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Joachim and Violet Alva

Uttara Kannada (Karwar), Karnataka

May 30, 2022 to May 30, 2023

Joachim Alva was born on 21 January 1907 in Udupi, in the South Kannara district of the Madras Presidency. The fourth of seven children of Piedade and Anne Alva.

Bombay, in the twenties, was the hub of the freedom struggle. Unmindful of the future and fired by his lofty idealism. Joachim Alva entered the turbulent scene to contribute his vitality to the advancement of freedom. By 1928, he became the first Christian to be appointed as the Secretary of the over-fifty-years old Bombay students Brotherhood. He along with K.F. Nariman, H.D. Raja, and Soli Batliwala, was one of the pioneers of the Bombay Youth League. Later, he co-founded the Nationalist Christian Party with the avowed goal of drawing the Christian community into the freedom struggle. He presided over a large meeting of Christians at Bombay, addressed by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937.

Politics did not keep Joachim Alva, away from his studies. Ever in need, he had to borrow and earn money the hard way by giving tuition and doing odd jobs to pay his way through college. He earned his B.A. from Elphinstone College. He then went on to do his LL.B., at the Government Law College. Joachim Alva’s academic career was chequered but he outshone all in oratory. He was declared the best speaker at St. Xavier’s College (1927), a first prize winner in Extempore Speaking at Government Law College (1928), and the Gold Medalist at the All India Oratorical Competition on Banaras Hindu University (1934).

In 1928, he along with Yusuf Mehavally and others, who were lathi-charged at South Bombay on Jatin Das Day commemorated the gallant patriot who had died in jail following a hunger strike against inhuman jail conditions.

Imprisoned twice for a period of three years, Joachim Alva was a jail companion to many of India’s outstanding patriots and national leaders such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jaya Prakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, K.T. Mashruvalla, J.C. Kumarappa, and Ashok Mehta. Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Joachim Alva at four o’clock in the morning, before prayer time in 1934 saying that he had missed meeting him at Yervada jail because of his early release.

During his stormy university career, Joachim Alva met a shy, demure Gujarati girl named Violet Hari at the Government Law College.

Violet lava was born on 24 April 1908 in Ahmedabad. She was the eighth of nine children of lower middle-class parents. Her father, Rev. Laxman Hari, was one of the first Indian pastors of the Church of England. Having lost both parents when she was sixteen, her older brothers and only sister provided for her education till her matriculation at Bombay’s Clare Road Convent. She worked her way through St. Xavier’s College, Bombay when she earned an M.A. and then graduated from Government Law College by giving tuition and teaching part-time in a primary school. For a while thereafter, she was a professor of English at the Indian Women’s University, Bombay.

Violet Hari became Violet Alva on 20 November 1937. Inspired by Joachim Alva, she began venturing onto public platforms. She grew into a confident speaker of several languages and never failed to command the attention of any audience.

Joachim and Violet Alva set up legal practice together under the benevolent eye of Bhulabhai Desai. Joachim Alva encouraged her to enter politics, and she worked for him when he was put up as a Congress candidate for the Christian Electorate seat in the Bombay Provincial Legislative Assembly elections in 1936. Despite having the support of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, he lost the election because of the anti-Congress sentiments of reactionaries in the Christian community.

Although, husband and wife set up legal practice together. Violet Alva was left to her own resources when Joachim Alva was imprisoned in 1941. In April 1943, she was arrested for documenting on Chowpatty Beach. Her second son Cittaranjan Francis was then barely five months old, and she had no option but to take him to Arthur Road jail with her.  

On August 9, 1943, the first anniversary of Quit India Day, Joachim and Violet Alva founded FORUM, the Indian weekly news magazine, which became known all over India and abroad for its fearless championing of the cause of independence.

It inspired nationalistic fervour in an entire generation and helped train scores of journalists, many of whom were to become well known. Violet Alva later founded a women’s monthly ‘Begum‘ renamed ‘Indian Woman’.

In 1944 Joachim Alva was ordered by the authorities to submit heavy security for his article “Halt this March to the Gallows” and he was also prosecuted for treason for his article “setting accounts with the British”.

Violet Alva appeared before a full bench of the Bombay High Court. The first woman lawyer ever to so appear before the full bench of any High Court in India and successfully defended her husband.

In 1940 Joachim Alva was appointed Sheriff of Bombay and in 1945 he entered the Provisional Parliament of India.

At the dawn of independence, August 14-15, 1947, Violet Alva was a Member of the Flag Presentation Committee.

Joachim Alva was elected to Lok Sabha in the General Elections of 1952, and Violet Alva was elected to the Rajya Sabha both from the Bombay State.

Violet Alva and Joachim Alva were the first-ever couple to be elected to the Indian Parliament under the adult franchise.

After the second general elections in 1957 Violet Alva became Deputy Minister of Home Affairs. In April 1960 Violet Alva was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha. On 19 April 1962, she became the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha as the first-ever lady presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha. In 1968 Joachim Alva was nominated to the Rajya Sabha where Violet Alva was Deputy Chairman.

Violet Alva breathed her last on 20 November 1969, four days after she resigned from Deputy Chairmanship of the Rajyasabha. A woman of rare conviction, courage, and compassion. Violet Alva played the varying roles of wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, lawyer, journalist, freedom fighter, parliamentarian, and diplomat with unparalleled excellence.

Joachim Alva retired from Rajya Sabha in 1974. He breathed his last on June 28, 1979. Patriotism and deep attachment to Indian culture and tradition were his distinguishing characteristics.

Source: Information Brochure of Commemorative Postage Stamp issued by Department of Posts.