Homage to the leader

By K.N. Pandita

On November 14 each year, the nation pays homage to one of her most illustrious sons, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India and the foremost among the freedom fighters. He is remembered for his role as a leader of the freedom movement, as the ideologue of independent India and the builder of modern India. Rarely does history find such eminent personalities as are destined to perform historic role in liberating a nation and building the nation. His was a unique personality rooted in Indian civilization; an Indian as much Anglicized as any Englishman, and a citizen of the world in true sense of the term. He belonged to humanity for he had transcended caste, creed, color and race. Greatness followed him in hot pursuit, in his thoughts and deeds. He had a scientific mind and temper and could synthesize old and new with remarkable finesse. He had a magnetic personality that disarmed the opponents, won friends and neutralized enemies. He was enormously steadfast and resilient, the two opposite ends blended proportionately in his character.  

His greatest contribution to the nation is a secular democratic dispensation, the only viable political arrangement India should have. He was a democrat and believed in constructive and healthy opposition. No other politician in India understood the role of press as Nehru did, and this was the reason that he was foremost among those ready to let the press and media enjoy the freedom that democracy and its institutions could provide. Realizing the role of press in building new India, he had laid the foundation of National Herald which voiced his ideology and philosophy of a secular-democratic state. Nehru laid the foundation for scientific and technological India, and today we reap the fruit. That was the vision of the great person. He has left behind tremendous impact on Indian mind and remains a roll model for the succeeding generations of leadership in Congress.By K.N. Pandita

On November 14 each year, the nation pays homage to one of her most illustrious sons, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India and the foremost among the freedom fighters. He is remembered for his role as a leader of the freedom movement, as the ideologue of independent India and the builder of modern India. Rarely does history find such eminent personalities as are destined to perform historic role in liberating a nation and building the nation. His was a unique personality rooted in Indian civilization; an Indian as much Anglicized as any Englishman, and a citizen of the world in true sense of the term. He belonged to humanity for he had transcended caste, creed, color and race. Greatness followed him in hot pursuit, in his thoughts and deeds. He had a scientific mind and temper and could synthesize old and new with remarkable finesse. He had a magnetic personality that disarmed the opponents, won friends and neutralized enemies. He was enormously steadfast and resilient, the two opposite ends blended proportionately in his character. His greatest contribution to the nation is a secular democratic dispensation, the only viable political arrangement India should have. He was a democrat and believed in constructive and healthy opposition. No other politician in India understood the role of press as Nehru did, and this was the reason that he was foremost among those ready to let the press and media enjoy the freedom that democracy and its institutions could provide. Realizing the role of press in building new India, he had laid the foundation of National Herald which voiced his ideology and philosophy of a secular-democratic state. Nehru laid the foundation for scientific and technological India, and today we reap the fruit. That was the vision of the great person. He has left behind tremendous impact on Indian mind and remains a roll model for the succeeding generations of leadership in Congress.

But human beings are human beings; they are not angels not prone to faults and errors. Nehru was no exception. Some historians have been critical of him, essentially for some aspects of his domestic as well as foreign policy. There criticism in regard to domestic policy hinges on his inability to decentralize political power and vested interest that sprang gradually out of concentration of power. His enormous popularity with the masses of Indian people invested with him enormous powers, which, though he never misused, yet became a symbol of power that could not be subjected to scrutiny or accountability. His personality was far greater than the issues he was confronted with because he could carry the masses of people with him. His popularity overawed his peers including those gifted with better and stronger qualities of leadership. His weakness was that while he recognized the merit in his compeers he did not think of them as effective in delivering the goods as he thought of himself.

But it is in his foreign policy that Nehru has come under a barrage of criticism. First of all he never appointed a full fledged foreign minister during his tenure and left the portfolio only to his own care. It has been called a hegemonic measure that did much harm to the interest of the country.  It forced India to put all eggs of a foreign office in one basket. He lost the facility of second opinion on vital matters pertaining to India’s foreign policy.

His second fault in the context of foreign policy was his unrealistic dislike for the western and American ways of governance. By ganging up with the Soviet bloc, Nehru led India to a predicament that made India’s march to modern science and technology very sluggish and protracted one. With his vast and practical knowledge of the western world, acquired through many years of study and travel in the European countries as a student and a freedom fighter, and his only bookish knowledge of Marxism-Leninism, Nehru, more or less, became a confused person. I am reminded of what my late guide and philosopher friend Dr. N.N. Raina told me when I asked him why he had refused Nehru’s offer to be his private secretary. Raina made a profound remark, “I am a diehard communist while Nehru was a half-baked socialist. How could I manage things with him?”  When China betrayed him in 1962 war, Nehru feverishly approached the US for military support since Moscow had said that China was a brother to her and India only a friend.

Much is being said on the usefulness and otherwise of the Non-Aligned Movement of which Nehru was the real originator but had roped in Marshall Tito of former Yugoslavia and Gamal Nasser of Egypt later on. Creation of non-aligned forum might have been the necessity for these political leaders at that point of time but the hindsight shows that it had hardly any cognizable impact on global strategies of the imperialists. Conversely, the US made no bones in apportioning India to the Soviet bloc which further put many road barriers in our country’s march to modernization.
Emergence of Kashmir issue with all it menacing ramifications is also thought to be the result of Nehru’s deep seated sense of self-righteousness. There are many disturbing layers of Kashmir issue right from the day of the British Parliament passing the Indian Independence Act to Nehru seeking justice at the UN Security Council. For a just cause he went to a wrong place ignoring saner and more experienced advice of his Deputy Prime Minister and some more senior members of his cabinet. It shows that his illusions were raised on sand and not on firm soil.  When he took Kashmir issue to the SC, he thought Americans being familiar with colonial machinations would uphold his principled policy in Kashmir. International politics does not go by principles but by practicable. In the case of Kashmir, historians have also questioned Nehru’s out of way relationship with Sheikh Abdullah and putting a great price on him.  Any astute statesman devoid of emotions and sentiments would have tried to strike a balance between the Sheikh and the house of Mirwaiz of Srinagar. Likewise, Nehru’s denigration of Pandit Premnath Dogra on the behest of or to appease the Sheikh was a Himalayan blunder which the staunchly nationalist population of Jammu despised. No honest and impartial historian will forgive Pandit Nehru for his betrayal of Maharaja Hari Singh. Nehru made it a personal vendetta forgetting that the order of detention of Nehru at the border in 1947 was political exigency whereas backing out from the promise of considering the Maharaja’s case six months after his departure from the State, reflected only personal vendetta.  If Article 370 was necessitated by prevailing circumstances, then the dimensions of that necessity should have been give full exposure because J&K was a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural entity.

Why did Nehru isolate J&K State and put it under his direct charge? It had to be handled by the Home Minister, and the Home Minister had already settled the case of five hundred and odd princely states of India including Hyderabad and Junagarh.  Taking J&K portfolio out of Home Ministry and putting it into his charge was not because the Sardar was incapable of handling Kashmir. The real reason was that the Sardar understood the Shiekh very well and the latter found it difficult to be vague or evasive with him.

Nehru’s China policy has been called a masterpiece of naivety. No novice in the art of statesmanship would accept the hollow illusion of Chini-Hindi bhai bhai. The Bandung Conference given unprecedented hype in the Indian media turned to be a laughable spectacle of political immaturity. Years before, the Sardar had warned that India will have to tread cautiously when dealing with China. Nobody paid heed to the prophetic words of the Sardar.

But with all said and done, the clock cannot be turned back. No great nation or national leadership is without weaknesses and flaws. Nehru and his government had their share of flaws. We should not judge Nehru by some of his shortcomings but evaluate him from what he gave by way of lasting contribution towards the development of the country. He showed the path to modernization and scientific temper; he established democratic dispensation for which the Middle East countries are now shedding their blood; he made our dams and industrial complexes as our places of worship because these give life and sustenance to millions of people, he pulled the nation out of the morass of backwardness, poverty and deprivation and he infused in us the sense of pride of a free and independent nation. He had great vision of great India and that vision is proving correct. We salute this most illustrious son of the soil.

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