Jawaharlal Nehru 127th birth anniversary: The man who saw the future

Ahead of November 14, we explore the relevance of India’s first Prime Minister through a clutch of essays.

Published on:November 13, 2016 12:18 pm

In a Modified political discourse,  could Jawaharlal Nehru return as the patron of secularism and social democracy? How do we talk to the little ones about Nehru? What would India’s civilian-military relations be without his influence? Finally, what lies behind the right wing motto: Blame it on Nehru?

Ahead of November 14, we explore the relevance of India’s first Prime Minister through a clutch of essays:

The Man Who Saw the Future

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It started early, well before independence. In September 1946, when an interim government of Congress and Muslim League members took office to assist the transfer of power from the British crown to independent dominions of India and Pakistan, Nehru was sworn in as the vice president of the Viceroy’s executive council, a de facto prime minister.

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jawaharlal nehru, nehru policy, nehru military, nehru kashmir, nehru governance, nehru military reforms, nehru civil military relations, india news After India’s independence, as his visibility as the country’s first Prime Minister became more prominent across the globe, it seemed only appropriate to name the bandhgala after Nehru. (Source: Express Archive)

Blame it on Panditji

Please, let us not be distracted by the annals of history. Let us not recall that Nehru was one of the key figures who founded the first IIT at Kharagpur on the grounds of the notorious Hijli Detention Centre, where the embattled Raj put away people who used to make trouble in the streets, demanding the very things that these perverse JNU types keep yelling about now, like azaadi.

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Nehru, jawaharlal nehru, nehru birth anniversary, children's day, first prime minister india, nehru birthday, nehru legacy, nehru mistakes Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad at the Constituent Assembly session of 1946 (Source: Express Archive)

Nehru for the Little Ones

None of Nehru’s efforts were perfect. Many of his decisions continue to be criticised today. But this, too, is important to discuss with children. Talking about imperfections not only liberates them to critique what they see on the news, it also empowers them to believe that they, too, could one day become leaders.

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Nehru, jawaharlal nehru, nehru birth anniversary, children's day, first prime minister india, nehru birthday, nehru legacy, nehru mistakes Voice of the nation: Nehru addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 1963.

A perfect fit

After Nehru, it was the turn of the politicians to embrace the Nehru jacket. Soon, it had entered the common man’s lexicon too. The entry of polyester in ’60s-’70s enabled every man to own a bandhgala. From adopting it as uniform in boarding schools such as Mayo College, to creative adaptations by young designers, the Nehru jacket made an impact on every aesthete.

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Nehru, jawaharlal nehru, nehru birth anniversary, children's day, first prime minister india, nehru birthday, nehru legacy, nehru mistakes Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Freedom Fighter Choudhary Ranbir Singh during Amritsar Congress in 1955. PR Photo

The Past as Future

Narendra Modi’s tenure as prime minister has been a departure from previous governments in its approach to Nehru. Under Modi, there seems to be a clear attempt to disassociate India’s destiny from Nehru’s legacy. Modi, like Nehru, believes in the greatness of Indian civilisation and seeks a place for India in the global world order.

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Nehru, jawaharlal nehru, nehru birth anniversary, children's day, first prime minister india, nehru birthday, nehru legacy, nehru mistakes Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru being presented guard of honour. Express archive photo

The blueprint he left

What becomes evident from Nehru’s elegant writing is that he was a mass leader with great communication skills. The Discovery of India tries to understand the complexities of our country, and it was this book that I (Shyam Benegal) turned to when I decided to make a television show in the ’80s.

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