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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 35, August 15, 2009 (Independence Day Special)

India Will Be What We Are

Wednesday 19 August 2009, by Jawaharlal Nehru


Jawaharlal Nehru’s broadcast to the nation on August 15, 1948 is noteworthy because the words he uttered then hold considerable importance for our contemporary political life. Excerpts from that address are being reproduced here. —Editor

Let us not forget where we have failed or where we have erred. For our failures and errors have been many. Some of these are obvious enough, but the real failure has been a failure of the spirit and a falling away from the high standards set by the Father of our Nation, under whose wise guidance we had struggled and marched for over a quarter of a century. He taught us that worthy ends could only be achieved through worthy means, that ideals and objectives could never be divorced from the methods adopted to realise them. He had told us to cast out fear, for fear is not only ignoble but is also the parent of hatred and violence.

Many of us forgot this lesson and fear gripped us, fear not of some distant adversary, but fear of one another, and evil deeds followed in its train.

The Master who guided us and inspired us is no more. We have to shoulder the burden ourselves now and the first question that we have to put ourselves is this: Do we stand by his teaching and message or do we stray into new paths? I want to tell you that this year of hard trial has convinced me more than ever that if India is to prosper and grow in stature, as she must and will, it will be through adherence to that message and teaching. I know I am feeble and have often proved unworthy of India to whose service I had pledged myself so often. But however unworthy we may be of India, we have still something of the strength that the Master gave us. That strength comes not only from him, but from his message, and so today I pledge myself anew to the service of the motherland and of the ideals that Gandhiji placed before us.

All of us talk of India and all of us demand many things from India. What do we give her in return? We can take nothing from her beyond what we give her. India will ultimately give us what we give her of love and service and productive and creative work. India will be what we are: our thoughts and action will shape her. Born of her fruitful womb, we are children of hers, little bits of the India of today, and yet we are also the parents of the India of tomorrow. If we are big, so will India be, and if we grow little-minded and narrow in outlook, so also will India be.

Our troubles during the past year were largely the result of this narrowness in outlook and pettiness in action which is so foreign to India’s great cultural inheritance. Communalism threatened to crush the free spirit in us, the communalism of the Muslim, of the Hindu and of the Sikh. Provincialism came in the way of that larger unity which is so essential to India’s greatness and progress. The spirit of faction spread and made us forget the big things that we had stood for.

We have to find ourselves again and go back to the free India of our dreams. We have to rediscover the old values and place them in the new setting of a free India. For freedom brings responsibility and can only be sustained by self-discipline, hard work, and the spirit of a free people.

So let us be rid of everything that limits us and degrades us. Let us cast out fear and communalism and provincialism. Let us build up a free and democratic India, where the interest of the masses of our people has always the first place to which all other interests must submit.

Freedom has no meaning unless it brings relief to these masses from their many burdens. Democracy means tolerance, tolerance not merely of those who agree with us, but of those who do not agree with us. With the coming of freedom our patterns of behaviour must change also so as to fit in with this freedom.

There is conflict and there are rumours of greater conflict in India and all over the world. We have to be ready for every emergency and contingency. When the nation is in peril, the first duty of every citizen is to give his or her service to the nation without fear or expectation of reward. But today, I do not wish to speak of conflicts and wars but rather of peace and cooperation and I want say to all the nations of the world, including our neighbour country, that we stand for peace and friendship with them. The only war that we want to fight with all our might is the war against poverty and all its unhappy brood.

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