Mainstream, VOL LIII No 47 New Delhi, November 14, 2015
Nehru for Today
excerpts from Nehru’s speeches and writings that are of exceptional relevance today
Monday 16 November 2015, by
Jawaharlal Nehru’s 126th birth anniversary falls on November 14, 2015. On this occasion we are reproducing the following excerpts from Nehru’s speeches and writings that are of exceptional relevance today.
Before I am anxious about anything today, it is the communal spirit in India. Before I can deal with the communal spirit of Pakistan, I want to deal with the communal spirit in India, the communal spirit of the Hindus and Sikhs more than that of the Muslims. I want this House to realise that this spirit will stand in the way of our progress and weaken us. In the event of a war, we cannot fight the enemy if mischief is done behind our backs. No army can fight if its base is not strong. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that this wild and vague communal talk be put an end to at once. I am stressing this because people tend to express their great patriotism by cursing Pakistan and the Muslims. I want this House and this country to feel friendly to the people of Pakistan, because those poor people are not much to blame anyhow. What would you and I do in their place? If we had to read in the newspapers and hear on the radio stories full of falsehoods day in and day out, if we were enveloped in the atmosphere of fright and fury all the time, we might not behave very differently from them. It is not the fault of the people; but I do blame those who are responsible for all this. It is a heavy responsibility. It is not for me to say much about it. Anyhow, let us not create a feeling of ill-will for the common people there or for the country as a whole, because the feelings of hatred and violence weaken us.
[From a reply to the debate on the President’s Address to Parliament, New Delhi, August 11, 1951]
We talk about a secular state in India. It is perhaps not very easy even to find a good word in Hindi for ‘secular’. Some people think that it means something opposed to religion. That obviously is not correct. What it means is that it is a state which honours all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities; that, as a state, it does not allow itself to be attached to one faith or religion, which then becomes the state religion.
Where the great majority of the people in a state belong to one religion, this fact alone may colour, to some extent, the cultural climate of that state. But nevertheless the state, as a state, can remain independent of any particular religion.
In a sense, this is a more or less modern conception. India has a long history of religious tolerance. That is one aspect of a secular state, but it is not the whole of it. In a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism can be built up except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach must necessarily exclude a section of the population, and then nationalism itself will have a much more restricted meaning than it should possess. In India we would have then to consider Hindu nationalism, Muslim nationa-lism, Sikh nationalism or Christian nationalism and not Indian nationalism.
As a matter of fact, these narrow religious nationalisms are relics of a past age and are no longer relevant today. They represent a back-ward and out-of-date society. In the measure we have even today so-called communal troubles, we display our backwardness as social groups.
Our Constitution lays down that we are a secular state, but it must be admitted that this is not wholly reflected in our mass living and thinking. In a country like England, the state is, under the Constitution, allied to one particular religion, the Church of England, which is a sect of Christianity. Nevertheless, the state and the people there largely function in a secular way. Society, therefore, in England is more advanced in this respect than in India, even though our Constitution may be, in this matter, more advanced.
We have not only to live up to the ideals proclaimed in our Constitution, but make them a part of our thinking and living and thus build up a really integrated nation. That, I repeat, does not mean absence of religion, but putting religion on a different place from that of normal political and social life. Any other approach in India would mean the breaking up of India.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave has recently been saying that politics and religion are out-of-date. And yet we all know that Vinobaji is an intensely religious man. But his religion is not a narrow one. He has, therefore, added that the world today requires not that narrow religion or debased politics, but science and spirituality. Both these, at different levels, are uniting and broadening factors. Anything that unites and broadens our vision increases our stature and is good and creative. Anything that narrows our outlook and divides us is not good, because it prevents us from growing and keeps us in a groove.
Ultimately even nationalism will prove a narrowing creed, and we shall all be citizens of the world with a truly international vision. For the present, this may be beyond most peoples and most countries. For the us in India, we have to build a true nationalism, integrating the various parts and creeds and religions of our country, before we can launch out into real internationalism. Without the basis of a true nationalism, internationalism may be vague and amorphous, without any real meaning. But the nationalism that we build in India should have its doors and windows open to internatio-nalism.
[Foreword to Dharam Nirpeksh Raj by Raghunath Singh (1961)]
India is a country of many communities and unless we can live in harmony with each other, respecting each other’s beliefs and habits, we cannot build a great and united nation.
Ever since the distant past, it has been India’s proud privilege to live in harmony with each other. That has been the basis of India’s culture. Long ago, the Buddha taught us this lesson. From the days of Asoka, 2300 years ago, this aspect of our thought has been repeatedly declared and practised. In our own day, Mahatma Gandhi laid great stress on it and, indeed, lost his life because he laid great stress on communal goodwill and harmony. We have, therefore, a precious heritage to keep up, and we cannot allow ourselves to act contrary to it.
Pakistan came into existence on the basis of hatred and intolerance. We must not allow ourselves to react to this in the same way. That surely will be a defeat for us. We have to live up to our immemorial culture and try to win over those who are opposed to us. To compete with each other in hatred and barbarity is to sink below the human level and tarnish the name of our country and our people. One evil deed leads to another. Thus evil grows. That is not the way to stop these inhuman deeds. If we can behave with tolerance and friendship to each other, that surely will have its effect elsewhere. If not, this vicious circle will go one bringing sorrow and disaster to all of us and others.
It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we should realise our duty to all our country-men, whoever they might be. We must always remember that every Indian, to whatever religion he might belong, is a brother and must be treated as such.
I earnestly trust that our efforts will be directed towards creating communal harmony and that all our people, and especially our newspapers, will appreciate the grave dangers that are caused by communal conflict and disharmony. Let us all be careful in what we say or write which might create fear and conflict. Let us pull ourselves together and create an atmosphere of co-operation and work for the advancement of India and of all who live here as her sons. Thus only can we serve our motherland and help in making her great, united and strong. Jai Hind.
[A broadcast to the nation, March 26, 1964]