In the galaxy of freedom fighters in India Nehru stands next to Gandhi and has been called the architect of Modern India. He was one of those who pioneered the concepts of complete independence, socialism and Indian Constituent Assembly. Nehru had so completely identified himself with India’s struggle for freedom that if there is any Indian other than Gandhi about whom it can be said that the history of his life is the history of the Indian struggle, it is Jawaharlal Nehru. After independence of the country Nehru completely dominated the Indian politics till his death in 1964.
Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14 November, 1889 at Allahabad. His father Pt. Motilal Nehru belonged to a Kashmiri Brahmin family who had settled down at Allahabad as a lawyer. He was a popular congress leader, a swarajist and a member of Central Legislative Assembly. He also framed the Nehru Report which sought dominion status for India. Jawahar, the only son of Motilal was educated at Harrow and Cambridge and did Bar-at-law. During his seven years stay in England, Nehru imbibed the traditions of British humanist liberalism whose protagonists were J.S. Mill, G.B. Sahaw, Bertrand Russell etc. On his return from England in 1912, Nehru joined the Allahabad High Court as a barrister, but soon he lost interest in the legal profession. Rather he was attracted towards the national movement.
Nehru made his first appearance at the Congress platform as a delegate to the Bankipore session in 1912. In 1915 he became active in the functioning of the Kisan Sabha of Uttar Pradesh which was estblished by Pt. Modan Mohan Malaviya and became its deputy president in 1918. Nehru’s contacts with peasants changed his life style. He changed his dress, his food and entire pattern of life and became one among the common people of India. Nehru began his political activities by his association with the Home Rule Movement. He met Gandhi in December 1916 at the Lucknow congress and came under his spell. It is said if Motilal Nehru was his biological father, Gandhi became his political father. He was deeply affected by the Jallianawala Bagh Tragedy and joined Gandhiji in all his movements.
First, he participated in different movements of the peasants. During his tour through the villages of Uttar Pradesh he came into contact with the peasants and saw their sufferings. He became a champion of the aspirations of the common people. To him the struggle to improve the condition of the people was inseparable from the struggle for independence. He led the peasant movements in Pratapgarh and Faizabad in 1920 and 1921. At the call of Gandhi he joined the Non-co-operation Movement and suffered imprisonment. In 1923 he was appointed General Secretary of the Congress and held this post for seven years. In 1926-27 he went to Europe as well as to Moscow. There he was influenced by socialism. In 1927 at the Madras session of the congress, he proposed certain resolutions concerning the foreign policy of Inida. From that time onwards, he became involved in framing the foreign policy of future India.
From 1928 Nehru became involved in youth movements and became very polular with them. He also participated in the agitation against the Simon Commission and suffered blows of police lathis. In the Calcutta session of the Congress in 1928, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subash Bose pressed the congress to demand complete independence. The congress, however, passed a resolution demanding Dominion Status. But next year 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru presided over the Congress Session at Lahore. It was under his Presidentship that the congress declared complete Independence for India as its goal in the midnight of 31 December, 1929. In his presidential address there he declared that he believed in building up a Socialist India. Besides, he elaborated the aims of the congress further. He declared that the aims of the congress were freedom of religion, right to form associations, freedom of expression of thought, equality before law for every individual without distinction of caste, colour, creed or religion, protection to regional languages and cultures, safeguarding the interests of the peasants and labour, abolition of untouchability, introduction of adult franchise, imposition of prohibition, natioanalisation of industries establishment of a secular India and all that which India tried to achieve under his leadership after Independence. The congress fixed up all these aims at that very session.
Nehru also palyed a leading role in the Civil Disobedience Movement during 1930- 34 and suffered imprisonment. In 1936, the congress session was held at Lucknow under the Presidentship of Nehru. The congress rejected the Act of 1935. It repeated the demand for a constituent Assembly. However, it decided to participate in the elections to the provincial legislative Assemblies that were held in 1937. In 1938, the congress under his guidance appointed the National Planning Commission which framed the economic policies of future India. He himself was its first President and thus, became responsible for framing the Five Year Plans of Independent India. Like other leaders he also suffered imprisonment for nearly three years in the 1942 ‘Quit India’ Movement. After his release from prison in 1945 Nehru became the leading spokesman of the Indian National Congress in the several negotiations with the British. In 1946, he formed the first Indian (Interim) Government of India and tried to establish commercial harmony and maintain law and order when communal riots broke out in different parts of the country.
Nehru was one of the first nationalist leaders to realise the sufferings of the people in the states ruled by Indian Princes. He suffered imprisonment in Nabha, a Princely state, when h& went there to see the struggle that was being waged by the Akali Sikhs against the corrupt Mahants. The nationalist movement had been confined to the territories under direct British rule. Jawaharlal Nehru helped to make the struggle of the people in the princely states a part of the nationalist movement for freedom. The All India states people’s conference was formed in 1927. Nehru who had been supporting the cause of the people of the states for many years was made the President of the All India states people’s conference in 1939. He presided over the session in Ludhiana.
Nehru also played a leading role in the development of the internationalist outlook among the Indian people. The cause of freedom and democracy in other countries was as dear to his as the cause of India’s Independence. He made the Indian people aware of the developments in the world and helped in forging links with the people for fighting for freedom and democracy in other countries. He said that freedom could be secure unless every nation was free. In 1927, the congress of oppressed Nationalities was held in Brussless (Belgium). Nehru attended this congress. The congress was called to coordinate and plan a common struggle against imperialism. Nehru was elected to the Executive Council of the League against Imperialism that was born at this congress.
With the rise of fascism, the Indian nationalist leaders were aware of the danger it posed to the freedom of other countries and to peace. They supported the people of Spain who were fighting to defend themselves against fascism. People of many countries volunteered to fight the fascist forces in Spain and formed the International Brigade. Jawaharlal Nehru along with V.K. Krishna Menon went to Spain and extended the support of the Indian people to the people of Spain. Nehru even refused to meet Mussolini, the dictator of Italy when the later expressed desire to meet him. Thus Nehru became a champion of freedom and democracy all over the world.
When the British government put the three officers of the INA Shah Nawaz Khan, PK. Sehgal and G.S. Dhillon on trial at Red fort in Delhi for the crime of fighting against the British forces, Jawaharlal Nehru along with Kailash Nath Katju and Tej Bahadur Sapru went there to defend those INA officers. Nehru suffered nine terms of imprisonment totalling over nine years. He became the first Prime Minister of Free India and remained the Prime Minister of India for Seventeen years till his death on 27 May, 1964.
Nehru played a constructive role in India’s freedom struggle. In his political philosophy, he was a true disciple of Gandhi and fully subscribed to his doctrine of nonviolence. Gandhi had full faith in Nehru and indicated that after his death Nehru would be his heir and would keep up his faith in non-violence and lead the nation along its path. As a British political scientist put it, “Even his enemies could never accuse him of thinking in any but national terms; caste, creed, town, tongue – none of these loyalties meant anything to him, it was India first and India last”. For Nehru Independence had to go beyond mere political independence. He was strongly committed to change and development, the building of an equitable and egalitarian, just, democratic and socialist society. He tried all his life to link his dual commitment to natioanalism and socialism.