Nehru: India's last English PM!
In a passing moment of emotional weakness, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, shared a deep secret with the then American diplomat John Galbraith, who said: "It did not especially surprise me, when once in a relaxed' moment he (Nehru) said - well, you know I am the last Englishman to rule in India".
To believe this is difficult. Is it possible that India's first Prime Minister, a man who defiantly challenged the British rule, belligerently criticised its policies and went to jail again and again, could claim to be an Englishmen? 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 are pretty much determined during a person's childhood and early youth. Take the example of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Bhutto's anti-Hindu psychology first evolved in his adolescence. At 17, he wrote to Muhammed 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..."
Young Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to 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 incomprehensive 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 of 21 clearly establishes the fact that young Jawaharlal was deeply aware of the 'supremacy' of the British, and, all his life, suffered from pangs of inferiority in relation to the white rulers.
In his court trial of 1922, Nehru himself stated: "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".
The independence movement in India did witness a sartorial change in Nehru, but not of heart. Like a first love, Nehru's romance with the English and all that is English continued to influence his heart and mind and manifested itself at the slightest opportunity. In the year 1946 as Prime Minister of the interim government, Nehru embarked on his flight resplendent in traditional Indian attire - sherwani, chooridar and 'Gandhi-cap'. But, Nehru arrived in England every inch an English, gentleman, fitted out in tweeds, tie, hat and a smoking cigar in his hand. This journey had somehow transformed the 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 British. He did let go of his Park Avenue acquired wardrobe only after his actions were criticised back home in the print media.
Discarding his English outfit was easy enough. But, Nehru remained to the core an awestruck 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".
After years of slavery, when people revolt, a nation is reborn. The prime mission of the new government is nation building. Such government is infused with revolutionary vigour and intellectual boldness. It dares to lay down its own agenda which may be entirely different from that of the now expelled rulers.
But Jawaharlal Nehru did not conceive of independent India's new fledged government as an insurrectionary government with all its inherent potential. The anti-Hindu policy is another heirloom from the white rulers which the Nehru government wholeheartedly followed.
In August 1947, Dr Rajendra Prasad, who was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly wrote to Nehru about cow slaughter and the fact that a majority of Hindu sentiments run high against the cow slaughter.
Jawaharlal Nehru responded that he is well aware of the Hindu sentimentality and, yet he would much rather resign from the prime ministerial position than bow before it.
The man who can derive pleasure from the weakening and fragmenting of the Hindu society can hardly be a Hindu himself. Disclaiming his Hindu identity, Nehru 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, Nehru stuck to his Brahmanical title 'Pandit' pretty much in the same way as he stuck to the Gandhi cap on his bald head: Both lending him validity and at the same time 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.
Two questions can be asked here. First, that if Nehru was such an ardent fan of the British life-style, why did he, in the first place, participate in a movement against the British? Secondly, what made him such a British enthusiast?
Jawaharlal Nehru was an ambitious father's ultra ambitious son. He had a dream. A dream of leading an independent India as its very first Prime Minister. To make his dreams a reality Nehru did what was the need of the hour. He opposed the British rule, even went to jail.
Yet throughout all this, at a deep, more personal level, Nehru continued to experience a humbling respect and love for the British culture. Upon analysis of Jawaharlal 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 on the education policy for Indians.
While some believed that Indians should be formally instructed in their native language of Sanskrit and Persian, the public instructions committee headed by Lord Macaulay recommended that Indians should be taught in the western traditions and the medium of instruction should be English.
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 teaching in English language began in India.
Merely hundred years later, India was abound with 'black British' who were only by 'blood and colour' Indians.
Apart from their 'blood and colour' nothing in them remained Indian. No wonder this breed of Indians feel such pride in calling themselves 'English'.