REMEMBERING NEHRU: INDIA’S FIRST PRIME MINISTER AND THE ARCHITECT OF MODERN INDIA

ON CHILDREN’S DAY WE REMEMBER THE GREAT VISIONARY AND INDIA’S FIRST PRIME MINISTER JAWAHARLAL NEHRU IN OUR SPECIAL FEATURE

On Jawaharlal Nehru’s 132nd birth anniversary, we remember the great path maker for Indian statehood and one of the prominent figures of Indian independence.

Nehru was born in 1889 as the son of Motilal Nehru, an Indian nationalist and was educated in England.  Nehru fought strongly in the Indian national movement and lead various aspects of the freedom movement that helped the country attain freedom from colonial rule.  Be it foreign policy, education, cabinet management or handling the military, Nehru was exemplary and till date is considered one of the most iconic, admirable leaders in world history.

As an activist for education, Nehru believed education paves the way for modernity and rational thinking, but at the same time he embraced the foundations of traditional Indian society; be it family, religion or community. Nehru’s birthday is remembered as National Children’s Day or Bal Diwas as he pioneered the model of education and welfare for children and youth in the country. He believed in the potential young people carried to lead India, and was unabashed in sharing his love for children.

On this occasion, TONI remembers his most influential quotes:

1. ON DEMOCRACY

Nehru believed that democracy was vital in a country like India, engulfed by monarchy, caste oppression, feudal system of governance and colonial trauma. But he was also suspicious of the system as one should be, keeping in mind a critical approach can always protect our future.

“Democracy is good, I say this because other systems are worse. So we are forced to accept democracy. It has good points, and also bad. But merely saying that democracy will solve all problems is utterly wrong. Problems are solved by intelligence and hard work.”

2. ON INDIA

He wanted India to be a country led by the most intelligent citizens. Hence, he gave major importance to education and commitment to nation building. This is also why he led the formation of higher education institutions like the IITs.

“The children of today will make the India of tomorrow. The way we bring them up will determine the future of the country.”

3. ON RELIGION

Was Nehru religious? There are varying opinions. However,  he was a believer in the communitarian aspects of religion. At the same time, he saw religion could become a source of division and destruction. This made him approach religion with caution. As the first Prime Minister of a vast and diverse nation, he accepted religion as an integral part of the Indian psyche; hence he was someone who inspired the idea of a pluralist nation where everyone had the freedom and safety to believe in and practise their faith, or not believe in one at all.

“The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.”

4. ON BEING PRIME MINISTER

Apart from his failure in the Indo-China war sometimes referred to as a set- back in his career, Nehru is seen as one of the best prime minister’ in the world. He led a broken country after partition to unity; something we can find inspiration in and relevant for all times to come.

“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

5. ON LOVE

Nehru lived his life to the fullest, and believed in complete commitment to enjoying the beauty of the world. He believed in love between humans, relationships within families and the influence of nature. He also had faith in taking challenges and adventures.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

6. ON CHILDREN

Children played an important part in his life. As a father, grandfather and as a great prime minister, Nehru saw children as pillars of the future.

“The only way to reform them (children) is to win them over with love. So long as a child is unfriendly, you can’t mend his ways.”

 

7.ON SPIRITUALITY

As an agnostic person, Nehru saw great beauty in spirituality. But at the same time he believed in the rational values of science.

“Politics and religion are obsolete. The time has come for science and spirituality.”

 

8. ON CAPITALISM

Nehru was a proud socialist who saw a big threat in European capitalism. He believed in the equal distribution of wealth and governance that included all people regardless of race, caste or gender.

The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

 

9. ON FOREIGN POLICY

As a Foreign Affairs Minister, Nehru was excellent in his work . Diplomats and world leaders from around the world, even today, seek inspiration from his career.

“I  hope  that,  gradually,  each  representative  here,  while obviously  not  forgetting  the  interests  of  his  country,  will  begin to  think  that  he  is  something  more  than  the  representative  of  his country,  that  he  represents,  in  a  small  measure  perhaps,  the world  community” – UNGA, New York (1956)

10. ON HUMANITY

Unity and togetherness was something Nehru valued in his idea of India. He said it shouldn’t be hidden away nor should it be limited in practice.

“The best and noblest gifts of humanity cannot be the monopoly of a particular race or country; its scope may not be limited nor may it be regarded as the miser’s hoard buried underground.”

 

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