Jawaharlal Nehru: An Autobiography
An autobiography by Jawaharlal Nehru is not only the tale of the first prime minister of independent India, but also the thoughts of a man who was a diehard democrat, patriot, cosmopolitan and one of the leading personalities of the twentieth century.
And before we start exploring about the protagonist of this article one thing which I wanna clear for the readers or non readers alike that this book is quite heavy to read.
I would suggest for a layman to go for some good biographies written on Nehru and afterwards you can read his autobiography.
The names of the people like Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Sarojini Naidu and many more like them are quite familiar in the Indian subcontinent.
Especially in India you will find the name of Nehru here and there. No one can escape from the gaze of Pandit Nehru. Either a university is named after him or an airport. He is omnipotent.
But, how many of us, especially Indians, have ever tried to read about the man who not only lead Hindustan towards its freedom but he was also the one of the founding fathers of independent India.
Although, people in India may or may not have read about Nehru. But, you will find a common trait amongst a good chunk of people in India that they speak ill about Nehru without reading anything about him, isn’t it.
Jawaharlal Nehru is like the punching bag on whom shoulders people lay all the blame for whatever issues or problems which the Indians are facing at present or going to face in the near future. Ironic. But, true though.
Those people who are aware about the times in which Nehru lived and worked knows that what kind of man he was. And those who believe in hearsay or WhatsApp forwards will punch him like the punching bag. But in that process only they will lose their energy not the punching bag.
Nehru will remain an engima for those people who as long as ignore the pluralism and the strength which India hides in her bosom.
So, let’s unravel the man, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Who was Jawaharlal Nehru?
Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of independent India and one of the leading freedom fighters of Hindustan.
Nehru remained as the Prime Minister of India for seventeen long years (1947-64), democratically. An feat in itself.
Jawaharlal Nehru was also the father of the India’s first woman Prime Minister, Indira Feroze Gandhi, and he was also the one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Early life of Pandit Nehru:-
Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14 November 1889 to Pandit Motilal Nehru and Swarup Rani in Allahabad, India.
The family name of Jawaharlal Nehru was Kaul. And they were Kashmiri Pandits.
As the only son of a wealthy father, Jawaharlal was a pampered child.
For Nehru’s early education his father made arrangements for home tutors. He said in his autobiography that how he owe a debt to one of his tutors by the name of Ferdinand T.Brooks who developed in him the taste of reading good books.
In fact, books fascinated Jawaharlal Nehru. From a very young age the habit of reading good literature helped him throughout his life.
When Nehru was thirteen years old he joined the Theosophical Society. But, later on he went to England for his studies.
Jawaharlal Nehru completed his schooling and graduation from the Harrow and the Trinity College, Cambridge. Although, he was an average student.
Nehru came to India after completing his graduation and he joined the bar as a lawyer along with his father, Motilal Nehru who was one of the successful lawyers of India at that time.
Although, unlike his father, Nehru didn’t do well in bar. Because, destiny had planned something else for him.
At the age of twenty six, Jawaharlal Nehru married to Kamala Nehru. The marriage ceremony took place in New Delhi in 1916.
Entry into a new world:-
When Nehru came to India from Britain at that time he wasn’t aware about the diversity and what was the life of a common man and peasants alike in India.
He was a shy man who was afraid when it comes to public speaking. In fact, during his early twenties he found himself much closer to an Englishman instead of his own people.
Although, he joined the Indian Home Rule leagues which was started by Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak and Mrs Annie Besant. But, still he had no idea about the rest of his country.
But, as they say that Good things take time. And Nehru evolved with time. Within a short span of time he not only realised the strength of Hindustan but he also imbibed within himself the best of India.
Non cooperation movement and the struggle for an independent India-
The Non cooperation movement ( 1920-22) which was Mahatma Gandhi’s first all India movement was also joined by the Jawaharlal Nehru and his father, Motilal Nehru.
It was during the Non cooperation movement that the father and the son duo went to the gaol for the first time in their life.
But, Jawaharlal Nehru was bewildered when out of the blue in 1922, Gandhiji abruptly decided to call off the movement because of the Chauri Chaura incident.
Although, after the end of his jail term, Nehru plunged himself with the peasants of the United Province (now Uttar Pradesh). And he worked tirelessly with them.
In fact, it was because of the peasants of India, Nehru not only overcame his shyness but with time he became one of the greatest orator of his time.
During the mid 1920s Nehru also visited Europe and he was greatly impressed by the features of Socialism and the achievements of the Soviet Union.
In fact, his detractors used to call him a hidden communist. Although, he himself said that he find himself more close to socialism and communism but he was not a communist.
Nehru and the Purna Swaraj resolution:-
Prior to 1929, the Goal of the Indian National Congress (INC) was to attain a dominion status within the British Empire. But, People like Nehru always wanted that Congress should declare that complete independence was their aim.
And this was declared in the historic Lahore session of the Congress in 1929. Jawaharlal Nehru played a leading role in that session. He was the Congress president of that year.
And it was under his presidentship and with the blessings of Gandhiji that the Purna Swaraj (or Complete Independence) resolution was passed by the Congress in Lahore in 1929.
It was decided that 26 January would be considered as the Independence day. And the first Independence Day was celebrated with pomp throughout India on 26 January 1930.
26 January and its significance for India-
As we are talking about this special date. Let me tell you one more thing related to this date.
Though, India gained its Independence on 15 August 1947, but the freedom fighters were aware that originally they’ve chosen 26 January as the day for the Independence. To commemorate this, 26 January was chosen as the India’s Republic Day.
And on 26 January 1950, India’s constitution came into force.
I hope now you got the clarity that why we celebrate India’s Republic Day on 26th of January every year and its historical significance.
The Salt Satyagraha and back to Gaol-
As Nehru was learning about his motherland and the world, his mentor, Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch another movement against the British India government.
Gandhiji always acted on his instincts. Even, Pandit Nehru has mentioned about this habit of Mahatma Gandhi several times in his autobiography.
In 1930, The Civil Disobedience Movement Or the Salt Satyagraha (or The Dandi March) was launched in a very ingenuous way by Mahatma Gandhi.
In this Satyagraha, not only Jawaharlal Nehru but his whole family participated. His sisters and wife were jailed. He himself went again to the gaol along with all the stalwarts of the Indian National Congress.
During the Civil disobedience Movement, the British Raj demolished all the opposition with a brute force. The Indian National Congress was declared as an illegal organization. And the jails were filled with the members of the Indian national Congress.
But, even after jailing all the leaders of the Congress the British knew that they can’t ignore the leaders of the Congress for long.
Because, Congress was the only organization which in reality represents the people of India.
So, in March 1931,The Delhi Pact Or the Gandhi-Irwin pact was signed between Mahatma Gandhi and the then Viceroy of British India, Lord Irwin.
As of this pact all the leaders who were jailed during the Civil disobedience Movement was released and Gandhiji went to England to attend the Second round table conference as the sole representative of the Indian national Congress.
Although, Nehru was released but he was aware about the tricks which the British government was using to delay the Indian Independence.
In between all of this, Nehru lost his father. And his wife Kamala Nehru was also ill and weak.
In fact, within a span of few years Kamala Nehru died in Switzerland because of her sickness. And Nehru dedicated his autobiography to his beloved wife, Kamala.
When Gandhiji came back to India from the second round table conference, the mood of India was very dull.
Although, out of the three round table conferences, Gandhiji attended only one as the representative of the Congress party. But he and the other leaders realised that how the British showed in front of the world that how divided the Indians were.
The fissures were clearly visible in that conference. The policy of Divide-and-Rule was at its best displayed by the British.
Even before Gandhiji landed on India from England, Nehru realised that sooner or later he will be arrested again on one pretext or the other.
In fact, this autobiography of his was written by him in prison between 1934 and 1935.
Although, he was jailed several times by the British government but he didn’t show any bitterness towards the British. Because, he himself said several times that his fight was against the British imperialism and not against the British race as such.
In fact, Nehru talked about the prison life and how the Prisoners were treated. He spent a good amount of time in jail. In total he spent more than ten years in gaol for India’s freedom.
Walking towards freedom and a Democratic India:-
Elections were conducted in 1936 for the provincial assemblies in the eleven provinces of British India.
The Indian national Congress outperformed in that elections. They not only formed the government in eight provinces of British India but they also shut down the mouth of those communal forces who were trying to divide India.
Although, during the World War II, the Congress ministries resigned against the decision of the Viceroy who without consulting the Congress joined the Allied forces and plunged India and its people in the disastrous war.
For the communal forces World War II was like the blessing in disguise. The British not only jailed all the leaders of the Congress including Gandhiji and Nehru. But, they also started encouraging the same communal people for their heinous agenda.
When the war ended the financial capabilities and the strength of the British Empire was also showed weakness. And they also realised that can’t withhold India and its people forever.
The psychological triumph because of which the British ruled over India for almost 150 years was also started declining after the war.
And in 1946, elections were conducted again. This was the last elections of a United India.This time also Congress did well but the Muslims league also scored well especially in the the Muslim dominated areas of British India.
The seed of division which was sowed by the British born its fruit when it was decided to divide India on the basis of religion.
And on 3 June 1947, India was Partitioned.
Although, India gained its freedom on 15th August 1947. But, Nehru who was at the forefront for India’s freedom was busy along with his colleagues to prepare a bright future for his beloved country.
Jawaharlal Nehru and afterwards-
What Jawaharlal Nehru and the great freedom fighters of India did for this country can’t be expressed through words.
One has to feel and observe it. Look at the map of the Indian subcontinent. Just give me your few more seconds and look at the map.
When you observe it closely then you realise what Nehru had done for India.
India is the only successful democracy in the entire subcontinent. Look at the neighbouring countries of India.
In the Northwest of India, you will come across nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan. The former is in ruins and the latter is ruled by the Military generals.
In the North of India, you will see, China. A totalitarian state.
In the Northeast of India, we have nations like Myanmar and Bangladesh. Both of these countries have had been ruled by the Military. In fact, in Myanmar, the Junta is in power.
In the South of India, we have, Sri Lanka. A democratic nation which is trying to get over from the scars of its brutal civil war.
In the midst of this chaos, you will find, the world’s largest democracy, India.
Name any religion and you will find the people of that religion living in India peacefully.
Be it Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and even Atheism are present in India.
When Nehru became India’s first democratically elected Prime Minister he was aware about the diversity of his country that’s why instead of focusing on religious institutions or creating division in society in the name of God he concentrated his entire energy on building the temples of modern India.
Institutions like IITs (Indian Institute of technology), AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), IIMs (Indian Institute of Management), Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) were the temples of modern India for Nehru.
Although, Nehru did some blunders during his prime ministership. Like, he blindly trusted China. He never initiated any kind of reforms in the Indian bureaucracy. He gave too much of importance to the creed of socialism. And most importantly he considered that no one is more intelligent than him.
But, Nehru strongly believed in these words of Voltaire-
“I disagree absolutely with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
This is the best gift which he gave to India and Indians. Freedom of thoughts. Freedom of speech and writing. He never labelled his opponents as anti this or that.
In fact, in his first cabinet he made his political opponents Cabinet Ministers. For example, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, The Founder of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS) was made as Independent India’s first Minister of industries and Supplies.
Only a patriot can do this. And those who have myopic views towards life and people will only lay the blame of their mistakes either on their opponents or a foreign nation.
The strong foundation on which India rest today was laid by the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.
And it’s the responsibility of every Indian patriot to not only strengthen that foundation but also to strongly oppose those forces who are trying to divide people in the name of religion.
I’ll conclude with this bon mot-
‘A nation can only advance by reasoned acceptance of objectives and methods and not on blind obedience’.
I hope you like this, Thanks for reading, Jai Hind.
My Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)
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