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The Struggle For Indian Independence History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Jawaharlal Nehru, was an Indian nationalist leader who became the first Prime Minister of India after independence. Nehru, often referred to as Panditji, was elected by the Indian National Congress to become India’s first independent Prime Minister in the year 1947, and then re-elected to the post when the Congress Party won India’s first general election in 1951. He was also one of the initiators of the international Non-aligned movement.

He was the son of moderate nationalist leader and Congressman Motilal Nehru. Under the mentorship of M.K. Gandhi, he became Congress President. He advocated Democratic Socialism and believed that a strong public sector is the means by which economic and social development could be pursued by nations like ours. He was the father of Indira Gandhi and the maternal grandfather of Rajiv Gandhi, who would later serve as the third and sixth Prime Ministers of India respectively.

Early Life and Career (1889-1912) –

Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14th of November 1889 in Allahabad in British India. His father, who belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community, was a wealthy barrister and acted twice as the President of the Indian National Congress party during the independence struggle. Nehru described his childhood as a ”uneventful”. He grew up in an atmosphere of comfort and privilege and was home-schooled by private governess and tutors. Under the influence of a tutor, Ferdinand Brooks, he became interested in science and theosophy. However, his interest did not prove to be enduring.

For college education, Nehru went to Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1907 and graduated with an honours degree in natural science in 1910. During this period Nehru also studied politics, economics, history and literature aimlessly. After completing his degree in 1910, Nehru stayed in London for 2 years for law studies.

After returning to India in 1912, he enrolled himself as an advocate of the Allahabad High Court and tried to settle as a barrister. But unlike his father, he only had a desultory interest in his profession and did not relish either the practice of law or the company of lawyers. Nehru soon gave up his profession in favour of politics. It was during his youth that Nehru became an ardent nationalist.

Struggle for Indian Independence (1912-47) –

In 1919, Nehru overheard General Dyer gloating over Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This incident changed the course of his life as he joined the Congress party which was fighting for greater autonomy from the British rule. He was heavily influenced by the organisation’s leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. During the 1920s and 1930s, he was repeatedly imprisoned by the British rule for civil disobedience. In 1928, he was elected as the president of congress.

By the end of World War II, he was widely recognised as Gandhi’s successor. He played a key role in the negotiations over Indian independence. He openly opposed the Muslim League’s insistence on the India’s division on the criteria of religion. Lord Mountbatten, the last British viceroy, advocated that division is the fastest and most workable solution. Nehru agreed reluctantly.

Prime Minister of India –

On 15th August 1947, Nehru became the first PM of independent India. He implemented moderate socio-economic reforms and committed India to a policy of industrialisation. Upon taking office, he was determined to implement moderate socialist economic reforms by means of centralized economic planning. He held the post until his death in 1964. He personally presided over the government Planning Commission that drew up successive five-year plans, beginning in 1951, for the development of India’s economy. A decade and a half after independence, these plans focussed on industrial development and national ownership of several key areas of the economy. He also served as the foreign minister of India. In October 1947, he faced an opposition from Pakistan over the state of Kashmir, which was disputed at the time of independence. Because of which, Nehru sent troops into the state to support India’s claim. A United Nations ceasefire was negotiated but Kashmir remains unstable to this day.

As the Cold War started in the 1950s, Nehru adopted a foreign policy of “positive neutrality”, thereby making an attempt to defuse international tensions without directly supporting either of the two international power blocs led by the United States and the Soviet Union. He was one of the key spokesmen of the non-aligned nations of Asia and Africa, out of which, most were former colonies which, like India, wanted to avoid relying on any major power blocs.

Under Nehru’s guidance, India administered a prisoner exchange at the end of the Korean War (1950-1953) and helped to call a truce between the French and the Vietnamese at the end of the First Indochina War (1946-1954). Nehru campaign for India-China friendship at the Bandung Conference of non-aligned Asian and African nations in 1955, and backed the claims of the People’s Republic of China to get membership in the United Nations. Nehru’s government didn’t support the British-French invasion of the Suez Canal area in 1956, though he spoke leniently about Soviet incursions into Eastern Europe.

India and China tried to achieve cooperation as Asia’s two most populous nations. From the late 1950s, however relations between the two countries worsened over boundary disputes and over India’s acceptance of Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama, after China annexed Tibet in 1950. In the year 1959, Chinese troops occupied territory claimed by both countries. As diplomatic efforts failed to resolve the conflict, the condition escalated into war in 1962 between Indian and Chinese forces in the Himalayas. Indian troops were beaten decisively as they were unprepared for the encounter. The Chinese however took no additional territory, but continued to occupy the land they had annexed in 1959. India’s crushing defeat compelled a re-evaluation of India’s defence capabilities, and Nehru was forced to ask for the resignation of Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon, a close personal friend. Nehru appealed for equipment assistance from the American military during this crisis despite his policy of non-alignment and it was granted through the offices of US president John Kennedy and Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith.

Religion –

Nehru was totally against the ides of religion as he observed the effects it had on Indian people and described religion as ”it shuts its eyes to reality”. He believed that religion was the root cause of stagnation and lack of progress in India. He deeply concerned by the fact that a large proportion was population was illiterate and so he was under the strong belief that mass education can release Indian society from the limitations that ignorance and religious traditions imposed.

Personal Life –

Nehru was married to Kamala Kaul in 1916. Indira, his only daughter was born a year later in 1917. Nehru was presumed to have relationships with Edwina Mountbatten and Padmaja Naidu.

Legacy –

Jawaharlal Nehru played a pivotal role in shaping modern India’s constitution and political culture along with flexible foreign policy. As a matter of fact, Nehru’s education policy is also credited for the development of world-class educational institutes like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management.

Commemoration –

In his lifetime, Chacha Nehru, as he was fondly remembered by children, enjoyed an emblematic status in India and was widely appreciated across the world for his idealism and statesmanship. His birthday, 14th November is celebrated as Children’s Day in recognition of his lifelong commitment in development of children and young people. Even today, his ideals and policies continue to shape Congress’s Party manifesto and core philosophy.

Numerous public institutions and memorials like Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai, Nehru Planetariums are dedicated to his memory.

Writing –

Nehru was a profilic writer in English and wrote a number of books, such as The Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History and his autobiography, Toward Freedom.

Awards –

In 1955, Chacha Nehru was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.

Final years and the rise of Indira Gandhi –

In the 1957 elections, Jawaharlal Nehru led Congress to a massive victory but the same thing can’t be said about the 1962 elections where communist and socialist parties were the main beneficiaries. Nehru’s health began declining steadily after 1962. He spent months recuperating in Kashmir. Upon his return in May 1964, Nehru suffered a stroke and later a heart attack which he couldn’t survive. He was cremated at the Shantivana on the banks of river Yamuna. Hundreds of thousands mourned his death.

On his death, he left a powerful imprint on India with no evident political heir to his leadership, even though his daughter Indira was widely expected to succeed him, before she turned it down in favour of Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Indian newspapers read: ”The Light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere”. These were Nehru’s own words after Bapu’s assassination.

Some famous quotes by Nehru –

Time is not measured by passing of years but by what one does, what one feels and what one achieves.

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance.

Culture is the widening of mind and of the spirit.

Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends.

Democracy and socialism are means to an end, not the end itself.

Our chief defect is that we are more given to talking about things than to doing them.

A theory must be tempered with reality.

Loyal and efficient work in a great cause, even though it may not be immediately recognized, ultimately bears fruit.


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