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Mainstream, VOL L, No 23, May 26, 2012

Words that Endure

Monday 28 May 2012


On the occasion of Jawaharlal Nehru’s fortyeighth death anniversary on May 27, 2012, we remember the first PM of independent India by publishing the following excerpts from his writings and speeches. We are also reproducing the Editor’s Notebook that N.C. wrote on May 27, 1976 (it was carried in Mainstream, May 29, 1976) at the height of the Emergency, and a few articles and speeches by noted personalities published in this journal following Nehru’s demise.

Jawaharlal cannot become a fascist. And yet he has all the makings of a dictator in him—vast popularity, a strong will directed to a well-defined purpose, energy, pride, organisational capacity, ability, hardness, and, with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and a certain contempt for the weak and the inefficient. His flashes of temper are well known and even when they are controlled, the curling of the lips betrays him. His overmastering desire to get things done, to sweep away what he dislikes and build anew, will hardly brook for long the slow processes of democracy. He may keep the husk but he will see to it that it bends to his will. In normal times he would be just an efficient and successful executive, but in this revolutionary epoch, Caesarism is always at the door, and is it not possible that Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar?

Therein lies danger for Jawaharlal and for India. For it is not through Caesarism that India will attain freedom, and though she may prosper a little under a benevolent and efficient despotism, she will remain stunted and the day of the emancipation of her people will be delayed.

For two consecutive years Jawaharlal has been President of the Gongress and in some ways he has made himself so indispensable that there are many who suggest that he should be elected for a third term. But a greater disservice to India and even to Jawaharlal can hardly be done. By electing him a third time we shall exalt one man at the cost of the Congress and make the people think in terms of Caesarism. We shall ecourage in Jawaharlal the wrong tendencies and increase his conceit and pride. He will become convinced that only he can bear this burden or tackle India’s problems. Let us remember that, in spite of his apparent indifference to office, he has managed to hold important offices in the Congress for the last seventeen years. He must imagine that he is indispensable, and no man must be allowed to think so. India cannot afford to have him as President of the Congress for a third year in succession.

There is a personal reason also for this. In spite of his brave talk, Jawaharlal is obviously tired and stale and he will progressively deteriorate if he continues as President. He cannot rest, for he who rides a tiger cannot dismount. But we can at least prevent him from going astray and from mental deterioration under too heavy burdens and responsibilities. We have a right to expect good work from him in the future. Let us not spoil that and spoil him by too much adulation and praise. His conceit is already formidable. It must be checked. We want no Caesars.

[From Modern Review (November 1937)]

THE freedom of the press does not consist in our permitting such things as we like to appear. Even a tyrant is agreeable to this type of freedom. Civil liberty and freedom of the press consist in our permitting what we do not like, in our putting up with criticisms of ourselves, in our allowing public expression of views which seem to us even to be injurious to our cause itself. For it is always a dangerous thing to seek a temporary advantage at the cost of the larger good or of the final objective. If we set wrong standards and adopt wrong means, even in the belief that we are furthering a right cause, that cause itself will be affected and prejudiced by those standards and those means. The end in view will itself be governed partly by these standards and means and may ultimately become something entirely different from what we had envisaged.

If our aim is democracy and freedom, then we must keep that in view always in our work and our activities. If this work and activity is carried on in a way which is opposed to democracy and freedom, then surely the end will not be democracy and freedom but something different.

[From Letter to Tushar Kanti Ghosh, March 4, 1940]

OUR immediate problem is to attack the appalling poverty and unemployment of India and to raise the standards of our people. That means vastly greater production which must be allied to juster and more equitable distribution, so that the increased wealth may spread out among the people. That means a rapid growth of industry, scientific agriculture and the social services, all co-ordinated together, under more or less state control, and directed towards the betterment of the people as a whole. The resources of India are vast and if wisely used should yield rich results in the near future.

We do not believe in a rigid autarchy, but we do want to make India self-sufficient in regard to her needs as far as this is possible. We want to develop international trade, importing articles which we cannot easily produce and exporting such articles as the rest of the world wants from us. We do not propose to submit to the economic imperialism of any other country or to impose our own on others. We believe that the nations of the world can co-operate together in building a world economy which is advan-tageous for all and in this work we shall gladly co-operate. But this economy cannot be based on the individual profit motive, nor can it subsist within the framework of imperialist system. It means a new world order, both politically and economically, and free nations co-operating together for their own as well as the larger good.

[A Message to the International Edition of The Textile Journal, October 4, 1940]

SOME recent events, more especially the talks which I have had with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, have resulted in an agreement which has produced a very marked change in the tense atmosphere. This change was immediately reflected, to a large extent, in the press of the two countries. This is, indeed, remarkable. I have often sat down and thought about how it happened. If we analyse the Agreement, we may not like some of its clauses; but the fact remains that the really important thing is not the contents of the Agreement but the fact that it came about. Its real importance is not in its details but in the fact that there has been an agreement—an agreement of the right type.

It is clear that the reaction to the Agreement represents a certain urge and desire in the people’s minds. Large numbers of people were rather afraid of what was happening and wanted an escape, a way of putting an end to the existing bitterness. They were frustrated; but they could not do anything. In fact, no individual could do anything when millions were moved by passion and fear. But, as soon as a way was found, there was a powerful reaction which showed that the basic feelings and urges of the people of India and Pakistan were essentially against the continuance of the poisonous atmosphere. Everywhere there was a desire to seize on anything that brought security and peace of mind to them. In spite of this we have obviously not solved our problems—what is more, we are not going to solve them suddenly. Nevertheless, the fact that there is a very healthy desire in the minds of the people, in itself, a most hopeful sign...

Their geographical position being what it is, India and Pakistan cannot help playing an important role in Asia. If India and Pakistan follow more or less a common policy, it will make a big difference today. If India and Pakistan follow a contrary policy and are opposed to each other, they will obviously be neutralising each other and cannot play that role. Any common sense approach to the matter shows that India and Pakistan can only do great harm to both.

It may disable them for a generation and render them incapable of making the progress which is so necessary if they are to play a larger role in Asian and world affairs. This seems to be quite correct logically. It is true, I think, that India and Pakistan, from the standpoint of geography, history, culture and economics, are so connected that normally they should co-operate with each other in the fullest measure. We should try to develop a common approach to foreign policy, defence and many other tings; we should come closer together in regard to these policies and co-operate. That would be the natural course for the two countries.

I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that, unless some catastrophe were to over-whelm us, this is inevitable. Because of our very close contacts we cannot be indifferent to each other. We can either be more than friends or become more than enemies.

When individual or group contacts are broken, inevitably, hostility and bitterness are produced. What has happened here? A closer contact is bound to come about because it is to the advantage of both; I speak of sheer opportunism and not idealism at all. Therefore, I say it is quite inevitable. How it is to happen I do not know but everything points to that end; and in spite of all the terrible experiences we have had during the last two and a half years, every approach of logic and reasonable talk leads to this conclusion and every other approach contrary to this leads to something which is very dangerous for Pakistan and for India. It may take a generation for us to make good. This conflict and wasteful effort will wipe us out from the face of the earth. The natural conclusion is that we should try our utmost to develop friendliness and not do anything which is contrary to the whole course of our history and to the modern currents in the world.

Ultimately, we cannot go against the currents of history. I am quite sure of the desire of our people and so I have arrived at this conclusion. It is clear that, though we may have been partitioned and divorced from each other, our own historical, cultural and other contacts—geographical, economic and other—are so fundamental that, despite everything that happened and despite passion and prejudice and even gross inhumanity, ultimately the basic ties will survive. These are the things that will keep us together, unless India and Pakistan prove to be backward even culturally. Then, of course, all this will have only been talk and nothing else. If India and Pakistan do not ultimately come together, they will only prove that they have no cultural standards to maintain...

Well, I have ventured to place before you my ideas frankly and I hope that you, who wield such a great deal of influence through your newspapers, will use your influence in solving our problems and removing the sense of insecurity in the minority communities. Big things are happenings in the world and big things will happen. A month ago, there was mounting tension between India and Pakistan and there was a possibility of conflict. People became afraid that the trouble might spread to other parts of the world; and then India and Pakistan ceased to be of much value in world affairs as they were wrapped up in their own problems. When this Agreement was concluded, it raised high hopes and the world saw that we would not be swept off our feet and that we were capable of steering ourselves away from disaster.

In this context, we immediately became more important than we were when we were tied up with our own difficulties. So, we must work the Agreement to the advantage of both India and Pakistan. There are things in which Pakistan can, in some ways, help India and India can help Pakistan similarly. There is nothing that should come in the way of India or Pakistan helping each other.

[Address at the joint session of the Pakistan and Indian Newspaper Editors’ Conference,New Delhi, May 4, 1950]

WHAT a troublesome person Shankar is! Every few days I get a reminder from him that I must write something for the Children’s Number or else he himself appears and looks at me with reproachful eyes. Here I am trying hard to get through a great deal of work before I leave for England and on top of this I am expected to write articles! Shankar seems to forget that most of my writing has been done in the leisure of prison. Since I came out of that small prison and entered the larger prison of office, my freedom to read and write has been taken away from me. I cannot do many of the things that I would like to do and I have to do much that I intensely dislike.

I suppose Shankar knows all this but he has got an idea into his head that something from me must appear in the Children’s Number, Well, I am bound to confess that I like the idea of a Children’s Number very much and I should like to help it grow. I liked the last number and I am almost sure that the next number will be better. What pleases me most of all is the great interest that children in distant countries have taken in this venture. I was surprised and delighted to visit an exhibition where hundreds of pictures and cartoons sent for Shankar’s Children’s Number were exhibited.

As I looked at these pictures, I thought of the vast army of children all over the world, outwardly different in many ways, speaking different languages, wearing different kinds of clothes and yet so very like one another. If you bring them together, they play or quarrel. But even their quarrelling is some kind of play. They do not think of differences amongst themselves, differences of class or caste or colour or status. They are wiser than their fathers and mothers. As they grow up, unfortunately, their natural wisdom is often eclipsed by the teaching and behaviour of their elders. At school they learn many things which are no doubt useful but they gradually forget that the essential thing is to be human and kind and playful and to make life richer for ourselves and others. We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty and charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. So many people seem to go about their life’s business with their eyes shut. Indeed, they object to other people keeping their eyes open. Unable to play themselves, they dislike the play of others.

Our own country is a little world in itself with an infinite variety and places for us to discover. I have travelled a great deal in this country and I have grown in years. And yet I have not seen many parts of the country we love so much and seek to serve. I wish I had more time, so that I could visit the odd nooks and corners of India. I would like to go there in the company of bright young children whose minds are opening out with wonder and curiosity as they make new discoveries. I should like to go with them, not so much to the great cities of India as to the mountains and the forests and the great rivers and the old monuments, all of which tell us something of India’s story. I would like them to discover for themselves that they can play about in the sow in some parts of India and also see other places where tropical forests flourish. Such a trip with children would be a voyage of discovery of the beautiful trees of our forests and hillsides and the flowers that grace the changing seasons and bring life and colour to us. We would watch the birds and try to recognise them and make friends with them. But the most exciting adventure would be to go to the forests and see the wild animals, both the little ones and the big. Foolish people go with a gun and kill them and thus put an end to something that was beautiful. It is far more interesting and amusing to wander about without a gun or any other weapon and to find that wild animals are not afraid and can be approached. Animals have keener instincts than man. If a man goes to them with murder in his heart, they are afraid of him and run away. But if he has any love for animals, they realise that he is a friend and do not mind him. If you are full of fear yourself, then the animal is afraid, too, and might attack you in self-defence. The fearless person is seldom, if ever, attacked.

Perhaps, that lesson might be applied to human beings also. If we meet other people in a friendly way, hey also become friendly. But if we are afraid of them or if we show our dislike to them, then they behave in the same manner.

These are simple truths which the world has known for ages. But even so, the world forgets and the people of one country hate and fear the people of another country; and because they are afraid, they are sometimes foolish enough to fight each other.

[For the Children’s Number of Shankar’s Weekly, New Delhi, December 26, 1950]

I find that so far we have approached the tribal people in one of two ways. One might be called the anthropological approach in which we treat them as museum specimens to be observed and written about. To treat them as specimens for anthropological examination and analysis—except in the sense that everybody is more or less an anthropological specimen—is to insult them. We do not conceive of them as living human beings with whom it is possible to work and play. The other approach is one of ignoring the fact that they are something different requiring special treatment and of attempting forcibly to absorb them into the normal pattern of social life. The way of forcible assimilation or of assimilation through the operation of normal factors would be equally wrong. In fact, I have no doubt that, if normal factors were allowed to operate, unscrupulous people from outside would take possession of tribal lands. They would take possession of the forests and interfere with the life of the tribal people. We must give them a measure of protection in their areas so that no outsider can take possession of their lands or forests or interfere with them in any way except with their consent and goodwill. The first priority in tribal areas, as well as elsewhere in the country, must be given to roads and communications. Without that, nothing we may do will be effective. Obviously, there is need for schools, for health relief, for cottage industries and so on. One must always remember, however, that we do not mean to interfere with their way of life but want to help them live it.

[Speech at the opening session of the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Areas Conference, New Delhi, June 7, 1952]

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