G. L. Batra, ST Guest Columnist, Writer & formerly Addl. Secretary, Indian Parliament and Chairman, Public Service Commission of the Indian State of Haryana
It would not suffice to term Pt. Nehru as merely a great national leader, an able administrator and internationally recognized statesman. He was in fact an institution, a sea of knowledge and wisdom, a beautiful flower full of fragrance. He was a true apostle of democratic values. Pandit Nehru was essentially a leader of millions of people all over the world and belonged to all mankind as much as to India. He was at the same time a staunch nationalist and a citizen of the world. He may be described as the repository of knowledge and wisdom and the abode of best qualities.
Pandit Nehru started his career as a junior lawyer under his father, the eminent Pandit Motilal Nehru, however, the dry nature of his profession inspired him to join politics, and he became a member of the Indian National Congress and started participating whole-heartedly in its activities. He also later joined the Home Rule League started by Lokmanya Tilak and Dr. Annie Besant, and dedicated himself to the freedom struggle. The turning point in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s life came when he met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916 at the Lucknow Session of the Congress. Gandhiji’s political philosophy, great strength of character and charismatic personality made a tremendous impression on the young man. Jawaharlal went on to become the foremost disciple of the Mahatma.
After the end of the first World War, the oppressive political situation in India led Mahatma Gandhi to call for satyagraha, peaceful agitation against the British Rule, and an inspired Jawaharlal Nehru gave up his flourishing legal career and wholeheartedly gave himself to the movement, sacrificing all comforts of life. He also took a leading organizational role in the Congress. In 1927, Pandit Nehru moved the famous resolution in the Madras session of the Congress stating that the, “Congress declares the goal of the Indian people to be complete national independence”. This resolution was a landmark in India’s freedom struggle and marked a watershed in the movement, jolting the Congress leaders into action. In 1928, after working tirelessly to mobilize the youth, peasantry and labourers and draft them into the national movement, he was elected President of the All India Youth Congress at Calcutta, and he proved to be an ideal for India’s youth. On this occasion, Mahatma Gandhi said about him, “In bravery, he is not to be surpassed. Who can excel him in the love for the country?….And if he has the dash and the rashness of a warrior, he has also the prudence of a statesman. A lover of discipline, he has shown himself to be capable of rigidly submitting to it even where it was seemed irksome….He is as pure as crystal, he is truthful beyond suspicion. He is a knight sans peur , sans reproche. The nation is safe in his hands.”
Truly, Pandit Nehru was a prince amongst men, and though he resided in a palatial residence, his mind and thoughts were always with the poor in their hovels.
In 1929, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru succeeded his father, Pandit Motilal Nehru as the President of the Indian National Congress at Lahore. The historical resolution for complete independence was reiterated and passed at the Lahore Session at the stroke of midnight on 31st December 1929, under his presidency. Pt. Nehru was thus propelled to the forefront of the national movement. Pandit Nehru joined Mahatma Gandhi on the historic Dandi March in 1930, and as a result, he had to spend four years in prison between 1930 and 1935. It was a fate he bore with cheer and forebearance. Nehru was a prolific writer, and whilst in prison, wrote some of his most famous works: ‘Glimpses of World History’, ‘Letters from a father to a daughter’ and ‘Autobiography’, which are masterpieces of literature and scholarliness, and established Pt. Nehru as one of the foremost thinkers and statesmen of his time.
In the 1931 Lahore Congress, Pt. Nehru moved a resolution for fundamental rights, which laid the foundations of a secular, socialist and democratic post-independent India.
Pt. Nehru was elected President of the Congress once again at Lucknow in 1936, and during his tenure, performed the delicate task of reconciling leftist and rightist views in the party. He was instrumental in setting the goal and objective of the Congress’ foreign policy and set up the ‘Foreign Department’ in the Party Secretariat to establish relations with organizations and individuals in foreign countries. He also played a leading role in steering the policy of India’s national leaders ion the background of the outbreak of the Second World War, and was one of the initiators, and foremost supporters of the “Quit India’ movement under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership. He suffered a long stint in prison, and on his release, showed his statesmanship and calibre in negotiations with Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy at Shimla in 1947.
Pandit Nehru was one of the members of the Constituent Assembly, formed in 1946 to draft a new Constitution for the soon to be free nation, and moved the historical resolution ‘Objectives Resolution’, which declared the resolves, aims and objectives of the Constituent Assembly.
Pandit Nehru was elected the first Prime Minister of independent India. The trauma and unrest caused by the partition of the country and the partition of India, posed a host of problems for the new-born nation, and Pandit Nehru handled the situation with courage, wisdom and true statesmanship.
Pandit Nehru is credited with visionary policies which laid the foundations for the political, social and economic development of India. He promoted the cause of science and technological research, and set up world class laboratories and research institutions throughout India. He is credited with laying the foundations of India’s Science and Technology policy, which today has made us one of the world leaders in several fields. He introduced the concept of planned development, and through the system of five year plans, ushered in the age of industrialization in the country. He also commissioned several infrastructure projects like ports, dams and bridges, which contributed greatly to the development and prosperity of the nation.
Pandit Nehru also played a major role in establishing India’s foreign policy, and his principle of ‘Panchashila’, contributed in large measure in the comity of nations. He also played a leading role in establishing the Non-Aligned Movement, in the backdrop of the cold war, which blazed a unique path by avoiding taking sides with either the USSR or the USA. The Non Aligned Movement played a major role in promoting world peace during the tense years of the cold war.
Pandit Nehru made his place in the hearts and minds of every Indian. He was probably the most loved, respected and admired leader after Mahatma Gandhi. He truly held aloft the torch of freedom passed on to him by the Father of the Nation. After the ideal of independence was achieved, Pandit Nehru worked hard to achieve another ambitious goal – the eradication of poverty, and he lived and died to give the people of our country a better life.
His death in 1964 created a void which was hard to fill, and unleashed a wave of sadness and mourning in the country, and the next generation of leaders found it very difficult to step into the shoes of this titan amongst men. There was an outpouring of grief when Pt. Nehru passed away, and the whole nation paid homage to the departed soul, and to the ideals for which Panditji laboured with single-minded devotion throughout his life. Dr. Karni Singhji, M.P., in a speech said, “India gave to the world Buddha and Gandhiji. Today, we affectionately give to the world our beloved Prime Minister Nehru….we Indians can feel proud of the fact that Jawaharlal was an Indian citizen.” Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a junior Parliamentarian at the time, too paid rich tributes to the departed soul.
Panditji will always be remembered as the Architect of Free India.