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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 48, November 16, 2013

Nehru for Today

Tuesday 19 November 2013

On the occasion of Jawaharlal Nehru’s 124th birth anniversary on November 14 we are once again remembering our first PM who played such a crucial role in shaping post-independence India. We are reproducing his following words that are quite relevant in the present context.

I am convinced that the only key to the solution of the world’s problem and of India’s problems lies in socialism, and when I use this word I do so not in a vague humanitarian way but in the scienfitic, economic sense. Socialism is, however, something even more than an economic doctrine; it is a philosophy of life and as such also it appeals to me. I see no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation and the subjection of the Indian people except through socialism. That involves vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure, the ending of vested interests in land and industry, as well as the feudal and autocratic Indian states system. That means the ending of private property, except in a restricted sense, and the replacement of the present profit system by a higher ideal of co-operative service. It means ultimately a change in our instincts and habits and desires. In short, it means a new civilisation, radically different from the present capitalist order. Some glimpse we can have of this new civilisation in the territories of the USSR. Much has happened there which has pained me greatly and with which I disagree, but I look upon that great and fascinating unfolding of a new order and a new civilisation as the most promising feature of our dismal age. If the future is full of hope it is largely because of Soviet Russia and what it has done, and I am convinced that, if some world catastrophe does not intervene, this new civilisation will spread to other lands and put an end to the wars and conflicts which capitalism feeds on...

Socialism is thus for me not merely an economic doctrine which I favour; it is a vital creed which I hold with all my head and heart. I work for Indian independence because the nationalist in me cannot tolerate alien domi-nation; I work for it even more because for me it is the inevitable step to social and economic change. I should like the Congress to become a socialist organisation and to join hands with the other forces in the world which are working for the new civilisation. But I realise that the majority in the Congress, as it is constituted today, may not be prepared to go thus far. We are a nationalist organisation and we think and work on the nationalist plane. It is evident enough now that this is too narrow even for the limited objective of political independence, and so we talk of the masses and their economic needs. But still most of us hesitate, because of our nationalist background, to take a step which might frighten away some vested interests. Most of those interests are already ranged against us and we can expect little from them except opposition even in the political struggle.

Much as I wish for the advancement of socialism in this country, I have no desire to force the issue in the Congress and thereby create difficulties in the way of our struggle for independence. I shall co-operate gladly and with all the strength in me with all those who work for independence even though they do not agree with the socialist solution. But I shall do so stating my position frankly and hoping in course of time to convert the Congress and the country to it, for only thus can I see it achieving independence. It should surely be possible for all of us who believe in independence to join our ranks together even though we might differ on the social issue. The Congress has been in the past a broad front representing various opinions joined together by that common bond. It must continue as such even though the difference of those opinions becomes more marked.

[From the Presidential Address to the Indian National Congress, Lucknow, April 12, 1936]

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.

[From 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.

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

I have to convey to you, Sir, and to the House, mournful news. A little over an hour ago, at 9.37 am, the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabh-bhai Patel, passed away in Bombay City. Three days ago, many of us saw him off at the Willingdon airfield and we hoped that his stay in Bombay would enable him to get back his health which had been so grievously shattered by hard work and continuous worry. For a day or two, he seemed to improve but early this morning he had a relapse and the story of his great life ended.

It is a great sorrow for us and for the whole country; history will record many things about him in its pages and call him the Builder and Consolidator of New India. But, perhaps, to may of us here he will be remembered as a great captain of our forces in the struggle for freedom, as one who gave us sound advice in times of trouble as well as in moments of victory, as a friend and colleague on whom one could invari-ably rely and as a tower of strength that revived wavering hearts. We shall remember him as a friend and a colleague and a comrade above all and I, who have sat here on this bench side by side with him for these several years, will feel rather forlorn and a certain emptiness will steal upon me when I look at this empty bench.

I can say little more on this spite of this grievous sorrow that has come over us, we have to steel ourselves to carry on the work in which the great man, the great friend and colleague who has passed away, played such a magnificent part.

[From a statement in Parliament, New Delhi, December 15, 1950]

I am addressing you after a long interval and much has happened since I spoke to you last on the radio. Many calamities have fallen on us, bringing distress to our people. But the greatest of these calamities and sorrows has been the passing away from amongst us of a giant among men. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a dear and valued comrade in the brave days of our struggle for freedom, full of wisdom and determination, a rock of patient strength to whom instinctively all of us went for guidance. Later, when we occupied the seats of Government, inevitably some of the heaviest burdens fell on him and history will record how he discharged that duty. He will always be remembered not only as a great leader in the fight for freedom but also as a great builder, the unifier and consolidator of new India. It is a proud title to fame which he well deserved. For him it is well, for his life’s duty was well performed and is over now. But for us, it is not well, for we miss his strength and wisdom and we can no longer go to him for counsel and advice. That burden, which his broad shoulders carried so lightly, has now to be shared by all of us.

[Excerpts from a broadcast from All India Radio, New Delhi, December 31, 1950]

In India there has been, compared to the West, a remarkable tolerance in regard to religious thinking. But there has been an equally remarkable lack of tolerance in regard to social life. Tolerance means tolerance of others’ opinions; not the opinions of those who agree with one but opinions which are opposed to one’s own. Tolerance is a state of mind. It is essential because the world is a varied place. The variety of views in the world makes it still more exciting. Truth is much too big to be comprehended by any individual and for anybody to say that he knows it. If information—including conflicting views and sometimes even contradictory views—comes from every quarter, we are more likely to arrive at the truth of that welter than if only one aspect of it was presented. The whole concept of freedom of information rests on this idea. I entirely agree that sources of information should be as free and as varied as possible.

It is all very well to lay down a principle, but economic conditions influence its application. The rich person can put his idea across in a hundred ways by adopting the modern mass media. The poor person cannot do that; he can shout out in the market-place but cannot do much more. To say that we give an even chance to everybody is not correct. It would become an even chance only when everybody is on the same level. The rich group or the rich nation can flood the country and the world through the mass media with its own view of things which may or may not be the correct view.

We live in a changing world and a changing world brings changing problems. I am convinced that the more freedom there is, the better. Suppression, even of what I may consider wrong, is bad. I am prepared to take the risk of allowing truth and the so-called right and the so-called wrong to appear on the scene.

Toleration depends upon one’s knowledge of others. In the previous centuries people knew very little about the other countries. The result was that each country had the idea that beyond its borders lived barbarians. Each country thought that knowledge, culture and civilisation were confined to its own borders. We are begin ning to get to know something about others. Toleration of an opinion, even though you disagree with it, is a sign of culture and civilisation.

[A speech at a UN Seminar, New Delhi,

March 5, 1962]

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. Our 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 on 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 countrymen, 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]

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