Nehru, the real architect of modern India

Nehru was the product of modern India

The Nehru era, which started in the 1930s, came to an end with the last election in India. Those who came to power following the elections are not particularly interested in Pandit Nehru’s legacy.

They are trying to denigrate his contributions and introduce new icons of national importance. One such attempt is to prop up Vallabhbhai Patel in place of Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the first and foremost leader of freedom struggle in the last decades before independence. He was chosen by the Mahatma as his successor, in spite of his apparent differences in political and philosophical areas with his disciple. Patel’s efforts on national integration were conducted under the leadership of Nehru.

There is a criticism that Nehru was more of a Westerner in thought and action. This comes from the conservative stand that identifies Indian culture with the traditional Hindu concept of society, which includes chaturvarna, Brahmin supremacy, superstitions and unjust rituals that characterize traditional Indian culture.

Nehru was the product of modern India, which was a creation of Indian renaissance following the religious reformist movements of the 1920s like Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj and Theosophical society.

With the advent of British rule in India there was an encounter between the traditional Indian culture and modern ideas which came from the West and Europe.

The West at its best represented the scientific thinking, democracy and ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, upheld by the French revolution.

In the light of these new trends Indians were prompted to review their own tradition, analyse causes for their defeat in the past and rediscover their own true values in history.

This introspection gave birth to Nehru’s discovery of India. His book with this title is a true record of his intellectual journey through the history of India and of human race.

He came out of this intellectual introspection with a determination to remake India. He drew inspiration from the Upanishads, the teachings of Gautama Buddha and the early scientific discoveries in astronomy, mathematics and medicines.

He realised that the scientific temper of the Indian mind was compromised in rituals and emphasised a doctrine of equality.

Nehru’s efforts to modernise the nation were not to westernise it but develop India by incorporating best aspects of Western culture.

He saw British imperialism as a passing phenomenon. Nehru borrowed the best even from the British constitutional system, forgave the British for their conquest of India and remained with the Commonwealth after Independence.

We had welcomed all major religions in the world and all new ideas when our civilisation was young. This attitude of openness is the true sign of growth and this is what Nehru advocated.

When he became the prime minister, Nehru tried to integrate the noblest elements in the east and west.

Though Europe had been preaching democracy, it was not able to practice it. Though Europe had created a scientific and rational philosophy, it failed to practise it for the benefit of humanity.

Nehru saw in the collapse of European imperialism a new opportunity to master the noble traditions of ancient India and modern Europe and lead the world. It was a new India in the new world that he wanted to create.

His neutrality in the conflict between the two power blocs was not a passive acceptance of their aggressive plans but an attempt to prevent an armed confrontation in the best interests of humanity. Thus India’s dynamic neutrality succeeded in controlling the military designs of the capitalist world and communist world.

A third world with the alliance of newly independent nations gave hope for the future of peace. It was not merely in foreign policy that India emerged as the leader of the world.

The success of Nehruvian India was also in the fact the he could bring and keep together the best minds of the country.

It was not merely unity in diversity but often the unity of opposites. Vallabhbhai Patel, who represented the Hindu orthodoxy, Abdul Kalam Azad, who represented the noblest elements in Islam, Ambedkar, the anti-Brahmin fighter for social justice all were made to work together under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, the disciple of Gandhiji, who departed from the vision of Gandhi’s rural India and opted for industrialisation.

His blend of public sector and private sector in a mixed economy was a masterstroke in economic policy. The value of his foresight and far sight was proved when the world went through a phase of economic depression recently.

The US and Japan, which went all the way to support private sector, suffered badly; those like USSR, which tried to suppress the private sector and nationalize everything, collapsed.

But India emerged with the least damage in its period of economic crisis. This was the victory of the mixed economy advocated by Nehru.

Neither Patel not any other leader held India together in the worst days of communal rights following the partition.

The assassination of the Mahatma by the Hindu fanatic made everyone fear that India was going to disintegrate and relapse into anarchy and predictions by Winston Churchill and other imperialists about India were coming true.

Nehru’s faith in India and its people and people’s faith in Nehru were responsible for the development of India.

Nehru’s firm commitment to democracy saved India. Even Patel’s success in integrating native states and the success of leaders like Sardar K.M. Panikker in reorganising the states on a linguistic basis were possible only in the context of the world’s growing appreciation of the performance of Nehru’s India.

If the growth of the communal Hindu forces and the communal Muslim forces in India has been checked to a large extent , if the growth of communism has been arrested in India, if firm foundations for industrial expansions and development in India have laid properly, if India has been greeted by the whole world today as an merging world leader, if it has been demonstrated that even a country like India with good enough poverty and illiteracy could stabilize democracy, we have to recognize that it was Nehru’s stewardship during the first few years after independence that contributed towards this happy situation.

We are now reaping dividends of our investments in democracy, mixed economy, secularism and science, thanks to the bold optimism and wise planning of Jawaharlal Nehru, the real architect of modern India.

(The author is a former chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research)

( Source : dc )
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