Nehru: What happens to an MP is of no consequence, what happens to Indians is of very large consequence

Parliament is currently holding session with no Question Hour. In that context, we bring to you Jawaharlal Nehru’s Reply on Debate on President’s Address in First Lok Sabha on 22 May 1952

Nehru: What happens to an MP is of no consequence, what happens to Indians is of very large consequence
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Parliament is currently holding an extraordinary session in the midst of the Pandemic with no Question Hour and curtailed timings. In that context, we bring to you Jawaharlal Nehru’s Reply on the Debate on the President’s Address in the First Lok Sabha on 22 May 1952, in which he welcomes a vigorous Opposition.

I have listened with care and, I hope, earnestness to this debate which has lasted nearly four days….

We welcome the coming to this House of the Members of the Opposition. Whoever they may be, and however much we might differ from them in many matters, we welcome them, because, undoubtedly, they represent a certain section of Indian opinion, and because it is good in a House of this kind to have a vigorous Opposition so that whether it is Government or the majority party, they do not become complacent….

An honourable Member told me that I had lost my place in history because of the attraction of some tinsel, something or other. Well, it is a matter of little consequence what happens to me in history. It is a matter of little consequence ultimately what happens to any individual present here in history. But it is a matter of very large consequence what happens to India and her millions of people. Therefore, forgetting the personal aspect, I should like to direct your attention to certain basic facts of the situation.

Just think of the state of affairs in India four and a half years ago when independence came, because you have to judge of every situation in a particular context….That was a period when independence suddenly came to us and came peacefully so far as the British were concerned, and that was an advantage because it is easier to build after a peaceful transfer than otherwise

But it was followed by enormous upheavals, migrations, violence, massacres, etc. on our side of the border and on their side. We had suddenly to face, apart from these upheavals, a new country where everything was split up — army, police. Services, telephones, telegraph, wireless, railway system, transport….

And then these migrations of unhappy people, losing everything, coming in their millions. I do not know of a single instance in history where a country had to face exactly this kind of a thing. Well, we had to face it and we had to face something much more.

All kinds of reactionary forces not liking the changeover from the British power to the new nationalist Government wanted to upset that Government. It had nothing to do with the fact — if I may say so, forget it for the moment — that it was dominated by the Congress Party; it is immaterial. It was a national, a more or less progressive, Government. All kinds of reactionary forces did not like that — feudal forces, communal forces, other forces — because they thought, rightly or wrongly, that this new Government is going to work for social and economic change — they did not want that.

So, behind the power of that communal upheaval in India there arose all kinds of counter-revolutionary violent movements all over northern India. In northern India we lived in the middle of this upheaval where all the reactionary forces were fighting for mastery. They could not have succeeded, of course, in the sense of really gaining mastery as a whole because they did not have that strength. But they did have strength in that particular context to break up things, a destructive strength, and it was touch and go whether that would succeed because if that had succeeded it would undoubtedly have spread all over India.

Of course, we would have got over it because I think India and the people of India are fundamentally sound, but we would have had a considerable period of anarchic violence, not even violence for any supposed noble cause but just anarchic violence where every man with a band of a hundred men behind him is the master of a particular patch of land….

Gradually, we overcame it at tremendous cost not only in the shape of human suffering, in the shape of migrations, etc., but at tremendous cost in other ways and that took many, many months. But in a sense, it took years — I mean in the sense of controlling this grave situation, arranging for the rehabilitation of the refugees and the rest.

(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library

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