Nehru’s Liberal Ideas in Conservative Indian Society

Mahatma Gandhi was the first political leader in India who stood for removal of untouchability in a highly conservative Indian society. He paid the price for it by his life when one representative of that conservative society found his ideas too liberal and shot him from point blank range in full public view. The Swachh Bharat (Clean India) programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this 2014 vouches how deeply entrenched is the conservative idea relating to cleanliness; people still think that it is for somebody other than themselves to carry out the menial job of cleaning. So the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) has chosen the broom as its election symbol and the Prime Minister has compelled all VIPs to hold the broom in their hand and wield it in cleaning the surroundings in their locality, even if it is for photo-op. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, displayed an unwavering belief in introducing changes in the conservative society. At the dawn of Independence, even allopathic treatment for diseases was opposed by religious leaders, quacks claiming treatment by administering potions, magic or jhaad-phoonk (moving the broom up & down the sick person to drive away the evil spirit responsible for the illness). The health care facilities provided by the government in every district in the country was a change maker of great consequence. Irrigation facilities for agriculture, modern methods of farming, introduction of improved seeds and farming machinery, promoting the use of chemical fertilizers, schools, colleges, universities, IITs, SISIs and many other institutions introduced change at social, economic, political, judicial, cultural level in the country and led to change in attitude & perception in the masses. The old feudal system gave way to democratic institutions. Voting rights upheld the equality of all in the most demonstrating fashion. There is no room for criticizing Nehru, as it emanates from ignorance. Those who criticize Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru need to rise to that stature first to be able to appreciate their greatness, revolutionary work and sacrifice.

The secret of Narendra Modi’s success lies in his rise to that level in spite of being in the company of those who refuse to say anything good for these national leaders. Modi has an open mind; he is receptive to ideas (his Man Ki Baat) and above all he is flexible. That trait of Modi’s personality reveals the dynamism of the person which is so valuable in a leader heading a government in any big democracy. India has to play a meaningful role in world affairs; Nehru had made that statement very early through the Panchsheel doctrine, NAM etc. Nehru successfully resisted the opposite pulls of the leaders of the Cold War leaders of the two sides to join them and maintained equidistance from both sides and still developed friendly relations with all. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to contribute equally preciously to the enhancement of the stature of the nation in the comity of nations.

Like those criticizing Jawaharlal Nehru out of ignorance, people criticize Narendra Modi out of angst or peeve and charging him with polarization. Narendra Modi has not raised any Berlin wall; all he wants is to raise a Chinese wall to fortify the territory and integrity of the nation. His tenure is going to be as remarkable as that of Jawaharlal Nehru. One faced the resistance of a fiercely conservative society, the other inherits a pool of energy of a highly talented people. This is the time to extend maximum cooperation to Narendra Modi to implement his development mission. Hate mongers doing business in the name of Jawaharlal Nehru ought to remember that none of them, without a single exception, qualifies on honesty to talk Nehru and claim legacy. Nehru had come down heavily against the corrupt elements in his party and government in 1964 itself. Alas! Claimants to his legacy have practiced corruption as never before in the history of India and earned the ill reputation for the country as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Nehru was one of the many freedom fighters of those days, who were equal or better educated than Nehru. Nehru had not descended immediately after the end of the Mughal era. Those raising decibels need to remember that what Nehru turned out to be was as a good turn done to India by the British and not the Mughals; and what Nehru did to India was only extension of the good work done by the British. They set up colleges, universities, railways, ports, airports; organized modern Indian military, Navy, Air Force; built such a solid administrative organization in the country that it earned the reputation of Steel Frame (destroyed by the corrupt claiming legacy to Nehru). It is the British who established the Congress Party and catalyzed the Nehrus of India to think nation as against the parochial/ communal/ casteist claimants of his legacy bent upon destroying the nation. Today they revived the language agitation, insulted the entire territory where they lost in the last election and took the Congress further down.

Those who claim Nehru’s legacy should take a vow today to practice honesty in life and serve the nation utmost honestly!

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