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Attacked for China policy, Nehru never shied away from 'responsibility' towards Tibet

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

On the 131st birth anniversary of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, which fell on November 14, large number of people paid him rich tributes. However, some notorious IT cell members did their dirty work engaging in character assassination. Their attempt to degrade Nehru, which they have been doing for quite some time, has not succeeded. In fact, Nehru has become more popular and immortal than those who hate him would have thought of.
Nehru was a pivotal figure of India's freedom movement, an icon, and definitely much more broad minded and futuristic than most of his contemporaries. None is suggesting that he did not have shortcomings or that he alone won us freedom, though his sacrifice for India’s independence is unmatched. He was in British India’s jails for more than nine years.
However, his role Prime Minister needs to be seen in a particular context. Many times movement leaders fail miserably when they take the seat of governance. World over, many of the leading figures and his contemporaries of anti-colonial struggle became superheroes in their country, but concentrated power in their hand. Unlike Nehru, they became institutions by themselves. However, Nehru created multiple institutions to strengthen democracy.
Most of the freedom movement leaders passed away in less than a decade of India achieving independence. Gandhiji was killed by Nathuram Godse in January 1948. Sardar Patel died in December 1950, and Baba Saheb Ambedkar in 1956. Subhash Chandra Bose was also not there to guide the nation. So the nation pinned all hope on Nehru, who was immensely popular, and yet, with all his humility, remained democratic.
Nehru was no demagogue like many who are seeking to compete with him. He was a thorough democrat. He would sit through Parliament to listen to major debates. An informative piece in the “Indian Express” by P Raman on the period from August 16, 1961 to December 12, 1962 said, "He made 32 statements and interventions in Parliament on China. He spoke over 1.04 lakh words on the India-China border dispute, running into well over 200 printed pages."
The article quotes from Nehru's statement in Parliament, “I want freedom of action. I say, first of all, that nothing can happen without this House being informed. Secondly, we should agree that nothing should be done which, in the slightest degree, sullies the honour of India. For the rest, I want a free hand” (Lok Sabha, August 14, 1962).
Let us put this question in the context of the Galwan valley issue and the Chinese incursion in India. How many times the current regime spoke about it in Parliament? Most of the information is not shared under the pretext of confidentiality. How many times did the Prime Minister speak and call Parliament to discuss the issue in detail?
Nehru has been attacked for mishandling the China policy. Right-wing trolls and IT cell disinformation campaigners blame him for the Chinese debacle. No doubt, Nehru was betrayed by China. But it is also a fact that Nehru's Tibet policy was consistent. He never got away from it. One just needs to refer to his his interviews with international press for this. In fact, he never shied away from his responsibility towards Tibet.
Nehru adhered to his commitment to the refuge given to Tibetan friends, including their spiritual leader Dalai Lama, till the very end. He never changed his stand. He persistently spoke of peace. No doubt, our forces were not well-equipped that time. But one must remember: Nehru's focus was mostly on building India economically. He never compromised on that.
One just needs to compare it with today's leadership, which suffers from a myopic vision. Despite the fact that it knew how China would respond, Narendra Modi continued to trust China and went overboard to please the Chinese leadership. After the Chinese incursion our Prime Minister never said anything about China. There is not a single mention by him in any of his public utterances or on the border while visiting the troops.
Nehru wanted good relations with neighbours. Despite partition on religion lines, he never suffered from religious hatred
If this had happened with Pakistan, Modi and the brave IT cell campaigners would have virtually threatened war, warning, India would 'eliminate' the country from the earth. The Prime Minister did not even never care to greet the Dalai Lama, even when the world greeted him for his enormous contribution to world peace and harmony. Though the government does know the importance of Tibet and Buddhism, its silence on the Dalai Lama reminds one of how has the current regime looks at the issue.
Nehru wanted good relations with neighbours. Despite partition on religion lines, he never suffered from religious hatred. He tried to cultivate good relations with the Pakistani leadership. Volumes of Nehru's speeches and letters are now out. Surely, they will shed more light on the personality of the man who can be called the builder of modern India.
The two men who shaped our life and destinies in modern India are Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru. They were political rivals, yet they complimented each other ideologically. Both had scientific temperament, respect for democracy and state socialism. Nehru had immense love for Buddha and Buddhism, while Dr Ambedkar did the greatest service to India by reviving Buddhism in its place of birth.
Nehru could have become a dictator. He remained loyal to democratic norms and values. He always traveled to the border areas, but one never saw him in an army fatigue. A leader of his popularity could have easily created personalised institutions. But he loved criticism. Opponents mocked at him and his Anglican ways. But none could challenge him on commitment to his ideology and knowledge.
Nehru saw Jay Prakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia to be future prime ministers. He wanted Dr Ambedkar to be the President of India – an offer rejected by Dr Ambedkar, as he did not want to confine himself to being a ceremonial head.
Today's generation needs to question those who vilify Nehru. Ask a simple question as to why they hate him, and one would get the answer. They use Nehru's hat, tie and smoking, or lighting a cigarette for Edwina Mountbatten, or even hugging Vijay Laxmi Pandit, who was his sister, in order to campaign against him. These photographs are used to portray Nehru as a debauch and dirty.
Unfortunately, they don't think beyond their extremely limited intellectualism. Personal lives of celebrities and public figures do attract attention. But that cannot be the basis of judging someone. Just using the photographs without knowing the context is dangerous. Indeed, one does not expect from the poor IT cell rumour mongers to speak for women’s rights, or the spouses who have been left unattended.
Nehru is not above criticism. But this criticism is coming from those who don’t want to ask any question as to why their leader has never addressed a single press conference. Nehru never used media to vilify his opponents. Even if Nehru was not a political leader or Prime Minister, he would have been a great literary figure. One would any day love to read his books, articles and listen to his speeches. What a remarkable man he was!
Whatever the opponents say, Nehru's footprints will always be felt, particularly at a time when our democratic institutions, which he built, are under fire. Indeed, his idea of inclusive India alone can save us and protect our democracy from the current fascist onslaught.
---
*Human rights defender

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