out to be a good companion to A B Shah. We indulged in
chitchatting over a peg of drink or a round of smoking. A B Shah smoked
through pipe whereas Raavipudi relished smoking cigars. Mandava
Srirammurthy contributed to the success of the camp. Kutumbarao made
commendable arrangements and extended good hospitality.
A B Shah toured Andhra many a time at my invitation. He developed
friendship with ABK. When he was bed-ridden following cardiac arrest in
1967; we took un undertaking from him that he would go to Madras for
treatment. He, however, passed away when he suffered a second heart attack
even before he could go to Madras. .
I conducted many meetings of A B Shah in Guntur, Vijayawada, and
Hyderabad .He addressed bar associations. His speech at the AC College in
Guntur won a lot of appreciation. Yelavarthi Rosaiah, whom it was difficult
to please, too praised A B Shah. We conducted many crucial meetings with
Hindu-Muslim associations on secularism. Alam Khundmiri cooperated with us
in the conduct of such meetings..
We had dinner with the then Vice Chancellor D. S. Reddy. Planning to give
his daughter in marriage to Vice Chancellor Narotham Reddy’s son, he elicited
from me the family’s background. The marriage did take place but broke down
I introduced Aalapati Ravindranath and V R Narla to A B Shah.
A B Shah brought out very good books under the banner of Nachiketha
Publications. He published a book after every seminar. He directed me to
sell the books and share half of the revenue with him. We had sold literature
on humanism that way. Gurijala Seetharamayya from Tenali and Koneru
Kutumbarao from Vijayawada helped me a lot. We translated A B Shah’s book
on Scientific Method into Telugu. Anupama Publishers of Vijayawada released
the book of essays at a function, with Sriramamurthy as the chief guest.
A B Shah was on the editorial board of the Radical Humanist magazine.
He later brought out the Quest magazine. He established the Secular Society
and published the Secularist magazine. He told Puri Sankaracharya that there
were references in the Vedas to Hindus consuming cow meat. Tarkatirtha
Lakshmana Sastry supported A B Shah. With the assistance of M P Rege, A B
Shah ran the New Quest magazine. Dilip Chitre acted as its editor for some time.
M N Roy enunciated the principles of humanism based on modern science.
He opined that arriving at principles based on the Vedas was not correct. C B
Ray agreed with him while V M Tarkunde differed.
I read a written copy of his book Philosophical Consequences of Modern Science. He
passed away before he could get it edited and published.
The writings of A B Shah were very scientific and organized.
In 1978, I received a letter from Garden Stain from the U.S. asking me to
write on Humanist, rational, secular movements in India. He also wanted me
to do an Encyclopedia of Unbelief. A B Shah had suggested my name for doing
the work. I accepted the assignment and brought out the book. I kept Garden
Stain informed of the book’s contents. He died of cancer after the book’s
I met so many learned men like VV John, J B Naik, and Amrik Singh
A B Shah was born in Gujarat in the Digambar Jain community and
turned into a Humanist under the influence of A N Rai. He moved to
Maharashtra and lived in Mumbai and Pune. During the Emergency, he stood
V K Sinha, a disciple of A B Shah, runs the Secularist magazine now. B A V
Sarma, also a follower of A B Shah, moved to Hyderabad from Bombay and
passed away after working in Osmania University. He was one of the geniuses
along with Srinivasan and Prabhakar Paadhi in the secular movement.
A B Shah founded the Satya Sodhak Mandali in Maharashtra and facilitated
translation of Hamid Dalwai writings into English by. Dilip Chitre. I translated
the book on Muslim Politics into Telugu. The Prasaritha magazine carried it.
I introduced A B Shah to Bhavanam Venkatram when he was Chief
Minister. As they found themselves on the same wavelength, they grew
closer. Edward Shills ran the Minerva magazine from Chicago. With that as an
inspiration, A B Shah ran the Humanist Way magazine for sometime. A B Shah
published the writings of G D Parekh, a good friend of his. Critic of Hinduism
and Essays on Tilak were some of the articles the Humanist Way carried. It
stopped appearing after eight issues.
A B Shah came to Hyderabad for a seminar at the YMCA. Narayan was
staying at the Taj Mahal hotel. We were amazed when he asked us to get a taxi
to go to the seminar hall, which was very close. It did not strike us initially that
he was not keeping good health. Doctors, whom we approached, diagnosed
him as suffering from a cardiac problem. He left for Pune for treatment.
I introduced Rashiduddin Khan, Y. Ragahavaiah, G. Ram Reddy, K
Seshadri, P V Rajagopal to A B Shah. All of them appreciated his wisdom.
The books on Gandhi and Nehru by A B Shah were the products of a
seminar he conducted. Some of his well-known books are Scientific Method,
Tradition and Modernity, and Challenges to Secularism.