My father Anant Maral Shastri – we called him Babuji – was a student at Kashi Vidyapeeth in Benaras. At that time, front ranking freedom fighter and scholar Acharya Narendra Dev was the Principal of that great institute. Acharya Kriplani was his teacher and Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had graduated and was awarded the “Shastri” degree in 1926, was his senior.
In 1930, Kashi Vidyapeeth had been shut down by the British when the institute had turned into a meeting ground for those leading the freedom movement and all looked towards it as a major centre for churning of minds – a process that gave a huge impetus to the freedom movement. At the same time, there was a total clampdown on the vernacular press.
Lal Bahadur Shastri participated in the Salt Satyagraha and was imprisoned for more than two years in 1930. Before he left for the Stayagrah, Shastriji, who had got married to Lalita Devi ji only two years ago, asked my father, whom he treated as a younger brother, to be around to take care of everyone at home while he was away. It was a huge responsibility. One day, early in the morning, my father was away for a little while and upon returning found that the police had come and taken into custody all the ladies who were there in the house. Immediately, my father ran to the Superintendent of Police, who was a British officer, and succeeded in convincing him to release everyone.
I remember, one day, when my mother and I visted Lalita Devi ji and her eldest son Hari Krishna Shastri at their Janpath residence in New Delhi in 1969, she was filled with emotion as she narrated how the police had barged into their home and took them to the police station and how they had got released.