Jawaharlal Nehru Biography
Jawaharlal Nehru was independent India’s first Prime Minister, he assumed the office in 1947 and remained until his death in 1964. Nehru became the charismatic leader of the Indian National Movement under the guidance and leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He inherited the legacy of Indian national movement post Independence, and became a revered political figure in India after India gained independence. He is credited with shaping the modern Indian state on the principles of sovereignty, socialism, secularism, and democratic republicanism. A firm believer of Fabian socialism, the early years of development post-independence reflected Pandit Nehru’s inclination towards socialism. Being the son of a prominent Congress leader Motilal Nehru, Pandit Nehru as he was known across the country, was committed to the cause of the Indian national movement since his teenage years.
Jawaharlal Nehru went onto complete his higher education in Great Britain and returned to India as a barrister and initially practised in the Allahabad High Court, but soon he joined the Indian political scene under the guidance of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. By the 1920s, he became a prominent leader in the Congress and in 1929 he became the President of the Congress. During his tenure as the Congress President, Nehru brought in the Left-ward shift in the Congress and called for complete independence from the British rule. The Congress party came to dominate the political scenario in the 1930s and 1940s, and in 1947, India gained full independence from the British rule of the British after a partition between India and Pakistan, that witnessed one of the largest mass exodus on the subcontinent soil. Nehru was unanimously elected by the Congress party to head independent India’s first government, and assumed the office of the Prime Minister with a vision of secular nation-state.
He led the transformation of the modern Indian state with his progressive economic, political, and social reforms. In 1950, under his leadership, the Constitution of India was adopted and it made India a sovereign republic nation. He won successive elections with a landslide margin in 1951, 1957, and 1962, and remained a popular figure amongst the Indian masses until his death in 1964.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born in a Kashmiri Pandit family on 14 November, 1889, to a wealthy barrister and two time Congress President Motilal Nehru and Swaruprani Thussu. Being born into an aristocrat family, Nehru had a privileged upbringing. He completed his initial study at home by private tutors and governesses, Ferdinand T. Brooks, one Nehru’s private tutors, had a great influence on his interest in science and theosophy. At the age of thirteen, he was initiated into the Theosophical Society by Annie Besant, who was a family friend of the Nehru’s father Motilal Nehru. Few years later, Ferdinand departed as Nehru’s tutor, soon he got disassociated with the society but the learning of the society urged him to devout himself in the study of the Buddhist and Hindu Scriptures, that played an important role in developing Nehru’s interest in the Indian cultural and religious heritage. The learnings helped him to complete his intellectual mastery the “Discovery of India”.
Apart from the private tutoring, Nehru was sent to Harrow in 1905, a prominent school in England, to start his institutional schooling. During his schooling days in England, he was deeply influenced by the Historian and Academician George Macaulay Trevelyan’s books on Garibaldi. After completing his institutional schooling, Nehru joined Trinity College in Cambridge in 1907. He graduated in 1910, with an honors degree in Natural Science but apart from that he had to study politics, economics, history and literature without keen interest. The works of Meredith Townsend, Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, J.M. Keynes, Bertrand Russell, and Lowes Dickinson greatly influenced much of his political and economic intellect. He then moved to London, where he began his education in Law at Inner Temple Inn. In 1912, he completed his law and returned to India in August to begin his practice as an advocate in the Allahabad High Court. But he couldn’t continue after a few years, as he wasn’t too much interested in the profession like his father. Soon, Nehru’s interest in nationalist politics replaced his legal practice gradually, as he became more involved in the rising national movement against the British imperial rule.
The return to India of Nehru meant active participation in the political developments in the country, as he became interested in the national movement of home rule. During the Bankipore session of Congress, Nehru made his first appearance as a delegate in the session. The first World War broke out in 1916, Nehru volunteered for St. John Ambulance and called out the imperial government in India for the censorship acts. He was actively involved with the All India Home Rule League under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant, but joined Home Rule league because of the influence of the former on Nehru’s childhood.The period was marked with a transition in the functioning of the Congress party, as earlier the party was known for its moderate approach to India’s freedom movement. After Nehru’s active involvement in the party and with other anti-Moderate leaders like Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, there was strong resentment among them against the working methods of the moderates in the Congress. The adoption of the Lucknow Pact during the annual Congress meet in December 1916, which saw Muslim League joining the Congress, brought about a subsequent radical change in the Indian politics.
Soon, Nehru became a prominent figure in the party, as the extremist forces had taken on the mantle from the moderate predecessors. The Non-cooperation movement launched in 1920 was Nehru’s first big involvement at the national stage, however, the movement was called off after the Chauri Chaura incident. The 1920s marked a shift in Congress’ approach, as moderate leaders such as Motilal Nehru and C R Das formed Swaraj Party. Jawaharlal Nehru opted against joining his father’s party and remained loyal to the Congress and its cause. In 1929, the Congress adopted Purna Swaraj or complete independence from the colonial rule of the British empire rejecting the dominion status that the Britishers were willing to grant.
The call for Purna Swaraj echoed far and wide across the world, and the Congress called for January 26, 1930, to be observed as Independence Day. The tri-color was hoisted in several areas across the country by Congress leaders, volunteers, and nationalists. The 1930s saw several important movements that pressurised the imperial government in India to consider the demands put forward by the Indian national movement leaders. The period was marked with Nehru’s rise as a leader not only in India but at the global level, India’s national movement was gaining international recognition and support. During this period Civil Disobedience movement was launched against the British government’s decision to tax the salt, the Salt Satyagraha was launched across the country to break the law on salt. The Civil Disobedience movement was a direct challenge to the British authority since the days of Non-cooperation movement. Nehru led the charge of the movement in Allahabad before he was arrested by the British officials. During the 1930s, Nehru worked closely with another young leader in Subhas Chandra Bose. Both played an instrumental role in developing healthy relations with the governments of independent countries from around the world. But, the two parted ways, as Bose was willing to seek help from the fascists regimes in Europe to drive out British imperial forces, while Nehru lent his support to the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, who were up against the forces of General Francisco Franco.
In the 1940s, Indian national movement was at its peak, as it was economically and politically difficult for the British throne to continue with its rule on the subcontinent. The break out of the Second World War, the ruins it brought to the European economy culminated in British government obliging to the demands of complete independence by various colonies including India. In 1942, Congress launched the Quit India movement demanding a complete end to the British rule in India. Nehru played an important role during the movement as the Congress under him was willing to co-operate with the British government only on certain conditions, such as Britain should assure that after World War ends India will be granted full independence. In 1945, the war ended with USA bombing the Japanese city’s of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, it took two years for the British government to finally transfer the power to Indian authorities, and on August 15, 1947, India was declared independent. Jawaharlal Nehru became the unopposed candidate for the office of Prime Minister, thus, becoming independent India’s first Prime Minister.
On the midnight of August 15, 1947, Nehru delivered his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech while addressing the Parliamentary assembly gathered to mark India’s independence from the British rule. The Congress party and Nehru inherited the legacy of Indian national movement and became a dominant force in the early Indian politics. Nehru and Sardar Patel together integrated several Princely States into the union of India. In some places the states were willingly acceding to Indian state, while in some instances the Indian government had to use force as a means to integrate territories with India. A Constituent Assembly was formed and was chaired by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the constituent assembly was given the task to formulate a Constitution for India. On December 26, 1949, the draft constitution was adopted by the assembly and came into force on January 26, 1950, making India a sovereign democratic republic. In 1952, first democratic elections with Universal Adult Suffrage were held in India, Congress under Nehru emerged with a comprehensive majority. In the successive elections in 1957, Congress once again emerged victorious, although the party had lost some ground compared to its previous performance. Jawaharlal Nehru led Congress to its third consecutive victory in the 1962 elections, although, the leader and party were struggling during the period, while the popularity of the party and its charismatic leader was fast eroding. Pandit Nehru initiated several reforms to transform the Indian economy that was still reeling under the ruin brought upon by the imperial rule of Britain. Nehru who himself was an ardent believer in the socialist economy, brought a mixed economy system in India, where the major industries were owned by the government while co-existing with private sector. The socio-political reforms of Nehru brought stability to India.
Nehru and NAM
Jawaharlal Nehru was vocal for the freedom of colonies and he always advised that the newly independent nation-states should refrain from joining the power blocs that emerged after the end of the Second World War. He felt that newly independent nations should come together instead of becoming a part of the Eastern or Western bloc. Joining the superpowers will hinder the growth of the countries, as the nation-states will remain dependent on the superpowers just like the colonies were under the colonisers. Jawaharlal Nehru along with Josip Broz Tito of Socialist Yugoslavia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Sukarno of Indonesia laid the foundation for the Non-Alignment Movement. NAM played a crucial role during the Cold War period, which saw the rise rise of two power blocs, the Western bloc was led by the USA, while on the other hand, Easter Bloc was led by the USSR. With time, several other newly independent nations joined the movement, as it was really important to protect territorial integrity and sovereignty of the newly independent nations. NAM played an influential role on India’s foreign policies, they were shaped in a way that adhered to the principles of NAM.
Till now Pandit Nehru remains to be the longest serving Prime Minister of India. Being the first Prime Minister of India, Nehru played an instrumental role in shaping the modern India after the ruins brought upon the country by the Britishers. From developing core industries to emphasising on the need for world class education facilities, Nehru paid due attention to all the sectors of the country. It was no way an easy task to rule one of the most populous countries in the world at that time and with the emotional baggage of the partition, Nehru united the country and brought the world’s largest democracy on the right path of development.