Nehru: Maker of Modern India
Our first PM’s vision for India remains significant in neo-communalist times
Harish Khare Delhi
Between them, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru conceived and chiselled the noble ideas that constitute and define modern India. It is the ‘nobility’ of the Gandhi-Nehru ideas—the nobility of purpose in political life, the nobility of commitment to the welfare of millions of underprivileged fellow citizens, and the nobility of conduct and behaviour in the public arena—that was and remains so inspirational and enduring.
That ‘nobility’ in the Gandhi-Nehru partnership was not acceptable to an unenlightened section in this divided land. These closed minds managed to get rid of the Mahatma on January 30, 1948. They perhaps thought that with the Mahatma out of the way, they would have a run of the place and they would be able to tame India and its liberal soul to fit the narrowness of their vision.
But they still had to contend with Nehru. As long as he lived, Nehru was a thorn in the flesh of every backward-looking, sectarian, prejudiced man or woman who wanted to drag India back into feudal animations and
Nehru’s answer to these antediluvian forces was a modern India, a forward-looking India, a modernising India, with a new religion called ‘scientific temper’.
Since January 30, 1948, Nehru was under attack. It is no surprise this great democrat and his ideas are once again under attack, this time from the neo-reactionary and the neo-communalist, masquerading as the neo-liberal.
This is why we should be so grateful to Dr Hans Raj Bhardwaj for writing this very timely monograph on Nehru and how his ideas remain morally and ethically relevant for the India of today—and, indeed, of tomorrow.
I would like to believe that Bhardwaj was addressing not only those who insist on thinking of themselves as enemies and detractors of Nehruvian ideas and institutions, but also had in mind those who claim to speak exclusively on behalf of Nehru.
In my view, the central message in Bhardwaj’s book is that the mistakes, the misdemeanours and the misdeeds committed in the name of Nehru should not be allowed to devalue and de-legitimise the grand Nehruvian vision—and its liberal values and ideas and institutions.
Bhardwaj reminds us that, next only to Gandhi, Nehru was the most magnificent maker of modern India. Those—either friends or foes—who choose to reduce Nehru to just the leader of a political party do a grave disservice to this great son of India.
I would like to quote from Bhardwaj’s book: ‘When we talk today of a state of affairs which can be best termed “Advantage India”, that somehow India seems to possess every single of those attributes needed for economic development in the 21st century, we need to pause and do a historical analysis of the situation. How did this advantageous state of affairs come about? Clearly it was not some hidden potential in India that was waiting to be resuscitated from time immemorial. Nor is it simply the economic reforms of the last couple of decades. The roots for this success lie deeper than that. It is in Nehru’s vision for India that we need to seek the real roots of this development.’
Excerpted from a speech at the launch of Nehru: Gazing at Tomorrow by Dr Hans Raj Bhardwaj