'Communal parties can only harm India, not help it progress': Jawaharlal Nehru

During our first general elections in 1951–52, then-prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru cautioned that communal parties cannot put India on the path to prosperity

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the Tata iron and steel plant, Jamshedpur, 25 November 1950
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the Tata iron and steel plant, Jamshedpur, 25 November 1950

Jawaharlal Nehru

As India enters the final phases of polling to elect a new Lok Sabha, the rhetoric from our current prime minister and his band is getting even more communally charged. Instead of highlighting achievements vis-à-vis employment, poverty alleviation, and so on, all we hear is hate speech against Muslims.

That’s because there has been no real development worth talking about.

During our first general elections in 1951-52, then-prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had cautioned the people that communal parties cannot put India on the path to progress and prosperity. If anything, they can only harm the country.

Extracts from his speech at Allahabad on 12 December 1951:

I entirely agree that the most important question before us is the economic problem and to remove poverty from the country, from whichever angle we may look at it...

Therefore, when I refer to communalism, it is because it creates obstacles in the way of solving the basic problem of poverty...

The individual who is communal-minded is a small man with a narrow mind who cannot undertake anything big; and nations based on petty principles also become small.

We had become great intellectually because Mahatma Gandhi came and raised the stature of our country and widened our horizon.

But there are others who come and talk of communalism, whether the word ‘communal’ is used or not. The result is that we immediately shrink in size and our country also shrinks.

How can you hope to solve any problem when the communal-minded cannot understand the problem itself? Everyone is prepared to give an answer without knowing what the question is.

Therefore, I lay stress on this.

I am amazed when I see in certain newspapers statements and speeches, especially from our communalist organisations like the Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Rajya Parishad, Jana Sangh and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

They hotly deny that they are communal organisations. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee denies very forcibly that the RSS and the Jana Sangh are communal.

What can I say in reply, for it has not been put down on paper nor will anyone be foolish enough to shout from the roof tops that he is communal?

But people are recognised by their activities and traditions. If there is a communal organisation in India today, it is the Jana Sangh, which is not only communal but utterly reactionary in every way. I am saying this from my personal knowledge.

It is no secret that the most reactionary people in India today are the princes and jagirdars and others who, I think, should be labelled ‘backward classes’—and all of them are behind the Jana Sangh. They throw money (at it) lavishly.

You may wonder why I am mentioning money.

The Congress is a very big organisation but, as far as I could make out, other parties are spending ten times as much as we are in these elections. They are spending enormous sums because the coffers of the capitalists are open to them.

So, communalism opens up an old wound and keeps it festering and therefore it is very dangerous. We must remedy that by changing our social fabric so that this malaise may be removed as also the factors which increase it and put India in a terrible situation.

This is not a Hindu-Muslim question, or it is only partly so.

Pakistan was created because of the communalism of the Muslim League, and as a result, there were terrible riots in August–September 1947.

Please remember that the moment you open the doors to it, it spreads very fast as it has among the Sikhs and the Hindus in the Punjab...

It is a strange situation and you must realise how dangerous it is. If we do not suppress it and fight against it, if we give it any scope whatsoever, it will pull India from her roots. I am convinced of that.

We must understand where its roots are and strike at them. Political communalism is a superficial thing....

The communal organisations are doing a great deal of damage by constantly spreading ill feeling. This is not open to argument.

If my argument is right, then they are causing harm not only to the entire national cause but also to their own narrow cause, because the Hindus cannot hope to make progress through the Jana Sangh or the Hindu Mahasabha, and want the others in India to be left behind.
It is a childish thought because not only the others, but the Hindus will also be left behind.

Similarly, the Sikhs are a brave people and have shown great courage wherever they have gone, and are very capable and hardworking. But I am amazed at the way some of their leaders work almost as if they are prepared to take on the rest of India as their enemy. What is all this?

If I lay stress on the dangers of communalism, what is wrong in that?

It is a fundamental question. If we follow a narrow, petty path in every matter, how can India progress?

The moment you become a little lax, the disease would spread everywhere... Until we bring this under control, how can we become a nation?

But apart from this, the way communalism is growing, especially the demand of its votaries that Pakistan should be attacked, and their accusations that I try to appease Pakistan and I show weakness, and that there should be a confrontation on the Kashmir issue, etc., is extremely dangerous.

What can I say in my defence? The word ‘appease’ has become a sort of abuse in India and elsewhere too, and perhaps people feel I am prepared at all times to appease.

I am neither ashamed nor scared of this word. I say it openly and I shall say it 10 times.

I agree that if something which is against the honour and national interest of India is done, it is absolutely wrong.

But keeping in mind India’s honour and her national interest, we must at all times try to appease every country in the world.

I say it quite openly. And do they mean it when they wish us to hurl these childish threats of military attacks, etc.?

As a matter of fact, it has become a habit with these people to start abusing when they make speeches and they think they are showing their strength...
I had said, and I shall repeat this, that the conspiracy to kill Mahatma Gandhi had been hatched in Gwalior and that the Hindu Mahasabha had a big hand in it.

Since then, the Hindu Mahasabha has repeatedly mentioned Godse’s name and praised him and passed resolutions congratulating him.

How can the Hindu Mahasabha think that under such circumstances, I can respect their party even a little?

I can tell you quite honestly that I consider them as traitors.

More of Nehru's writings and speeches in the 'Nehru's Word' column can be read here

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