Nehru’s Word: The Crisis in the Spirit of lndia

These are extracts from an All India Radio broadcast by Jawaharlal Nehru expressing his anguish at the communal violence that broke out in Punjab and Delhi in August-September 1947

Jawaharlal Nehru (Social Media)
Jawaharlal Nehru (Social Media)

NH Web Desk

I am speaking to you as the words come to me, without any script. I have little time to write nowadays, although my mind is full of many happenings. During the last three weeks, I have wandered about the Punjab--West and East Punjab--and my mind has been filled with the horror of the things which I saw and heard. During the last few days in the Punjab and in Delhi I have supped my fill of horror.

That, indeed, is the only feast that we can now have. And yet, however horrible the events that we may see, we have to face them and we have to prepare for them and we have to conquer them. And so we set about building up an organization which can meet all these great difficulties that we have to face. We have gone a good long way to build- ing that organization....

This morning, our leader, our master, Mahatma Gandhi, came to Delhi and I went to see him, and I sat by him for a while wondering how low we have fallen from the great ideals that he had placed before us! I go to the countryside and see people and all sorts of dangerous implements in their hands. When they see me, they shout, “Jai Hind,” “Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai,” “Jawaharlal Ki Jai”. I feel ashamed of hearing these cries from these people who might have committed murder, loot and arson in the name of Mahatmaji.

It is not by shouting these slogans that they will wash away all the evil deeds that they have done. We will not get over these evil deeds by just honour- ing the Mahatma in name and not following what he has told us all these long years. We have been poor followers of his, I know, but what is happening now is something direct- ly inimical and directly opposed to his ideals. The very thought of it makes one ashamed and makes me sometimes doubt if all the good work that we have done these many years is not going to bear fruit at all.

And yet that doubt cannot remain for long for I do believe that good work must bear good results whatever the immediate consequences might be, just as I believe that evil work must have evil consequences. There has been enough of evil work in this country. Let us put an end to it and start the good work and try to follow the great lessons that Mahatmaji has taught us.... Remember this business may be fol- lowed by something even more terri- ble--by famine and disease all over the places. As it is, we are living on the verge of famine....

So we have to tighten our belts and be prepared for work, very hard, continuous and cooperative work. I invite you to join that. May I also ask you to remember that we cannot now permit arms and the like to be branded about in pub- lic streets. All this must stop.... To our army and police, I want to make an appeal. I want to be quite frank with them because I have heard complaints that they are not impartial, that they are often, instead of doers, just active lookers-on.

That is not good enough. If a person is in a responsible position, whether civil or military, and he fails to do his duty, he has no business to be there and he has to suffer the consequences of the neglect of his duty. There can be no weakness about this because we are playing with the lives, not only of a large number of human beings, but with the life of a nation--with India whom we have loved so long, whom we have served so long and it is an impossible thing for us to see evil men or men with evil intentions of wrecking the work of a lifetime or a generation.

Therefore, I appeal to you, whether you are a part of the civil population, or the army, or the police, or in any employment you must set about the task and put an end to this bad phase. Jai Hind. (Extract from a speech broadcast over A.I.R., New Delhi, September 9, 1947, cited in Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Second Series, Volume 4. 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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