National leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru are often abused during political debates in public forums and TV. This is a blatant example of how historical facts are distorted to achieve narrow political gains.
If any person chose to think of me, then I should like them to say: “This was the man with all his mind and heart, loved India and the Indian people. And they in turn, were indulgent to him and gave of their love most abundantly and extravagantly.”
— Jawaharlal Nehru
India is an ancient civilisation privileged to witness a rare cultural synthesis and fusion. To know India, one has to travel across the country to understand the unity in diversity. Yet in an era of hate and distrust, the national icons are targeted for an immediate political polarisation. It is a shame that figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Abdul Kalam Azad are disgraced in public debate without valid reasons. It is a fashion in contemporary political debates to abuse Gandhi and Nehru by distorting historical facts to secure facile victories on public platforms and television debates.
Likewise, the other side targets the right-wing leadership of Syama Prasad Mookherjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, KB Hedgewar without realising that all of them have contributed their respective best to attain the freedom for our country. We are doing a great disservice to our great nation by disgracing our national heroes either way. The nation that doesn’t worship its heroes leads to a path of utter disaster.
Jawaharlal Nehru was one among the few freedom fighters of India who sacrificed his life for the cause of the motherland. He was one of the fortunate leaders who brought the independence struggle to a successful termination. Among Gandhi’s great lieutenants in the struggle for freedom, no doubt, Nehru had a prominent place. Jawaharlal Nehru, as one of the most distinguished leaders of Third World solidarity, reached out to the rest of the colonised world and forged a joint front against colonialism and reinvented imperialism.
Nehru was born on November 14, 1889 in an affluent family of Allahabad. His father Motilal Nehru followed his education with extreme passion. Young Nehru was sent to Harrow school, and then to Cambridge University in England to obtain a degree in natural sciences. After spending two years at the Inner Temple, London, he qualified as a barrister. During his stay in London, he studied subjects like literature, politics, economics and history. He got attracted to the ideas of liberalism, socialism and nationalism. He was, by temperament and experience, a cosmopolitan. His frequent visits to Europe, his deep familiarity with the past and his understanding of the contemporary ideologies of the day, from liberalism to Fabian socialism, to communist internationalism, had convinced him that the future of India was incomplete without the liberation of other colonies.
History fascinated Nehru. It gave him an insightful command over the past, a keen and immediate sense of the present and a rare foresight to think and plan for the future of all. Nehru was a historian of repute; he felt that many historical writings were uncritical descriptions of events and people. He was equally drawn to science and firmly believed that scientific temper and scientific approach to problems would liberate India from economic misery and social injustice. Indeed amazing was his intellectual blend in science and history, idealism and realism, literature and politics, the revolution of Marx and the non-violence of Gandhi, all of which were integrated in his unique personality. As Norman Cousins observed Nehru “was not one man but a procession of men.”
After completing his education in England, Nehru came back to India in 1912 and joined the Allahabad High Court Bar. Young Jawaharlal Nehru had the option of leading a comfortable life by inheriting the flourishing legal practice of his father but he opted for the journey of the freedom struggle, which eventually marked his entry into Indian politics. Indian National Congress already had a split due to the conflict between the moderates and the extremists. The Congress was yet to have a mass base. With the “divide and rule” policy of the British Government, the Muslim League was already formed. He met Gandhiji in the Lucknow session of the National Congress in December 1916 and was tremendously influenced by his towering personality.
Nehru was shocked with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 1919; the event changed the life forever. When the non-cooperation movement was launched in December 1920, he participated in it and was arrested for his active role in the satyagraha. In 1923, he was appointed as the General Secretary of the Congress. As the official delegate of the Indian National Congress in 1927, he participated in the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels. Nehru utilised this opportunity to impress upon other countries about India’s non-violent struggle against the imperial British Government and became the global ambassador of peace. In 1928, the Congress rejected co-operation with the Simon Commission and Nehru participated in the hartals in protest of the Commission along with Subhas Chandra Bose and Srinivas Iyengar. Nehru put forward the demand that complete independence should be the goal of the Congress Party as opposed to the idea of Dominion status. He became the president of the Indian National Congress in Lahore and the historic independence resolution was passed on the midnight of December 31, 1929. He was re-elected as president of the National Congress in 1936, 1937 and 1946. Nehru participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement at Allahabad and was imprisoned till January 1931.
Nehru severely opposed the “Communal Award” of the British Government, which provided separate electorate to Sikhs, Muslims, Europeans and other oppressed classes. When Gandhiji started his fast till death against the communal award, it created a deep impression on Nehru. The Government of India Act 1935 was far away from the demands of the Congress. Nehru termed it as “a charter of slavery and oppression.” Yet the Congress decided to participate in the election, which was announced as the provision of the Act. Under Nehru’s leadership, the Congress secured absolute majority in six provinces and formed coalition Governments in two others out of the total 11 provinces and it established Nehru’s leadership in the entire country.
With the failure of the Cripps Mission, Mahatma Gandhi urged for the right of self-determination to India. Gandhiji was determined to start satyagraha. The Quit India Resolution was moved by him and on August 8, 1942, at the Bombay session of the Congress, it was adopted. He was arrested and imprisoned for three years. After the war when Nehru was released, he became a leading figure of the Congress in various negotiations with the British Government. Being invited by Lord Wavell to form the Government, he headed the first Indian (interim) Government of India. In the same year, elections to the Constituent Assembly was also held. Lord Mountbatten was deputed as the Viceroy of India and completed the transfer of power. Despite the opposition of Gandhi, Nehru and other Congress leaders, India was partitioned under the “two nation” theory of Jinnah.
On August 15, 1947, a free India was born. Nehru was elected as the first Prime Minister of independent India. He was the first Indian Prime Minister to hoist the National Flag and make his iconic speech “Tryst with Destiny” from the ramparts of the Lal Quila (Red Fort). The time had come to implement his ideas and build a healthy nation. Nehru’s stint as Prime Minister of India is characterised by his secular and liberal approach. He carried out his vision to carry the young India towards the road of technological and scientific excellence with great zeal. He implemented a number of socio-economic reforms and paved the way for rapid industrialisation.
Nehru continued to be the Prime Minister of independent India till his death on May 27, 1964. He was the chief framer of domestic and international policies during his term as Prime Minister (1947-1964). It was under Nehru’s supervision that India launched its first Five-Year Plan in 1951. He had laid the foundation of democracy, secularism, planning and socialism.
Writer: Prashant Tewari
Courtesy: The Pioneer