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Looking at Pandit Nehru’s Legacy 2

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Pt. Nehru, one of the best recognised faces of India’s freedom struggle. Policy Pulse looks at what people have felt about him - then and now

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Nov 30 2015 2:49PM | Updated Date: Dec 3 2015 3:25PM

Looking at Pandit Nehru’s Legacy 2

Prema Gera, Former UN official on a career break, New Delhi:


My memory of Nehru goes back to childhood when my parents mentioned his name in conversations among themselves and with friends. The image that has stayed with me is that of a visionary leader who had passed away not long ago and was being missed by my parents and friends; a handsome man fond of books, poetry and red rose and; a person who was called chacha Nehru and for whom we children celebrated his birth anniversary in school every year on 14thNovember. As years went by and we prepared essays in school on our first Prime Minister, I got to learn about his contribution and what he meant for India. What has stayed with me is his focus on massive institution building in the early years of India’s Independence in areas as varied as science, technology, humanities and culture; his faith in five year lans that steered India’s development journey and that oversaw large scale industrialization. As a student of history later on, I of course came to know about his thoughts, his work, his compulsions and his politics and was able to see him as a person who lived in a certain time and did what he thought was best for India at that time. Now, as we live in times of growing intolerance, I think maybe Nehru was “a complete Indian”, comfortable with his Western education, steadfast in his love and commitment for India and a person who respected religious and cultural freedom.


Dr. Renu Garg, Public Health Expert, New Delhi:


Nehru strikes me as a person with a multifaceted personality.   In the political domain, he was an elegant politician and a shrewd diplomat, far above the average politician of today.  As a family man, he was a loving and doting father.  The way he raised Indira shows that he was far ahead of his times.  He was very well read and was an outstanding communicator, both in the written and spoken word.  I know that Nehru was trained as a lawyer but don't know much of his professional accomplishments.   Most importantly, I think of him as “Chacha Nehru”, and as a student I looked forward to celebrating his birthday more than any other politician’s.  I hope that India will see more politicians and leaders like Nehru in the coming days.


Gaurav Kapoor, Businessman, Varanasi:


India first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, was a visionary leader. His contribution to India’s freedom is unparalleled but it was his statesmanship which set the tone for a plural, inclusive India. A careful examination of his stewardship of the first council of ministers of independent India will show us his views of an India in which differing voices are celebrated rather than berated. Single-handedly his leadership set the tone for an independent India whose diversity is to be celebrated and protected. We all must strive to keep his views intact and further this democratic value system of our country. 


Arpita Sud, Lawyer, New Delhi:


Jawaharlal Nehru, our first prime minister, obviously carried a great mandate on his shoulders and seemed to carry it with a deep sense of responsibility. His social and developmental goals gave the country the impetus it required in the right direction. However, to my mind his lasting legacy remains the books that he wrote "Discovery of India" and "Letters from a father to his daughter". The books form essential readings for school children and young adults and reflect his enduring love for India, its history, people plus his desire to strive towards an intellectualism that uses the lessons of the past for the betterment of the future.


Saba Firdous, Freelance Journalist & Teacher, Srinagar:


He may be a leader who brought various socio economic reforms in India. Undoubtedly he did. His ideology vis a vis the development of India and his contribution in India’s freedom struggle is often termed as remarkable. Furthermore, the efforts he made to maintain India's international relations are worth mentioning.


All said and done, let's not forget his failures that made India vulnerable to many challenges, one of the main being the Kashmir issue. Kashmiris continue to bear the brunt of his blunders there, making every Kashmiri vulnerable to India's intolerance that rose due to Nehru's policy regarding Kashmir.



Angellica Aribam, Student & Rights Activist, Manipur:


As I was growing up, I stumbled upon Pt Nehru's famous 'Letters from a Father to his Daughter' and it served as my window to the world. His words helped me understand and question complex topics concerning early men, civilization, trade, mythology et al. I was and still am fascinated by his works, profound intellect and rationalism. In my opinion, Nehru was the biggest revolutionary of all even though he was never called a revolutionary by anyone. His revolution was about ensuring that every citizen of this country enjoyed liberty, secularism, democracy and equality. Today unfortunately, the revolution remains unfinished. There is an immense threat to the fourfold doctrine from the current authoritarian regime that is vehemently opposed to the ideas that he stood for. The murders, lynchings, hate-crimes, divisive agenda are all examples of how badly they want to kill the revolution. But what they fail to understand is that Nehru will live on in the minds of the people for as long as this country remains and with that, the revolution will live on.


Daanish Bin Nabi, Op-ed Editor, Rising Kashmir, Srinagar:


Jawaharlal Nehru, a founding member of secular India, was not only a statesman but a visionary, apart from the rest of his contemporaries. While Sardar Patel and Mohandas Gandhi associated religion with politics, it was Nehru, at the time when the subcontinent was caught in communal frenzy, who held India together. It goes to Nehru’s credit that he banned the communal Jan Sangh in 1948, to keep religious bigots at bay. But today’s India is different to what Nehru had envisaged. The growing religious intolerance is the best example that Nehru’s secular India is falling apart.


Even though Nehru was a statesman, on Kashmir he was politically naïve, or he pretended to be. It was on his insistence that Gandhi made sure that Kashmir fell into the lap of India as Gandhi lured the Maharaja of Kashmir to make Kashmir a part of India. After Nehru was informed that the city of Lahore went to Pakistan, he did everything in his power to absorb Kashmir into India. Not only in Kashmir but, Nehru’s fiddling with the partition papers in Simla in May 1947 with the help of Louis Mountbatten set the tone and tenor for the statesmanship India would exercise in Kashmir – a messy legacy that continues today, which set the precedent for New Delhi to handpick governments for Kashmir.


Dr. Deepak Raheja, Psychiatrist, New Delhi:


Nehru played a significant role in our freedom struggle and laid the foundation of a democratic India. His idea was to thwart the control exercised by the upper classes, the so-called “English Babus” who had received western education like himself. His idea of constructing a democratic political framework gave rise to several political systems such as the parliament, free elections, strong opposition parties, independence of the judiciary, etc. He further propagated a secular construct within the state rather than taking extreme sides of being anti-religious or a non-religious state. He emphasised the “Rule of Law” thereby killing the monopoly of one religion over the other. He further spoke strongly about bridging the gap between the haves and have nots and instilling in the majority the need to take the minorities under their wing. Being a witness to India’s struggle for freedom he wanted to create an India that has learnt from the past where the strength were the masses-“unity in diversity” to create a harmonious existence for all in our country. 


Vedansh Goyal, Std. VIII, Birla Vidya Niketan, New Delhi:


Jawaharlal Nehru, free India's first prime minister, was a freedom fighter who was unsure about the idea non-violence of Bapu, but later supported it as well. He was a wise man with an abundance of knowledge. He loved all children just as same as he loved his daughter Indira Gandhi. During his tenure as prime minister he developed India and helped her stand among one of the leading nations of the world. Most importantly, he was able to keep alive the great ideology of Bapu of making India a tolerant nation with peace and fraternity . He believed that India has a great history and we should respect it. Such a wise and knowledgeable person who loved all  children should be loved back and respected by all of us. 


Hima Bindu, Student, Gender & Development Studies, Andhra Pradesh:


Nehru loved children. Apart from his birthday, celebrated as Children’s Day in India, what one needs to remember is his vision for a better India today. He laid the working foundation for who we are today. He advocated secularism, scientific temper, industrial and technological advancement , freedom and equality. In his service to the nation, he captured the essence of our tryst with destiny, reflecting in his policies.


Ranajit Mukherjee, Political Communication Specialist, Kolkata:


Twenty-first century India owes its emerging pre-eminence amongst the league of nations to its Nehruvian foundation. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru's non-aligned policy ensured that we did not subjugate our hard won freedom to the military diktats of either bloc, and resisted the temptation of short term gains for the greater need of economic self-reliance. Long after the Cold War is over, we enjoy good relations with countries on both sides of that bitter divide due to his foresight.


At home he successfully inculcated a culture of democratic pluralism, with respect for race, community, caste, culture and creed. A Bengali today works in Bangalore, swaps food cultural jokes with his Tamil colleague, and goes for dinner to his Muslim friend's house because of the liberal foundation carefully nurtured by Nehru and his colleagues in the first decades of our Republic.


For me though, his most cherished and enduring legacy is our genuine freedom of speech. While most Afro-Asian nations who gained freedom mid-20th century have fallen to dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, Indians continue to celebrate their right to opinion and action. His detractors in today's Hindutva brigade would do well to remember that they can spew their lies on Nehru due to the freedoms he enshrined in our Constitution.