Pandit Prakash Vir Shastri (30 December 1923 – 23 November 1977) was a noted Member of the Parliament of India (Sansad). He was known for his eloquence and forceful oratory style, as well as his mastery of Sanskrit. Shastri was also a recognized leader in the Arya Samaj movement.
Shastri was born on 30 December 1923 in the village of Rehra, in the J.P. Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh, earlier a part of Mudarabad. He was politically active as a young man, obtaining an M.A. degree from Agra University, and eventually rising to become Vice-Chancellor of Gurukul Vrindavan. He earned his Shastri degree from Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. In 1958 Shastri was elected to the Lok Sabha as an Independent and until his death continued to serve as an Independent member, first in the Lok Sabha and later in the Rajya Sabha. He was elected as a Jana Sangh nominee in 1974.
Known for his eloquence and forceful oratory style as well as his mastery of Sanskrit, Shastri opposed the official designation of English as the national language of India. He instead preferred Hindi, the country’s classical native tongue. He was also known for his abilities as a poet, and incorporated his creative efforts into a number of his more well-known speeches. He was the first Indian to speak in Hindi at the United Nations Organization, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee being second.
Shastri was also internationally recognized as a devotee of the Arya Samaj movement, a branch of Hinduism dedicated to the Vedas.
Shastri proposed the Religious Protection Bill in March 1960 in the Lok Sabha, which called for the protection of religious minorities in the face of mass conversions by force occurring across the country at the time. While he was tolerant towards a wide diversity of religious practices, he shied away from idolatry in his personal affairs and promoted the work of Swami Dayananda in his writing.
Shastri was killed in a train accident on 23 November 1977. Shastri gave his seat to the man sleeping in the bunk below him, a sign of respect in Hindu culture as the lower bunk is closer to the ground. The man in the bunk above him survived, while Shastri lost his life. He was survived by his wife and two children.
In early 2003, a collection of his parliamentary speeches was compiled for publication, in part by former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani.