One of the stalwarts of the Nehru family, Motilal Nehru was born on 6 May 1861. He made his name as a popular Indian lawyer. Along with this, he was a prominent activist in the Indian Freedom Movement as well as a pioneer of the Indian National Congress. He became the President of the Congress party twice. Another thing that needs special mention is that Motilal Nehru is considered as the founder of the well known Nehru-Gandhi family. He died on 6 February 1931.
Birth, Childhood and Education
Motilal Nehru was born in a Kashmiri Brahmin family in Delhi. His parents were Gangadhar and Jeevarani. Motilal’s father had passed away by the time of his birth. Therefore, it was Nandalal, Motilal’s elder brother, who brought him up. Initially they resided in Khetri, which was then a part of princely state of Jaipur. Nandalal was a Diwan in the state. But he left the job after some time and started practicing law in Allahabad.
Motilal Nehru had a good education. He matriculated from Kanpur and then pursued his studies in the Muir Central College, Allahabad. The Western style of college education was not that common in those days; thus, Motilal was among the first generation of Hindus lucky enough to receive such education. However, he was not able to appear for the final B.A. exam. His interest in law made him take the law examination and he earned a ‘Bar at Law’ from the University of Cambridge. After passing the law examination in 1883, he started his law practice in Kanpur and then shifted to Allahabad.
Career and Professional Life
Motilal Nehru had a highly successful law practice. He bought a large house in the Civil Lines of Allahabad and named it Anand Bhavan. It was in 1909 when his career reached its zenith and he got the sanction of appearing in the Privy Council of Great Britain. He had to visit Europe several times and got influenced by the Western lifestyle greatly.
He was a part of the daily called The Leader from Allahabad and also the first Chairman of the same. He was also in the main Board of Directors. In 1919, he started his own daily known as The Independent.
Motilal Nehru’s ideologies regarding the British rule got shattered after the Jalianwala Bagh tragedy of Amritsar in 1919. Along with this, Mahatma Gandhi had a great impact on the life and beliefs of Motilal Nehru. It was Gandhiji who made him realise the importance of ‘Swadeshi’, which Motilal adopted fervently. After the heinous incident of Jalianwala Bagh, the Congress appointed an inquiry commission and Motilal Nehru along with Mahatma Gandhi and Chittaranjan Das were its main members. In 1919, Motilal became the President of the Indian National Congress. He was also closely involved in the Non-Cooperation Movement. Though he was quite close to Gandhiji, he openly criticized Gandhiji’s suspension of civil resistance in the year 1922.
The founding of Swaraj Party in 1923 with Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was an important event in the Indian Independence history. Motilal Nehru became the Secretary as well as the President of the Swaraj Party and won the elections to become the leader of the opposition in the Central Legislative Assembly. He opposed the decisions of the British rule vehemently.
In 1926-27, the issue of conferring full Dominion status to India came up but was rejected by the Assembly. After this Motilal returned to the Congress and was elected its President in 1928 for the second time.
Jawaharlal Nehru – Motilal’s Son
With the entry of Jawaharlal Nehru, Motilal’s well educated and glamorous son, a new chapter in Indian history was added. He entered politics in 1916. In 1929, Motilal handed over his presidency to his son. Gandhiji backed the decision and it became a historical event for India.
It was in 1928 that the famous Nehru Commission came up and was chaired by Motilal Nehru. The commission was a counter to the Simon Commission. The commission mentioned that they wanted a dominion status for the country within the British Empire. Though the move was supported by Congress, majority of the Nationalists opposed the same and demanded complete independence.
End of political career and death
Motilal Nehru’s health worsened towards the end of his days. Though he was an integral part of the Satyagraha movement initiated by Gandhiji and was imprisoned for the same, he was released on account of ill-health. He breathed his last on 6 February 1931, leaving behind a great legacy of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty.
Also on this day
1894 – Kirpal Singh, Indian religious leader, was born
1915 – Kavi Pradeep, Indian poet and songwriter, was born
1983 – Sreesanth, Indian cricketer, was born
1976 – Ritwik Ghatak, Bangladeshi-Indian director and scriptwriter, died
2012 – Sharada Dwivedi, Indian historian and author, passed away