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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 47 New Delhi, November 14, 2015

The Importance and Centrality of Jawaharlal Nehru in Contemporary India

Monday 16 November 2015, by Anil Nauriya


Nehru’s India: Essays on the Maker of a Nation (ed. Nayantara Sahgal);Speaking Tiger Publishing Pvt Ltd, New Delhi; 2015; pages: 192; Rs 399.

This is an engaging and timely collection of eleven recently-written essays on Jawaharlal Nehru. The introductory essay is by Nayantara Sahgal who has since also triggered the effective and widespread campaign by distinguished writers, artists and others to return state-related awards in protest against the manner in which the state, state-controlled institutions and indivi-duals wielding state or representative power have been silent in the face of or even complicit in the creation in recent months of an atmos-phere that can bear some comparison with that which had accompanied the rise of fascism in Europe in the two decades before the Second World War.

If one scans the political landscape of India in the 20th century for a personality who was both a patriotic front-rank participant in the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi andsimultaneously sensitive to the need to oppose international fascism and its domestic Indian manifestations, that man was Jawaharlal Nehru. He has an obvious relevance for India and the world in the 21st century. As Acharya Narendra Deva, the doyen of Indian Marxist Socialism, had noted of Jawaharlal Nehru in an essay in 1946 : “There is no doubt that the personality of Gandhiji and the mass movement initiated by the Congress under his leadership attracted wide attention abroad and created an interest in Indian affairs, but it is also true that if the Congress had not under Jawaharlalji’s inspiration evinced an interest in world affairs and had expressed its keen desire to ally itself with the progressive forces of the world, the world would not have shown that abiding and deep interest which it has shown.... The fact that he has become today an international figure is symbolic of the realisation that he has won international recognition for India and the fact that he is an idol of the Indian masses is symbolic of the Congress having won the affection and loyalty of the masses. For, we must not forget that Jawaharlalji’s life and activities are indissolubly bound up with the Congress and that he has completely identified himself with it. There have been occasions when he has vitally differed from certain policies and decisions of the Congress, but when once a decision is taken, he has given his whole-hearted support to it.“1

It is not an accident that Nehru has become a hate-figure for Indian religious sectarianism and the related political majoritarian-sectaria-nism which goes together with it. This demonisation is referred to by the eminent journalist Inder Malhotra in his brief contri-bution to the volume. [Inder Malhotra, “If Nehru Did Not Exist”, in Sahgal (ed.) p. 63] There has been a systematic and venomous campaign against Nehru particularly from the early 1950s when Nehru led Parliament to carry out reforms in Hindu law.

In this context, there is an insightful comment on the Hindu law reform legislation of the 1950s by Hartosh Bal, the political editor of Caravan magazine and one of the contributors to the Sahgal volume: “Ambedkar quit the Cabinet well before they were passed .... But without Nehru none of these reforms would have ever become reality. Ambedkar on his own could not have taken on the Hindu Right.... Given this, it is ironical that today there are enough to speak for Ambedkar or for the Hindu Right, and very few for Nehru. The Congress doesn’t really count, his descendants who shaped India after him may be his genetic kin but they shared no kinship of the mind.” [Hartosh Bal, “The Truth-teller” in Sahgal (ed.), p. 150] One of the few contemporary non-Congress leaders to make a handsome acknowledgement of Nehru’s great contribution towards the Hindu law reform legislation of the 1950s was the late Socialist, Madhu Limaye.2

On the other aspects referred to by Bal, the fact certainly is that though the present-day Congress cannot entirely be separated from the legacy of the pre-freedom Indian National Congress, yet the former formation has distinct characteristics and must be organisationally distinguished from its historical predecessor. Moreover, with the current decline of the Congress, we need to remind ourselves that many of us outside that organisation are also legatees of the space created and occupied by Indian nationalism since 1885. This includes the political legacy of, for example, early Indian nationalists like Badruddin Tyabji, Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopal Krishna Gokhale and the social legacy of Mahadev Govind Ranade that had inspired both Gokhale and Gandhi.

The split in the Indian National Congress in 1969 and the dissolution eight years later of the Congress (O), with its merger into the newly-formed Janata Party in 1977, had the undesirable consequence that the entire Congress space came to be occupied by Mrs Indira Gandhi’s party, then known as Congress (I). It is this latter party which has in recent years been receding politically. In the circumstances, it should not have been difficult to foresee that unless those outside this party who still saw themselves as legatees of the Indian freedom struggle as represented by the pre-freedom Indian National Congress, organised themselves, the vacuum left by the decline of the Congress would inevitably be filled by other forces.

There was a wide range of issues that had engaged the pre-independence Indian nationa-lists—for example, from Dadabhai Naoroji to Romesh Chandra Dutt on the economic aspects; to Gandhi, Abbas Tyabji, Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das and Tagore on civil liberties questions arising especially out of the 1919 events and after and Asaf Ali’s inquiries on the NWFP and Bannu raids in 1938; to Narendra Deva and the language-related contradictions in the education system pointed out by the Education Committee headed by him in the United Provinces in 1938-39; to the Rashtriya Stree Sabha of the 1920s, Desh Sevika Sangh of the 1930s, Sarojini Naidu and socialists Kamladevi Chattopadhyaya, Rama Devi and Malati Choudhury on questions of the relation between nationalism and gender; to the entire legacy of constructive work associated with the freedom movement, as represented for example, by Thakkar Bapa, Kaka Kalelkar, Ginwala, Mithu Petit, Jugatram Dave, Khurshed Naoroji, B.F. Bharucha, Bibi Amtu-ssalam, Perin Captain, Walunjkar, Zakir Husain, Asha Devi and Aryanayakam, and countless others.

The anti-Nehru space in India is populated not merely by Hindutva but also often by the epigones of Rammanohar Lohia. This seems to be a gap in the volume under review, except for a passing reference to Lohia’s politics in Kumar Ketkar’s contribution [Ketkar, “The Platonic Republican: Philosopher-Statesman”, Sahgal (ed.). p. 47]; so we will devote some attention to it. The answers that the latter-day Socialists in the Lohia years provided to some of the social, linguistic and cultural issues Lohia raised are not necessarily so complete or final that they cannot be re-thought.3 On other issues too, remaining confined to some of the post-independence Lohia-Nehru contr-oversies, especially of the 1960s and the thinking that emerged then, has constricted the intellectual growth of the socialist movement. A similar point was once made also by the late Kishan Patnaik in the socialist journal Janata in 1980.4 It is worth recalling here also that the late Surendra Mohan, in an introspective article written for Janata, had once pointed to the connection between the negativities in the Opposition politics of the late sixties and the negativities of the post-Shastri establishment.5

Another aspect of the matter is worth appreciating. The writings of Lohia and the politics of Lohia need, to some extent, to be distinguished as these are not necessarily congruent. Speaking generally, the writings of both Lohia and JP may be rated considerably higher than their politics—especially Lohia’s politics in the 1960s and JP’s in the 1970s. [Incidentally, this is the reverse of what is true in the case of Mahatma Gandhi whose praxis would often race ahead of his writings, phenomenal though these themselves were; Gandhi himself recognised this when he said that his writings could be burnt for all he cared and that it was his life that was his message; in the same vein, Nehru too had once observed how much greater Gandhi was than his “little books”.]

Every movement requires periodic renewal; its dominant doctrines and practices need to be reconsidered in the light of experience. Nitish Kumar’s break with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar would, it may at least be hoped, also help initiate a renewal of this kind. The political alliances Lohia forged and also the thinking associated with these alliances certainly need to be re-thought in the light of subsequent experience and also the changed circumstances in which the Congress is no longer the force that it used to be. The Socialist alliance with the Jana Sangh in the run-up to the General Elections of 1967 had opened the route to further such unthinking linkages by Jayaprakash Narayan in the mid-1970s and by V.P. Singh in the late 1980s. The remedies sought by Lohia, JP and V.P. Singh, and especially the manner in which these were sought, may have proved worse than the disease. Few precautions were taken by them in the forging of their strategies and no adequate steps taken for the ideological training of cadres. Even if such precautions had been taken, it should have been obvious that aligning with reactionary forces, whether tacitly or otherwise, would have long-term deleterious ramifications for the country.

The caste-based political formations that have come to the fore in recent years need to nuance their approaches; religious sectarianism can perhaps be obstructed but not wholly countered through caste-centric politics at the national level. Caste is relevant as a social reality whose influence one must seek to reduce and counter-act; it is also relevant as a basis for hostile discrimination which one must seek to eliminate. Caste cannot become an organising principle in itself since such mobilisation is both intellectually and practically self-defeating.6 In an introspective article some decades ago, the late Kishan Patnaik had also deprecated attempts made by Socialists “to bolster the middle caste lobbies for electoral power politics”.7 Narendra Deva’s early insight that the institution of caste is essentially anti-democratic remains relevant.

In the pursuit of democracy too, we must not remain confined to the civil liberties frame-work which tends toward a pre-occupation with constitutional and legal transgressions like the Emergency, while often neglecting the social changes that underpin such phenomena across the political spectrum and also developments like the growth of fascist tendencies that sometimes flank and skirt these phenomena.

Contemporary India must positively re-engage with the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru in his role as a great fighter for Indian freedom and connect with him just as, say, the founders of the Congress Socialist party had. The founders of the Socialist movement did not see themselves as being apart from Nehru. Narendra Deva, in his presidential address at the first session of the of the All-India Congress Socialist Conference at Patna on May 17, 1934, had in his opening words referred to Nehru in the following terms: “My task is made all the more difficult by the absence of our beloved friend, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose absence today we all so keenly feel and whose valuable advice and guidance would have been of immense value to us on this occasion”. Twelve years later, Narendra Deva wrote a perceptive appraisal of Nehru. Narendra Deva recognised that “Jawaharlalji took great interest in class-organisation. He was elected President of the All-India Trade Union Congress in the year 1929 and it has been his constant endeavour to make the Congress interest itself in the economic struggles of the workers. He tried to bring economic questions to the forefront. The resolution of Fundamental Rights passed at the Karachi Congress in 1931 was his contribution. His activities brought about a general radicalisation of political thought in the country.”8

So far as the State was concerned, Nehru was committed to its religious neutrality as postulated by the Karachi resolution of 1931 which he had taken the lead in drafting. As Narendra Deva points out, this resolution was Nehru’s “contribution”.9 On Nehru’s personal attitude toward religion, Narendra Deva had reflected: “Religion in its institutional form is repugnant to him as it is the bulwark of reaction and the defender of status quo. Its function in society has been to make social inequalities less irksome to the lower classes. But he has no quarrel with that purer form of religious faith which inspires the conduct of individuals. He, however, believes in ethical social conduct and has a deep sense of human values.”10 So far as the State was concerned, Nehru was committed to its religious neutrality as postu-lated by the Karachi resolution of 1931.

It was Nehru who, as the Congress President in 1936, had re-organised the Congress headquarters and introduced an internationalist perspective into it. Nearly 40 years younger to Gandhi and some 19 years to Nehru, Rammanohar Lohia wrote to the latter on May 23, 1946: “....please don’t forget that you and another have influenced men like me so much that there never has been a place for a third nor ever shall be.” A photocopy of Lohia’s letter to Nehru was published by the socialist Bhola Chatterji (1922-1992) in an article in Sunday magazine some decades ago.

The socialist leader and intellectual, Madhu Limaye, who was close to Lohia and nearly three decades younger than Nehru, was conscious of the need “to take an objective view and keep out my personal likes and dislikes, prejudices and predilections”; he refers to Jawaharlalji as the “uncompromising sentinel of Independence” and acknowledges that he “gave a new orientation to (the) Congress policy and programme”; and that “he championed the cause of the peasantry” and “took up the case of the workers working in mines and the factories who were being treated as slaves”.

Jawaharlal Nehru is an intrinsic part of the legacy of Indian freedom; no contemporary Indian politics that seeks to take India forward can be defined by excluding him. On inter-communal questions, which have a bearing on the very definition of India, Nehru’s record is par excellence and second only to that of Mahatma Gandhi.

The intelligentsia must re-engage positively also with Jawaharlal Nehru as the builder of post-independence India. It was Nehru who got the Congress committed to a socialistic pattern of society in its session at Avadi in 1955. The building up of the public sector enabled India for long to hold its own in a world that various international powers sought to bend to their own image. One of the contributors to the Sahgal volume has referred to Nehru’s tendency to “lecturing the West”. [Aakar Patel, “The Many Faces of Jawaharlal” in Sahgal (ed.) p. 159] Many writers in India and abroad often refer to this but easily forget that the “lectures” may not have been entirely unnecessary. Stupendous efforts were made under Nehru to reduce India’s external dependence on oil. How vital this effort was may be gauged from the lengths to which Western powers went in opposing similar Iranian efforts under Prime Minister Mossadegh against whom a successful coup was organised in the 1950s. (This latter story has been documented by Christopher de Bellaigue in his recent book, Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Very British Coup.)11 The building up of an independent public sector tradition had other ramifications as well. The emphasis on research and development, 90 per cent of which was done in the public sector, induced a tradition of self-reliance, partly squandered by later regimes. In the case of drugs, this tradition has enabled Indian firms today to be prime suppliers of relatively low-priced vital medication to countries with similar problems as ours, such as countries in Africa. The social scientist, Shiv Vishwanathan, belonging to a family with many scientists, refers in his contribution to Nehru’s emphasis on science and technology: “Talking science meant talking Nehru....”.[Shiv Visvanathan, “A Tryst with Nehru”, in Sahgal (ed.) p. 93] The focus on science is emphasised also by the editor of the volume, in her introduction. [Nayantara Sahgal, “Introduction: Nehru’s India : In Context”, Sahgal (ed.), p. 13] Both Sahgal and Visvanathan note how the famous scientist, J.B.S. Haldane, moved to India in the aftermath of the Suez events, saying of his Indian environment in 1956: “One has the iabsolute impression of being in a highly civilised community... I feel far more at home there than I do in some European and most American cities.” [Quoted by Nayantara Sahgal, Idem]

An important point Visvanathan makes, even if it embodies only part of the truth, is that “the very people we thought of as Nehruvian destroyed Nehru”. [Visvanathan in Sahgal (ed.). p. 100] One need not squawk at the question whether Nehru has, in fact, been destroyed even if any government that deviates very greatly from the basic structure of the foreign policy and domestic institutions that emerged under Nehru’s auspices soon finds itself in stormy waters. One may abandon words like socialism and non-alignment but one cannot do away with a mixed economy or a middle-of-the road foreign policy, name these what you may please. That lumpen elements entered the Congress, especially in the years of the ascendancy of Indira Gandhi’s younger son, is quite probable. There was even a rapprochement of sorts at least at the Youth Congress level and the RSS, post the Turkman Gate incident of April 1976. This connection had deepened, even if the younger son had by then passed away in a tragic accident, by the time of the municipal and Metropolitan Council elections in Delhi in 1982-83 in which the RSS is supposed to have backed many Congress candidates. By the time the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom occurred in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the infiltration must have been substantial. There are understood to have been an appreciable number of FIRs, not merely against individuals from the Congress, but also reportedly against some RSS persons for their involvement in the 1984 pogrom. But not much is heard of these in the media; a very useful talking-point would perhaps be lost to Hindutva if the matter were actually and systematically pursued. The writer and critic, Kiran Nagarkar, has a well-deserved critique of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in connection with the 1984 killings. [Nagarkar, “My Quotidian Companion”, in Sahgal (ed.), p. 181] The role of the more experienced Home Minister at the time also perhaps requires critical scrutiny in this context. He focuses also on Kashmir as a source of tension between India and Pakistan but refers mainly to the post-Nehru phase.[ Sahgal (ed.), p. 171] Rakesh Batabyal seems to underscore Nehru’s sense of moderation when he mentions the 1947 war in Kashmir to make the point that Britain’s complicating role in those events nevertheless did not provoke Nehru into spurning the Commonwealth itself. [Rakesh Batabyal, “Nehru: The Home Maker”, in Sahgal (ed.), pp. 112-113] A fresh perspective on Nehru in the context of these events in Kashmir, more positive than the prevailing narratives, emerged a few years ago with Chandrasekhar Dasgupta’s work which is also referred to by Batabyal.12

The economic historian, Aditya Mukherjee, and Mridula Mukherjee, historian of India’s freedom movement, in their essay have done well to take on “the neo-colonial scholars like Tirthankar Roy and Meghnad Desai, to dismiss or run down the economic achievements of the Nehruvian era”. [Aditya Mukherjee and Mridula Mukherjee, “The Indian Economy in the Nehru Era” in Sahgal (ed.), pp. 66-67] In particular, Meghnad Desai, the economist and UK Lord, has been a prolific supporter of the post-2014 dispensation in India which nurtures strong anti-Nehru allergies. I have my own bones to pick with Desai’s compulsive forays into some desultory history writing, but this is not the place for it. In his own essay Mani Shankar Aiyar rightly laments the abandonment of the Planning Commission and the planning process, currently a major bogey in the anti-Nehruvian onslaught. [Mani Shankar Aiyar, “Interpreting Nehru in the 21st Century”, in Sahgal (ed.), p. 37]¨

Nehru respected Parliament and urged the judiciary, nurtured in colonial times, to recognise social concerns in a changing India. At least two rounds of land reform legislation, at the onset of the fifties and sixties, took place under Nehru’s leadership. The consequent constitutional amendments are referred to by historian Rakesh Batabyal in his contribution. [Rakesh Batabyal, “Nehru: The Home Maker”, in Sahgal (ed.), p. 119] The breaking of “the back of the over 150-year-old zamindari system” within a democratic framework is referred to by the Mukherjees in their essay [Sahgal (ed.), p. 75] The Mukherjees cite Daniel Thorner who had devoted much of his life to studying Indian land and agriculture: “It is sometimes said that the (initial) Five Year Plans neglected agriculture. This charge cannot be taken seriously. The facts are that in India’s first twenty-one years of independence more has been done to foster change in agriculture and more change has actually taken place than in the preceding two hundred years.” [Sahgal (ed.), pp. 77-78]

It will be readily conceded, of course, that more could have been done and still needs to be done with regard to irrigation, proper land and water management and liberating diverse regions of India from the cycle of flood and drought.

Above all and in spite of the bitterness ensuing from the country’s partition in 1947, the Nehru dispensation maintained inter-communal peace, with the first major riot occurring only in the early sixties. The extent to which Nehru moulded the post-independence Congress may be gauged from remarks that Jayaprakash Narayan made in July 1964, a few weeks after Jawaharlalji’s death. JP was reported to have said that leaving the Congress in 1948 to form the Socialist Party was a mistake committed on account of “the wrong assessment of the character of the Congress”.13 According to JP, “(m)ost of his partymen thought at that time that the Congress would slowly develop into a conservative-cum-liberal party just like ‘what the Swatantra Party is today’. But history belied this assessment.”14 [Ironically, the then assessment may have provided an accurate description of the later post-Emergency Congress and especially towards the last two decades of the twentieth century.]

It is necessary energetically to counter the maligning and attempted discrediting of Gandhi and of Nehru by the Hindu Mahasabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the RSS and their associate organisations and supporters. This is dealt with well in his essay by Kumar Ketkar who also makes reference to the fact that Nehru too was in line for assassination [Ketkar, “The Platonic Republican: Philosopher-Statesman”, Sahgal (ed.), pp. 43-61] Mahatma Gandhi’s biographer, Pyarelal, has also mentioned this. The vilification tendency has now been in evidence for several decades; but it has lately assumed a virulent character. The direct attacks on Gandhi which used to be made by the RSS (and, I would add, its later associates in the Jana Sangh days) since Gandhi was, as Ketkar puts it, “their direct enemy” as the Mahatma did not disclaim Hinduism and “occupied the socio-cultural political space which they believed was theirs”.[Ketkar in Sahgal (ed.), at p. 44 and p. 46] In addition, in Ketkar’s words, “Gandhiji’s advocacy of ‘Ishwar-Allah tera naam’ stood in direct opposition to their idea of Hindu and Muslim communities. The Mahatma’s appeal to remove hatred from hearts and minds, and to love all humanity, including Muslims and Christians, was a direct challenge to their social philosophy. To their dismay and disgust, the Congress under Gandhiji had won the people’s hearts and had a pan-Indian and international following. There was no chance or possibility to remove Gandhiji from that political space except by way of killing him.” [Ketkar in Sahgal (ed.), at p. 46] That is why, as Ketkar points out, attempts to assassinate Gandhi preceded partition. In fact, as the post-assassination direct attacks on Gandhi have proved ineffective for their purposes, these have been replaced with more subtle strategies that would seek to invoke Gandhi for such matters as cleaning-up while ignoring his pluralism and mocking his humanism. The direct attacks are now made mainly by the Mahasabha and its related organisations which have sought even to glorify Gandhi’s assassins. That blame for partition itself was conveniently and hypocritically attached by Hindutva on to Gandhi (and Nehru) would emerge from Aiyar’s essay in which attention is drawn to the politics of the Hindu Mahasabha’s Savarkar who had “publicly endorsed Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory in a speech in Nagpur on August 15, 1943”. [Mani Shankar Aiyar, “Interpreting Nehru in the 21st Century”, in Sahgal (ed.), p. 31]15

The differing responses of Nehru and Sardar Patel to the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination are mentioned by Rakesh Batabyal in his essay which is excellent in its analysis of post-independence developments: “The Mahatma’s assassin .... Had been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Mahasabha ..., Hindu supremacist organisations that now came under scrutiny. Though Sardar Patel was convinced of the communal nature of the RSS, he said the Hindu Mahasabha was the bigger danger to the country.... Unlike Patel, Nehru never had any illusions about the RSS.” [Rakesh Batabyal, “Nehru: The Home Maker”, in Sahgal (ed.), p. 111]16

In the case of Nehru, the direct attacks, combined with efforts to erase his memory, are made by the entire Mahasabha-RSS-BJP-continuum. Prior to independence, however, Ketkar argues that “Nehru came on the radar of the Sangh Parivar only after Gandhiji declared that he would be his successor. Nehru’s rising popularity had upset the Parivar, but Gandhiji confronted the succession issue upfront.” [Ketkar in Sahgal (ed.), at p. 52] Ketkar correctly notes that Gandhi and Nehru were “in complete agreement” on “the most important and explosive issue of communalism”. [Ketkar in Sahgal (ed.), at p. 53] Indeed it is not widely known or appreciated that Gandhi supported the Secular State in what would be described today as the Nehruvian sense.17 It is not at the level of the state but at that of society and the individual that the Gandhian and Nehruvian understanding may vary. Incidentally, Ketkar’s remark in passing on Gandhi and Chaturvarna is not entirely correct.18

At the recent Indo-African summit in New Delhi, the tendency to ignore Nehru’s contribution was carried to the point where the African dignitaries had to remind the current Indian government of the shared vision and positive contributions of Gandhi and Nehru to Africa and its struggles. Nehru’s wider foreign policy initiatives are referred to in the essay by Mani Shankar Aiyar who analyses the “four pillars of Nehruvian thought”, that is, democracy, secularism, socialism and non-alignment. [Aiyar, “Interpreting Nehru in the 21st Century”, in Sahgal (ed.), pp. 21-42] Inder Malhotra too in his essay touched on all four of these, drawing attention also to some foreign policy failures as in the case of China. [Inder Malhotra in Sahgal (ed.), p. 64] The United Kingdom was particularly upset with Nehru’s stance in the Suez crisis and the Anglo-French attack on Egypt in the late fifties. It is difficult to say how much of this Anglo-centric angst was reflected in the one-sided nature of Neville Maxwell’s India’s ChinaWar but the latter is still the dominant version of the Sino-Indian conflict. It is all to the good therefore that some correctives have emerged in recent years, including a book edited by the late Air Commodore Jasjit Singh19 and a very perceptive recent paper by Nirupama Rao.20

Nayantara Sahgal herself invites attention in this context to the work of a Tibetan historian, Tsering Shakya [“Introduction: Nehru’s India : In Context”, Sahgal (ed.), p. 15], who suggests that India and China might well have managed their differences but for the Tibetan angle and the external interest in the Tibetan question which raised Chinese hackles. This is not of course a terribly novel point. The China angle is also one of the themes touched upon by Gopal Gandhi in his delightful essay. [Gopalkrishna Gandhi, “Trustingly, JN” in Sahgal (ed.), pp. 123-138] Gopal Gandhi brings out Nehru’s deeply human characteristics which had made him so lovable to the generations that knew him and that includes, with few exceptions, his political opponents. It is necessary scientifically and objectively to defend from vilification not only Gandhi’s but also Nehru’s legacy against attacks from communal-sectarian forces; when Gandhi and Nehru are sought to be belittled, especially by forces unfriendly to the composite national struggle for freedom, it is obviously the entire struggle that is sought to be traduced.

The currently dominant Indian intelligentsia’s attitude toward Nehru induces some of them into making overt and covert arrangements with the BJP and its associates, just as they had in the past with the BJP’s predecessors. This predilection needs rectification. For example, in the case of the Socialists, the Draft Platform of the Socialist Party in 1972 had ruled out any modus vivendi with the Jana Sangh. Yet this formulation was abandoned within a couple of years of it being advanced.

Those who consider themselves to be inheritors of the heritage of the Indian freedom struggle, especially those belonging to the socialist tradition, naturally speak of such figures as Gandhi, Narendra Deva, Jayaprakash, Yusuf Meherally and Lohia. They have no difficulty also in seeking bridges between the social struggles of Gandhi and of Ambedkar; although the latter was an outsider to the political struggle for Indian freedom, his social legacies are correctly seen by Socialists as being convergent with their own objectives, as Lohia himself recognised in the fifties. Why then the contemporary reluctance of a section of Socialists to recognise their obvious affinities and convergences with Jawaharlal Nehru? It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Nehru is unjustly excluded for subjective and even irrational reasons connected with the Lohia-Nehru controversies and because family domination emerged within the Congress especially after the crisis of the Emergency in 1975-77. Such exclusion is patently unfair to Jawaharlal Nehru, attacking whom has become a major organising point for Hindutva. Besides, to remain silent in the face of such attacks has the effect of denying the 20th century history of the Indian nation’s strivings and aspirations, a denial which, of course, the Hindutva forces ardently desire.

The crucial issue before the country is the social fascism associated with the ascendancy of the currently ruling forces and their associate organisations. Though it is right in this context to focus on the protection of civil liberties and on safeguards against a repeat of the Emergency, it is necessary to go beyond form and formalism. There is an undeclared social emergency in the country. Developments in rural western Uttar Pradesh in the run-up to the 2014 General Elections should have left no doubt on that score. The lives and property of members of the minority communities, Dalits and poor peasants are endangered. These forces operate with the support of elements within the Central and provincial state apparatus, the business world and affluent non-resident Indians. The fight against the malaise of corruption is only one part of the larger question of the accountability of power; the latter subsumes within itself struggles against governmental malfeasance and misfeasance in protecting citizens’ lives and welfare. Such accountability and protection is a solemn obligation also on all political parties, a duty which Gandhi as well as Jawaharlal Nehru fully recognised.


1. Acharya Narendra Deva, “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru” in Acharya Narendra Deva, Socialism and the National Revolution [Yusuf Meherally (ed.)], Bombay, Padma Publications, 1946, pp. 203-204.

2. Madhu Limaye, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru: A Historic Partnership, 1916-1948, Vol IV, Delhi, B.R. Publishing Corporation, 1991, p. 236.

3. For some possible ideas in this context, see my article, “Three Outstanding Linguistic Issues: Some Suggestions”, Janata, June 26, 1994.

4. How the composite insights of the socialist doer and thinker, Karpoori Thakur, and later of Kishan Patnaik were lost a decade or so later in the exclusively-caste-oriented framing of the reservation question in 1990-91 is pointed to in my article, “Moment of Truth for Janata Dal”, Economic and Political Weekly, June 29, 1991.

5. I am unable to trace the reference for this very important comment by Surendra Mohan but it is most certainly there. In fact, I remember discussing Surendra Mohan’s article with him.

6. Anil Nauriya, “Look Beyond Mandal”, The Times of 

India, December 19, 2006.

7. Kishan Patnaik in Janata, June 15, 1980.

8. Acharya Narendra Deva, “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru” in Acharya Narendra Deva, Socialism and the National Revolution [Yusuf Meherally (ed.)], Bombay, Padma Publications,. 1946, pp. 203-4.

9. Ibid., p. 208.

10. Ibid., p. 206.

11. Published by Vintage Books, London, in 2013.

12. Chandrasekhar Dasgupta, War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, 1947-48, New Delhi, Sage Publications, 2002.

13. See The Hindustan Times, July 4, 1964, cited in Girja Shankar, Socialist Trends in the Indian National Movement, Meerut, Twenty-First Century Publishers, 1987, p. 294n.

14. Idem.

15. The reference to this speech by Savarkar may be found in Indian Annual Register, 1943, Vol 2, p. 10.

16. In his analysis of some pre-independence developments, such as the Congress split in 1939, Batabyal rightly notes Nehru’s attempts to bring about a rapprochement between the two sides. He does not, however, deal with the fact that both Bose and Gandhi were willing to have Narendra Deva as the Congress President. For more on this, see my, “Non-violent Action and Socialist Radicalism: Narendra Deva in India’s freedom movement”, Occasional Paper No 70, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 46-47.

17. Anil Nauriya, “Gandhi on Secular Law and State”, The Hindu, October 22, 2003. I have not come across any expositions of the secular state by Gandhi contrary to the ones that Gandhi makes in the references cited in my 2003 article.

18. For more on this see a piece by Anil Nauriya: “Gandhi’s Little Known Critique of the Varna Order” (2006), Economic and Political Weekly.

19. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, China’s India War, 1962: Looking Back to See the Future, New Delhi, KW Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (in association with the Centre for Air Power Studies), 2013.

20. Nirupama Rao, “Telling it on the Mountain : India and China and the Politics of History : 1949-1962”, Occasional Paper No 73, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, 2015.

The reviewer is a writer and an advocate of the Supreme Court.

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