July 15 1955 - Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Is Honoured with the Bharat Ratna

On July 15th 1955, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, was awarded the Bharat Ratna (India’s highest civilian honour) by then President Rajendra Prasad.


Pandit Nehru is remembered not only as India’s first Prime Minister, but also as India’s most charismatic leader who was greatly admired, not only in India, but across the globe, for his idealism and statesmanship. Nehru is believed to have given Indians an image of themselves which no other leader had succeeded in doing. Nehru invested a lot of his energy into the emancipation of children and the youth, who he believed to be the future of the country. Nehru was fondly known as Chacha Nehru by young children and his birthday (November 14th) is celebrated as Children’s Day across India.


Jawaharlala Nehru played a great role in moulding the policies and ideology of the Congress party and till today remains a popular icon of the party.  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was born on November 14th 1889 in Allahabad to Motilal Nehru, an affluent barrister and Swarupini Thussu. Nehru grew up in a privileged home and went on to Trinity College, Cambridge for further education in 1907, from where he graduated with an honours degree. After gaining his degree, Nehru lived in London for a few years where he studied law and was admitted to the English bar in 1912.


By 1912, Nehru returned to India and became an advocate in the Allahabad High Court, where he was working as a barrister, though he was not entirely interested in practicing law. While he was in Britain, Nehru had developed a healthy interest in Indian politics and eventually joined the Congress party to support the Indian Civil Rights movement in South Africa. Nehru assisted in collecting funds for the Civil Rights campaigners led by Mahatma Gandhi. He also took part in movements against the discrimination of Indians in British colonies.


By 1919, Nehru was an intrinsic part of the Indian National Congress which was fighting for freedom from British rule. Nehru drew immense inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and his policy of non-violence and was imprisoned many times during the 1920s and 1930s by the British on charges of civil disobedience. By 1928, Nehru had been elected the president of the Congress party.


Soon, Nehru was being looked at as a successor of Gandhi and was at the center of the negotiations for Independence with the British. He also opposed the creation of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan by the leader of the All India Muslim League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, even though the nation was ultimately divided into India and Pakistan.


On August 15th 1947, Nehru became the first Prime Minister of Independent India and served the position until his death in May 1964. Nehru is applauded for introducing India to socialist economic reforms and ushering in an era of industrialization. Nehru served in various positions in the Indian cabinet and handled portfolios such as the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Finance.


During the Cold War, Nehru maintained a “positive neutrality” for India and became a popular agent for the non-aligned Asian and African countries, most of which were former colonies and wanted to avoid being dependent on any major world power.


Indo-Chinese border tension broke out in 1962, which led to India’s defeat, which is also believed to be one of the causes that led to the decline of Nehru’s health. He died shortly after on May 27th 1964.


Jawahalal Nehru has left behind a strong legacy in India and many memorials have been built for him, along with many colleges and universities which have been named after him, including the famous Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Nehru is also remembered for his preferred style of clothing and has lent his name to garments such as the Nehru jacket and the Nehru cap, still worn by many politicians.


Many documentaries have been made on the life of Nehru and he has been portrayed in many films, such as Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, Sardar, Shyam Benegal’s TV series, Bharat Ek Khoj and The Last Days of the Raj. Apart from this, Nehru had penned many books, such as The Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History and his autobiography, Toward Freedom.


Also On This Day:


1783: Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, great Indian merchant, industrialist and philanthrophist, is born in Bombay


1903: Kumaraswamy Kamraj, great freedom fighter, social reformer, political leader is born in a trading family at Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu.


1997: Mahesh Chandra Mehta, environmental activist, wins the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

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