JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (1889-64)

Nehru: Introduction

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (1889-64):-Nature and circumstance were both kinds to Jawaharlal Nehru. He was born into the Kashmiri Brahmin community, the most aristocratic sub-caste in the Hindu social system. His father was a distinguished and wealthy barrister, modern, urbane, highly cultivated, and lavishly generous. As an only son and the only child for eleven years- Jawaharlal was the focus of concentrated affection. He had, too the leisure and learning of an English aristocrat in the secure atmosphere of the Edwardian Age- private tutors, Harrow, Cambridge, and the Inner Temple. When he was drawn to the political arena soon after his return to India, his path was eased by the guidance and support of his father and Gandhi. Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru recalled this head-start in a modest portrait of his past seen forty years later. “My growth to public prominence, you know, was not by acute stages. It was, rather, a steady development over a long period of time. And if I may say so,” he added dryly, “I began at a fairly high level.”

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (1889-64)

Belief in the Welfare of Mankind

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (1889-64) Belief in the Welfare of Mankind:-

It was his identification with the interests and welfare of mankind in general that made Jawaharlal Nehru hate the idea of India becoming secular, now that she is independent. He wanted her to keep her doors open so that the winds of knowledge and culture might be wafted across the seas to her shores to enrich her children, even as in past centuries men from Greece and Rome came to her temples of learning and took back with them rare treasures of illumination for mind and soul. “In every matter, be it education, science or culture or anything,” he declared, “I dislike nothing so much as the narrowly nationalistic approach which makes us think that we have attained the summit of wisdom and that we need not learn anything-I am all for opening out our minds to every kind of knowledge or information that can be obtained.”

            A man of wide vision and broad outlook, Nehru did not subscribe to the doctrine that the end justifies the means. He writes that a worthy end should have excellent means leading up to it. That seems not only a good ethical doctrine but sound practical politics, for the means that are not good often defeat the end in view and raise new problems and difficulties. And then it appears so unbecoming, so degrading to the self-respect of an individual or a nation to submit to such means, to go through the mire. Again and again, Nehru told his audiences, both in India and abroad, that this principle of right means leading up to the right results should be adopted in international relations also.

           Jawaharlal Nehru was a most affable and charming man. Indeed, he had the gift, rare among statesmen, of inspiring genuine regard and affection from persons ranging over the whole spectrum of political opinion at home and abroad. But an inner quality of aloofness prevented him from reciprocating, even with colleagues of long standing. His early life in Allahabad strengthened a natural reticence, and so did a British public school education. Jawaharlal Nehru himself underlined this element in his make-up in a letter to an Indian friend: “Yes, we did not discuss personal matters. You ought to know me sufficiently to initiative. I would not do so even with Kamala (his wife) or Indu (his daughter). Such has been my training.” So it continued down to the last day of his life.             This quality should not be construed as mistrust or indifference to the welfare of others. On the contrary, Nehru was sustained in trial by a strong faith in man. Moreover, colleagues, friends, and subordinates spoke in glowing terms of his kindness and consideration, in matters vital and trivial. There is the story of a salary increase given to his servants during the Second World War because their responsibilities increased when he went to prison! According to one official who worked closely with him for some years, “Nehru is not a demonstrative person; in that respect, he is very much the English public school type. He will never tell you that he appreciates your work but he shows his affection and kind-heartedness in indirect ways.” Though born and bred in luxury and wealth, Nehru had a genuine love and sympathy for the poor. He was deeply interested in the common people, their ways of life, their problems and pursuits, and fully dedicated himself to the uplift of the underdog

Nehru’s Faith in Democracy

As he had a strong faith in man’s wisdom and his equality in almost all spheres of human life, Nehru considered democracy to be the best government. He always found himself safe in a democracy. In fact, the Indian experiment in constitutional democracy owes more to Nehru than to anyone else or to any combination of factors. Aware of his autocratic tendencies, he had striven successfully to curb them lest India should revert to the condition of benevolent despotism. Few men with these talents could have resisted the inducements to exercise dictatorial powers. Some frustrated Indians regretted his reluctance to do so. Some Westerners would do well to appreciate this aspect of Nehru’s leadership.

          JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (1889-64) Always a passionate faith in democracy colored his thoughts and ideas. To him, like Mill, democracy in practice does not mean the stifling of the voice of a minority by a majority through its sheer voting strength. According to him, democracy means tolerance not merely of those who agree with us, but of those who do not agree with us. He believed that the method of democracy was discussion, argument, persuasion, and ultimate decision and acceptance of that decision even though it might go against our grain. “Otherwise, the bigger lathi or the bigger bomb prevails and that is not the democratic method. The problem is the same whether atomic bombs are involved or street demonstrations.” He did not object to demonstrations, but he had no liking for violence, resulting from them. In, of course, ability and devotion to work. But it also demands a large measure of cooperation, self-discipline, of restraint. “Parliamentary democracy,” he told his countrymen, “is not something which can be created in a country by some magic wand-Parliamentary democracy naturally involves a peaceful method of action, peaceful acceptance of decisions taken, and attempts to change them through peaceful ways again.

            Nehru was quite Confident in the fact that democracy cannot work successfully, and achieve its aims or ideals without the goodwill of the people and their cooperation. Like Thomas Jefferson, he also accepted the truth that democracy cannot go against the people. Even an autocratic government has to have a measure of goodwill. It cannot function without it. In the ultimate analysis, a government functions because of certain sanctions that it has and which are represented by its army or police force. If the government is in line with the thought of a majority of the people, it is a democratic government and only a very small minority of the people will feel its pressure. Now, if an individual refuses to be afraid of these sanctions, what is government to do about it? He may be sent to jail and of all these things; he is even ready to face death. In such a case, the government will have to face a crisis; that is, a government, in spite of its great power, cannot really conquer an individual. That is a failure on the part of the government. Nehru was fully conscious of this fact, and he, therefore, accepted that “a government, which is essentially based upon the sanctions it has, comes up against something- the spirit of man which refuses to be afraid of that sanction.”

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU (1889-64)

            It is a truism of history that democracy is the best form of government because it preserves the highest human values. That is why India has chosen democracy. And Nehru was so hopeful about its success in India that he remarked, “We will resist the imposition of any other concept here or any other practice.” But he quite reasonably thought, as we all think, that war puts an end to the very values that democracy cherishes. It was his firm belief that “democracy, in fact, is a casualty of war in the world today. It does not mean to function properly anymore. That has been the tragedy of the last two World wars and something infinitely worse is likely to happen if there is another war.

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