Relevance of Nehru today

- Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte
Contd from previous issue
Foreign influences poured in and often influenced that culture and were absorbed. Disruptive tendencies gave rise immediately to an attempt to find a synthesis. Some kind of a dream of unity has occupied the mind of India since the dawn of civilization. That unity was not conceived as something imposed from outside, a standardization of externals or even of beliefs. It was something deeper and, within its fold, the widest tolerance of belief and custom was practiced and every variety acknowledged and even encouraged. “Differences, big or small, can always be noticed even within a national group, however closely bound together it may be. The essential unity of that group becomes apparent when it is compared to another national group, though often the differences between two adjoining groups fade out or intermingle near the frontiers, and modern developments are tending to produce certain uniformity everywhere. In ancient and medieval times, the idea of the modern nation was non-existent, and feudal, religious, racial, or cultural bonds had more importance. Yet I think that at almost any time in recorded history an Indian would have felt more or less at home in any part of India, and would have felt as a stranger and alien in any other country. He would certainly have felt less of a stranger in countries, which had partly adopted his culture or religion. Those who professed a religion of non-Indian origin or, coming to India, settled down there, became distinctively Indian in the course of a few generations, such as Christians, Jews, Parsees, Moslems. Indian converts to some of these religions never ceased to be Indian on account of a change of their faith. They were looked upon in other countries as Indians and foreigners, even though there might have been a community of faith between them. “Today, when the conception of nationalism has developed much more, Indians in foreign countries inevitably form a national group and hang together for various purposes, in spite of their internal differences. An Indian Christian is looked upon as an Indian wherever he may go. An Indian Moslem is considered an Indian in Turkey or Arabia or Iran, or any other country where Islam is the dominant religion.”
It speaks volumes of his concept of Indian ‘Unity in diversity’, which still binds the people of India together.
(3) Old Civilization:
India’s Inheritance and Present Age: This work of Nehru is astonishing in its range and in projecting great sweeps of the mind-set of the author. It also reveals the breadth of Nehru’s culture and his ability to write clearly in an interesting manner for the young. His comprehension of the old civilization and India’s inheritance, and of our present age was unique. He wrote “Egypt, Knossos, Iraq and Greece – they have all gone. Their old civilizations, even as Babylon and Nineveh, have ceased to exist. What, then of the other two ancients in this company of these old civilizations? What of China and India? As in other countries, they too have had empire after empire.
There have been invasions and destructions and loot on a vast scale. Dynasties of kings have ruled for hundreds of years and have been replaced by others. All this has happened in India and China as elsewhere. But nowhere else, apart from India and China, has there been a real continuity of civilization. In spite of all the changes and battles and invasions, the thread of the ancient civilization has continued to run on in both these countries. But it is interesting and rather wonderful to think of this long range and continuity of Indian culture and civilization, right from the dawn of history, through long ages, down to us”.
(4) Tribal Policy and Evolution of States in the North East:
In addition, to mention an instance relating to Nehru’s relevance in the North-East is that of his policy on tribals which is a landmark in the evolution of states in the north east. Despite his advice not to take extreme step to adopt Assamese language, the then Congress Ministry did so. This hastened the process of formation of non-viable states in the region; particularly the hill districts of Khasi and Jaintia and Garo Hills, Naga Hills, Lushai Hills and North-Eastern Frontier Areas into separate States. With them, so were Manipur and Tripura, which were then already princely states.
Nehru wanted that tribals and their land should be left to themselves to develop their own genius. We may recall an instance wherein he spelled out part of his policy on tribals particularly of the North-East India in his public meeting in Shillong 4 which ran as follows : “Tribal rights on land and forest should be respected. These hill people who love to have good communication in their areas have lost much of their enthusiasm with the apprehension that good communication means forfeiture of their lands, and economic and social exploitations on the other.
Thus, even good communication, instead of being an asset to the development of the hill people, works adversely to the interest of the said people. This is so, in as much as the rights to administer and govern to suit the peculiar nature of the people and along the lines of their own genius have been denied to the people”.
(5) Nehru’s Concern for Women upliftment: It goes without saying that Nehru’s concern for the welfare and upliftment of status of women had manifested in more than one way right from his assumption of the office of the first Prime Minister of India. His letters to his daughter, Priyadarshni Indira Gandhi, gave enough witnesses to it. He inducted Padmaja Naidu to the high office of Governor, assigned Vijay Lakshmi Pandit as Indian Representative to the UNO and Ambassador of India and was instrumental in Indira Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister of India on her own merit.
He was fascinated with the womenfolk of Manipur for their active role in the fields of social, economic and political life that prompted him to call Manipur as the ‘Jewel of India’. Similar is the case with his exceeding appreciation of the courage of young ‘Gaidinliu’ whom he saw in a Jail in Assam imprisoned by the British Indian Government for her spearheading the ‘religio-cultural’ movement of the Zaliangrong Kabui tribes of Manipur whom he decorated with the title of ‘RANI’ and a life-time pensionery benefits and accorded the status of a “Very-Very Important Person (VVIP)”.
These are few instances of his vision for the upliftment of women that had definitely paved the way for the present day politicians and the Government of India for intense desire to introduce a bill on women upliftment. He was also opinionated for setting aside a certain percentage of reservation of seats in Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. Recent trend of introducing the bill on women is a reminder of the relevance of Nehruvian farsightedness and incisive understanding of the needs of our society.
(6) Legacy of subverting Democracy: In constitutional matters, written text of the Constitution, Constitutional conventions and judicial interpretations of various articles of the Constitution are equally important elements. These have not been given serious consideration and violated by the Congress Party since the days of Indian Freedom struggle despite the fact that the Party had incorporated these elements which were framed by their legal stalwarts. It became more apparent during the regime of United Front5 Sinha described it as follows:
“The United Front, a conglomeration of the rejects of the Congress, also wants to remain stuck to the Chair, till death doth them part. For this, they are bent upon wiping out all noble traditions of a democracy”.
The legacy is seen from the time when Jawaharlal Nehru was elected to the office of Presidentship of Congress Party despite his getting support only from three Provincial Committees out of eighteen against Sardar Patel for two terms at the interference of Mahatma Gandhi in favour of Nehru who also superseded in becoming Prime Minister of India in preference to Chakravarty Rajagopalan, respectively in 1929, 1937 and 1946. Brushing aside the majority vote, Gandhiji pleaded very strongly with the delegates of the Congress session in favour of Jawaharlal Nehru. He said “Seniors had their innings. Future struggle to be carried on by young men and women. .. Jawaharlal has all the qualities for which he deserves to be recommended………For his bravery, determination, behaviour, honesty and patience, he is held in high esteem by the youth of this country. He has come in contact with farmers and workers. He is close to European politics. .. They (youth) would consider as an award to them if Jawaharlal is elected. And they would consider it as proof of belief of the nation in its youth.
Give them an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of this trust”. Gandhiji said this in consideration of the sacrifices made by Jawaharlal’s family.”
The circumstances thus highlighted above have simply manifested that in the Congress set-up, there has never been any respect for majority or democracy. Another argument put forward by Gandhiji in favour of Jawaharlal was that when negotiations were going on with the British for the independence of the country, Jawaharlal would be more suitable for the office, because Nehru and the Englishmen spoke in ‘common idiom’.
Durga Das wrote in his book on India from Curzon to Nehru and after that the same year, when Nehru took over as Prime Minister of Interim Government “… most of the members of Working Committee were not altogether happy. They preferred Sardar Patel who was the “iron man with his feet firmly planted on earth”, and that he would be able to deal better with Jinnah than Nehru with the firm belief that even at that late stage could ensure the solidarity and integrity of the sub-continent. It was further argued that crucial hours lay ahead and the Sardar’s rugged realism, would provide a ‘safe-shield’.
(To be contd)