Award Name : Sahitya Akademi Award
Year of Award : 1976
Award for : Literature
Location : Fīrozpur, Punjab, India
Yashpal was a Hindi-language author who is often considered to be the most gifted since Premchand. A political commentator and a socialist who had a particular concern for the welfare of the poor and disadvantaged, he wrote in a range of genres, including essays, novels and short stories, as well as a play, two travel books and an autobiography. He won the Hindi-language Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel, Meri Teri Uski Baat in 1976 and was also a recipient of the Padma Bhushan.
Yashpal's writings form an extension to his earlier life as a revolutionary in the cause of the Indian independence movement. Yashpal was born in 1903 at a village situated in the Kangra Hills. His mother was poor and had sole responsibility for raising her two sons. He grew up in an era when claims to independence from the British Raj were increasingly heard and with a mother who was a keen supporter of Arya Samaj. He attended an Arya Samaj gurukul in Hardwar on a "freeship" basis, due to the family's poverty. Such gurukuls were considered by the British to be seditious schools because they fostered pride in Hindu culture and Indian achievements, encouraging the notion that Aryan Indians would overthrow what they regarded as their temporary subjugation to the British. Yashpal later said that during his schooldays he had daydreamed of a time when Indians would reverse the situation to the point of governing their colonial masters in Britain itself. He was bullied by his fellow pupils at the gurukul on account of his poverty, and he left the school when he suffered a prolonged attack of dysentery. Yashpal had been a follower of Mahatma Gandhi's Congress organisation from the age of 17, while still in high school. He toured villages to promote Gandhi's message of non-cooperation among peasant people but they appeared disinterested and he realised that there was nothing in the Congress programme that addressed issues that affected them. It was after one such tour that he received his matriculation results, the success in which entitled him to a scholarship at a government college. He declined that award in favour of having to fund himself through studies at National College, Lahore, an institution that had been established by the Arya Samajist and Congress activist Lala Lajpat Rai with the aim of promoting social service and providing a quality education to Indians who did not want to be taught in British-administered colleges.