Freedom Fighter and First Prime Minister of Indiaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” These words define the life and outlook of one of the great leaders of independent India.
Jawaharlal Nehru came into the world in Allahâbâd, India, in the year 1889, on November fourteenth. His parents were Motilal and Swarup Rani Nehru—his father was a wealthy lawyer who took care of not only his own family, but also his brother’s widow and seven children. For the majority of his education Nehru studied in Britain, and in 1905 he went to the Harrow School; later on he attended the Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. During his earlier years of schooling, Nehru read constantly and studied a wide variety of subjects.
After studying at Trinity College, Nehru went on to study law at the Inner Temple in London, a profession which he took back to India and practiced for about seven years. During this time in India, Nehru met and married his wife, Kamala Kaul, and one year later, in 1917 they had a daughter they named Indira. Two years later, Nehru joined the Indian National Congress, where he soon became a leader—during this time he began to help India gain its independence from England. When Nehru worked for the Indian National Congress, Mohandas Gandhi became the organization’s leader. Over the years, Nehru and Gandhi developed a strong relationship. Both fought for their country’s freedom, though they did not always agree about the direction in which they wished India to grow.
Because Nehru led several civil disobedience campaigns, he spent a total of about ten years in prison over the span of twenty-seven years starting in 1920. Civil disobedience campaigns usually meant defying the government by refusing to obey certain laws, and these demonstrations generally took place in a nonviolent way. Like his mentor Gandhi, Nehru often followed the Biblical principal of Luke 6:29: “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.” In spite of this perspective, he remained an agnostic throughout his life. His indifference to religion displays itself in his own words: "Nor am I greatly interested in the after life, in what happens after death. I find the problems of this life sufficiently absorbing to fill my mind…It is the Tao, the path to be followed and the way of life that interests me; how to understand life, not to reject it but to accept it, to confirm it and to improve it."
During this time period, Nehru became the president of the Indian National Congress four different times, the first time being in the year 1929. Also throughout his years in prison, Nehru wrote a few books, Toward Freedom, The Discovery of India, and Glimpses of World History, which became quite popular in several areas of the world. By the end of World War II, Nehru had almost served his last sentences in prison. In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, Nehru became the prime minister of India. While he served as prime minister, Nehru served as foreign minister as well. Nehru worked hard to improve his country, and slowly but surely the agricultural production increased and the economy grew.
Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were nearly Unitarian in their practice of a united India of many different religions. The father of Indian secularism made a statement on religious toleration
"...remember that Christianity is a religion of large numbers of people in India and that it came to the south of India nearly 2000 years ago. It is as much a part of the Indian scene as any other religion. Our policy of religious neutrality and protection of minorities must not be affected or sullied by discriminatory treatment or harassment." (October 17, 1952)2
As prime minister during the Cold War in the 1950s, Nehru urged his countrymen to remain neutral in foreign matters. Earlier in his career he disagreed with and spoke against aligned nations and military forces. Still following his desire for peace, Nehru also opposed nuclear testing of any kind. However, at one point of his political career, Nehru was accused of deserting his policy of peace and neutralization. This happened over a disagreement with Pakistan concerning the states of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani troops invaded an area of Kashmir and Nehru wanted to keep it a part of India, so he sent Indian troops to assert India’s claim over Kashmir—this went against Nehru’s peace policy. Only a few years later, China took control over some land considered both China and India’s land. In 1962, China and India fought in the Himalayas, where the Indian troops were beaten. Since China continued to occupy the land, Nehru felt forced to call for help from the American military—going against his nonalignment campaign.
In January of 1964, Nehru suffered from a stroke. Ever since the affair with China his health had begun to fade, and in May that same year he passed away. Though he no longer lives, Nehru is still fondly remembered by many of his countrymen. He fought long and hard to gain India’s independence, even spending time in prison for his efforts. In India today, Nehru’s birthday, November fourteenth, is celebrated as Children’s Day because of Nehru’s love for children. For twenty-three years after his death, Nehru’s descendents served India as prime minister—first his daughter and then his grandson. He definitely lived up to his own words: “Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.”
Ali, Asghar. <a href=http://www.hvk.org/articles/0497/0079.html>“Nehru’s Concept of Secularism—The Hindu.” HinduNet Inc. 13 Dec. 2003.
2"Plea for fair treatment to Christian community" All India Christian Council. http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/844/47/
Gordon, Leonard. “Nehru, Jawaharlal.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2001.
<a href=http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/section/Nehru-Ja_IndianPrimeMinister.asp>“Indian Prime Minister.” Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 12 Dec. 2003.
<a href=http://www.worldofquotes.com/author/Jawaharlal-Nehru/1/index.html>“Jawaharlal Nehru.” Roy Russo. 12 Dec. 2003.
<a href=http://www.itihaas.com/modern/nehru-profile.html>“Profile—Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964).” Sify. 12 Dec. 2003.