Thursday, May 15, 2014

50 Years after Nehru



Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, died 50 years ago (27 May 1964).  Tomorrow the country will get to know a new Prime Minister, most probably.  How far will we have come from Nehru then?

Nelson Mandela, while admitting Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on him, said, “But Nehru was really my hero.”  Nehru was a true democrat, explained Mandela in his Rajiv Gandhi Foundation lecture on 25 Jan 1995, who strove to ensure a life with dignity for every citizen.  Nehru transcended the narrow boundaries like religion that tended to divide man against man. 

Arguably, Nehru’s greatest contribution to India was his concept of secularism.  Today the word causes frowns on the foreheads of the country’s culture guardians.  The Congress that ruled over India after Nehru is to be blamed partially for those frowns.  But the lion’s share of the blame should go to the vested interests of certain other political parties and religious organisations that refused to understand Nehru’s secularism.

Nehru wanted religion to be left to the individuals.  The state should have no official religion.  The state should respect all religions and even non-believers.  Nehru was an agnostic whose religion was humanity.  Poverty was an ugliness produced by ignorance and passive resignation engendered mostly by religions.  Even today ignorance is encouraged and propagated by religions.  Passive resignation has, however, given way to active militancy which is more perilous.  It is good to be reminded of what Nehru told Gandhi, “You have stated somewhere that India has nothing to learn from the west and that she has reached a pinnacle of wisdom in the past.  I entirely disagree with this viewpoint and I neither think that the so-called Ramarajya was very good in the past, nor do I want it back.”

Radicalism of any sort was abhorrent to Nehru who held very clearly rational views.  Technology and development were Nehru’s religions, so to say.  He dared to call dams India’s temples.  Human dignity was the ultimate goal. 

Nehru was a scholar who wrote many books that can be considered classical.  He emerges as a visionary who valued every human life as important.  The practical ways of ensuring a life of dignity to every person would be secularism, socialism and a scientific approach to reality including history.  Nehru detested fascism and the Nietzschean supermen spawned by fascism.  He criticised the potential dictator within himself with ruthless clarity.  Caesarism with its “vast popularity, a strong will directed to a well-defined purpose, energy, pride, organisational capacity, ability, hardness and ... love of the crowd and intolerance of others ... over-mastering desire to get things done, to sweep away what he dislikes and build anew...” is an ominous menace to the country and its democracy. 

The words quoted belong to Nehru himself.  He was introspecting in an article he wrote anonymously.  Fifty years after his death, will we end up getting a Prime Minister who embodies all the vices that Nehru feared the most?


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11 comments:

  1. I very much appreciate the fact Nehru emphasized on scientific development but before considering him the greatest secular pm we should rethink his role in division of independent India which lead to massive killings and wars between two nations. Moreover there are other allegations which were never investigated like he was the one who declared war on China and his conspiracies against Subhash Bose.

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    1. Allegations are the easiest things to hurl at anyone, Anshu. There are scores of websites which claim that Nehru died of a sexually transmitted disease. If the writers were a little more ignorant they would have staked claim to AIDS! :)

      Any good book on Indian history of the time will dispel your doubt about the Indo-China war. There are documents available in the archives, written by both parties, which will disprove what you are implying.

      One wonders why S C Bose had to be killed by Nehru of all people? The very idea sounds ridiculous.

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  2. While there is no doubt that he had great leadership skills, I do agree with Anshu's point on his role in dividing the country... for all we know Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel would have proven to be a much better leader with a more long term vision to establish.

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    1. Sita, there has been a lot of disinformation and misinformation perpetrated by the Right Wing in the last few decades. Patel was a great man. Here's a link to one of my blogs on him:
      http://matheikal.blogspot.in/2013/10/narendra-modi-and-sardar-patel.html

      But that doesn't mean Nehru divided the country. Anyone who has read even a single page of what Nehru has written wouldn't say that he divided the country...

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  3. Secularism was a great concept that has been overdone, overused and abused. The previous leaders were using secularism for vote bank politics too. I think its time everyone understands that religion is a personal thing, but running a country is far more serious.

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    1. A country can be run in many ways, Chaitanya. Hitler ran a country, the King of Bhutan also runs a country. Bhutan has reportedly a happy lot of people in spite of living in harsh conditions, while the Nazi Germany killed 6 million people. Perspectives...

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Tom,

    I don't think you should be so vocal about your opinions.
    You never know.

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    1. Dear bent mind, I have reached a stage when integrity is more important than life!

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  6. Dear Sir,

    I think today we people don't appreciate our own History because we don't know about it. People don't know about Nehru, they just read about his Facebook or wikipedia which give them nothing about his Ideology. He was arguably the greatest leader of Modern India. Maybe we are bored with his name, or his idea it doesn't mean his ideas where wrong,

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    1. Yes,Saifi, ignorance is a serious problem today. 99% of young Indians have read a wrong history of their country, if they have read anything at all!

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