Independent India's 'British' Prime Minister: Jawahar Lal Nehru


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In a passing moment of emotional weakness, Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, shared a deep dark secret of his heart with the then American diplomat John Galbraith and said. "It did not especially surprise me, when once in a relaxed moment he said-well, you know that I am the last Englishman to rule in India". (J.K. Galbraith, A life of our times: Memoir, Boston 1981, Page 408)

To believe this is difficult. Is it possible that Independent India's first P.M., a man who defiantly challenged the British rule, belligerently criticised its policies and went to jail again and again: Can this same man claim himself to be an Englishman? And that, too, with an unmistakable stamp of pride. An irony indeed!

The developmental patterns of any person and what direction these patterns will unfold in, are pretty much determined during a persons childhood and early youth which are the formative years of any life. An example is Pakistan's former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto's anti-Hindu psychology first evolved in his adolescence. At 17 years of age, Bhutto wrote on 26th April 1945 in his letter to Muhammad Ali Jinnah :-"Muslims should realise that the Hindus can never and will never unite with us, they are the deadliest enemies of our Koran and Prophet..."

This anti-Hindu psyche of young Bhutto was a pointer to his later life devoted to virulent anti-Hindu policies and campaign.

Young Jawahar Lal Nehru wrote his father from England, "Indians were bound to have self-government but...not before a 'few aeons of geological time! This may mean anything between a few million years and wholly incomprehensible period. The chief difficulty was the want of education and some million generations will be required to educate them (Indians) up to the colonial standard".

This letter written at the age of21, clearly establishes the fact that young Jawahar Lal was deeply cognizant of the 'primacy' of the Britishers, and, all his life suffered from pangs' of inferiority in relation to the white rulers. At the crux were Nehru's feelings of being less than the white which guided him to adopt the British way of life, and, call himself an Englishmen.

In his court trial of 1922 Jawahar Lal Nehru himself stated that: "Less than ten years, I returned from England, after a long stay there ... I had imbibed most of prejudices of Harrow and Cambridge and in my likes and dislikes I' was perhaps more an Englishman than an Indian. I looked upon the world almost from a Englishman's stand point...as much prejudiced in favour of England and the English as it was possible for a Englishman to be" (Quoted from Jawahar Lal Nehru byB.R. Nanda, a.p., Page 255)

A Change of Clothes, Not Heart

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The Independence movement in India did witness a change of clothes in Nehru, but not, of heart. Like a first love, Jawahar Lal Nehru's romance with the English and, all things English continued to influence his heart and mind, and manifested itself at the slightest opportunity. In the year 1946 as Prime Minister of India's Interim Government, Nehru embarked his flight resplendent in traditional Indian attire--'Sherwani', 'Chooridar' and 'Gandhicap'. But, Nehru arrived in England every inch the English gentleman, fitted out in tweeds, tie, hat and a smoking Cigar in his hands. This journey and somehow transformed a humble son of India into a dashing gallant with his clothes dictated by prevailing tastes, Savoir-faire demeanor; a native returning home. By the time Nehru reached the British Isles, he, had himself become a Britisher. The poor man would let go of his Park Avenue acquired wardrobe only after his actions were criticised back home in the pont media.

Discarding his English outfits was easy enough. But, Jawahar Lal remained to the core an awe struck admirer of the English quintessence. According to B.R. Nanda, "In the Indian Constituent Assembly he threw his weight in favour of Parliamentary democracy on the British model and as Prime Minister, did all he could to evolve traditions conforming to established practices in Britain". (B.R. Nanda, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Page 260)

After hundreds of years of slavery, when a people finally revolt, a nation is reborn. The prime mission of the new government is the major task of nation building. Such new born governments are infused with revolutionary vigour and intellectual boldness. This fresh government dares to lay down its own agenda which may be entirely different from that of the now expelled rulers. But Jawahar Lal Nehru did not conceive independent India's new fledged government as an insurrectionary government with all its inherent potential. Further, he cast it as an heir to the British rule, inheriting the latters policies and vision.

The anti-Hindu policy is another heirloom from the white rulers which the Nehru government whole heartedly followed. In August 1947, the then Chairman of Constituent Assembly Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote Nehru regarding cow slaughter and the fact that a majority of Hindu sentiments run high against the fact of cow slaughter. Nehru responded that he is well aware of the Hindu sensibility and yet, he would much rather resign from the Prime Ministerial position than bow before it. (B.R. Nanda: Jawahar Lal Nehru 1995, Page 105)

In his letter of October 12, 1933 to Asaf Ali, his anti-Hindu philosophy acquires a vehemence, "I am not at all for Harijan work. .. As a matter of fact that aspect of Harijan movement which appeals me most is that it will weaken the Hindus in the sense it will create split amongst them". (B.R. Nanda: Jawaharlal Nehru, O.D.P., Page 105)

Disowned his own Hindu self

The man who can glean pleasure from the weakening and fragmenting of the Hindu society can hardly be a Hindu himself. Disclaiming his Hindu identity Jawahar Lal Nehru had declared that by education he was an Englishman, by culture a Muslim and by accident of birth, a Hindu. It is a mere throw of the dice that he was born to a Hindu couple, otherwise he had no undertaking with the Hindus Albeit, it is a different matter that to remain the beloved Prime Minister of a Hindu majority electorate Jawahar Lal stuck to his Brahmanical title 'Pandit' pretty much in the same vein as he stuck to the Gandhi Cap on his bald head: both lending him validity and, functioning as tools to hoodwink Hindu masses. It was the same exigency that compelled him to accept anti-cow slaughter as one of the Directive Principles of our Constitution. But Nehru's Gove~ent's obvious disregard of the Directive Principles, indicates his true feelings on this subject.

Two questions now arise. First, if Jawahar Lal Nehru was such an ardent fan of the British way of life, why did he in the first place participate in a movement against the Britishers ? Secondly, by what process did Jawahar Lal Nehru become a British enthusiast to the level of feeling pride in calling himself a Britisher ?

Jawahar Lal was an ambitious father's ultra ambitious son. He had seen a dream. The dream of leading an independent India as its very first Prime Minister. To make his dream a reality Jawahar Lal Nehru did what was the need of the moment. He opposed the British rule, even went to jail. Yet through-out all this, at a deep, more personal level, Jawahar Lal continued to experience a humbling respect and love for the British culture. Upon analysis of Jawahar Lal Nehru's behaviour it is clear that to him there was no apparent conflict between love for all things English and an active struggle against the English.

For a deeper understanding we need to go back further. In the early years of 19th century, in East India Company there was a debate regarding their Education Policy for Indians. While some believed that Indians should be formally instructed in their native traditional media of Sanskrit and Persian, the Public Instructions Committee headed by Lord Macaulay recommended that Indians be taught in the Western traditions and the medium of instruction should be English language. Macaulay wrote that the aim of English education is "to create a class who would act as interpreters between us and the millions we govern, a class of Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect."

East India Company adopted Macaulay's suggestions and the instructions in English language began in India. Mere than one hundred years later, India was abound with 'black Britishers' who were only by 'blood and colour' Indians. Apart from their 'blood and color' nothing in them remained Indian. No wonder this breed of Indians feel such pride in calling themselves "English." Nehru was no exception.

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