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Jawaharlal Nehru

Nehru and Gandhi at the opening of the Indian ...
Nehru and Gandhi at the opening of the Indian National Congress, 1937. 
Jawaharlal Nehru (Hindustani: [ˈdʒəʋaːɦərˈlaːl ˈneːɦru]  14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964) was the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics for much of the 20th century. He emerged as the paramount leader of the Indian Independence Movement under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi and ruled India from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death in office in 1964.[5] Nehru is considered to be the architect of the modern Indian nation-state; a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic.[6]
He was the father of Indira Gandhi and the maternal grandfather of Rajiv Gandhi, who were to later serve as the third and sixth Prime Ministers of India, respectively.
The son of a prominent lawyer and nationalist statesman, Nehru was a graduate of Cambridge University and the Inner Temple, where he trained to be a barrister. Upon his return to India, he enrolled at the Allahabad High Court while taking an interest in national politics. Nehru's involvement in politics would gradually replace his legal practice. A committed nationalist since his teenage years, Nehru became a rising figure in Indian politics during the upheavals of the 1910s. He became the preeminent leader of the left-wing factions of the Indian National Congress during the 1920s, and eventually of the entire Congress, with the tacit approval of his mentor, Gandhi. As Congress President, Nehru called for complete independence from Britain, and initiated a decisive shift towards the left in Indian politics. He was the principal author of the Indian Declaration of Independence (1929).
Nehru and the Congress dominated Indian politics during the 1930s as the country moved towards independence. His idea of a secular nation state was seemingly validated when the Congress under his leadership swept the provincial elections in 1937 while the separatist Muslim League failed to form a government in any of the Indian provinces. But, these achievements were seriously compromised in the aftermath of the Quit India Movement in 1942 which saw the British effectively crush the Congress as a political organisation. Nehru, who had reluctantly heeded Gandhi's call for immediate independence, for he had desired to support the Allied war effort during the World War II, came out of a lengthy prison term to a much altered political landscape. The Muslim League under his old Congress colleague and now bête noire, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had come to dominate Muslim politics in India. Negotiations between Nehru and Jinnah for power sharing failed and gave way to the independence and bloody partition of India in 1947.
Nehru was elected by the Congress to assume office as independent India's first Prime Minister although the question of leadership had been settled as far back in 1941, when Gandhi acknowledged Nehru as his political heir and successor. As Prime Minister, Nehru set out to realise his vision of India. The Constitution of India was enacted in 1950, after which he embarked on an ambitious program of economic, social and political reforms. Chiefly, he oversaw India's transition from a monarchy to a republic, while nurturing a plural, multi-party democracy. In foreign policy, Nehru took a leading role in Non-Alignment while projecting India as a regional hegemon in South Asia.
Under Nehru's leadership, the Congress emerged as a catch-all party, dominating national politics and winning consecutive elections in 1951, 1957, and 1962. He remained popular with the people of India in spite of political troubles in his final years as exemplified by the defeat in the Sino-Indian War. Guha writes, "[had] Nehru retired in 1958 he would be remembered as not just India's best prime minister, but as one of the great statesmen of the modern world."[7] Nehru, thus, left behind a disputed legacy, being "either adored or reviled for India's progress or lack of it."[8] What is not disputed, however, is his impact on India, with it being observed "that if Nehru had been a different kind of man, India would have been a different kind of country."[9]
Internationalising the struggle
Nehru played a leading role in the development of the internationalist outlook of the Indian freedom struggle. He sought foreign allies for India and forged links with movements for freedom and democracy all over the world. In 1927, his efforts paid off and the Congress was invited to attend the congress of oppressed nationalities in Brussels in Belgium. The meeting was called to coordinate and plan a common struggle against imperialism. Nehru represented India and was elected to the Executive Council of the League against Imperialism that was born at this meeting.[32]
During the mid-1930s, Nehru was much concerned with developments in Europe, which seemed to be drifting toward another world war. He was in Europe early in 1936, visiting his ailing wife, shortly before she died in a sanitarium in Switzerland. Even at this time, he emphasised that, in the event of war, India’s place was alongside the democracies, though he insisted that India could only fight in support of Great Britain and France as a free country.
Nehru closely worked with Subhash Bose in developing good relations with governments of free countries all over the world. However, the two split in the late 1930s, when Bose agreed to seek the help of fascists in driving the British out of India. At the same time, Nehru had supported the people of Spain who were fighting to defend themselves against Franco. People of many countries volunteered to fight the fascist forces in Spain and formed the International Brigade. Nehru along with his aide V.K. Krishna Menon went to Spain and extended the support of the Indian people to the people of Spain. Nehru refused to meet Mussolini, the dictator of Italy when the latter expressed his desire to meet him. Thus, Nehru came to be seen as a champion of freedom and democracy all over the world.[33][34]


Nehru was one of the first nationalist leaders to realise the sufferings of the people in the states ruled by Indian Princes. He suffered imprisonment in Nabha, a princely state, when he went there to see the struggle that was being waged by the Sikhs against the corrupt Mahants. The nationalist movement had been confined to the territories under direct British rule. Nehru helped to make the struggle of the people in the princely states a part of the nationalist movement for freedom. The All India states people's conference was formed in 1927. Nehru who had been supporting the cause of the people of the princely states for many years was made the President of the conference in 1935. He opened up its ranks to membership from across the political spectrum. The body would play an important role during the political integration of India, helping Indian leaders Vallabhbhai Patel and V.K. Krishna Menon (to whom Nehru had delegated the task of integrating the princely states into India) negotiate with hundreds of princes.
In July 1946, Nehru pointedly observed that no princely state could prevail militarily against the army of independent India.[35] In January 1947, Nehru said that independent India would not accept the Divine Right of Kings,[36] and in May 1947, he declared that any princely state which refused to join the Constituent Assembly would be treated as an enemy state. During the drafting of the Indian constitution, many Indian leaders (except Nehru) of that time were in favour of allowing each Princely state or Covenanting State to be independent as a federal state along the lines suggested originally by the Government of India act (1935). But as the drafting of the constitution progressed and the idea of forming a republic took concrete shape (due to the efforts of Nehru), it was decided that all the Princely states/Covenanting States would merge with the Indian republic. Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, de-recognized all the rulers by a presidential order in 1969. But this was struck down by the Supreme Court of India. Eventually, the government by the 26th Amendment to the constitution was successful in abolishing the Princely states of India. The process began by Nehru was finally completed by his daughter by the end of 1971.

Declaration of Independence

Nehru was one of the first leaders to demand that the Congress Party should resolve to make a complete and explicit break from all ties with the British Empire. He introduced a resolution demanding "complete national independence" in 1927, which was rejected because of Gandhi's opposition.[37]
In 1928, Gandhi agreed to Nehru's demands and proposed a resolution that called for the British to grant dominion status to India within two years. If the British failed to meet the deadline, the Congress would call upon all Indians to fight for complete independence. Nehru was one of the leaders who objected to the time given to the British – he pressed Gandhi to demand immediate actions from the British. Gandhi brokered a further compromise by reducing the time given from two years to one. Nehru agreed to vote for the new resolution.
Demands for dominion status was rejected by the British in 1929. Nehru assumed the presidency of the Congress party during the Lahore session on 29 December 1929 and introduced a successful resolution calling for complete independence.
Nehru drafted the Indian declaration of independence, which stated:
"We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them the people have a further right to alter it or abolish it. The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or complete independence."[38]
At midnight on New Year's Eve 1929, Nehru hoisted the tricolour flag of India upon the banks of the Ravi in Lahore. A pledge of independence was read out, which included a readiness to withhold taxes. The massive gathering of public attending the ceremony was asked if they agreed with it, and the vast majority of people were witnessed to raise their hands in approval. 172 Indian members of central and provincial legislatures resigned in support of the resolution and in accordance with Indian public sentiment. The Congress asked the people of India to observe 26 January as Independence Day. The flag of India was hoisted publicly across India by Congress volunteers, nationalists and the public. Plans for a mass civil disobedience were also underway.
After the Lahore session of the Congress in 1929, Nehru gradually emerged as the paramount leader of the Indian independence movement. Gandhi stepped back into a more spiritual role. Although Gandhi did not officially designate Nehru his political heir until 1942, the country as early as the mid-1930s saw in Nehru the natural successor to Gandhi.

Civil disobedience

Nehru and most of the Congress leaders were initially ambivalent about Gandhi's plan to begin civil disobedience with a satyagraha aimed at the British salt tax. After the protest gathered steam, they realised the power of salt as a symbol. Nehru remarked about the unprecedented popular response, “it seemed as though a spring had been suddenly released.”[39] Nehru was arrested on 14 April 1930 while entraining from Allahabad for Raipur. He had earlier, after addressing a huge meeting and leading a vast procession, ceremoniously manufactured some contraband salt. He was charged with breach of the salt law, tried summarily behind prison walls and sentenced to six months of imprisonment. Nehru nominated Gandhi to succeed him as Congress President during his absence in jail, but Gandhi declined, and Nehru then nominated his father as his successor. With Nehru's arrest the civil disobedience acquired a new tempo, and arrests, firing on crowds and lathi charges grew to be ordinary occurrences.
The Salt Satyagraha succeeded in drawing the attention of the world. Indian, British, and world opinion increasingly began to recognise the legitimacy of the claims by the Congress party for independence. Nehru considered the salt satyagraha the high-water mark of his association with Gandhi,[40] and felt that its lasting importance was in changing the attitudes of Indians:
"Of course these movements exercised tremendous pressure on the British Government and shook the government machinery. But the real importance, to my mind, lay in the effect they had on our own people, and especially the village masses....Non-cooperation dragged them out of the mire and gave them self-respect and self-reliance....They acted courageously and did not submit so easily to unjust oppression; their outlook widened and they began to think a little in terms of India as a whole....It was a remarkable transformation and the Congress, under Gandhi's leadership, must have the credit for it."[41]

Architect of India

Nehru elaborated the policies of the Congress and a future Indian nation under his leadership in 1929. He declared that the aims of the congress were freedom of religion, right to form associations, freedom of expression of thought, equality before law for every individual without distinction of caste, colour, creed or religion, protection to regional languages and cultures, safeguarding the interests of the peasants and labour, abolition of untouchability, introduction of adult franchise, imposition of prohibition, nationalisation of industries, socialism, and establishment of a secular India. All these aims formed the core of the "Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy" resolution drafted by Nehru in 1929–31 and were ratified by the All India Congress Committee under Gandhi's leadership.[42] However, some Congress leaders objected to the resolution and decided to oppose Nehru.
The espousal of socialism as the Congress goal was most difficult to achieve. Nehru was opposed in this by the right-wing Congressmen Sardar Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari. Nehru had the support of the left-wing Congressmen Maulana Azad and Subash Chandra Bose. The trio combined to oust Dr. Prasad as Congress President in 1936. Nehru was elected in his place and held the presidency for two years (1936–37).[43] Nehru was then succeeded by his socialist colleagues Bose (1938–39) and Azad (1940–46). After the fall of Bose from the mainstream of Indian politics (due to his support of violence in driving the British out of India), the power struggle between the socialists and conservatives balanced out. However, Sardar Patel died in 1950, leaving Nehru as the sole remaining iconic national leader, and soon the situation became such that Nehru was able to implement many of his basic policies without hindrance. The conservative right-wing of the Congress (composed of India's upper class elites) would continue opposing the socialists until the great schism in 1969. Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, was able to fulfill her father's dream by the 42nd amendment (1976) of the Indian constitution by which India officially became "socialist" and "secular".[44]
During Nehru's second term as general secretary of the Congress, he proposed certain resolutions concerning the foreign policy of India.[45] From that time onwards, he was given carte blanche in framing the foreign policy of any future Indian nation. Nehru developed good relations with governments all over the world. He firmly placed India on the side of democracy and freedom during a time when the world was under the threat of fascism.[34] Nehru was also given the responsibility of planning the economy of a future India. He appointed the National Planning Commission in 1938 to help in framing such policies.[46] However, many of the plans framed by Nehru and his colleagues would come undone with the unexpected partition of India in 1947.
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