Skip to main content

Nehru had remarkable breadth of vision, unlike 'Gandhians', narrow and scheming

Nehru with Einstein
By Bhaskar Sur*
In his lifetime Jawaharlal Nehru was a legend. He was a remarkable personality -- a leader, a scholar, an internationalist who set himself to the task of bringing peace and sanity in a world emerging from the savagery of the Second World War and already caught between the ambitions of two superpowers.
He had conflicting sympathies -- he loved the freedom and democracy of the West but his radicalism found a deeper chord in the socialist experiments. He wanted India to be a vibrant socialist democracy, leading the decolonized new nations and those which were struggling to be free.
Nehru was an elitist leading a party which was a heterogeneous medley sharing as common feature a hatred of the British and, at a deeper level ,modernity. Nehru could be very intelligent and incredibly naive. Despite his Cambridge education he was so blinded by the negative nationalism, that he was unable to appreciate the great achievements of the British rule and the cultural regeneration it had brought about.
Under the influence of Marxism he had some understanding of class but hardly any of caste, gender and community. Like many uppercase nationalists of the day he came to believe that if only British rule was removed, much of the problems would naturally be solved. What was needed was a progressive, determined leadership which, he persuaded himself, he alone could provide.
Nehru knew the Gandhian movement suffered from utter confusion and was regressive but he also knew Gandhi alone could carry millions with him, which, left to himself, he couldn't hope to. Ambitious, he decided to follow Gandhi, compromising with his deeply held beliefs. MN Roy, his contemporary, rightly noted: “He could not remain the leader of the Congress unless he capitulated to the reactionary forces which controlled the party."
So, unlike Subhas Chandra Bose, Nehru was a clever opportunist, waiting for his moment. His blind ‘anti-imperialism ' and 'anti-communalism' (read a contempt for Jinnah and the Muslim League) led him to wrong conclusions and hastened the communal holocaust and the Partition. It devastated India but helped him to become the Prime Minister who would try to initiate a sort of revolution from above and ended, sadly, in a colossal failure.
I nspite of the ambitious Five Year Plans and numerous public sector projects, or because of it, the economic growth was slow and poverty and illiteracy persisted. His long premiership ended rather ingloriously with an avoidable war with China which India lost. He was largely responsible for it as he destroyed old maps since 1953, arbitrarily redrawing boundaries which the Chinese were loath to accept.
As a leader, he was no match for his democratic contemporaries such as Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, not to speak of David Ben Gurion. All these steered their nations through difficult times from defeat to victory or from ruins to prosperity. Nehru, on the other hand, led a movement that wanted the defeat of the Allied Forces. So, in a way, he belonged to the defeated side.
Now was he the maker of 'modern India'? This is a problematic question as the term 'modern' is ambiguous. Modernity is a wider concept encapsulating the ideals of the is Enlightenment -- scientific rationality, industrialization, individualism, rights-based democracy and numerous institutions of civil society.
The British, in part under the influence liberalism and also under necessity, introduced a modern state based on bureaucracy, build up judiciary, an new education system, modern communication, banks, print media that facilitated the growth of democratic institutions. India in the beginning of the 20th century was the best administered colony anywhere in the world. In 1913 Rabindranath Tagore received the Nobel in literature, the first Asians to have done it.
In 1930 CV Raman received Nobel in science. There were at least three others -- JC Bose, Satyendranath Bose and Meghnad Saha -- who could have won the honour but missed it, anyway (not owing to any imperialist conspiracy). India was far from being the backward country that nationalist historians labour to portray.
Nirad C Chaudhari
In this context the question that forces itself: Did Nehru leave a better India? The answer is a big 'No'. He left a defeated India where the institutions founded by the British had suffered erosion, efficiency suffered and education declined. There was more incompetence, corruption and political intrigue.
Nehru wanted to surpass all the great rulers of the Raj, particularly the imperialist Lord Curzon, who was a man of scholarship, bold vision and great ability. He, like Curzon before him, worked very hard and overconfident, looked after no less than 40 ministries with more or less ,incompetence and indifference. 
Nirad Chaudhuri feared, Nehru, once gone, Hindu revivalism would come down like  mythical Ganga carrying gibberish secularists down to unfathomable sea with no escape
What Lord Curzon could achieve in matter of just six years (1899-1905) in the field of administration, education, agriculture, Nehru could not even half as much in long 16 years or more. Curzon believed in the providential role of the British and set himself to improve the quality of education, revamped administration, founded the institute at Pusa to revolutionize agriculture and took a deep interest to protect the crumbling ruins of the past. Nor did the area of freedom expand. 
The first thing that Nehru and Sardar Patel did after coming to power was to amend the Constitution abridging rights to the Freedom of Speech (Article 19) and introduced the repugnant retrospective legislation and created a schedule (Ninth Schedule) where laws could not be challenged even though they violated the fundamental rights.
Not content with this, Nehru's administration in 1958 enacted the Armed Forces Special Power Regulation which is 'perhaps the most sanguinary single piece of repressive legislation in the annals of liberal democracy' authorizing unlawful killing of anyone in a group of five persons or more. He gave orders to bomb Naga villages as they were unwilling to remain with the Indian union. Nehru set a bad precedence by dismissing the first democratically elected communist government of Kerala.
Nehru, after all, was a leader of a country with a deep authoritarian culture and he was certainly a democrat by that standard. He was sincere, honest with a remarkable breadth of vision -- again compared with most of the average Gandhians -- narrow minded, scheming, Brahminical crooks, promoted by the Birlas and other Indian business houses.
He was a humanist, an agnostic and a rationalist which again is exceptional in a country where even educated people are deeply superstitious. He wanted science to grow, not in conflict with humanities but in harmony. He was genuinely interested in the world of ideas. He had a distaste for the glorification of terrorism.
He refused to garland the statue of Khudiram at Muzaffarpur and declined to attend a religious function at Ramkrishna Mission. He knew French and wrote English with rare elegance. He strongly stood against the war cry to banish English by half educated clamorous bumpkins. He loved good things of life including graceful women and children.
All these are redeeming graces but all were a product of the British civilization which he acquired and loved ,despite his deeply irrational hatred for the British rule. He was not very critical of the exploitation and horrors of the caste system which was and still is much more hateful than the British rule.
Nirad Chaudhuri, who was a victim of Nehru's uncharacteristic pettiness, looked upon him along with Krishna Menon as the last two pillars of the Western attitudes and views in post-independence India. He feared, once they were gone, the Hindu revivalism would come down like the mythical descent of the Ganga carrying the gibberish secularists down to an unfathomable sunless sea from which there would be no escape.
How prophetic was this wizened little man with impish wit!
---
*Source: The author’s Facebook timeline

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”