Belittling of Nehru shows the current government’s uneasiness with history
In its pettiness, the present government wants to ignore and undermine Nehru’s contributions. They see him as an obstacle to their narrow goals so they pursue an ugly propaganda against him
In the last few years there has been a concerted attempt on the part of the ruling BJP to ignore and undermine the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. Social media is abuzz with derogatory posts on him. In the international meets his name is deliberately ignored. He does not find a mention in the National Archives Museum on ‘Quit India’ movement. In many school textbooks chapters on him are being deleted. Government spokespersons are even trying to attribute the failures of the present government to Nehru. They blame him for the Partition and the Kashmir issue by misrepresenting historical events. Modi even went on to say that Nehru did not attend the funeral of Sardar Patel!
Let’s recap the man who has been immortalised by virtue of him having laid the foundations of modern India in the sectors of industries, technology, agriculture, education and science. Being well aware of global issues, Nehru became committed to anti imperialist struggles, stood against racism and believed in equality of all nations. Once he came back to India, he came under the magic spell of Gandhi and dived headlong into the freedom movement. As the President of Congress, he gave the call for total independence. He incorporated the simple Khadi (handspun cloth) in his life style. As a participant of the freedom struggle, he was jailed over and over; the total period of his being in jail was 3,259 days! He was a prolific reader and writer. His books Autobiography, Discovery of India and Letters from a father to his Daughter have become a permanent part of Indian-world literature.
The Partition of India was an extremely intricate decision where there was the British who were determined to divide the country and this became easy for them as a result of the fall out of Savarkar’s ‘Two Nation theory’ and Jinnah’s adamant demand for a ‘separate Islamic country’, Pakistan. It was Sardar Patel who first realised that partition was inevitable, while Nehru was to come to this realisation many months later. In matters of Kashmir, as Patel had pointed out in his speech in Junagadh, he was willing to let go of Kashmir if Hyderabad was merged with India. It was at Sheikh Abdullah’s insistence that Nehru came forward to have the ‘treaty of accession’ and sent the army to quell the aggression from Pakistan.
As far as the prime-minstership is concerned, Gandhi had the mandate of the nation and he felt that Nehru had a better grasp of world affairs and would be a worthy successor to him in all matters political. Nehru was a mass leader and Sardar Patel knew that. Once at a meeting, a journalist had quipped that were lots of people who had turned up, to which Sardar Patel stated that the people had come to see Jawahar, and not him.
It was Nehru’s vision of public sector heavy industries, which has provided the base on which other industries could come up and thrive. His policies in education and science are the basis on which India has become a major economy. Today, if we compare the state of science and technology with the countries which also became independent around the same time as us, we are far ahead. Nehru also went on lay the foundations of institutions such as the IITs, ISRO, BARC, CSIR etc. Health care in the state sector saw the emergence of the enviable AIIMS. We began with a literacy rate of 14% and had a life expectancy of 39 years. Today we are at 74% and we have a life expectancy of 68.3.
Was he faultless? Not at all. He had his own quota of failures as in the case of trusting China and the setback in India-China war. His policies of big dams have their own shortcomings. The question is overall he left a deep and positive mark on the destiny of not only India but also the World.
Nehru was firmly committed to pluralism at a social level and secularism as a policy of the state. In the wake of 1961 Jabalpur riots, he instituted National Integration Council (NIC). In its pettiness, the present government wants to ignore, undermine and belittle his contributions. Two of his major initiatives Planning Commission and NIC have been done away with.
Nehru is a particular target of the sectarian ideology where systematically his character, lineage and contributions are being belittled. The present ruling dispensation did not participate in the freedom movement, does not have any icon worth its name, and so is trying to appropriate icons like Sardar Patel. Ideologically, they see Nehru as a big obstacle to their narrow goals so this ugly propaganda and narrow minded attitude towards Nehru.