By- Mohd. Yousuf Ganaie : Jawaharlal Nehru (November 14, 1889 – May 27, 1964), also called Pandit Nehru, was one of the most important leaders of the Indian Independence Movement and, as the Head of the Indian National Congress, became the first Prime Minister of India when India won its Independence on August 15, 1947.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born in Allahabad on November 14, 1889, to Swaroop Rani, the wife of Motilal Nehru, a wealthy Allahabad based barrister and political leader himself. He was Motilal Nehru’s only son amongst three younger daughters including Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. The Nehru family is of Kashmiri lineage and of the Saraswat Brahmin caste.
Educated in the finest Indian schools of the time, Nehru returned from education in England at Harrow, Trinity College and Cambridge to practice law before following his father into politics.
By his parents’ arrangement, Nehru married Kamala Nehru, then seventeen in 1916. At the time of his wedding on 8 February 1916, Jawaharlal was twenty-six, a British-educated barrister. Kamala came from a well-known business family of Kashmiris in Delhi.
Gandhi And The 1920s
Jawaharlal father Motilal Nehru was already a prominent figure in the Indian National Congress and had served as its President. Thus when young and glamorous Jawaharlal entered the Congress, it excited young Indians all over, who felt Nehru would rejuvenate India’s political leadership and come at the same level with the British rulers of the land.
Nehru did not share Motilal’s moderate-liberal line. He began to draw closer to the rising leadership of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a former barrister who had won battles for equality and political rights for Indians in South Africa, and had emerged a national hero with the successful struggles in Champaran, Bihar and Kheda in Gujarat.
Nehru was instantly attracted to Gandhi’s commitment for active but peaceful, civil disobedience. Gandhi saw India’s future in the young Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Nehru family transformed their lifestyle according to Gandhi’s teachings. Jawaharlal and Motilal Nehru abandoned western clothes and tastes for expensive possessions and pastimes, and adopted Hindi, or Hindustani as their common language of use. Young Jawaharlal now wore a khadi kurta and a Gandhi cap, all white – the new uniform of the Indian nationalist. Nehru was first arrested by the British during the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922), but released after a few months.
After Gandhi suspended civil resistance in 1922 as a result of the killing of policemen in Chauri Chaura, thousands of Congressmen were disillusioned. But Nehru stayed with Gandhi and the Congress.
Jawaharlal was elected President of the Allahabad Municipal Corporation in 1924, and served for two years as the city’s chief executive. He used his tenure to expand public education, health care and sanitation. He resigned citing lack of cooperation from civil servants and obstruction from British authorities.
From 1926 to 1928, Jawaharlal served as the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee, an important step in his rise to Congress national leadership.
AS INDIA’S FIRST PRIME MINISTER
He headed the Indian government for 17 long and brilliant years. He wanted India to develop into a world recognized nation. He supported technological and scientific progress and encouraged art and literature. He wanted to eliminate discrimination from the face of the world and encouraged peaceful co-existence. Nehru did not believe in aligning himself with the military political blocks and wanted to end the cold war. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1955.
NEHRU AS A PERSONALITY
Not only was he a brilliant orator, a charming, warm and noble thinker and philosopher, but also a fantastic writer. His most popular books are ‘Discovery of India’, ‘Glimpses of World History’ and ‘Letters from a father to a daughter’. On May 27, 1964, India lost a great influence. In the words of Dr. Radhakrishnan “As a fighter for freedom he was illustrious as a maker of a modern India, his services were unparalleled. His life and works have had a profound influence on our mental make-up, social structure and intellectual development.”
NEHRU AND KASHMIR
Since Nehru’s forefathers had migrated from Kashmir Valley and the family had retained not only the connection, but also the cultural traditions of Kashmir. Nehru had great attachment and love for Kashmir and the Kashmiri people. It was for this great attachment that he became a staunch supporter for the liberation of Kashmiris from the autocratic rule of the Maharaja. For this purpose, Jawaharlal Nehru linked the freedom movement of India with the Quite Kashmir Movement, launched by National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
Pt. Nehru persuaded Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah to rechristen Muslim League that had started struggle against autocracy in 1931 as J&K National Conference. Nehru even visited Kashmir to plead for Sheikh Abdullah who had been arrested by the Maharaja’s government. Nehru was denied permission and was arrested at Kohala border point.
After 1947, Pt. Nehru played a vital role in political, social and economic development of Jammu & Kashmir. Towards the end of his life and career, he re-established rapport with estranged Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah and sent him as an emissary to Pakistan for bringing the two nations together. Though Nehru’s untimely death frustrated the move, his confidence in Abdullah and reconciliation with Pakistan clearly indicated that till his end he remained deeply concerned with Kashmir and its people.