On 30th January 1948, Nathuram Godse, a regressive-right fanatic, belonging to the extremist Hindu political ideology shot bullets on Mahatma Gandhi, which took the life of the Mahatma. Nehru truly lost a mentor, an adviser, and a confidante with whom the former could talk through about his interpersonal relationships. Being the tallest and the most distinguished leader then, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru took the reins of the whole nation in his hands. Pandit Nehru’s tremendous charisma had an almost magical grip on the masses, his appeal extended far and wide and he was held in high esteem across national boundaries.

When Pandit Nehru succeeded the Mahatma as the unparalleled and undisputed leader of India, our Constitution was yet to be formed. It was a most daunting challenge to build a nation which posited complex and acute issues in varied forms. An erstwhile prosperous nation with a rich heritage had been transformed into a symbol of famine and

deprivation. Before the British rule, India was a collection of fragmented kingdoms consisting of princely states and large landholders. The camouflaged drawbacks of a complex nation with institutionally backward chunks of land divided on the basis of customs, traditions and the caste system, had assumed gigantic magnitude during the 150 years of British rule. Moreover, with the help of a few retrogressive leaders and rulers of princely states, the British had revived and aggravated the animosity amongst Hindu and Muslim communities. With Gandhi no more, there was hardly any leader who could come up with conclusive answers to these concerns. The many allies of Pandit Nehru, though highly intellectual and distinguished, did not command the immense popularity, authority and faith that Nehru did. Thus, Nehru found himself at the helm of affairs.

To put it simply, at that moment Nehru could have easily evoked false national optimism and grabbed unlimited power by going the authoritarian pathway similar to the then newly-freed African kingdoms.

However, three decisive interventions had a profound impact on Pandit Nehru. These three elements made India the republic it has become and ensured Nehru’s vision of India being inscribed in the Constitution.

The first among them was Nehru’s love for Indian legacy, his admiration of our ancient civilisational values and wisdom. Nehru was well aware though, of its shortcomings that had seeped in through the passage of time. Nevertheless, the marvels of our culture and philosophy enthralled him to no end. In his book The Discovery of India, Pandit Nehru argued that India was a historic nation with a right to sovereignty. Though the yardstick of his economic thinking was influenced by Marxist philosophy, it is noteworthy that Nehru could never bring himself to accept and incorporate Marxism.

The second impact on Nehru was the enigmatic persona of the Mahatma. Gandhiji exhibited an extremely complex personality. Being a social conformist trying to secularise Hinduism, he was a modern albeit a conscientious Vaishnav Hindu. His religious and traditionalist attitude, nonetheless, was no hindrance to the young and diverse minds like Nehru or Bose. Gandhi’s holistic approach towards life based on the principles of truth, honesty and moral courage, his simple living and ethnic purity had an unequivocal effect on Nehru. The

formerly urbane Jawaharlal from an aristocratic background was swept by the serene yet self- assured Mahatma. Conceit and pretence had no place in Nehru’s life. Little wonder that Nehru went on to play the role of a dedicated and long-standing disciple of Gandhiji.

The third and the last aspect was a rather decisive one. That was of scientific

commitment. As a student of Natural Sciences, Nehru had studied Physics and Chemistry in Cambridge University. He became a committed votary of scientific and technological temperament. Later on with the advent of Marxism, Nehru got interested in the Marxist philosophy. The watershed in his political and economic thinking was his Russia tour in 1927. This tour made a lasting impression on Nehru and influenced his world view very strongly.

The industrial revolution had changed the face of Soviet Union. Religion had no place in

political life and scientific attitude was the norm. Nehru’s real interest in Marxism and his socialist pattern of thought stemmed from that tour which enabled him to study Marxism in greater depths.

Shortly after his return to India, Nehru published his subtle impressions with a vivid account of Soviet socioeconomic transformations. Interested in its ideas but repelled by some of its methods, Nehru could never bring himself to accept Karl Marx’s writings as revealed scripture. It is discernible in Nehru’s writings how the Russian revolution served an intellectual purpose in its time but when it became foregrounded by communist activity, it lost its sheen for him.

Nehru had huge admiration for India’s diverse ancient values, the commingling and cultural elements, along with the yearning to translate Gandhiji’s ideals into real politik. In one of the many deeply evocative letters to Indira Gandhi in 1933, Nehru raised severe doubts on Marxist philosophy and its seemingly logical reasoning. Thus Nehru envisaged an independent secular India consisting of its varied ethnic and religious diversities while embracing a scientific temperament. He was a visionary statesman who dreamt of establishing a concrete base for engineering excellence from heavy industries to dams, atomic energy to rocket science.

Pandit Nehru moved a resolution in the Constituent Assembly, under the chairmanship of Dr B R Ambedkar, that set out its objectives. It was Nehru’s dream to craft a political framework for all Indian citizens to coexist in a sovereign and democratic republic.

On the one hand, when India was emerging as a constitutional democracy, Nehru was deeply concerned with carrying India forward into the modern age of scientific discovery and technological development. Establishing a concrete base for scientific and technological advancement through IITs, AIIMS and other premier institutions of study and research, building the foundations of a dual- track nuclear programme, Bhakra Nangal dam project and similar river valley development schemes, establishment of Indian Space Research Organisation, shaping of banking sector, the various economic policies of investing in heavy industries, creating an environment to facilitate the exchange of ideas between Indian students and international communities ….thus was Nehru’s vision that defines many of the essential characteristics of this great nation. If we begin to note down his vast achievements and contributions, as one of the founding fathers, this column won’t suffice. The account of his towering multi-layered heritage might occupy an entire volume.

In 1952 India as an independent country held her first general elections. It was a carnival of celebration with Jawaharlal Nehru without question being the man of the moment. If he had decided otherwise, India would not have incorporated a multilateral democracy. The next hundred years, India would have witnessed a single party dictatorship comprising of ruling leaders chosen by him. Nehru himself could have ruled over India like some Robert Mugabe, and India instead of becoming the world’s third largest economy by 2012-13, would be reduced to a poverty-stricken nation enduring untold hardships under a ruthless

dictator. However, Nehru was a passionate democrat. He had a strong conviction about guaranteeing fundamental rights to all, secularism, a state policy that addresses social inequalities and divisions, universal adult suffrage and Hindu code bill. All of this was not a given. Two main stalwarts worked towards it, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

After the 1952 elections the humiliating defeat of the Indian political right including rulers of many princely states, a few industrialists and the opposition parties made them furious. ‘If Congress has to be uprooted we must resort to character assassination of Nehru’, thus became the strategy of the political opponents. A few of Nehru’s socialist allies too joined hands with the Hindutva extremist hard-liners (Godse-fans) in pursuit of maligning Nehru. Deep allergy for Nehru thence has continued for generations.

In his lifetime, visionaries like Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar and Homi Bhabha, as also various distinguished leaders across national boundaries like Egyptian President Nasser, Yugoslavian president Marshal Tito, Eisenhower of the US, intellectuals and idealists like Albert Einstein, Charles Chaplin, Harold Laski shared mutual admiration with Nehru. Nehru too reciprocated his love towards this vast allegiance of intellectuals with whom he had created an almost eternal bond.

Even after seven decades of attaining independence, the greatness of Nehru remains undiminished. Nevertheless, demeaning and demonising Nehru has been a favourite pastime of the proponents of Hindutva by indulging in various acts of damaging & destroying his reputation, like the removal of Nehru’s statue from Anand Bhawan and churning of his fake photo shopped images with derogatory comments.

At the heart of his many hued personality, Nehru has been called a dreamer. Albeit as a prime minister, he was aware of ground realities. Though Nehru’s policy of neutrality paved the way for Non-Aligned Movement in international politics, he adopted the concept of mixed economy at home. Impressed by the pace of Soviet industrialisation, Nehru took Russian assistance and technical support in building an industrial base in India from

scratch. Nehru galvanised Indian scientists and gave them a free hand to make decisions. He showed the same spirit in areas of literature, arts and cinema.

Dr. Mahalanobis became one of the founding members of the first Planning Commission of free India. He was also instrumental in formulating the first 5-year plan. Though Mahalanobis was a Stalinist, Nehru saw to it that none of the Stalinist overtones influenced

the formulation process of India’s economic policies.

Nehru laid the foundations of several Public Sector Units (PSUs) and banks which were to play a pivotal role in the economy contributing to nation building. Today, Modi in his desperate need to fund his cash-strapped government, has set on a selling spree of these very public institutions. With neither acumen nor wisdom of creating national wealth, Modi will never understand or grasp the legendary vision of Nehru. India was lucky to have Jawaharlal Nehru guide her through those nervous early years of freedom not with hollow words but concrete efforts directed at building the infrastructure from scratch.

In pre-independent India, Motilal Nehru, the father of Jawaharlal, was one of the most successful lawyers. So the Nehrus were very rich. With the success of his flourishing legal practice, Motilal Nehru bought a large palatial mansion Anand Bhawan at Allahabad. This mansion was later donated to the nation. (the current mean-spirited Modi government has ungraciously shifted Nehru’s statue from the premises of the same Anand bhawan.)

Nehru was neither a fakir, nor did he spend the first 35 years of his life living on alms. Even so, Nehru did spend 3259 days of his life in prison during the British rule having sent to jail for nine terms! He, who was born into a privileged home with a wealthy lawyer for a father, readily got acclimatised to prison life.

The bond which Nehru shared with other leaders during freedom struggle went much deeper than disagreements over policy or strategy.

To give an example, Nehru and Patel had their differences – sometimes very sharp ones but the beauty of their relationship was, these differences were always resolved through discussions. According to Patel, Nehru was too much of a democrat. Nevertheless, the duo had tremendous respect for each other.

After Gandhi’s assassination, Patel wrote strongly about the ‘forces of hate’ and called for a ban on RSS. Nehru’s democratic stand did not allow him to impose this ban.

Imagine Pandit Nehru unveiling a beautiful bronze bust of Sardar Patel in the town square of Godhra! This happened as early as 1949 when Patel was very much alive. In a glowing tribute to Sardar, Nehru said “Sardar Patel is a valiant fighter in the cause of freedom… Having won freedom, he is engaged in now retaining it. He has changed the map of India”. The Hindutva fringe elements involved in the worst intercommunal violence of this century at the same Godhra could never comprehend the mutual respect and affection which Patel and Nehru had shared as comrades in the Independence movement. There was never any power struggle between the duo. In reality, it was their absolute love for the nation and a life dedicated to the welfare of its people, where no sacrifice was too much. Since 2014, has Modi felt even a tiny fragment of this sentiment towards any of his colleagues? The answer to this simple question will suffice to show Nehru’s greatness vis a vis the fanatic Hindutva office-bearers of today.

The Nehru Vs Bose debate is as bogus as the Patel Vs Nehru debate. Nehru shared an equally strong bond with Subhash Chandra Bose due to the deep ideological affinity the duo initially shared. Both Nehru and Bose had their vision of India lit up by the idea of socialism. Bose had no qualms in accepting Nehru as the undisputed leader of the Congress. Such doubts (of animosity between the two) have birthed in the minds of Hindutva proponents from 2014.

In 1936, Bose himself wrote to Nehru when the latter had left for Europe, “Among the front rank leaders of today, you are the only one to whom we can look up to for leading the Congress in a progressive direction”.

In 1939, Subhash Chandra Bose, much against Gandhi’s wishes, contested for presidentship for the Tripuri session. Patel and many others urged Subhash to reconsider his decision and allow Pattabhi Sitaramayya, who had become a reluctant contender at the behest of Gandhi, to win uncontested. However, the results showed clear victory to Subhash. Gandhi in his public statement as a reaction to Subhash’s win said, “Sitaramayya’s defeat is more mine than his”! Bose had gained the Congress presidentship for a second time.

Immediately in the aftermath of his victory and as a response to Bose’s allegations regarding the skeptical stand on federation taken by what he called the Congress ‘right’, 12 out of 15 members of the Committee resigned, barring Subhash himself, his brother Sharad and Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru could not get himself to side with those who resigned but neither was he in agreement with Subhash. Nehru’s long letter to Subhash on 3rd April 1939 in response to an equally long letter written by Netaji on 28th March, is a perfect example of how political differences were handled by the leaders of the freedom struggle with courtesy and humility, while maintaining mutual respect and personal ties.

Nehru considered Subhash’s use of the term leftists and rightists to be ‘wholly wrong and confusing’. Subhash’s use of these terms seemed to imply that Gandhi and whoever was part of his group belonged to the right, and those who were opposed to Gandhi were of the left.

However, the large leftist group within the Congress did not side with Subhash. Left with no option, Subhash did the honourable thing of tendering his resignation.

Ironically, the flow of history brings the Congress of today at a similar juncture with Rahul Gandhi’s (almost lone) fight against fascism triggering internal conflicts with the G-23. To fight this battle against fascism on a larger scale, turning to Jawaharlal Nehru for his guidance and Mahatma Gandhi for his philosophy is the only path to victory.

It should be noted here that, Nehru was impressed by Bose’s heroism and secularism, but committed to anti-fascism. Hence Nehru offered to part ways with Bose rather than endorsing Bose’s unapologetic fascist alliances.

Since the beginning Nehru held strong and consistent views on fascism and fascists. His views remained undeterred and uninfluenced all through his life. That was a moral compass of Nehruvian ideology.

In his extract from The Discovery of India, Nehru notes how he had resolutely avoided meeting Benito Mussolini when in Europe. Nehru who was a strong believer of liberalism and democracy declined the invitation to meet Mussolini, famously known as the modern Caesar, at a time when people considered it a privilege to meet him.

Nehru was sharply critical of the growing danger to the world from the rise of fascism. Bose, on the other hand, never expressed that kind of aversion to fascism, and was quite willing to seek their support.

Having said that, Nehru was the only one in the Congress interceding with Gandhi on behalf of Bose, at the time when all the leaders, right from Govind Vallabh Pant to Rajendra Prasad, abstained from extending support to Subhash.

Subhash Chandra Bose himself had said once that, Nehru is a more powerful leader than Gandhi because leftists would never dream of supporting the Congress but for Nehru. This shows that there was never a power tussle between Nehru and Bose. Nehru had already been the Congress President twice before Bose.

When Bose decided to ally with Mussolini, Hitler and the Axis powers in the fight against the British rule, and formed the Azad Hind Sena, he had already set on a different path. Nevertheless, Bose showed his respect by naming his battalions after Gandhi and

Nehru. Despite his bitter departure from the Congress, Subhash Chandra Bose was the first to address Mahatma Gandhi on Azad Hind Radio as “father of the nation”. Later on during the historic Red Fort trials of Bose-led Indian National Army comrades, Pandit Nehru got on board the INA officers’ legal defence team. Hence there were no internal strifes among Bose, Gandhi, Patel and Nehru…these are the crass hallucinations originating from the Reshimbaug headquarters of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Only once in his lifetime did Pandit Nehru back down in his stance towards fascism and right extremist organisations. When Sardar Patel demanded a permanent ban on the RSS in an attempt ‘to root out forces of hate and violence’, Nehru stuck to his democratic values and nonpartisan dictum and did not concede to the ban. It goes without saying that our nation has paid a huge price by rejecting Patel’s plea and upholding Nehru’s contention.

Nehru and Gandhi were so different from each other, yet intimately connected to each other. Nehru found Gandhi’s obsession with nonviolence intriguing but at times frustrating. There could be hardly anything common between Nehru, with his liberalism, universalism and emphasis on modern science and technology and Gandhi, with his spinning wheel, beliefs and inner voice. Though Gandhi considered the armed revolutionaries ‘misguided souls’, Nehru, in his autobiography, profusely praised Bhagat Singh and his companions. On 9th August 1929, Pandit Nehru visited the Central Jail to meet Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt with whom he held conversations about the hunger strike. In fact, when Bhagat Singh and his comrades bombed the Central legislative assembly, Motilal Nehru who was sitting in front did not harbour any rancour.

Even so, on May 9, 2018, Prime minister Narendra Modi with his ignorance and audacity tweeted, “When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt and others were jailed fighting for the country’s independence, did any Congress leader go to meet them?” Such blatant lies are figments of imagination originating at Reshimbaug.

As has been mentioned in the beginning of this paper, Pandit Nehru was fascinated by our ancient civilisation, her culture, literature, heritage and wisdom, and the vital force which drove India as one nation – one people.

He has accounted his elaborate views in The Discovery of India which is one of the finest writings on Indian history. His letters to Indira Gandhi were education pieces on many levels including the Upanishads, the Vedantic philosophy, etc.

He always maintained that the freedom of religion had to be guaranteed under fundamental rights. He was committed to the idea of secularism towards building a strong nation. (He was spot on!).

When the Congress party launched the Quit India movement, the Hindu Mahasabha was busy collaborating with the British and running coalition governments. Contrastingly so, in 1937, Pandit Nehru had refused to join hands with the Muslim League. Had the Hindu Mahasabha not united with the Muslim League in Sindh and Bengal, there was no way the latter could have succeeded in dividing the country. Not all Muslims supported the Congress then. But then the Muslim League too could not prove its claim to represent all the Muslims of India.

It was the Hindu Mahasabha which gave moral support to the Muslim League, while Congress and Nehru refused to have any truck with the League.

To put it bluntly, it was at the Ahmedabad (Karnavati) convention of the All India Hindu Mahasabha in 1937 where Savarkar in his presidential address said that Hindus and Muslims are two nations. To quote Savarkar in his exact words, ” India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogeneous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main; the Hindus and the Moslems in India” (Samagra Savarkar Vangmaya- Volume 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha Publication, 1963-65, Page 296). This was the foundation which led to the Muslim League’s resolution on dual nationalism in Lahore later in 1940. Hence it can be rightly said that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were in agreement with the two-nation theory and were wholly responsible for partition. Yet ironically, it is their descendants who are the loudest today in blaming, not the British, but the one party that did the most to oppose the divisive politics which led to Partition — Congress, and one person, Nehru.

Nehru, along with Dr. Ambedkar aimed to codify and reform Hindu personal laws and succeeded in passing the Hindu Code Bill, which finally enabled Hindu widows to enjoy equality with men in matters of inheritance and property. The charismatic duo wanted a modern India based on equality, welfarism, democracy and secularism.

India was not meant to be a Hindu Pakistan because India under Nehru chose pluralism and democracy. India could make significant progress till 2014 and Pandit Nehru must be given full praises.

Little wonder that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone to extraordinary lengths to eliminate references of Pandit Nehru. The unparalleled greatness of Pandit Nehru and his exemplary achievements have been vilified by the uncouth propaganda machinery.

The RSS never tires of sneering at the Indian military debacle at the Indo-China border in 1962. They blame Nehru for his diplomatic failure to arrive at a solution with China.

The truth is that in the 10-year period of 1952-62, India could simply not equip itself to take on China who had fighting and logistics experience of several wars. Moreover, India had to focus first on healing the aftermath of partition that had created havoc all over North India. Did Nehru fear China? The answer is a vehement No.

But what are the excuses today in 2021? Chinese troops have infiltrated into Indian territories in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh and built war infrastructure across the northern border. Prime Minister Modi is so scared to call China out, that he had sheepishly claimed in his statement, “no-one has transgressed in the Indian territory”.

The truth of the matter is; a thousand lies cannot belittle the towering persona of Pandit Nehru. He built a strong base of a resilient and vibrant democracy in the country that no attempt to dismantle it could succeed.

However, while writing this essay, it pains me to no end that the spiteful regressive organisations have trampled the founding idea of India and set her on a path of doom.

Remembering this most distinguished leader and reaching out to his ideals might enlighten us today and show us a ray of light.

The fresh red rose pinned to his coat every day could have been akin to his love for the beautiful flower, not for the friendly gaze of cameras.


(Originally my Marathi blog. Translation by Kirti Deolekar)

About Raju Parulekar

I am original, everything else is copied.
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1 Response to A TOWERING NEHRU AND THE VILE RSS. -Raju Parulekar

  1. SP says:

    Absolutely wonderfully written by Raju Parulekar and equally well translated by Kirti Deolekar. One of the best blogs / article I have read so far on Pt. Nehru. Thanks a lot.

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