Facets of Nehru
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“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.”
These were the inspiring words with which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India greeted his fellow countrymen in his historic speech on the eve of Independence… words that have continued to inspire generations of Indians to this day.
This was the man entrusted with the Herculean task of taking on the stewardship of a newborn nation… steering it towards its new destiny… a task that he carried out with unmatched zeal and passion… for this was no ordinary personality; he was multifaceted… a freedom fighter, a global statesman, a philosopher and a nation-builder… a strategist, a thinker, an intellectual with a keen interest in the development of science and technology.
Pandit Nehru explained the connection between statesmanship and science in the following words: “Politics led me to economics and this led me inevitably to science and scientific approach to all our problems and to life itself. It is science alone that would solve the problems of hunger and poverty.”
An Architect of Modern India
Pandit Nehru was a farsighted leader... far ahead of his time. His vision for India was futuristic... in his mind he had already built his master plan for modern India... industrialised... technologically developed and self-sufficient.
The clarity of his vision led Pandit Nehru to usher in a new era of planned economic development in India with the creation of the Planning Commission in 1950 – an initiative that was close to his heart all through his life.
Pandit Nehru saw planning as a powerful tool for nation-building. As a visionary, he foresaw the need to create infrastructure and promote industrialisation in tandem with the development of agriculture. He emphatically stated: “I am all for industry. I am all for steel plants and this and that, but I do say agriculture is far more important than any industry.”
Pandit Nehru’s government oversaw the building of massive dams... the creation of industrial infrastructure... the implementation of widespread land and agrarian reforms... and the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management underlined his focus on Education.
While inaugurating the Bhakra Dam, Pandit Nehru described it as “a temple of modern India”. He later went on to extol public sector enterprises as the Temples of Modern India. He led India into an industrialised future — and unlike other leaders of his time he achieved all this within a democracy. Indeed the foundations of India’s economic development and its approach to Food Security and Energy Security were laid by Pandit Nehru.
It is for the inherent power of these ideas that Pandit Nehru is acknowledged as an architect of modern India.
A Global Statesman
Intellectual brilliance – that was one of the hallmarks of Pandit Nehru’s personality… a trait that drew admiration even from his adversaries. In a letter to Pandit Nehru in 1955, Winston Churchill wrote: “I always admired your ardent wish for peace and the absence of bitterness in your consideration of the antagonisms that had in the past divided us.” Churchill was just one of many global statesmen who were drawn to Pandit Nehru because of his intellect, his personality and his progressive ideas.
On the international front, Pandit Nehru was one of the global leaders who founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Belgrade in 1961. Addressing the first Summit, Nehru made an eloquent case for adopting a middle path in relation with the Developing World and the Western and Eastern blocs.
Pandit Nehru’s leadership skills enabled him to straddle both the global as well as the domestic arena with ease... he was a Statesman for India and a Diplomat for the World.
The Man… and his philosophy
Pandit Nehru’s philosophy was shaped by various aspects of his life. Growing up in Allahabad during the struggle against colonial rule, the family residence, Anand Bhavan, witnessed those turbulent days and the birth of the Swadeshi movement. His father, Pandit Motilal Nehru, was a prominent leader and the young Pandit Nehru acquired his nationalistic fervour at an early age.
The influence of Mahatma Gandhi made him empathetic to the poor and the downtrodden.
His education in England brought out the scholar and the intellectual in him.
His travels to destinations like Berlin, Brussels and Moscow shaped the development of his political ideas and strengthened his conviction that India needed a socialistic pattern of society – a credo that he voiced passionately at the historic Lahore Congress in 1929 and again at the Karachi Congress in 1931. In fact, the resolution on fundamental rights passed at the Karachi Congress laid the foundation for the idea of India as a secular, socialist and democratic State, as enshrined in the Constitution of post-Independence India.
Every Indian will, of course, always remember Pandit Nehru as one of the central figures of the freedom struggle. When Mahatma Gandhi launched the Salt Satyagraha, Nehru joined this unique civil disobedience movement and was jailed for four years, between in1930 and 1935. In 1942, when the Quit India Movement was launched, the British Government tried to quell the mass movement with a heavy-handed response, arresting the popular leaders and putting them behind bars and Pandit Nehru spent another long spell in jail. Pandit Nehru was released in 1945 when the Simla Conference was convened by Lord Wavell. This was Pandit Nehru’s finest hour. His pivotal role in the negotiations with Lord Wavell and later with Lord Mountbatten underlined his formidable statesmanship and culminated in India breaking free from the clutches of colonial rule.
Pandit Nehru was a prolific writer who penned numerous books about India and the world — including The Discovery of India... widely regarded as a classic.
A Soft-spoken gentleman
Of India, Pandit Nehru lovingly wrote: “India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive.”
As a human being, Pandit Nehru was an endearing personality... suave, soft-spoken and warm.
To his family he was a caring husband and a loving father... nurtured by him, his daughter Mrs Indira Gandhi, imbibed several of his qualities... like his leadership and his statesmanship.
There was one other well-known trait that Pandit Nehru was known for... he loved children... he loved being around them. In turn they loved him and called him “Chacha Nehru”. It is, therefore, only fitting that his birthday, 14th November, is celebrated all over India as Children’s Day.