A peek into the first PM of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru thanks to the DD Archives

For millions of citizens like me who have been born after the mid 60s or even later, we have not have had the opportunity to directly hear from the leaders of the yesteryear. Given the tendencies of the media and of the people with vested interests to project a biased image of politicians that we have seen play out in last decade or so, it was a welcome development to directly hear from the first PM of India in an interview. It gave us all an opportunity to know his opinions, judge his demeanor and form our own opinions about the man rather than relying on all the rhetoric that keeps flying around. Thank you DD for this ‘one-of-a-kind’ opportunity.

We have heard a lot about the man himself, specially since 2014. Some have accused him of being a dictator who banned the most number of books, artists; removed people from constitutional posts with impunity; made laws and suppressed opposing voices. Some describe him as a weak leader who could not gather the courage to take on the Muslim lobby and had to postpone the codification of personal laws (which has still not been done even after 70 years), as was done with other communities; who lost both the wars he fought – one in 1947-48 when India had to give away a large part of its land in the form POK and 1962 China war.

The other side consider him as the founder of the Independent India who gave the concept of “Secularism” and “Nehruvian Socialism” which are considered two pillars of Indian democracy by many. Many consider him as a mixture of different ideologies and thus a true neutralist. He is considered as the founder of “Non-Alignment” forces when the world was divided into two camps.

In his own words, the man described himself as “English by education, Muslim by culture, and Hindu by birth”.

There is no doubt that the challenges he faced after independence were unprecedented. India was ravaged and reduced to shambles due to centuries of foreign rule, loot and suppression. Education, Health, Social unrest, poverty, caste division, religious division, everything was in shambles and it was a non-enviable task for any leader to steer India through those times.

Given that context, he was successful in many things while failing miserably in many others. He was largely successful in providing a stable, peaceful environment and did manage to lay the foundation of many institutions to address all the issues plaguing India. Despite the limitations on free speech he put, he never suppressed the opposing views using the state machinery and violence. Many of India’s achievements can be traced back to the foundations that he laid for various institutions and policies (though those achievements should have been more glorious given it has been 70 years since Independence).

However, given the massive advantage that we have of ‘hindsight’, many would say his majority decisions were faulty, given that India had to re-look many of the fundamental features that he had put in place. For ex., His socialism was replaced with globalization and privatization after the 1991 reforms. His definition of “Secularism” is constantly being challenged even today. His decision of ‘gifting’ the UNSC seat to China is coming to bite India back. His historical blunders in J&K are still the biggest headache for India.

Now, coming back to the interviews that DD released from its archives a few days back, there are 4-5 things that stand out and in fact, tells a lot about the current state of politics and Congress.

He said that in India most of the Muslims are descendants of Hindus who got converted. He also said that Muslims believe in proselytizing while the Hindus don’t. Where do I even start!? In today’s politics, saying something like this is enough to label someone as “Communal”. I wonder what today’s Congress leaders and their cheerleaders would have to say on this statement of their beloved leader.

He said shortage of food grains in India can be attributed to people eating more and dressing better. Notwithstanding the contempt and inherent colonial mindset this statement portrays, shows that the main challenge for Indians at the time was enough food supply to its millions of impoverished citizens, such was the level of destitution.

While talking about Marx, communism, unemployment and the world, he comes across as a brilliant intellectual with pools of knowledge. He is at his best while having such theoretical discussions and his analysis, views are an elixir for any irrespective of the ideological divide.

However, the biggest takeaway from these interviews is his abhorrence of violence, so much so that it dangerously borders on “cowardice” (for the lack of better word). While talking about Muslim league and Partition, he said that the violence unleashed by the Muslim league to fulfill its demand of separate state, and the fact being that most of its leaders were big “zamindaars” who were opposed to land reforms, were the major reasons behind his acceptance for India’s partition. He said about China’s aggression in 1962 that he did not expect that and was disappointed by China’s approach. He was nostalgic about Pakistan and even went to the extent of saying that Northern India has more in common with Pakistan than with Southern India. His views on military capability and on the need of being a strong nation, leave many with open mouth.

So just to reiterate, he allowed the partition and subsequent killing of millions, due to violence and bullying tactics of one organization! Was it his decision to make? How can the land which belonged to all be divided at the whims and fancies of a few power hungry leaders? His reluctance to take strong objection to such demands and bullying was the reason that India remained a weak nation even after years of independence.

No wonder, many people believe that if India had a strong leader like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel or Subash Chandra Bose or Bhimrao Ambedkar at the helm during the time, things would have been different.

Again, a big thanks to DD to bring out such gems from the old canards of history to give people a direct insight into the first Prime Minister of India.

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