Jawaharlal Nehru’s concern on inequality & communalism in 1929

Jawaharlal Nehru became President of Indian National Congress at the age of 40. His iconic Presidential address, reproduced below, pinpointed inequality, communalism as among the important problems

Jawaharlal Nehru’s concern  on inequality & communalism in 1929
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For four-and-forty years this National Congress has laboured for the freedom of India. During this

period, it has somewhat slowly but surely awakened national conscious- ness from its long stupor and built up the national movement...This is the glorious legacy that we have inherited, and you wish to put me in charge of it...

The whole world today is one vast question mark, and every country and every people is in the melting pot... Civilization today, such as it is, is not the creation or monopoly of one people or nation...And if India has a message to give to the world, as I hope she has, she has also to receive and learn much from the messages of other peoples.

When everything is changing, it is well to remember the long course of Indian history. Few things in history are more amazing than the wonderful stability of the social structure in India which withstood the impact of numerous alien influences and thou- sands of years of change and conflict. It withstood them because it always sought to absorb them and tolerate them....

Great as was the success of India n evolving a stable society, she failed in a vital particular, and because she failed in this, she fell and remains fallen. No solution was found for the problem of equali- ty...and we have the tragic consequences of this policy—millions of our people who till yesterday were suppressed and had little opportunity for growth.

When Europe fought her wars of religion and Christians massacred each other in the name of their Saviour, India was tolerant, although, alas, there is little of this toleration today...India also will have to find a solution to this problem....and when it is found, the unhappy differences between various communities...will automatically disappear...

I have no love for bigotry and dogmatism in religion, and I am glad that they are weakening. Nor do I love communalism in any shape or form. I find it difficult to appreciate why political or economic rights should depend on the membership of a religious group or community.

I can fully understand the right to freedom in religion and the right to one’s culture, and in India specially, which has always acknowledged and granted these righs, it should be no difficult matter to ensure their continuance. We have only to find out some way whereby we may root out the fear and distrust which darken our horizon today. The politics of a subject race are largely based on fear and hatred; and we have been too long under subjection to get rid of them easily....

Yet we cannot ignore the problems that beset us...We have to aim at social adjustment and equilibrium, and to overcome the forces of disruption that have been the bane of India.

I must frankly confess that I am a socialist and a republican, and am no believer in kings and princes, or in the order which produces the modern kings of industry, who have greater power over the lives and fortunes of men than even the kings of old, and whose methods are as predatory as those of the old feudal aristocracy....

The Congress represents no small minority in the country, and though many may be too weak to join it or to work for it, they look to it with hope and longing to bring them deliverance...We cannot command success. But success often comes to those who dare and act; it seldom goes to the timid who are ever afraid of the consequences. We play for high stakes; and if we seek to achieve great things, it can only be through great dangers....

We have now an open conspiracy to free this country from foreign rule and you, comrades, and all our countrymen and countrywomen are invited to join it. But the rewards that are in store for you are suffering and prison, and, it may be, death. But you shall also have the satisfaction that you have done your little bit for India, the ancient but ever young, and have helped a little in the liberation of humanity from its present bondage.

(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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