A tribute to Jawahar Lal Nehru

Jawahar Lal Nehru

-Amitabh Kumar Das

Nowadays, criticising Nehru has become a fashion statement in India. Especially, among the middle-class Indians. These Middle Class Indians, mostly Upper Caste Hindus, are 5 C’s in thinking : Communal, Casteist, Conservative, Corrupt and Cunning! They want every Muslim to go to either Pakistan or Qabristan. They want Dalits to lick their boots. They offer milk to the Ganesha idols and call their stupidity “milk miracle”. They take bribe, give birth to scams and know one thousand and one ways to evade income-tax. And to cap it all, they are super – selfish, smooth operators who disguise their nefarious designs in high – sounding phrases! Thus, killings of Muslim kids is “SAANSKRITIK RASHTRAWAD (Cultural Nationalism)” for them. Who can argue with them when they are out to safeguard both culture and nationalism? Argue with them and they will advise you to go to Pakistan. “Advise” is a mild word. They will order you to go to Pakistan! Because they are true sapoots (sons) of Bharat Mata (Mother India) and they brook no dissidence.

And Nehru-bashing is the favourite pastime of these fiery patriots. Why? Because Nehru stood for those values which the Middle Class Indians detest: secularism, democracy, scientific temper, integrity, International brotherhood and equlity. He was an intellectual giant. And pygmies can’t appreciate giants! On his birth anniversary today, let’s just remind ourselves why India will remain indebted to Nehru for thousands of years to come. Nehru was the first leader to demand the total Independence for India.

In 1929, as the Congress President in Lahore, on the bank of the river Ravi, Nehru declared that nothing less than Poorna Swarajya (Absolute Self-rule) was acceptable to India. Earlier, leaders sheepishly talked about autonomy for India, within the British Empire. Nehru put an end to this nonsense through his stirring speech. In 1940, Gandhiji formally anointed Nehru as his successor. After Gandhi, who? This was the question uppermost in the Indian mind. There was a galaxy of stalwarts: Nehru, Patel, Subhas, Maulana Azad, Rajaji etc etc. But Gandhiji brushed everyone aside in favour of Nehru. “When I will not be there, Jawahar will speak my voice” declared the Mahatma.

People talk about Nehru – Subhas rivalry, but few remember that when the trial of INA prisoners opened at the Red Fort, Nehru donned a lawyer’s black coat to defend Subhas Babu’s commanders. Nehru’s Tryst With Destiny speech on the eve of India’s independence towards midnight on 14 August 1947 is counted among the greatest speeches delivered on the Planet Earth. I read in a book that when Nehru made this speech, the whole village gathered around the single radio set. ( There were no TVs in those days). Though none of villagers understood a single word of the English speech, they listened to the speech just to hear Panditji’s voice. Even village dogs stopped barking! And Nehru again addressed the nation when the Mahatma fell to a fanatic’ s bullets: The light has gone out of our lives!

Ill-informed Indians lambast Nehru for the 1962 debacle but how many remember 1961 when Nehru liberated Goa from the 500-year old Portuguese rule? China War remembered. Goa’s Liberation forgotten. History has been very unkind to Nehru.

Nehru was an international statesman. In 1950s, Nehru was at the peak of his career. Foreigners visited India to see either the Taj Mahal or Pandit Nehru! Once Indira Gandhi was travelling in a ship from Britain to India. When the ship anchored at the Port Said in Egypt, Indira went to a shopkeeper, introduced herself as Nehru ‘s daughter and asked for some assistance. The shopkeeper couldn’t believe his luck. Nehru was loved by every Egyptian. He closed his shop and became Indira Gandhi’ s guide in Port Said!

Nehru was such a great scholar. He wrote classics like Glimpses Of The World History and The Discovery of India. The latter was written at the Ahmadnagar Fort where he was imprisoned. His letters to his daughter Indira are literary gems.

If today India is a power to reckon with in science and technology, the credit goes to Nehru’s vision. He was surrounded by scientists like Homi Jahangir Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. Bhabha’s contribution to the nuclear technology and Sarabhai’s contribution to the rocket technology are too well known to be repeated. Just compare Nehru with the latter-day Prime Ministers who gave company to Dhirendra Brahmachari, Chandraswami. A Prime Minister with a 56-inch chest meets Nirav Modi in Davos and calls Mehul Choksi, Mehulbhai!

I can write on and on. But Nehru ‘s sterling qualities need many, many books to describe them. It is said that a politician thinks about the next election. And a statesman thinks about the next generation! Nehru was a statesman par excellence. I salute you Chacha Nehru. I am your proud bhateeja (nephew). And the red rose is my favourite flower!

(Amitabh Kumar Das is a senior IPS Officer)

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