Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Anniversary: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a visionary and the first Prime Minister of independent India. He played a significant role during India’s fight for independence. Born on November 14, 1889 into a Kashmiri Brahman family in Allahabad (now Prayagraj), Nehru was home-schooled until the age of 15, after which he went to Harrow in England, and later to Trinity College in Cambridge. When he was 22, he returned to India to practise law with his barrister father Motilal Nehru.
His marriage to Kamala Nehru née Kaul happened when she was only 17, in the year 1916. The following year, their only daughter Indira Priyadarshini was born.
Nehru’s political awakening happened when he learnt about Annie Besant’s arrest in 1917. He subsequently joined the All India Home Rule League. In 1919, shortly after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre — in which 379 Indians were killed and more than 1000 injured — Nehru overheard the unrepentant orchestrator British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer gloat about it while on a train. This outraged him further and he vowed to resolutely fight for India’s independence.
He was imprisoned for the first time during the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22) launched by Mahatma Gandhi. In total, he had spent some nine years in jail. Nehru was named the President of the Indian National Congress in 1929. It was his first leadership role in politics and he was fully committed to the cause of driving out the British. When the British declared India’s participation in the war against Germany — without having consulted the leaders — Nehru and other members of the Congress passed the Quit India resolution in 1942. Along with Gandhi and many other prominent leaders of the party, he was arrested soon after.
On August 15, 1947, when India finally became an independent nation, Nehru was named the first Prime Minister. But many challenges lay ahead of him — the biggest being picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a bloody partition.
As a Prime Minister, he served a long term and focused on democratic socialism and secularism. His Cabinet comprised an eclectic mix of leaders, even those who fundamentally disagreed with him. To Nehru, the country’s development mattered more than having to work with people who had a different worldview.
His fondness for children was celebrated. In fact, during his tenure, Nehru was involved in the establishing of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) and the National Institutes of Technology (NIT). He always believed in the country’s young minds, and emphasised on their welfare and growth.
The political stalwart died in 1964, and it is said the Sino-Indian War had a wounding effect on his health. His enduring vision and legacy, however, continues to live.