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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 47 New Delhi November 12, 2016

Nehru for Today

Thursday 17 November 2016


I have no love for bigotry and dogmatism in religion, and I am glad that they are weakening. Nor do I love communalism in any shape or form. I find it difficult to appreciate why political or economic rights should depend on the membership of a religious group or community. I can fully understand the right to freedom in religion and the right to one’s culture, and in India specially, which has always acknowledged and granted these rights, it should be no difficult matter to ensure their continuance. We have only to find out some way whereby we may root out the fear and distrust that darken our horizon today. The politics of a subject race are largely based on fear and hatred; and we have been too long under subjection to get rid of them easily.

I was born a Hindu, but I do not know how far I am justified in calling myself one or in speaking on behalf of Hindus. But birth still counts in this country, and by right of birth I shall venture to submit to the leaders of the Hindus that it should be their privilege to take the lead in generosity. Generosity is not only good morals, but is often good politics and sound expediency. And it is inconceivable to me that in free India the Hindus can ever be powerless. So far as I am concerned I would gladly ask our Muslim and Sikh friends to take what they will without protest or argument from me. I know that the time is coming soon when these labels and appellations will have little meaning and when our struggles will be on an economic basis. Meanwhile it matters little what our mutual arrangements are, provided only that we do not build up barriers which will come in the way of future progress...

[From the Presidential Address at the AICC Session, Lahore, December 29, 1929]

There are many religions in this country, several of hoary antiquity, each has an honoured place in this country and each must have a sensation of freedom. That is why the Congress has always been opposed to what we have called commu-nalism which is the narrow and bigoted villager’s outlook mixing with politics to the detriment of both religion and politics. In particular, the great majority of the people of India, who are Hindus, must always remember that the interest and the well-being of the minorities are their sacred trust. If they fail in that trust, then they injure not only the country, but themselves. They go against the past tradition of India and, more especially, that great tradition which Gandhiji has bequeathed to us. Therefore, we have to take particular care that in the various activities of the nation, whether it is in the working of government and its services or in our elections or in the organisation of the Congress, the minorities have an adequate and respected place.

In particular, we must fight wholeheartedly against those narrow divisions which have grown up in our country in the name of caste, and which weaken the unity, solidarity and progress of the country. Gandhiji gave first place to the uplift of the Harijans. That is essential but that is only a symbol for the equality of all our people and for the elimination of the pride and privilege of caste.

[From a Circular to the Presidents of the Pradesh Congress Committees, May 26, 1954]

Q: You said that Kashmir is part of India. When did it become part of India?

JN: A few hundred years ago, and Kashmir has always been in history for thousands of years, not always a political part but essentially a part of India and for hundreds of years a political part of India long before the British came. It has been essentially and culturally one of the biggest seats of Indian culture and learning. So the finest books about Indian history have been written in Kashmir. Then came the partition of India and certain rules were laid down about it. According to the rules, Kashmir acceded to India and became part of the Indian Union as an autonomous state of the Indian Union. That is why I say that Kashmir is as much a part of India as Calcutta or Bombay or Madras. At that time, Kashmir was invaded through Pakistan and later by Pakistan.

I don’t think it is possible for anyone, even a Pakistani, to say that that was not aggression. There have been a number of cases of aggression in the world in the last 10 years or so. There has been no case of clearer and more flagrant aggression than that of Pakistan over Kashmir territory which was Indian Union territory. Now, whateve legal or other arguments one may have about Kashmir in the Indian Union, there is not a shadow of doubt over the argument in favour of the presence of Pakistani troops in Kashmir and that aggression is continuing today. Over one-third of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir State is in the occupation of the Pakisan Army.... It is a continual aggression, and there is absolutely no kind of justification. One justification Pakistan has put forth is that the majority of the people in Kashmir are Muslims. Now, that is a very odd argument. Once we admit that states are formed on the basis of religion, we go back to the middle ages in Europe or elsewhere. It is an impossible argument. If we admit it, then, within India, as it is today after partition, there are 40 million Muslims. Are they Pakistani citizens and do they owe allegiance to Pakistan? Every village in India has Muslims. There are Christians. Is there Christian nationality or Muslim nationality or Buddhist nationality, a Hindu nationality? It is an impossible proposition so that the present position is that Kashmir is, undoubtedly, that is, legally speaking, historically speaking, constitutionally speaking, a part of India, a part of the Union of India.

The Jammu and Kashmir State has been invaded, aggression committed against it by Pakistani forces who are still continuing that aggression by occupying it: I is only a country like India, peacefully inclined, that would have stopped its military operations against the aggressor and decided to deal with it peacefully and I would be very much surprised if any other country would have done that. In keeping with our tradition of peace and what Mr Gandhi taught us we were anxious to stop it. We stopped at cease-fire even though the aggression is continuing and we said that we would decide it by peaceful methods and that is our present policy. We wanted to decide every question by peaceful methods but that does not mean and will not mean our submission to aggression, and I regret that this fact has not been adequately appreciated by some of the great powers, who talk about aggression in other places. But in Kashmir where there is an act of international gangsterism they support it; I am astonished. I wish to make it perfectly clear that whatever happens we shall never submit to this aggression and it does not matter what powers in the wide world support it, we will not accept it. I think it is a shameful thing that this fact is slurred over.... I have seldom come across such double standards as in this matter of Kashmir. Here is the barest and the most blatant piece of aggression and continuing aggression and we are told: Oh, forget the past, forget the past, whatever it was. Well, well, if we are prepared to forget the past, the history of the world today will be very different from what it was.

[From an Interview in The Journal of the Indo-Japanese Association (July-November 1957)]

We talk about a secular state in India. It is perhaps not very easy even to find a good word in Hindi for ‘secular’. Some people think that it means something opposed to religion. That obviously is not correct. What it means is that it is a state which honours all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities; that, as a state, it does not allow itself to be attached to one faith or religion, which then becomes the state religion.

Where the great majority of the people in a state belong to one religion, this fact alone may colour, to some extent, the cultural climate of that state. But nevertheless the state, as a state, can remain independent of any particular religion.

In a sense, this is a more or less modern conception. India has a long history of religious tolerance. That is one aspect of a secular state, but it is not the whole of it. In a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism can be built up except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach must necessarily exclude a section of the population, and then nationalism itself will have a much more restricted meaning than it should possess. In India we would have then to consider Hindu nationalism, Muslim nationa-lism, Sikh nationalism or Christian nationalism and not Indian nationalism.

As a matter of fact, these narrow religious nationalisms are relics of a past age and are no longer relevant today. They represent a back-ward and out-of-date society. In the measure we have even today so-called communal troubles, we display our backwardness as social groups.

Our Constitution lays down that we are a secular state, but it must be admitted that this is not wholly reflected in our mass living and thinking. In a country like England, the state is, under the Constitution, allied to one particular religion, the Church of England, which is a sect of Christianity. Nevertheless, the state and the people there largely function in a secular way. Society, therefore, in England is more advanced in this respect than in India, even though our Constitution may be, in this matter, more advanced.

We have not only to live up to the ideals proclaimed in our Constitution, but make them a part of our thinking and living and thus build up a really integrated nation. That, I repeat, does not mean absence of religion, but putting religion on a different place from that of normal political and social life. Any other approach in India would mean the breaking up of India.

Acharya Vinoba Bhave has recently been saying that politics and religion are out-of-date. And yet we all know that Vinobaji is an intensely religious man. But his religion is not a narrow one. He has, therefore, added that the world today requires not that narrow religion or debased politics, but science and spirituality. Both these, at different levels, are uniting and broadening factors. Anything that unites and broadens our vision increases our stature and is good and creative. Anything that narrows our outlook and divides us is not good, because it prevents us from growing and keeps us in a groove.

Ultimately even nationalism will prove a narrowing creed, and we shall all be citizens of the world with a truly international vision. For the present, this may be beyond most peoples and most countries. For the us in India, we have to build a true nationalism, integrating the various parts and creeds and religions of our country, before we can launch out into real internationalism. Without the basis of a true nationalism, internationalism may be vague and amorphous, without any real meaning. But the nationalism that we build in India should have its doors and windows open to internatio-nalism.

[Foreword to Dharam Nirpeksh Raj by Raghunath Singh (1961)]

India is a country of many communities and unless we can live in harmony with each other, respecting each other’s beliefs and habits, we cannot build a great and united nation.

Ever since the distant past, it has been India’s proud privilege to live in harmony with each other. That has been the basis of India’s culture. Long ago, the Buddha taught us this lesson. From the days of Asoka, 2300 years ago, this aspect of our thought has been repeatedly declared and practised. In our own day, Mahatma Gandhi laid great stress on it and, indeed, lost his life because he laid great stress on communal goodwill and harmony. We have, therefore, a precious heritage to keep up, and we cannot allow ourselves to act contrary to it.

Pakistan came into existence on the basis of hatred and intolerance. We must not allow ourselves to react to this in the same way. That surely will be a defeat for us. We have to live up to our immemorial culture and try to win over those who are opposed to us. To compete with each other in hatred and barbarity is to sink below the human level and tarnish the name of our country and our people. One evil deed leads to another. Thus evil grows. That is not the way to stop these inhuman deeds. If we can behave with tolerance and friendship to each other, that surely will have its effect elsewhere. If not, this vicious circle will go one bringing sorrow and disaster to all of us and others.

It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we should realise our duty to all our country-men, whoever they might be. We must always remember that every Indian, to whatever religion he might belong, is a brother and must be treated as such.

I earnestly trust that our efforts will be directed towards creating communal harmony and that all our people, and especially our newspapers, will appreciate the grave dangers that are caused by communal conflict and disharmony. Let us all be careful in what we say or write which might create fear and conflict. Let us pull ourselves together and create an atmosphere of co-operation and work for the advancement of India and of all who live here as her sons. Thus only can we serve our motherland and help in making her great, united and strong. Jai Hind.

[A Broadcast to the Nation, March 26, 1964]

November 1 this year marked former Union Minister, late Mohan Kumaramangalam’s birth centenary. This article appeared in Mainstream a few days after Nehru’s 75th birth anniversary—the first birth anniversary in which Panditji was not physically present as he had breathed his last on May 27, 1964.

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