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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 48 New Delhi November 17, 2018

On Jawaharlal Nehru’s 129th birth anniversary - Remembering his words and some tributes to him

Sunday 18 November 2018

On the occasion of Jawaharlal Nehru’s 129th birth anniversary on Novermber 14, we are remembering our first PM by reproducing his following words that are highly relevant in the present situation. This is followed by tributes to Nehru from eminent personalities over the years.

Value of Nehru’s Immortal Words at Present

We have recently faced a very difficult, critical and painful situation—I refer to West and East Bangal and Assam and partly to other places—and, as I said in another place, we just managed to save ourselves from falling over the edge of the precipice and are new beginning to turn in a different direction. This turning was remarkable, although it is true that many terrible evils still continue. Problems are not solved by merely looking in a different direction. Millions of people have been uprooted and have greatly suffered; and it is no good trying to be over-optimistic. I am talking about the point of view, if you like, of sheer opportunism for a practical, objective approach to our problems. We do not want to be swept away by the passion of the moment but we must realise that passion does exist. We have gone through painful experiences and, even now, tens of thousands of people are going through painful experiencs. The exodus is continuing and those who have stayed behind have not, obviously, got rid of the fear that oppresses them. How are we to meet the situation?

There can be three ways of meeting it. One is to think that this kind of thing will go on happening and nothing will stop it. We simply go from one disaster to another as the culmination in a Greek tragedy. We cannot prevent it; therefore, we simply accept it. The other way is, since reason and logic point in that direction, that we must try our best in the faith that we will succeed. I do not mean that we shoud minimise the dangers; nevertheless, we must go in the direction of peace and co-operation and try to root out the fear that dwells in the minds of millions of people. There is also a third attitude. ‘It is good to have peace and co-operation; but we do not see it anywhere—not much of it, at any rate. We do not think that this attempt will succeed at all. We are prepared to see how it works. We will wait and see what happens.’

I confess that, constituted as I am, I dislike intensely this kind of negative, passive approach—the third one. I can quite understand full-blooded opposition and bear with people who say ‘we cannot have peace: why talk about it?’ I disagree with them of course but I can understand their attitude. What I cannot understand and have no sympathy for is the weak approach. For us to watch and wait and see when powerful forces are at work is characteristic of the weak approach. This is not the approach which a strong nation or a strong man takes with regard to vital problems. Besides, I think, it is an approach which takes you nowhere.

I, personally, have arrived at the conclusion that we should have a strong approach, a positive approach, a constructive approach and an approach which has behind it, in spile of every difficulty, a large measure of faith and confidence. If I have that confidence, if you have that confidence, it will spread to millions of other people. I am no prophet, I am no astrologer to say what the future will be. But I can govern my actions to a large extent and I do not see why I should be passive and be pushed about. If I consider my policy to be right, I propose to follow it to the best of my ability and strength. Having had a fair measure of experience for 30 to 35 years of my life, not so much of governmental ways of working but of mass feeling, of how the masses feel and move, I am not afraid of the masses. I have always had a large measure of faith and confidence in the masses of people, whoever they are. If I have put my confidence in them, they have been good enough to respond by placing their confidence in me. Therefore, I approach this problem, not with doubt, not idealistically, not weakly but having come to this logical, opportunist conclusion.

How are we to go about this? We have to approach the problem keeping in view the basic thing—the general atmosphere. How far we can change it is a very important factor. The second thing is how far we can implement the various details connected with it. With regard to the basic feeling, let us take East Bengal. The minority community, the Hindus in East Bengal, are obviously frightened. They feel they have no security of life. Therefore, they feel like coming away and I can understand their position.

This also applies to the minority community in West Bengal and we might add that a large number of Muslims have gone away from UP and Rajasthan also. I entirely understand this because they are frightened. Maybe, the fear was not justified; but the fact is that they have gone. We have really to face a fear complex. Fear is a terrible thing; it is the worst possible thing that can happen to people because it is infectious. How are we to get rid of this fear? I do not mind if people want to go away from one country to another. But let them not be driven out by fear; let them not go because life is insecure and they do not know what the morrow will bring. How can we remove fear? The Government at the top and the large number of officials can do a good deal. But, obviously, the press can do a great deal more. Until fear is overcome, this problem will not be solved. You saw the tremendous upheaval in the Punjab in August 1947; first in West Punjab and then in other areas, terrible things happened. Massacres took place on a vast scale; you saw elemental forces at work. No government could have either created or controlled it. That particular upheaval stopped but fear continued. You saw the exodus of population from Sind and East Bengal continuing, not because any major incident had happened there, not because there was any killing but because of fear. Sometimes, there might have been economic pressure. Anyhow, by and large, things were settling down, when this situation developed in Bengal.

Again we see a large scale exodus on both sides and fear at work. There is no end to it yet. Not only in Bengal but elsewhere also. This is an impossible situaton. So, we have to instil confidence in the minorities. We have to make the majority feel that it is not only their responsibility, it is not only their duty, it is not only for their good name and credit that they have to try and expel fear from the hearts of the minorities but also from the pont of view of the narrowest opportunism. If they fail, everybody will suffer.

[From an address to the joint session of the Pakistan and Indian Newpaper Editors’ Conference, New Delhi, May 4, 1950]

There is no doubt that conditions in East Bengal and West Bengal are not normal. There is no doubt that there is a feeling of frustration and insecurity in the minds of the minorities. Now, I shall express my own opinion for what it is worth, because one cannot judge. I think that on the whole, the Muslim minority in West Bengal—which also, I think, suffers from a feeling of frustration and a certain insecurity—is relatively more secure than the Hindu minority in East Bengal. Nevertheless, I want you to remember that the Muslims in West Bengal are frustrated, too. I say this with certainty and I also say, with a certain measure of knowledge, that this applies to a large number of Muslims in other parts of India also. Let us not, in any way, preen ourselves and say that we have done our duty by the minorities which others have failed to do. I am prepared to apply one test to Pakistan and India and, as far as I am concerned, it is an adequate and sufficient test. The test is what the minority thinks of the majority and not what the majority thinks. So long as the minority in Pakistan does not feel secure and does not trust the majority, there is something wrong there. I am prepared to apply this test to India, too. So long as the minority in India does not feel secure and is not prepared to repose its confidence in the majority, there is something wrong here, too. We must consider both sides of the case objectively and fairly. If we do not do so, we put ourselves in the wrong and take a lop-sided view of the situation.

[From a speech in Parliment on the Motion: “That the Bengal situation with reference to the Agreement between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan signed on April 8, 1950, be taken into consideration”, New Delhi, August 7, 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]

Before I can deal with the communal spirit of Pakistan, I want to deal with the communal spirit in India, the communal spirit of the Hindus and Sikhs more than that of the Muslims. I want this House to realise that this spirit will stand in the way of our progress and weaken us. In the event of a war, we cannot fight the enemy if mischief is done behind our backs. No army can fight if its base is not strong. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that this wild and vague communal talk be put an end to at once. I am stressing this because people tend to express their great patriotism by cursing Pakistan and the Muslims. I want this House and this country to feel friendly to the people of Pakistan, because those poor people are not much to blame anyhow. What would you and I do in their place? If we had to read in the newspapers and hear on the radio stories full of falsehoods day in and day out, if we were enveloped in the atmosphere of fright and fury all the time, we might not behave very differently from them. It is not the fault of the people; but I do blame those who are responsible for all this. It is a heavy responsibility. It is not for me to say much about it. Anyhow, let us not create a feeling of ill-will for the common people there or for the country as a whole, because the feelings of hatred and violence weaken us.

[From a reply to the debate on the President’s Address to Parliment, New Delhi, August 11, 1951]

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 plane 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 internationa-lism. 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 internationalism.

[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 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 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]

Nehru on Communalism

It must be remembered that the communalism of a majority community must of necessity bear a closer resemblance to nationalism than the communalism of a minority group. One of the best tests of its true nature is what relation it bears to the national struggle. If it is politically reactionary or lays stress on communal problems rather than national ones, then it is obviously anti-national....

Nor is it enough to blame Muslim communalists. It is easy enough to do so, for Indian Muslims as a whole are unhappily very backward and compare unfavourably with Muslims in all other countries. The point is that a special responsibility does attach to the Hindus in India both because they are the majority community and because economically and educationally they are more advanced.....

Many a false trail is drawn to confuse the issue; we are told of Islamic culture and Hindu culture, of religion and old custom, of ancient glories and the like. But behind all this lies political and social reaction, and communalism must therefore be fought on all fronts and given no quarter. Because the inward nature of communalism has not been sufficiently realised, it has often sailed under false colours and taken in many an unwary person. It is an undoubted fact that many a Congressman has almost unconsciously partly succumbed to it and tried to reconcile his nationalism with this narrow and reactionary creed....

Communalism bears a striking resemblance to the various forms of fascism that we have seen in other countries. It is in fact the Indian version of fascism. We know the evils that have flown from fascism. In India we have known also the evils and disasters that have resulted from communal conflict. A combination of these two is thus something that can only bring grave perils and disasters in its train.

Remembering Nehru Today

M.C. Chagla

Gandhiji was the one man who played the most important role in building a secular India. Both Gandhiji and Nehru were secularists, but their approach to secularism was different. While Gandhiji was essentially a religious man, Nehru was not religious. But he wanted people of different religions to live in this country in peace and harmony. He was essentially a modernist with a tremendously broad outlook, and therefore he often felt that the rituals and the dogmas and the prejudices and the superstitions associated with religions came in the way of progress of the country. While the approach of the two was different, both were dedicated to the cause of secularism and made greatest possible contributions towards it.

Dynamic Non-alignment

The question is raised if the current events have vindicated the policy of non-alignment initiated by Nehru. I think the policy of non-alignment is good but the mistake we made is that we think of non-alignment as a static concept whereas it should be regarded as dynamic. Non-alignment must be adjusted and adapted to the changing conditions of the world. When Nehru enunciated it, he was the originator of the Bandung idea. The world at that time was very different from what it is today, and no country can continue to hold on to the same position even though the face of the world is changing. Therefore what we want is not a static approach to the idea of non-alignment, but its adaptation to the alignment of forces that exist today. And today’s alignment of world forces is different from what it was in Nehru’s time.

I think one broad feature in the present situation is the consolidation of our national unity and secularism. The whole country has been supporting the government in resisting Pakistani aggression. Pakistan expected communal troubles to break out in this country. Far from that happening, Pakistan has helped to strengthen our secular cause.

I am convinced if Nehru had to face the present crisis, he would have acted in the same way as the present government has done. He wanted friendly relations with Pakistan and towards the end of his life he was most anxious that the quarrel between the two countries should come to an end. Therefore he wanted the Kashmir problem to be solved. But he did not want it to be solved at the cost of India’s integrity, or by handing over Kashmir to Pakistan.

He would have tried to solve it peacefully. We also tried to solve it peacefully, and we did not start the fight. The aggression was started by Pakistan. It was Nehru who resisted Chinese aggression; and I am sure he would have equally strongly resisted this aggression from Pakistan. It was Pakistan who wanted to settle the Kashmir problem at the point of the gun and not peacefully; and no Indian, certainly not Nehru, would have agreed to the solution on these terms.

Kashmir in UN

Our present difficulties in the United Nations are partly the result of the wrong handling of the Kashmir problem in the past. Because, I think, we were vacillating so feebly and almost equivocally on the Kashmir question. But during the last two years we have taken up a firm, unequivocal attitude and I think that is already paying dividends. If Pakistan now realises that Kashmir is not negotiable, I think the settlement of the Indo-Pak dispute would be easier than if we let the world think that we are still prepared to talk about the status of Kashmir.

My attitude towards the handling of the Kashmir question is different from that of the late Prime Minister. I strongly feel we should never have gone to the United Nations at all in the first instance. We went there as complainants, complaining of aggression by Pakistan. That fact has been completely forgotten; instead of Pakistan being put in the dock, we are being made to answer for Kashmir. If we had stuck to our complaint and insisted on Pakistanis getting out of what they called Azad Kashmir, the present situation would not have come about.

Same Reaction

Nehru would have reacted to the situation of fighting with Pakistan as Shastri has done. I do not see how differently he could have reacted than what the present government has done. As I said, if an aggression is committed on one’s country, one can react only in one way, and that is, to throw the aggressor out. That is exactly how we have reacted and we are sure Nehru would have reacted in the same way.

We cannot see any solution in sight till Pakistan changes its basic outlook. It is not so much a question of Kashmir, it is more a question of the fundamental differences between our two countries. Till Pakistan learns to respect secularism, and not make religion the basis of its policy, it is very difficult to bring about any lasting settlement with Pakistan.

We must wait till that consciousness dawns upon the people and the government of Pakistan. Otherwise for a long time we may have a sort of truce. But I do not think we can have peace that way.

The present situation is bad for both the countries. The situation like this diverts our resources from a proper utilisation of them to raise the standard of living of our people. It is not good for a poor country to spend money on arms and armaments. We have been compelled to take up this attitude although we do not like it. We can have peace tomorrow if Pakistan wants it. But peace is something which one country alone cannot bring about. It requires two countries. We may want peace, but Pakistan should also want peace and judging from what Mr Bhutto and President Ayub have said they do not seem to want it. Peace cannot be unilateral, it has to be bilateral.

This situation is a big drain on our country. It is a tremendous strain on our economy. But if a country cannot defend itself, and cannot maintain its integrity and its security, it does not deserve to exist. Whatever the cause, that must have first priority.

Today when the country is facing difficulties on the economic front, I am absolutely sure Nehru would have bravely taken up this challenge. Because, Nehru was essentially a socialist, not a doctrinaire socialist. I understand by socialism social justice and Nehru felt most strongly about the denial of social justice to millions of our people and the only way to meet the challenge of present times is not to do less social justice, but more.

Scientific Mind

Nehru’s was essentially a scientific mind. I always call him the father of modern science in India. It was Nehru’s vision that has made possible the scientific and technological advance that we have made in this country. He felt that India could never become a modern progressive nation unless it was scientifically minded. He rightly thought that we would never be able to shed our supperstition, prejudices and inhibitions unless our people attached importance to science and scientific progress. Therefore we owe almost everything in the field of scientific progress to his genius and to his vision.

Without what we have achieved today, we would have been in serious difficulty and might have completely given in under the pressure of foreign powers. I am convinced today, if all the foreign aid were stopped, we can build up our own indigenous technology. We have been so accustomed to think in terms of foreign assistance that somehow we have acquired the habit of walking with crutches. But if we are driven to a situation when we get no foreign assistance at all, and we have to manufacture everything in this country, I think, to a large measure, we shall do it; we have sufficient scientific and technological talent to do that.

There is already a feeling in the country today that we should cut down and economise in various spheres of national activity. I agree with that. The first priority must be given to defence. But scientific research is essential for our defence and therefore I hope that far from cutting down our expenditure on scientific research, we should spend more on that score so that our country can become not only defence-oriented but as far as possible self-reliant in matters of defence.

Sri Shastri’s stature has gone up tremendously and he has received response from the country which no one else could have received. Today, the climate is created in which people are prepared to do anything and sacrifice anything. What we have to decide is how to make proper use of this climate. •

(Mainstream, November 13, 1965)

The author was an eminent jurist, diplomat, Union Minister besides being the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court.

The Relevance of Jawaharlal Nehru

P.N. Haksar

The following is the text of the Sixth Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture delivered by P.N. Haksar, the former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, at London on May 16, 1974.

It is difficult to speak about Jawaharlal Nehru. So much has been written on him and about him—not least by himself. It would be futile on my part to isolate some significant aspect of Nehru and subject it to scholarly treatment. I felt, however, that there might be perhaps some point in recording the impressions of a person who had been reacting to Jawaharlal Nehru ever since he became conscious of the world around him, and who had the privilege to see him from afar as well as near and to serve under him.

The theme I have chosen for the lecture is “The Relevance of Jawaharlal Nehru” and I shall narrate how I, along with millions of my countrymen, became aware of Nehru.

Early glimpses of Nehru

I must have seen him for the first time for barely a few seconds. But the picture I have of him and of the day when I saw him is still sharply etched on my mind. I can see every detail despite the fortythree years which separate the event and its recollection.

I remember seeing the people of Allahabad streaming through its lanes, streets and mohallas; the streams converging and mingling to produce a surging humanity inundating every bit of land between the Ashram of Bharadwaj and beyond. I see the red brick wall of Anand Bhavan with a bit of history written on it in tar: NO WELCOME TO PRINCE. I can still feel the feverishness and the tenseness of long waiting; waiting for the dead body of Jawa-harlal’s father, Pandit Motilal Nehru, to arrive.

This happened on February 6, 1931, when I was a little over seventeen years of age. I was living in the hostel attached to the Government Intermediate College. The hostel faced the Malacca Jail. Its iron gates opened and closed like the jaws of some primordial beast, devouring a vast number of people. This experience linked itself to an earlier experience in 1920. We were in Nagpur. The house we lived in overlooked Dhantoli Park. In that Park the Indian National Congress held its session that year. My grandfather’s brother, who stayed with us, attended the session. He was a Home Rule Leaguer. There were other visitors. The conversation was always full of references to Gandhi, Motilal Nehru, C. R. Das and Jawaharlal. A year passed. One day in 1921 my father returned home from court without his cap. It had apparently been consigned to the fire, because it was made in England!

And so I mingled with the crowd on February 6, 1931, rather more in response to a growing identification with the spirit of nationalism than to satisfy a curiosity or to participate in a funeral.

As the afternoon shadows lengthened, the funeral cortege arrived. Suddenly I glimpsed a face, and a hand resting on the body which was draped in the national tricolour. That is how I saw Jawaharlal Nehru—a mixture of myth and legend. That face and that hand got engraved in my memory even though I saw him from a distance and through the haze of dust raised by a million feet.

The second occasion when I saw Nehru was a few weeks later. I then saw him on a larger

scale, as if in close-up, and for a longer duration. He was wearing a dhoti, a kurta and the jacket which has since become associated with his name. He wore a cap. His hands were clasped behind his back. He was looking down, slightly bent forward and listening intently to five or six young men. They were all from the University. I was passing by Thornhill Road and I stopped to look. I knew none of them and none of them knew me. Apparently this little group and Jawaharlal had just returned from Alfred Park where they had gone to see the tree which by then had become a shrine. It was the tree behind which Chandrasekhar Azad had taken position to give battle to Nott-Bower and his police force. I cannot recollect what Nehru or these young men said. However, it was Nehru’s face which arrested my gaze and I kept looking at it as one might look for hours at the changing shapes of the clouds after a monsoon shower. For the first time, I became aware of the importance of a person’s face.

A man without a mask

The vast majority of us have no faces to show. We wear masks. Jawaharlal Nehru wore no mask. His face reflected every passing mood, feeling and emotion. Reading again through his Autobiography I discovered the reason why his face was so sensitive. Contemplating the faces of Buddhist bhikshus (monks) Nehru reflects on the dilemma posed by his inner life and its outward manifestation. He observes:

The dominant expression of almost all of them (bhikshus) was one of peace and calm, a strange detachment from the cares of the world. They did not have intellectual faces, as a rule, and there was no trace of the fierce conflicts of the mind on their countenances. Life seemed to be for them a smooth flowing river moving slowly to the great ocean. I looked at them with some envy, with just a faint yearning for a haven, but I knew well enough that my lot was a different one, cast in storms and tempests. There was to be no haven for me, for the tempests within me were as stormy as those outside. And if perchance I found myself in a safe harbour, protected from the fury of the winds, would I be contented or happy there?

‘The tempests within’ were in all of us in varying intensity. Nehru articulated them. Others who came to Allahabad during the years I was at the University were confident men wearing masks untroubled by questions. No wonder they evoked so little response. Gandhi of course touched our hearts deeply but left our minds in a turmoil of unanswered questions.

Nehru defined the meaning and content of nationalism, and he saved it from introversion. He gave direction and purpose to the struggle for freedom. He gave a vision of India after freedom. Above all he discovered India for us so that we could feel that, whichever part of it we might come from, the whole of it was ours. By presenting our own history to us as part of man’s unceasing question, Nehru helped us to scale narrow ‘domestic walls’.

All that relates to India’s past. The question which is now being debated in India is: Does Nehru continue to be relevant to our contem-porary concerns?

One hears a great deal today about the explosion of science and technology: people talk about the annihilation of distances, of the shrinkage of our world, of the conquest of the moon. All these are great and dramatic things. However, to my mind the greatest explosion in our contemporary world is the explosion of human consciousness. No longer is man’s care bound by a few paternal acres; we must now take into account the depth and intensity of man’s greater awareness, so that those who are concerned with the designing and engineering of societies and governments may be better able to cope with the turbulence of our times.

I am referring to this explosion of man’s consciousness because it provides a backdrop to whatever I might have to say about Nehru. He was intensely sensitive to the turbulence of the human spirit and the deep yearnings which stir the depth of human beings.

Several questions arise in one’s mind in relating Nehru to our contemporary times, and more especially to the solution of the problems with which India is beset.

What did Nehru seek to do? What did he seek to achieve? What was his design—his socio-architectural design—for India? One can answer these questions by reading his books and speeches over a period spanning nearly half-a- century.

One can gather a great deal about his vision by reading through the various significant resolutions adopted by the Indian National Congress beginning with its Karachi session in the Thirties, followed by the Avadi session in the Fifties and ending with the resolution passed by the Indian National Congress at its session in Bhubaneswar in the Sixties. One can also get a clear picture of Nehru’s thought and vision, of his passion, of his design for India, by reading through the Constitution of India, more specially the Directive Principles enshrined as part of our Constitution.

One can read all this and yet fail to grasp what the entire pattern was. To understand this pattern one has to step aside and look at it as a whole. Only then one can see how Nehru wove into a pattern his dream for India.

The vastness of his enterprise

Jawaharlal Nehru was trying, in his own way, to consummate three processes of history which have been associated in the past with turmoil and violence. To a British audience familiar with its own history one could point out that Nehru was trying to span in a relatively brief period of time several centuries of social, economic, political and cultural development, which Britain witnessed from the latter half of the seventeenth century to 1918 when women were enfranchised. What he was trying to do was to carry out in India the transformation of a society from feudal to modern; from a society governed by concepts of status to a society governed by concepts of contract.

Our society, thousands of years old, frozen in a static mould for centuries and changing little in its structure, suddenly came face to face with the complex problems of life and living. The society needed change; it was governed far too rigidly, despite many protestant movements in India, by concepts of status determined by birth. It was tortured by its hierarchical divisions. Such a society could not face the challenges of the twentieth century. Jawaharlal Nehru was aware that he could not even begin to make a dent on our social structure and on the ideas and value systems which sustained it without, at the same time, changing the economy. This, in turn, meant bringing about an industrial revolution in India in a short space of time and carrying it through without causing excessive human suffering. And finally, Nehru was engaged in the difficult task of creating, out of a religio-cultural entity called India, a modern nation-state.

Analogies must not be pushed too far. But in terms of European experience, Nehru was trying to bring about the total process of social, economic and political transformation of India. If you recall the history of Europe, if you recall the struggles for unification of Italy, if you recall the names of Cavour, of Garibaldi and of Mazzini, if you recall Britain’s own efforts in this island for unification and the problems which the industrial revolution created, if you recall the writings of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau; of Green and of Mill; of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Marx and Keynes; if you read all that Voltaire and Diderot said and if you put all these things together, you might get some idea of the vastness of the canvas which Jawaharlal Nehru was trying to paint. Only then can you measure his success or his failures, his relevance or irrelevance to India’s present and the future.

Jawaharlal had a picture of the total trans-formation of India. He was acutely aware of the severe constraints which had no parallel in history and within which he had to function. What were these constraints? From the moment of its birth, the Indian political system ensured the widest democratic rights and liberties. But the Indian economy presented a picture of a wasteland. Whereas in Europe population as well as democratic rights and liberties grew with the growth of wealth, in India the situation was the other way round.

Need for historical perspective

Yet we began well in India. The state itself was established; its Constitution was evolved with great care providing a realistic framework, and we were maintaining our unity in the midst of extreme diversity. Across our frontiers another state came into being and the two states started their careers at the same time, but on differing foundations. Nehru had the vision, the wisdom and the perception to see that a country like India, with its linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversities could not survive unless its policy rested on the principle of secularism.

Without secularism as a binding force, as the common denominator uniting the citizens of India, we could not construct the polity of India. Nehru’s constant reiteration of it and insistence upon it are responsible for our continued survival as an entity, even if some like to call India a marvel of organised chaos.

There are many among us whose moral sense is far in excess of their sense of history, more especially among the beneficiaries of contem-porary affluent societies. I might remind them of the human condition prevailing in Britain itself not so long ago. I was witness to the hunger marches of the unemployed in the Thirties of this century. I have seen, too, the misery of the distressed areas. The state of affairs when Britain had almost completed her industrial revolution and founded an empire over which the sun never set was unbelievably barbaric. When Indian poverty and misery is described, it is well to remember that the phenomenon is not uniquely Indian. Somewhere between 1815 and 1855, in Britain too, ‘men, women and children, in varying degrees, were wearing, breathing and drinking refuse’. The author of the Industrial Society in England, S. G. Checkland, describes the situation in the following grim words:

Old garments moved down the social scale and passed from peer to pauper at its nether end. The air was defiled with industrial and human effluvia. Water-courses became open sewers. Tipping and dumping were uncontrolled; there was a lack of depots for night soil. The sewage system was largely on the surface, courts were unpaved, the movement of air was blocked by crowded buildings. The builder might place the primitive privy where he wished, inside or outside the houses; when indoors the smells in winter were dreadful in houses tightly closed to keep warm, when outdoors women and children, unwilling to visit them in exposed places, became habitually consti-pated. Cemeteries gave off noxious smells and polluted the water supplies; tanneries, breweries, dyeing works, chemical plants, slaughter houses, and manure driers were uncontrolled in their disposal of waste matter, as gas, liquid or solid. The cesspool, ‘that magazine of all contagions’ as Farr described it, was still general. The children were the heaviest casualties. In the sixties about twentysix out of every hundred died under the age of five; in the best districts the number was eighteen, in the worst it was thirtysix.

If, despite Indian poverty, democratic institu-tions and democratic processes continue to flourish in India, and show extraordinary strength even in the midst of extraordinary difficulties through which we pass from time to time, and we are certainly passing today, it is because of Nehru’s insistence on secularism as a guiding principle not merely of state policy but of our thought processes and behaviour patterns.

The second important thing which Nehru grasped was that democracy in India had to be universal. It could not be restricted; it could not be qualified by some elitist concept on the facile assumption that only those who are educated are capable of exercising the franchise. In fact the experience of our elections during these twentyfive years has shown that there is no obvious correlation between political wisdom and formal education. And, from time to time, the Indian electorate has shown that despite poverty and deprivation, despite lack of formal education, it can act with remarkable wisdom in times of distress, in times of crises and, more particularly, in recent times when the people of India have been experiencing extreme hardship and distress.

In a way, the battle for secularism and parliamentary democracy was relatively easy to win. After all, Nehru had thought about the problems of India and of Indian unification throughout his life. But the most difficult problem was to transform the barren wasteland of India living at the level of subsistence, with more than eighty per cent of the people pressing on very limited land, and to convert the wasteland into green fields; to strike a balance between the town and the village. To stimulate economic growth and development in spite of the extreme paucity of resources was, and continues to be, our most difficult problem, and often an intractable one.

I need not dwell at length on what Jawaharlal Nehru did to encourage science and technology as a means of stimulating social and economic change. Lord Blackett, who knows far more about it than I do, has dwelt on this entire subject in his Nehru Memorial Lecture. Nehru saw clearly that if we are to span the centuries of backwardness the sovereign remedy lies in proper application and development of science and technology in India, and in making the correct choice of a mix of technologies appropriate to our country.

Nehru as a boundless source of encouragement

To develop science is not easy. To apply it in the socio-cultural environment of a traditional India is even more difficult. Some of the difficulties were overcome because Nehru gave to science and technology his personal attention and passionate concern. He chose his men carefully; he sought counsel and advice, and Lord Blackett was one of his counsellors. In India today there is a vast accumulation of engineering talent of great variety and diversity. Within a short space of time, we have established competence in the field of designing, erecting and commissioning fairly complex industrial plants and machinery in some sophisticated fields. All this constitutes a tremendous national asset.

I know that science cannot grow in response to ministerial directives; that nurturing science is a delicate process. But Nehru had the capacity to recognise genius, as he did in the case of Dr Homi Bhabha. He gave him his blessing and asked him to go ahead. And he went ahead. To this day the structures and the norms Dr Bhabha created have endured, though he died soon after Nehru’s death. That is one example of Nehru’s durable contribution, and one which is of extreme relevance to our present and future.

I have briefly referred to the difficulties inherent in nurturing science and technology in a society where thought-processes were governed by traditional mores. Nehru was aware of these difficulties. He therefore never tired of speaking in his own simple way about the scientific temper, or of fighting irrationality Those of us, whether in government or outside, who had to cope with this irrationality with almost theo-logical moulds of thinking had the satisfaction of knowing that in Jawaharlal Nehru we had a final court of appeal, We were never disappointed.

I would like to recall one incident. A young, unknown, film producer in India made a film putting into it all he had—not only his own senses and sensibility, emotion and feeling, but also the little money he had (he even pawned his wife’s jewellery). My wife and I happened to see this film and we were both struck by its extreme beauty. We felt it was the kind of film which should be entered at one of the international film festivals. I found that the film had been made several years previously and that there was a ban against its being shown abroad. I made inquiries as to the reason for this extraordinary treatment. I was informed that as the film shows India’s poverty, it was not suitable for being entered into foreign film festivals. A great battle ensued to have the order banning the film removed. Ultimately I had to go to the final court of appeal.

Nehru’s reactions were spirited and I recall vividly what he said: ‘What is wrong with showing India’s poverty? Everyone knows that we are a poor country. The question is: Are we Indians sensitive to our poverty or insensitive to it? Satyajit Ray has shown it with an extra-ordinary sense of beauty and sensitiveness.’ And with this final judgement, Satyajit Ray’s film, PatherPanchali, became world-famous. And Ray emerged as one of the great film producers of the world.

Thus secularism, rationality and a concern for the growth of science and technology imparted to an ancient India a new style of living and thinking. Nehru added to it the concept of planning. Whatever may have been the pitfalls of Indian planning, and there have been many, planning itself endures. If we in India want to overcome our problems it is only through the instrumentality of planning. Up and down the country, talking in simple language to millions upon millions of people, Nehru made planning and the concept of planning understandable, as he made secularism and democracy look part of India’s heritage, and though planning has been attacked, both from the Right and from the Left, the broad fact remains that it is now the well-established means and mechanism for a total transfor-mation of India.

All this does not mean that everything is lovely in the garden, that everything is perfect and that we have made no mistakes. Indeed in the realm of economics one thing is quite clear, that the seemingly economic problems are only part of the deeper problem of our society—its structure, function and value system. I am provoked to say this by a speech which Lord Balogh made in Hungary on May 17, 1973. In his own irreverent way he said that modern economics were irrelevant. He said that barely ten years ago there was an air of confidence among the economists of the world. Mathe-matics had come to economics and they thought economics was to be as predictable as physics. But in the affluent West, the sterling crises— about a dozen or so—and the dollar crises knocked the confidence out of economists, despite their sophistication.

Our economy does not lend itself to sophisti-cated handling in terms of conceptual apparatus of a Keynes or of a Leontief. Far too much of it is outside the organised sector and so we have to grope and search for a growth model suited to Indian conditions. To construct such a model is not easy. The various studies in developmental economics have not given any great insights. Our Second Plan was based upon a model prepared by that distinguished scientist and statistician, the late Professor P. C. Mahalonobis, a Fellow of the Royal Society.

With its emphasis on heavy industry and its linkages with power and transport, that model remains fairly valid. At any rate, the importance of that model lies in the fact that it mockingly reminds us of how far away we have gone from its actual implementation. The current Five Year Plan is, conceptually at any rate, a better model. And yet the model is not the problem. We have in our country some of the best economists one could hope for. It is not the model itself but how to correlate that model into a series of political and social policies that present hard choices; and this is where the difficulties arise. Despite these difficulties and despite the current situation which appears to be intractable, I have little doubt that given the necessary political will and with a forging of political instruments in India—this we have neglected in the past—the economic problems of India can be met and resolved.

To assess the continuing relevance of Jawaharlal Nehru, one has not merely to look into what he thought and did in the field of political structuring and the creation of a national state in India, or to his contribution towards national integration, economic develop-ment and the growth of science and technology, but also to see the impact he made on Indian art and culture. About this one hears so little. In this field Jawaharlal Nehru made a distinctive personal contribution. The picture of arts and culture of India on the eve of indepen-dence was a desolate one. Nehru realised, to utter a cliché, that man does not live by bread alone, though bread is essential especially in a country like ours. He took a personal interest in stimulating the handicrafts of India. Their variety, richness, beauty and quality can be traced to Nehru’s personal encouragement of a wide variety of men and women who are engaged in reviving these dying crafts.

And not merely the handicrafts, but song and dance and drama and literature. He was President of the Sahitya Academy; and as its President he warned the government over which he himself presided not to interfere with the creative activities of writers and artists in India. If today we visit even the much maligned city of Calcutta, we find it pulsating with creative activity of one sort and another; cinema, dance, drama, music, art and literature. Calcutta is the only city in India where poets sell their poetry in hundreds of thousands of copies in mini-books. Drama has revived. In my childhood it had reached total decline and degradation. Today, there is a new spirit among artists and craftsmen, poets, musicians, writers and all concerned with the theatre.

Democracy and non-alignment

Prime Ministership is too small a segment of time for any assessment. Anyone with the briefest acquaintance with history will know that the tasks which he set out to perform were of extraordinary difficulty. These tasks had taken other countries centuries to complete. As he reminded himself on the eve of his death, he had ‘many promises to keep and miles to go’ before he slept: it was not as if he was unaware that in order to carry out the transformation of our society one needed a new instrumentality. But he was brought up prior to independence to regard maintenance of that unity in the midst of extreme diversity as so important that he felt that the Congress Party needed to be changed only with the greatest care. When one contem-plates the entire panorama of history after the Second World War, one cannot fail to be struck by the durability of democracy in India as against its destruction in many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is a measure of the continuing relevance not only of Nehru’s vision but of the work he did during seventeen years as Prime Minister.

May I now briefly touch upon Jawaharlal Nehru’s contribution to the conceptual basis of India’s foreign policy? In the world at large, the label of ‘non-alignment’ has got itself attached to our foreign policy. Perhaps it might be worthwhile to disentangle the phrase from the substance.

Soon after out independence we found the world divided and tortured by the Cold War, by a conflict of ideologies. Nehru rightly thought that the best thing for India was to keep out of it and to be non-aligned. But non-alignment was the means, at a particular time and in a particular place, to advance, to promote and to protect not just India’s interests. For Nehru interpreted India’s interests in a manner which did not conflict with the interest of maintaining world peace. And this idea of maintaining world peace was not only a moral imperative. Nehru saw very clearly that in the world as it is constituted today, and as it emerged imme-diately after the Second World War, war had ceased to be an instrument of policy; that the age of Clausewitz was over; that one could no longer talk of war being a legitimate instrument of policy; or of war being the continuation of politics by other means.

He saw that modern technology had made a nonsense of this concept, that even the struc-turing of a system of a balance of power was impossible. For, after all, the sanction behind any balance of power is war. So you come back to the fact that in the world of nuclear armament war cannot achieve anything except annihilation of the contestants. Therefore, why play around with outmoded notions of the past, of the nineteenth century when the balance of power was a legitimate function of the sovereign states of that time and of the technology of war at that time? That is why Nehru rightly said that the problem of foreign policy for every country, including India, was so to interpret its national interest that it did not conflict with overall international interests. This he saw more clearly than anyone else I know. The world of today insistently demands co-operation and not conflict.

Nehru was maligned and misunderstood, more especially in 1952 during the period when Dulles appeared on the scene. But Nehru persisted. If today there is a feeling of detente, even if it is merely interpreted as an exercise in crisis management; if there is a degree of normalisation of relations; if one is talking more of other problems than in the days of the Cold War, then I think we can rejoice in the fact that India, through Jawaharlal Nehru, made some little contribution to this relaxation and the development of something like peaceful coexistence. However, it would be unwise to think that detente has necessarily come to stay as a durable feature of international life. One has still to work hard to make it irreversible.

Nehru’s testament

May I conclude by reading a small passage that Nehru once wrote? It will, I hope, explain such philosophy as he had of life and living. Actually, the idea of writing it originated in the United States when his publisher asked him way back in 1936 if he would write an essay on his philosophy of life.

He played with the idea, but did not write anything. When he had some spare time during his last imprisonment in the Ahmednagar prison between 1942 and 1944, he got around to writing it. It is a long passage in The Discovery of India. I would like to quote a portion of it to convey to you something of the flavour of his mind, of his spirituality, of what he thought and what he felt. This is what he says:

What was my philosophy of life? I did not know. Some years earlier I would not have been so hesitant. There was a definiteness about my thinking and objectives then which has faded away since. The events of the past few years in India, China, Europe and all over the world have been confusing, upsetting and distressing, and the future has become vague and shadowy and has lost the clearness of outline which it once possessed in my mind.

This doubt and difficulty about fundamental matters did not come in my way in regard to immediate action, except that it blunted somewhat the sharp edge of that activity. No longer could I function, as I did in my younger days, as an arrow flying automatically to the target of my choice, ignoring all else but that target. Yet I functioned, for the urge to action was there and a real or imagined co-ordination of that action with the ideals I held. But a growing distaste for politics as I saw them seized me and gradually my whole attitude to life seemed to undergo a transformation...

Ends and means: were they tied up inseparably, acting and reacting with each other, the wrong means distorting and sometimes even destroying the end in view? But the right means might well be beyond the capacity of infirm and selfish human nature.

What then was one to do? Not to act was a complete confession of failure and a submission to evil; to act meant often enough a compromise with some form of evil, with all the untoward consequences that such compromises result in...

My early approach to life’s problems had been more or less scientific, with something of the easy optimism of the science of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. A secure and comfortable existence and the energy and self-confidence I possessed increased that feeling of optimism. A kind of vague humanism appealed to me.

Science does not tell us much, or for the matter of that anything about the purpose of life. It is now widening its boundaries and it may invade the so-called invisible world before long and help us to understand this purpose of life in its widest sense, or at least give us some glimpses which illuminate the problem of human existence. The old controversy between science and religion takes a new form—the application of the scientific method to emotional and religious experiences.

And finally, Nehru comes to define what he considers to be his real problem:

The real problems for me remain problems of individual and social life, of harmonious living, of a proper balancing of an individual’s inner and outer life, of an adjustment of the relations between individual and between groups, of a continuous becoming something better and higher, of social development, of the ceaseless adventure of man. In the solution to these problems the way of observation and precise knowledge and deliberate reasoning according to the method of science must be followed. This method may not always be applicable in our quest of trust, for art and poetry and certain psychic experiences seem to belong to a different order of things and to elude the objective methods of science. Let us, therefore, not rule out intuition and other methods of sensing truth and reality. They are necessary even for the purpose of science. But always we must hold to our anchor of precise knowledge tested by reason... we must beware of losing ourselves in a sea of speculation unconnected with the day-to-day problems of life and the needs of men and women. A living philosophy must answer the problems of today.

If I may say so, philosophy in our contem-porary world can be enriched by this testament of Nehru. There is a deep crisis in the world we live in, and there is an even deeper crisis in the realm of philosophy which is tending to degenerate into mere symbols with no meaning for the life we live or want to live. And so I have the conviction that even for those in our country or abroad who criticise Nehru for his failings, failures and weaknesses, his conceptual frame-work and what he actually achieved continue to be of great relevance today.

As far as I, with my limited understanding, can peer into the future, not merely of India but of mankind as a whole, I see that future depending desperately on the triumph of co-operation over conflict. Nehru deeply believed in this.

And he is of relevance. Mankind’s future depends equally on freeing individual nations from the mythology of their own history so that it becomes part of the universal history of mankind. If this be true, then Nehru is of relevance. If the policies of tomorrow are to be freed from the corrosiveness of purely personal ambition and raised to the level of serving great causes—such as liberating men from poverty, disease and hunger, both of body and mind—then Nehru is of relevance. If kindness, magnanimity, gentleness, and concern for others are the virtues which should inform public life, then Nehru is of relevance.

With the passage of time, Nehru will be of greater relevance, and not merely to my country, but to the world at large. I have no doubt that so far as my own countrymen are concerned, more especially the younger generation to whom Nehru is a mere name, they will, in the fullness of time and in the measure they address themselves to the real problems of India’s historic trans-formation, look to him and collect his ashes and canonise him as their patron saint. •

Secularism: A Heritage to Defend

D.R. Goyal

You do not have to be an idol-worshipper to remember Nehru today. Every day something happens that compels your mind to recall a man exerting every nerve to pull his countrymen out of the morass of superstition, to debunk the ‘bullock-cart mentality’ and to instil in them the confidence that they could shape their own destiny. He was a man far above his peers, loved and adored by the millions, respected and honoured the world over as the passionate voice of peace and freedom; a man who could claim willing suspension of all disbelief and scepticism from his people. But he was a man who struggled and fought out of his system the temptation of becoming a Caesar because he believed that would spell disaster for the India to the building of which the best men of his generation had dedicated themselves. Thus he came to be known as the maker of modern India, the promoter of the scientific temper and a secular outlook, the builder of democratic traditions and structure, the single-minded campaigner for peace and social justice.

And what kind of tribute is being paid to him now? Nehru is fast being relegated to the position of a god in the pantheon, good enough for incense-burning but not for emulation. His guide and mentor, Gandhi, had earlier been pushed into that crowd—ironically during the life-time of Jawaharlal himself. The self-styled Gandhians had drained the life out of the Mahatma’s thought and kept it as a memento. Nehru allowed it to happen. Now it seems Nehru’s memory is being overtaken by a kind of nemesis. Those who claim copyright over his thought and legacy are making no better use of it than do school-boys of stray quotations for competition essays or elocution contest speeches.

How would Nehru feel in the midst of the thick fragrant smoke of the numerous havans and yagnas and poojas that fill the Indian air today? These practises are not new to this country. For centuries have we wallowed in superstition and allowed our destiny to be a plaything in the hands of astrologers, sooth-sayers and charlatans. Nehru seemed to be India’s leap out of that darkness and the whole country appeared to rejoice in joining his great adventure of shaping the future through human endeavour. With Nehru gone we have fallen back into the old pit of darkness. No more are the stream of history, the clash of world forces, the factors of socio-economic development, etc., subjects of discussion in high quarters, among the decision-makers and wielders of power. The country has yet to hear a strong voice raised against this conspiracy of antediluvianism while every ounce of credibility that the high and mighty possess is being pressed into its service.

One is reminded of Jawaharlal’s speeches during the 1962 election campaign. It had been declared by the pundits and priests that the eight-planet conjunction was a malevolent sign and that yagnas should be performed to avert the impending calamity. People all over the country, gripped by fear created by such propaganda, were being persuaded to join what were called Ashtagraha yagnas. Nehru made it a point to debunk it in all his election speeches, so that the campaign became, simultaneously with winning votes, education of the common man to be free from superstition. The attitude might have cost the Congress a few seats—at least one defeated candidate did mention it as a factor—but the people were given a protective dose against the onslaught of obscurantism. Even when the highly emotive question of ban on cow-slaughter was thrust into the election arena in the very first general election after independence, he did not quail before it but placed it squarely in perspective. “The agitation for the ban on cow slaughter is based on sentiment,” he said and added, “The question is whether India is a political or a religious nation.” How many self-styled inheritors of the Nehru legacy have the courage to adopt that attitude?

Nehru’s unreserved repudiation of ritual and superstition did not succeed in curing the society of these weaknesses, but it did have a salutary effect: people dared not flaunt them as virtues—as they do now. To preach atheism was none of his business; he was no philosophical crusader. He was only doing his duty as a secular leader to keep a multicultural, multi-religious nation free from unncessary and unwarranted tension. Under his influence political leaders and members of the adminis-tration generally refrained from flaunting their distinctive religious marks and people generally tended to come closer to each other as Indians and as human beings. When ritualism gets encouragement by association with it of powerful politicians, it no longer remains a private affair confined to the holy precincts of shrines; it goes ahead and enters police stations and even courts of justice. Inevitably the defenders of civic peace and dispensers of justice begin to be identified with religion and the spirit of secularism takes flight. And we come across situations where one community feels closer to the administration while another feels alienated. That is not the kind of free India which Tagore or Gandhi or Nehru had visualised.

It was Nehru’s way, in fighting communalism, to catch the bull by the horns. Communalism, he knew from experience, was the creed of cowards. When challenged in the open it could not stand up. Those who today talk of the difficulties on account of an interim regime’s softness to communal elements and seek to use it as an alibi for failure to tackle the problem, would do well to contemplate in what circumstances Nehru had to lead the country.

He had inherited an administrative machine from the British which had become used to looking upon the country’s population as blocks of religious communities rather than as a nation. The bloodshed which accompanied Partition had warped the thinking of large masses of people besides creating the gigantic problem of rehabilitating the uprooted. His own colleagues had lost their Gandhian moorings and started toying with the idea of providing a Hindu chauvinist base to nationalism.

Encouraged by all these developments, the RSS was dreaming of a takeover. Golwalkar’s speech at the Ramlila grounds in December 1947 had the ring of Hitler on the eve of his last putsch. In the upper echelons of the Sangh there were serious discussions on plans for a takeover. It was no idle dream. There were active links between the RSS top brass and a section of the Congress leadership and bureaucracy. The latter had been led to believe, through subtle suggestions and innuendos, that the Muslims had hatched a conspiracy to blow up the Capital and continue aggression till they established control over the whole of India. It was a fantastic cock-and-bull story but many important Cabinet colleagues of Nehru believed it and went to the extent of recommending that the RSS be allowed to become part of the Congress.

While his colleagues were thus planning to meet the communal challenge through compromise, Nehru put his foot down. Earlier to that he had personally rushed into the midst of a frenzied mob which was looting and burning shops in Connaught Place. He did it in disregard of security advice and in the teeth of opposition by the bureaucrats. What he did gave a new orientation to many in the police and the administration generally. If the Prime Minister of the country risks his very life to protect the minorities, those who hoped and wished to work with him had to take secularism seriously.

While there was Jawaharlal at the head of the administration, there was Gandhi among the people fighting furiously against mass anger and frustration. Gandhi actually fell victim to the poison which he was struggling to purge out of the system. The victim could as well have been Jawaharlal. There were many attempts on his life.

The martyrdom of the Mahatma shocked the nation into sanity. Nehru’s voice began to be heard with greater attention as realisation dawned of the kind of disaster communal thinking could bring in its train. People changed because Nehru stood firm and faced the calamity with courage. He said: “Great as this man of God was in his life, he has been great in his death, and I have not the shadow of a doubt that by his death he has served the great cause as he served it throughout his life... He would chide us if we merely mourn. That is a poor way of doing homage to him. The only way is to express our determination, to pledge ourselves anew, to conduct ourselves in a befitting manner and to dedicate ourselves to the great task which he undertook and which he accomplished to such a large extent.”

He declared the resolve to root out the evil: “It is clear... that this happening, this tragedy, is not merely the isolated act of a mad man. This comes out of a certain atmosphere of violence and hatred that has prevailed in this country for many months and years and more especially in the past few months. That atmosphere envelopes us and surrounds us and if we are to serve the cause he put before us we have to face this atmosphere, to combat it, to struggle against it and root out hatred and violence.”

What the present-day leadership has to face are tragedies of much smaller magnitude but call for the same measure of courage and clarity. The slow-motion response to Moradabad reminds us that our leaders have moved far from Gandhi and Nehru. This is what we are up against. 

(Mainstream, November 15, 1980)

The author, who was an editor of this journal for a few years in the 1960s, was a noted writer, journalist and crusader against communalism.

Progressive Statesman

C. Rajeswara Rao

I am glad that the centenary celebrations of the late Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru have been held throughout the country with due solemnity. He is not only one of the tallest leaders of our freedom movement, but also the creator of modern India and a universally respected world statesman.

We Communists had our own differences with Pandit Nehru in matters of policy and practical issues. But we always held high his contribution to the cause of our country and world peace and progress.

To Pandit Nehru goes the credit for the industrialisation of our country and building up the giant irrigation and hydro-electric projects like Bhakra-Nangal and Damodar Valley. When the imperialists refused to help in the building of basic industries, he had the foresight to approach the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and build the imposing steel mills, heavy machinery and heavy electricals plants, the machine tools and petroleum industries in the public sector in various parts of our country which stand as sentinels of Indo-Soviet friend-ship, and go a long way in furthering our country’s self-reliance.

The Non-Aligned Movement, which he headed along with other leaders like Yugoslav President Marshal Tito and President Nasser of Egypt, has grown into a powerful force, not only helping the freedom struggle of countries still groaning under the yoke of imperialism and racism, but also helping the newly liberated countries to strengthen their freedom against neo-colonialist exploitation and military attacks of imperialism. I am glad that the recent Ninth Non-Aligned Summit held in Belgrade has been a tremendous success in which our country’s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi played a significant role.

We are proud that our country has been playing an important role in the world arena since the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru following his progressive foreign policy of world peace, friendship with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and the newly liberated countries. Because of this, it has won the respect and love of peace-loving and anti-imperialist forces throughout the world.

The main credit for the formulation of our country’s democratic Constitution and esta-blishing the democratic institutions, goes to Pandit Nehru. It is necessary to remind ourselves that in today’s conditions these democratic institutions are being eroded and democratic values are being trampled underfoot.

Pandit Nehru was not only secular to the core, but he also had these ideas incorporated in our country’s Constitution. The situation in our country is very frightening when the forces of communalism and fundamentalism of various hues have raised their ugly heads, fanning fratri-cidal conflict among the people and endangering the unity and integrity of our country. They are challenging the secular democratic set-up of our country through such slogans as “Hindu Rashtra” and “Khalistan”. Defence of the secular democratic set-up of our country is the best way of paying tribute to the memory of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru today.

The relevance of Pandit Nehru’s signal service to our country and the world becomes all the greater today, when our country and the world are facing a serious situation.

I would like to end with one personal reminiscence. Pandit Nehru was broadminded. It was this which helped in resolving the Telangana armed struggle problem in 1952 when our comrades laid down their arms and the cases against them were withdrawn. 

[From Nehru: The Nation Remembers (Tributes from members of the National Committee for the Commemoration of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centenary that came out in 1989)]

The author, who is no more, was a prominent leader of the Telangana armed struggle and functioned as the CPI General Secretary for several years both before and after the split in the Indian communist movement.

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