1888 – National Education Day. One of the leading figures of the struggle for Independence, Scholar and India’s first education minister Abul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed Azad also remembered as Maulana Azad was born. As a young man, Azad studied Western philosophy, history and politics and was impressed with the modern views of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He severely fought racial discrimination by the British and growing communalism in the society.
He participated in the movement against the partition of Bengal and associated with leaders like Sri Aurobindo and Shyam Sundar Chakravarty. In 1912, he brought out an Urdu weekly called ‘Al-Hilal’. Through this mouthpiece he criticised the British, encouraged the youth involved in freedom struggle and promoted Hindu-Muslim unity. With the enactment of the Press Act during World War I which enforced stricter laws and censorship, Al-Hilal was banned in 1914. He was in the forefront during the Non-Cooperation movement, Civil Disobedience and the Quit India movement. He was one of the organizers of the historic Satyagraha at Dharasana in 1931. Post Independence he became the first Education Minister of India. He was instrumental in setting up of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the University Grants Commission (UGC). He penned ‘India Wins Freedom'(1957) which gives a detailed account of India’s struggle for freedom. In 1992, he was posthumously honored with the ‘Bharat Ratna’.
1936 – Popular actress of yesteryears Mala Sinha was born. She starred in over 100 films in a career that spanned over four decades. She started as a child artist working in several Bengali films her first being ‘Jai Vaishno Devi’. She made her debut as a heroine in director Ardhendu Bose’s ‘Roshanara'(1952). Her first Hindi film was ‘Badshah’ alongside Pradeep Kumar. She was appreciated for her performances in ‘Pyaasa'(1957), ‘Dhool Ka Phool'(1959), ‘Gumrah'(1963), ‘Himalaya Ki God Mein'(1965) and ‘Aankhen'(1968). She was last seen in ‘Zid'(1994).
1943 – Eminent Nuclear Scientist Dr. Anil Kakodkar was born. Dr. Kakodkar is seen as the champion of our nation’s self-reliance on Thorium which could solve India’s energy crisis. He played major roles in India’s nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998. Dr. Kakodkar started his career with the Reactor Engineering Division of the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in 1964. He shouldered key responsibilities and served as the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India. He was also the Director of the BARC from 1996 to 2000. Dr. Kakodkar is a recipient of all Padma awards. He received the Padma Shri in 1998, Padma Bhushan in 1999 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2009.
1980 – Renowned painter and muralist and regarded as one of the pioneers of Modern Indian Art, Binod Behari Mukherjee passed away. Mukherjee was as a myopic in one eye while blind in the other yet he painted and did murals. He lost his eyesight in an operation in 1956 but he continued with his work. He was a disciple of famous artist Nandlal Bose. His works reflected a blend of Western modern Art with traditions of India and the Far-East. He travelled to Japan where he learned Calligraphy. Eminent filmmaker Satyajit Ray was his student at Santiniketan who made a documentary based on Mukherjee’s life titled ‘The Inner Eye’ in 1972. For his contribution to the field of art, Mukherjee was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1974.