‘George Fernandes was a True Aloysian & Great Friend of Mangalore Diocese’- Bishop

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‘George Fernandes was a True Aloysian & Great Friend of Mangalore Catholic Diocese’- Bishop of Mangalore Catholic Diocese Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha during the Book Release of “Life & Times of (Late) George Fernandes” – a Biography authored by Dr Rahul Ramagundam, at St Aloysius Sanidhya Hall on 26 August

Mangaluru: All he started was from zero. He made the right decision, believed in his potential, and had faith in his abilities! Not just by being humble but, with reasonable confidence in his own power he became a hero. And that’s (Late) George Fernandes, an enigmatic politician of contemporary India. With almost five decades as a Member of Parliament, his journey as a politician and as a rebel is fascinating. From being a trade union leader in the 1970s to India’s Defence Minister in the NDA Government, George Fernandes gave a new dimension to the socialist political movement in India. Former Railway Minister of India, the brainchild of Konkan railways, an alumnus of St Aloysius High School (1942), the patron of Father Mullers Medical college and above all the proud son of the soil, who taught us, ‘IF YOU WANT TO SHINE LIKE A SUN, FIRST YOU NEED TO BURN LIKE A SUN’!

The “Life & Times of George Fernandes” biography authored by Dr Rahul Ramagundam was released by Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha-the Bishop of Mangalore Dioceses at Sanidhya hall, Administrative Block of St Aloysius College Mangalore at 3 pm on 25 August 2022. Rahul Ramagundam- Author of the book, Michael Fernandes- Former Trade Union Leader and present President of All India Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat, and brother of George Fernandes, Fr Melwin Joseph Pinto SJ- Rector St Aloysius Institutions, Mangaluru, and Rev Dr Praveen Martis SJ- Principal St Aloysius College, and Dr Alwyn D’Sa-the Registrar of SAC were guests of honour.

The programme began with a prayer by the College Choir invoking God’s blessings, followed by a video presentation of a journey of a thousand miles which begins with a single step, and the journey began for George Fernandes on June 3rd 1930 at Bejai, Mangaluru, his birthplace – and the audience had a glimpse of George Fernandes life in this short audio-video presentation. The Welcome address was delivered by Rev Dr Praveen Martis SJ, Principal, St Aloysius College, where he highlighted the great work and efforts put in by George Fernandes as a politician to the nation, and also to St Aloysius Institution as an Alumni (1942)

Thomas Carlyle, one of the eminent historians once said, “The history of the world is but the biography of the great men. And it’s not wrong to say that George Fernandes, a great man today in the pages of history, has made his place and definitely a name that should be written in red letters. And the most awaited moment of the release of the biography “The life and times of George Fernandes” authored by Prof Rahul Ramagundam, was done by Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, the Bishop of Mangalore, along with other dignitaries on the dais (mentioned above).

In his address, Bishop Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha applauded and complimented the work done by George Fernandes and said, “A proud son of the soil, George Fernandes was a great man? The contributions of George to this country in general and to his hometown Mangaluru, also Mangalore Catholic Diocese in particular, was enormous. Though George is no longer with us, his work and legacy are immortal. I remember that in the 1980s when George Fernandes visited Kinnigoli people were eager to see him and hear his words. He spoke about peoples’ participation in nation-building, he being courageous wanted to bring about a change in the country”.

“George Fernandes stood and was for the people, especially the depressed community. He was for the voiceless. He knew the plight of poor workers. He was the man who spent his energy relentlessly and selflessly for the poor and needy, marginalised and downtrodden. He understood the implication of democracy and convinced the people to know the power of the people. Then, during his visit to the district, he narrated about his personal life and the political developments taking place in the country” added the Bishop. (MORE ON BISHOP SPEECH CLICK ON VIDEO BELOW)

Also speaking on the occasion, Michael Fernandes, the brother of George Fernandes in his witty speech narrated how Dr Rahul Ramagundam made elaborate research to complete the book, and the way of presenting my brother George took birth here, followed by visiting other places, later. In the olden days, parents wished their eldest sibling would become a priest/nun or a lawyer. My father wanted George to go to college and do a law degree to help people. But, he was not keen on that. He was a rebel in the family but not with selfish motives. He was always willing to help others. Few media had portrayed George as an atheist and a non-believer, which is totally false. When he was bedridden, priests used to come and give George communion at his bedside. George was a busy man, and as a union minister, he travelled to different parts of the country in a single day.”(FOR MORE ON MICHAEL’S SPEECH CLICK ON VIDEO BELOW)

On the occasion, the author Dr Rahul Ramagundam, George Fernandes’s elder brother Micheal B Fernandes-the President of All -India Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat for his active involvement and working for a noble cause, and Collin D’Silva, the unsung hero, the main person who proposed this idea of launching Prof Rahul’s book here in Mangaluru, and since he was well connected with George’s family and involved actively in various social movements.

Rector Fr Melwin Joseph Pinto presenting the review of the book said, “We all feel proud that George Fernandes was an Alumni of St Aloysius Institution, and was a true Aloysian, having supported his Alma mater in various capacities. I was in school when I heard great stories of George and later admired his political career. Like we firmly believe in creating men and women for others in our Jesuit-run institution, George was a perfect example who worked for others, mainly the poor, and always fought for justice. Being a single man, George has not left pricey memoirs, autographs, etc, instead led a simple life and died as a simple man. He is truly a role model for the present generation. May this book by author Dr Rahul reach everyone irrespective of religion or political parties, thereby making a difference”.

Following the completion of the formal program, the floor was open for the question and answer session where students and also the audience interacted with the author, which was moderated by Dr Mona Mendonca, the Assistant Professor in History, St Aloysius College, who professionally and eloquently compered the programme. During the interaction, Author Dr Rahul spoke more about his journey, and his long-time association with George and this was enough inspiration for the students and others if they take the decision of writing a biography someday. Dr Denis Fernandes, Director Aruppe Block of St Aloysius College introduced the author to the audience.


After completing SSLC from St Aloysius High School in 1946, George Fernandes showed his willingness to become a priest. But the calling was different, in1949, he joined the Socialist party and the Labour Movement in Mangalore under the influence of Freedom Fighter and Socialist Ammembala Balappa and others. In 1950 he left for Mumbai and inspired by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia he dived into the labour movement. In 1961 he was elected Corporator Of the Bombay Municipal Corporation which he served for 2 terms. In 1967 he defeated S K Patil from Mumbai South Lok Sabha Constituency, earning the title, ‘George, the Giant Killer’.

He started the Labour Cooperative Bank. In 1974, he led the historic All-India strikes of about 1.5 million railwaymen. In 1975 went underground and fought against the National Emergency. In 1977 he won Lok Sabha Election from Muzaffarpur in Bihar by a margin of 3.25 lakh votes while still in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. The political journey didn’t stop here, he was elected 7 times to Lok sabha and in 2009 was elected as a member of Rajya Sabha. In 1977 was appointed the Union minister of Communication, and from 1989 to 90 served as Minister of Railways, of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs.

Tomb of Late George Fernandes at St Francis Xavier Church, Bejai, Mangaluru

Laid foundation stones at different places in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra to start the construction of the Konkan Railway Line. In 1994 he formed the Samta party. From 1998 to 2004 served as Defence Minister, witnessed the Kargil war and became the first Defence Minister to visit Siachen Glacier several times. In 2007 George was Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Disease and on the 29th of January 2019, he breathed his last.


Prof Rahul Ramagundam, a historian and a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University, has a PhD in modern Indian history from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His earlier books include a study of khadi as a political metaphor, and histories of Adivasi land rights movements as well as the politics of inclusion.

This biography “The life and times of George Fernandes took almost 12 years to complete. For this book, Ramagundam accessed a wide variety of archives and sources. One of the primary archives he consulted is Fernandes’ personal papers, which chronicle his decades-long political life. He also interviewed hundreds of people – Fernandes’ comrades and competitors, family, and friends – who have provided a varied texture to the portrait of this complicated personality.

This book definitely speaks of George in volumes and before its release, it has already created a sensation across the country, it has already found its place in the reputed newspapers and new channels one being BBC, the Hindustan times, The New Times of India etc. where people have reviewed and given positive remarks, so there should be something magical and something mysteries about the book. Prof Rahul Ramagundam has made an attempt to recreate George through his writing.


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