The son of an orthodox Vaishnava brahmin and respected landowner of Ramanathapuram district, Srinivasa Iyengar was born in 1874 in the erstwhile Madras Presidency. Attending college, he trained to become a lawyer, specializing in constitutional law.
Srinivasa Iyengar commenced practice the Madras High Court in 1898, and advanced to the top of the profession in a short time. His intimate knowledge of Hindu Dharmasastra and of the great classics of jurisprudence and constitutional law coupled with his original inquiring mind, made him a legal thinker in his own right and his edition of Mayne's Hindu Law (1939) was hailed as a classic.
Besides law, Srinivasa Iyengar's other interest were education, social reform, and politics. Among his early influences were Sir Sankaran Nair, C. Vijayaraghavachariar, two former Congress leaders. He was also an admirer of Gopal Krishna Gokhale (in whose name he endowed a prize) and later of Mahatma Gandhi
Upon the commencement of the Non-Cooperation Movement, Iyengar resigned the office of Advocate General and joined the Indian National Congress. He presided over the Madras Provincial Conference (1920) at Tirunelveli, gave up his princely practice at the Bar, resigned the membership of the Legislative Council (to which he had been returned by the Registered Graduates) returned his titles to the Government and took a leading part in Congress affairs.
Iyengar actively participated in the Congress sessions from Ahmedabad (1921) to Lahore (1929) and gave an unparalleled lead to the Congress in Madras for about ten years. After the Congress had decided on Council-Entry he led the party to victory in Madras in 1926 and was himself elected from Madras to the Central Assembly and also acted as Leader for a time when Motilal Nehru was away from India.
Srinivasa lyengar presided over the Guwahati session of the Congress in 1926. Iyengar worked hard to deliver a resolution upholding Hindu-Muslim unity, bringing about a temporary political agreement between the political leaders of the two communities.
He published Swaraj Constitution, in 1927, outlining a federal scheme of government for future India.
See Also: Simon Commission
When the All-Parties Report (known as the Nehru Report) was published in 1928 outlining a constitution for India in terms of Dominion status, Srinivasa Iyengar organised the Independence League with himself as President and Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose as leading members.
The differences between Motilal Nehru and Srinivasa Iyengar on the issue of dominion status versus independence became acute during 1929, and although it was decided finally in favour of Independence at the Lahore Congress in December 1929, Srinivasa lyengar himself decided to retire from active public life early in 1930.
Iyenger made a brief return to political life in 1939, upon the outbreak of World War II and the debate of whether Indians should back the British effort, banking on their goodwill later to deliver independence, or oppose the entry of Indian army into the war without consultation of the Indian people. He died suddenly on May 19, 1941, at his residence in Madras.
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