Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi (26 October 1890 – 25 March 1931, Kanpur) was an Indian journalist, a leader of the Indian National Congress and an independence movement activist. He was an important figure in the non-cooperation movement and the freedom movement of India, who once translated Victor Hugo’s novel Ninety-Three,and is mostly known as the founder-editor of the Hindi language newspaper, Pratap.
His short life was a constant struggle against oppression and inhumanity. He described himself in these words: “I am a fighter against oppression and injustice, whether practised by bureaucrats, zamindars, capitalists or those of high caste. I have fought all my life against oppression against inhumanity and may God give me strength to fight on till the last”.
Ganesh Shankar was born at Hathgaon/Hathgam. This is also the birthplace of renowned Urdu poet Shri Iqbal Verma and it is said, this was populated by Saint Parashar. His father Jai Narain, also spelled as Jainairayan, was a teacher in a middle school namely in Mungaoli which is now the tehsil of Ashoknagar district of Madhya Pradesh. He was poor but deeply religious and dedicated to high ideals. It was under him that Ganesh Shankar received his early schooling and passed the high school examination privately in 1907 after studying in Mungaoli and Vidisha. He could not study further due to poverty and became a clerk in the currency office and later a teacher in high school in Kanpur. At age 16, he also wrote his first book Hamari Atmogsargart and wed his wife Chandraprakashwati on June 4, 1909.
His real interest, however, was in journalism and public life and he came early under the influence of the nationalist upsurge, which was taking place in the country. He became an agent of the well-known revolutionary Hindi and Urdu journals – Karamyogi and Swarajya and also began to contribute to them. He adopted the pen-name ‘Vidyarthi’ – the seeker of knowledge. He attracted the notice of Pt. Mahabir Prasad Dwiwedi, the doyen of Hindi journalism who offered him the job of a sub-editor in his famous literary monthly, “The Saraswati”, in 1911. Ganesh Shankar, however, was more interested in current affairs and politics and therefore joined the Hindi weekly “Abhyudaya” a political journal of the time. He thus served his apprenticeship under two of the greatest figures in Hindi literature and journalism of the time.
In 1913 Ganesh Shankar came back to Kanpur and launched his career as a crusading journalist and freedom fighter, which was only to end with his death 18 years later. He founded ‘Pratap’, his famous revolutionary weekly, which identified itself with the cause of the oppressed wherever they might be and Pratap would prove to be widespread as its circulation jumped from five hundred in 1913 to six hundred in 1916.It was through this paper that he waged his famous fights for the oppressed peasants of Rae Bareli, the workers of the Kanpur mills and the downtrodden people of Indian states. During the course of these fights he had to face numerous prosecutions, pay heavy fines and suffer five prison sentences.
- The Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial (GSVM) Medical College Kanpur is named in his remembrance.
- Ganesh Chowk, a square is named after him in the heart of the city of Gorakhpur
- Phool Bagh is also called Ganesh Vidyarthi Udyan.
- The Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Inter College (GSVIC) GSV Inter College Kanpur is named in his remembrance.
- The Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Inter College (GSV Inter College Hathgaon-Fatehpur)is named in his remembrance.
- Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Smarak Inter College (GSVS Inter College Maharajganj, UP) is named after his remembrance.