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Mainstream, VOL L, No 29, July 7, 2012

Carrying Forward the Nehru Legacy

Tuesday 10 July 2012, by G. Parthasarthi



On July 7 this year falls Gopalaswami Parthasarathiˆs birth centenary. He was born in Madras on July 7, 1912. He came from a family noted for its intellectual contributions and public service. His father, N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, rose to high positions in the Provincial Civil Service of the Madras Presidency and later became the Prime Minister of Kashmir (1882-1953). GP, as Gopalaswami Parthasarathi was known to one and all, himself became a legendary diplomat and negotiator who left an indelible imprint on the efforts to resolve various complex problems of our times both at home and abroad. His self-effacing character stands out in today’s atmosphere where pygmies try to gain prominence through self-advertisement. His outstanding role as an academician and media specialist is also unforgettable. He passed away in New Delhi on August 1, 1995. On this occasion we offer our sincere homage to that remarkable personality by reproducing an article published in this journal’s 1994 Annual Number based on GP’s speech delivered as the former Vice-Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi at the Silver Jubilee function of the JNU on November 14, 1994. We also carry two of the tributes
published in Mainstream (August 12, 1995) following GP’s demise.)]

Though it is twentyfive years and more since I was associated with this University, I have kept track of its work and am happy to note the progress it has made in fulfilling the objectives set out for it by Parliament.

It has to be remembered that the University was conceived as a memorial to the life and thought of Jawaharlal Nehru. He attached a great deal of importance to the role of education in shaping the destiny of the nation. He believed that poverty and ignorance were the consequence as well as the perpetuating cause of injustice, oppression and inequality; and that it was through education and economic change that the disadvantaged masses could be rescued from vulnerability of economic exploitation and use of religious sentiment by vested interests.

Panditji sought to nurture a lofty vision by offering our people the excitement and adventure of a hard life if they would involve themselves in “working for India, building India, creating things here…”

While there were doubters and waverers, our people, by and large, were uplifted by the vision he inspired and responded to his call for faith in the country’s future, for independence, for self-respect, and for self-reliance.

To prepare the people for a united effort at nation-building, Jawaharlal Nehru called upon them to contemplate the history of India, and to reflect on factors that had contributed to great achievements in certain periods, and to backwardness and stagnation in certain others.

He pointed out that our forefathers in ancient times had many great achievements to their credit because they looked on the world around them with clear eyes and positive goals. They kept “the window of their mind” open to give and take, and thereby reinforced their self-confidence to take on bigger tasks.
In contrast, when our people, for whatever reason, tended to develop a narrow outlook, India suffered a setback, politically and culturally.

His lifelong crusade for the propagation of secular values should be understood in this context. He believed that the pace of nation-building—indeed the well-being and the emotional integration of the nation itself—would depend on the extent to which our people got imbued with secular values.

LET me cite to you what Jawaharlal Nehru had written about his concept of secularism.

We call our State a secular one. The word ‘secular’ perhaps is not a very happy one. And yet, for want of a better, we have used it. It does not mean a State where religion as such is discouraged. It means freedom of religion and conscience including freedom for those who may have no religion.

He went on to add:

The world ‘secular’, however, conveys some-thing much more to me although that might not be its dictionary meaning. It conveys the idea of social and political equality. Thus a caste-ridden society is not properly secular.

I have long been of the view that Nehru’s elevated concept of secularism as an equitable and humane social order in which persons professing different faiths live in fraternal amity, marks a significant step forward in India’s intellectual heritage.
It is not necessary to dwell on the innovative academic programmes that have been worked out by the University in consonance with the statutes, and as a result of intensive consultations with the best minds in the nation Pioneering research has been done by the faculty and students have been encouraged to choose subjects of national and international importance. A succession of far-seeing Chancellors and imaginative Vice-Chancellors has given leadership in this respect. The all-India character of the University has been ensured by the careful choice of teachers and students with a commitment to society.

It has to be emphasised, however, that a University must always keep pace with the times, in consonance with changing needs. The Jawaharlal Nehru University cannot rest on its past achievements. Periodic reassessments of ongoing programmes and structures have to be carried out within the framework of its basic approach and ideals which are on sound lines.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University has built an ethos of its own and is being regarded as a pace-setter in developing programmes of study and research of high quality. I am sure that all those who are associated with the University will carry forward this legacy with great responsibility and dedication.

(Mainstream, Annual Number, November 26, 1994)

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