Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s 1st Prime Minister and a prominent face of India’s Independence Movement. He was especially revered by children. His birthday is celebrated as “Children’s Day” in India. His popularity had to be seen to be believed. When he visited the Soviet Union, crowds of children were present all along the route from the airport to greet him. He was not only one of the best Prime Ministers of India but also a statesman of international standing. He was the architect of the modern Indian state responsible for infusing all the modern values into the nation that he loved so much – humanism, secularism, democracy, sovereignty, socialism, republicanism. In his lifetime, Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed an iconic status in India and was widely admired across the world for his idealism and statesmanship.
Some of his accomplishments are:-
- Carefully nurtured all the institutions of an infant democracy.
- Nehru propelled India towards modern age of technological advancements and innovations. Furthermore, Nehru greatly professed democratic value and equality for all, irrespective of caste, color or creed.
- As India’s first Prime minister and external affairs minister, Jawaharlal Nehru played a major role in shaping modern India’s government and political culture along with sound foreign policy.
- A passionate advocate of education, Nehru believed that educating the young India was imperative for the country’s future growth. For the same, he established numerous institutions of higher learning, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the National Institutes of Technology (NITs). He even included free and compulsory primary education to all children in his five-year plan.
- He viewed progress of the nation by technology. He considered dams to be the “temples of India”.
- Though Nehru wasn’t exactly convinced with the functioning of the Indian National Congress, which was dominated by the English-knowing upper class elite, yet he participated in the civil rights campaign initiated by Gandhi.
- With his radical political views, Nehru condemned the Indian Civil Service (ICS) for its support of British policies. The slow pace of the nationalist movement further irked Nehru who joined hands with the aggressive nationalist leaders, demanding Home Rule for Indians.
- Nehru not only contributed greatly to the national movement in India but also gave the freedom struggle an international outlook in 1927, when he attended the congress of oppressed nationalities in Brussels in Belgium.
- He was instrumental in making the struggle of common people in the princely states, a part of the nationalist movement.
- Nehru appealed for complete national independence which was initially objected to by Gandhi who proposed a dominion status for India in a time frame of two years. Following the rejection of Gandhi’s plea and Nehru’s presidency over the Lahore session of Congress in 1928, Nehru demanded for complete independence. This resolution made him one of the most significant leaders of the independence movement.
- Nehru, during his term as the Prime Minister, brought forward radical changes in domestic, international, economic, agricultural and social policies.
- Nehru initiated the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) professing neutrality. The NAM was aimed at being neutral and not joining any of the two power blocks – the US and the USSR. Through this single master-stroke of foreign policy, he saved India from being embroiled in yet another phase of violence and enmity. Also, India’s standing at the international stage grew because of the India’s founding leadership position at NAM.
- It was during his tenure that the Portuguese left Goa and the region became a part of India.
- He has authored various books, including ‘The Discovery of India’, ‘Glimpses of World History’, and his autobiography, ‘Toward Freedom’. With these he attempted to inform the Indian masses about World History and current happenings at the international level.
- Nehru successfully fused cultural Indian spiritual values with modern values.
- He was immensely proud of the rich Indian spiritual heritage and has written about it in his books, contradictory to what current extremist groups say.
- He was responsible for the reform of the ancient Hindu civil code that finally enabled Hindu widows to enjoy equality with men in matters of inheritance and property.
- Nehru’s stance as an unfailing nationalist led him to also implement policies which stressed commonality among Indians while still appreciating regional diversities. This proved particularly important as post-Independence differences surfaced since British withdrawal from the subcontinent prompted regional leaders to no longer relate to one another as allies against a common adversary. While differences of culture and, especially, language threatened the unity of the new nation, Nehru established programs such as the National Book Trust and the National Literary Academy which promoted the translation of regional literatures between languages and also organised the transfer of materials between regions. In pursuit of a single, unified India, Nehru warned, “Integrate or perish.”
It is indeed sad that many political parties in India are using the founding fathers of India to divide the masses. Our nation’s founding fathers don’t belong to a single political party irrespective of what one might say, they belong to the whole nation, be it Chacha Nehru, Sardar Patel, Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose or Mahatma Gandhi. All of these brave men fought side by side for one entity only:- “India” and neither for Congress nor BJP. So I request the current politicians who debate on this nonsense issue to just shut up and stop using their legacies/names for political gains. As a citizen of India, this saddens me. And to the now famous question sprung up by politicians :- “What would have happened if Sardar Patel was the first PM of India instead of Nehruji?”, I have two answers:- Firstly, Sardar Patel died in 1950, 3 years after India’s independence, so logically the next senior Congress leader would have become the PM in 1950 which was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. And secondly, asking this baseless, senseless and foolish question is akin to asking:-
- “What would have happened if Mahatma Gandhi was the first President of India instead of Rajendra Prasad?”
- OR “What would have happened if Adolf Hitler was born in USA instead of Germany?”
- OR “What if Rahul Gandhi had won the elections instead of PM Modi? He seems so much more secular and feminist. Eh?”
- OR “What if Arvind Kejriwal had not resigned as CM of Delhi in 49 days and instead had ruled for the full term? Would he had made a Shanghai out of Delhi?”
Hope I make my point clear. This baseless speculation will not lead to anything. There can be an infinite number of “What-If” questions to be asked if one has that much amount of time to kill !! Will it lead to anything? Instead of wasting time on this, why not our politicians invest their time in thinking about solutions to current problems being faced by India like the poison called communalism, female foeticide, women empowerment, rapes, murders, killings, extortions, booth capturing, political vendetta, violence, riots, misuse of AFSPA in some cases, etc. I think the list is long enough before we can ask the irrelevant question of the consequences of different people being the first Indian Prime Minister instead of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Corrupt politicians try to divert public attention from current burning issues and we see hours of senseless debates being played out on News channels about this. Please, let the souls of these great men rest in peace, they have suffered enough for our country and now it our responsibility to carry their legacies forward, learn lessons from their mistakes and propel the ntion to even greater heights. All of them were human just like us and made their share of mistakes, but for one or two mistakes, I refuse to forget their great contribution towards the building of the modern superpower nation that I live in today!! Also, instead of relying on Facebook pages of extremist groups, please rely on credible sources of information to learn about national leaders. The right-wing shall always condemn the left-wing and vice-versa. Hope and love is the way to go forward, not hatred and malice!
Let us make a pledge that we will do something more substantial for our country each day than the previous so that by Panditji’s 150th anniversary, we can build the India of his dreams…
Here are some links if you want to learn more about Nehruji:-
- Beyond Appropriation
- A legacy revisited
- An anniversary turns into a tug of war
Jai Hind. Vande Mataram. Bharat Mata ki Jai.
“Ignorance is always afraid of change.”
“The only alternative to co-existence is co-destruction.”
“Without peace, all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes.”
“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.”