On December 29, 1929, a 40-year-old Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the national flag of Hindustan on the banks of the Ravi in Lahore. “The Congress is holding its most momentous session and is going to take a great step forward in the fight for the country’s freedom,” he remarked, on the occasion.
The Lahore session did eventually become a turning point in India’s freedom struggle. Presided over by Nehru, it was during this session that the Congress announced January 26, 1930, as Independence Day. The occasion was celebrated across India, people took the Independence pledge, which was jointly drafted by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru.
An exhibition at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) titled “Towards Purna Swaraj: The Lahore Congress, 1929”, highlights this crucial moment. Over 30-35 archival objects from its repository highlight the context of this significant event and the episodes that followed. These include original photographs of the Lahore Congress, posters, microfilms of newspaper coverage, and copies of the Independence pledge that people signed.
“Most importantly, the display showcases several handwritten letters exchanged between Nehru and Gandhi while drafting the pledge,” says Vintee Sain, Curator at NMML. The display also comprises handbooks and pamphlets used to publicise the Lahore Session and its importance among the masses.
The Lahore Session was the result of widespread public anger against the 1927 Simon Commission, which was set up to review India’s constitutional progress, but didn’t have an Indian member. It was at that juncture that leaders such as Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose floated the idea of complete independence.
It also led to the civil disobedience movement, including the non-payment of taxes to the British in March 1930. Years later, in his autobiography, Nehru wrote: “This celebration gave the necessary impetus to Gandhiji, and he felt, with his sure touch on the pulse of the people, that the time was ripe for action.”
The exhibition is on at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti Bhawan, Delhi, till June 11