By: Ramlal Agarwal
Jawaharlal Nehru was an aristocrat: a connoisseur, a lover of luxury and beauty. And yet, he was a democrat to his fingertips and rarely mixed parliamentary sessions.
Mahatma Gandhi chose him as Prime Minister of India because he was, he thought, “pure as crystal, truthful beyond suspicion.”
Nehru was a historian of some length and breadth, as is clear from his books, The Glimpses of World History and the Discovery of India. He was also an economic thinker who could see through the weaknesses of capitalism and communism and chose a middle path for India for economic prosperity through peace and goodwill. He was a humanist and cared for the well-being of human beings. He was a liberal and respected his bitter critics. He worked tirelessly to instill a scientific temper among people besotted with irrational and obsolete rituals.
He took over the Prime Ministership of India at a time which, according to Dickens, was the best of times and the worst of times. Nehru was aware of the history ofan India that had had centuries of foreign rule and had been brutally plundered by marauders. People lived in poverty with no education, industry, or institutions of their own.
Mahatma Gandhi shook them out of their indifference and lethargy, and it was for Nehru to build a new India.
Independence meant the birth of a nation and the death of a nation. The people longed for the event. Ironically, the birth and the death of both proved traumatic because of the partition of the country, which inflicted a wound that could not be cured. It resembled the Greek character Philoctetes, who was born with an unconquerable bow and a festering wound.
Following that, another wound was inflicted on the newborn baby in the form of the senseless murder of Mahatma Gandhi, the mentor of Nehru and the whole country.
Nehru was called upon to steer the country through these tumultuous times. Keeping his cool, Nehru set about the task of building India from scratch. He had a clear vision that democracy, agriculture, industry, education, and health were cardinal principles of nation-building. Therefore, though hard-pressed for funds, he went ahead with Bhakra Nandal, set up Bhilai Steel Plant, Hindustan Aeronautics, and other giant industries, and laid the foundations of IITs, TMs, and AllMS, which are the beacons of light in their respective fields. He took democracy to the last man in India and set up Zilla Parishads and Gram Panchayats. He forged an independent foreign policy to steer clear of international groups. He saw to it that India was recognized as an independent country with independent thinking.
He was all for private enterprise, but he was also aware of its greed. He, therefore, introduced a system of checks and balances to see that it did not become a tool of exploitation.
However, he has come in for severe criticism from his detractors for his dithering on Kashmir and China, his soft corner for minorities, his secular views, and his straight-jacketed enterprise by Inspector Raj.
The present regime thinks that all that is ailing the country today is due to Nehru’s wrong policies, and it is incumbent upon it to undo all he did and erase his name from public memory.
In its desperate bid to do so, it is condemning Nehru and glorifying leaders of lesser eminence to belittle Nehru’s stature and is heading headlong into backsliding. Even if it succeeds in doing so there will always be a few people who do and will remember him as one of the rarest human beings blessed with intelligence, culture, patience, and charm of the highest order.