India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is having a bad time. The current political dispensation does not like him. They are eager to dismantle what they see as his legacy. There is nothing surprising in this since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (in all its previous incarnations) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have always been vocal in their criticism of Nehru and all that he stood for. Nehru-bashing is a raison d’etre of the Sangh Parivar’s ideology. What, however, is more puzzling is the role that is being played by those who are considered (and consider themselves) to be upholders of Nehru’s legacy. Are they quite up to doing their job in championing the values of Nehru?
Shiv Visvanathan in his essay, in the volume under review, puts his pulse on the problem with the observation: ‘Worse, the very people we thought of as Nehruvian destroyed Nehru’ (p. 100). This book, a collection of essays, is a case in point. Nayantara Sahgal is a part of the Nehru family; she is his niece. She is an open admirer of Nehru, the man, the values he embodied and his achievements. She conceived this collection of essays as an intervention on Nehru’s side in the ‘battle [that] is on between enlightenment and obscurantism, between Nehru’s vision of India and the BJP/RSS’s shrunken and distorted version of India’ (p. 19).
All those who are not in agreement with the ideology of the Sangh Parivar will agree that this intention is noble and worthwhile. But does this volume fulfil that intention? The answer, alas, is in the negative. Most of the essays here do not bear signs of any deep research even on Nehru’s own writings. Yet there are writers in this volume who are known for their serious research. The argument that this is not a scholarly volume aimed at an academic audience does not hold. It is possible to present the fruits of detailed research for an intelligent, non-academic audience. To write for a non-specialist readership is not necessarily to descend to the puerile.
The tone of the volume is set by the editor herself in the introduction, where she sets out the main spheres of Nehru’s contribution—democracy, socialism, non-alignment and so on. But her comments on these are no more than a series of assertions or a falling back on the words of some ‘authority’. Take, for example, her treatment of socialist planning where she cites the opinions of Percival Griffiths, Michael Brecher and Barbara Ward (p. 11). Why should readers accept these assessments? Have we not gained in perspective, information and wisdom from the time these assessments were originally made in the late 1950s and early 1960s? If the purpose was to use the opinions that were prevalent in Nehru’s life time, then there were other views that were prevalent then, and these are neglected. It is a sad but remarkable fact that Sarvepalli Gopal’s three-volume biography of Nehru does not even find a mention in the introduction.
Mani Shankar Aiyar, another self-confessed admirer of Nehru’s legacy (though it is a moot point whom he admires more, Nehru or his grandson Rajiv) reiterates the familiar ‘four pillars of Nehruvian thought’—democracy, secularism, socialism and non-alignment. He sets them in their historical context. What is noticeable, however, is the scanty use of Nehru’s own writings. He utterly spoils his presentation and defence by citing a cheap wisecrack of none other than Jacqueline Susan (p. 41). India’s first prime minister was known for his lively sense of humour, but that humour never descended to that of the men’s locker room or a bordello. Admirers of Nehru should be a little more careful and tasteful about their levity.
Gopal Gandhi succeeds in his essay to restore some seriousness. His theme is the trust that Nehru bestowed on people and the trust that he, in turn, received from the people of India. The point is an important and a neglected one at a time when rhetoric and rabble rousing has replaced trust in political discourse in India. Gandhi emphasises that trust was Nehru’s first gesture as a man, as a leader and as a statesman. There were occasions when he suffered because of his commitment to trust. It is legitimate to ask if, as India’s first prime minister, he could have used anything other than trust as his first principle. What kind of India would we have had if he had used cynicism instead of trust? Gandhi’s answer—harking back perhaps to a much greater Gandhi—is unambiguous: ‘… better by far to trust and be shocked into correction than to mistrust and lead a nation through the gospel of suspicion’ (p. 138). It needs only to be added that he trusted Nehru because he was acutely conscious of his own fallibility. Not for him the arrogance of perfection or the inability to say sorry.
Aditya and Mridula Mukherjee are well-known historians who in their youth won their spurs working with Bipan Chandra on aspects of Indian industrialisation and on peasant mobilisation in the era of nationalism. In their essay in this volume they survey, in very broad terms, the Indian economy in the era of Nehru. The problem with their essay is that it is far too self-referential: the bulk of their references are to their own work or to the works of their guru. Has no one else written on this theme? The discipline of history advances through a dialogue with the work of other historians and commentators. To neglect (deliberately?) the writings of others is to be caught in a time warp.
It is ironic that what this volume fails to do is summed up in the concluding lines of Visvanathan’s essay: ‘… as I watch a new generation treat secularism, planning and socialism as dirty words, I realize the desperate need to understand the Nehruvian experiment. It was not about the failure of plans, or the decline of institutions, it was in a deep way the growing mediocrity of an idea. The challenge today is to invent it differently, to create a heuristics and poetics of the world as a new probe into the future.’
Visvanathan urges us to think differently about Nehru, and to tell the story of his achievements and his failures in a new way. Nehru would have liked that. Indeed he would have wanted it from the future generations. He loathed blind adulation; this volume treads the path to that darkness.
Jawaharlal Nehru (14 November1889 – 27 May1964) was an Indian politician and the first Prime Minister of India .
- We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them the people have a further right to alter it or abolish it. The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or complete independence.
- Nehru wrote this resolution of Purna Swaraj (Complete Independence), which was adopted in the Congress session at Lahore on 26 January 1930; this was later celebrated as Independence Day until August 1947, and after 26 January 1950 as Republic Day; as quoted in India (1999) by Stanley A. Wolpert
- Religion is not familiar ground for me, and as I have grown older, I have definitely drifted away from it. I have something else in its place, something older than just intellect and reason, which gives me strength and hope. Apart from this indefinable and indefinite urge, which may have just a tinge of religion in it and yet is wholly different from it, I have grown entirely to rely on the workings of the mind. Perhaps they are weak supports to rely upon, but, search as I will, I can see no better ones.
- The most effective pose is one in which there seems to be the least of posing, and Jawahar had learned well to act without the paint and powder of an actor … What is behind that mask of his? … what will to power? … He has the power in him to do great good for India or great injury … Men like Jawaharlal, with all their capacity for great and good work, are unsafe in a democracy.
He calls himself a democrat and a socialist, and no doubt he does so in all earnestness, but every psychologist knows that the mind is ultimately slave to the heart … Jawahar has all the makings of a dictator in him — vast popularity, a strong will, ability, hardness, an intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient … In this revolutionary epoch, Caesarism is always at the door. Is it not possible that Jawahar might fancy himself as a Caesar? … He must be checked. We want no Caesars.
- Great causes and little men go ill together.
- The Indian Annual Register Vol.1 (January-June 1939)
- Most of us seldom take the trouble to think. It is a troublesome and fatiguing process and often leads to uncomfortable conclusions. But crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think.
- The Unity of India : Collected Writings, 1937-1940 (1942), p. 94
- Because we have sought to cover up past evil, though it still persists, we have been powerless to check the new evil of today.
Evil unchecked grows, Evil tolerated poisons the whole system. And because we have tolerated our past and present evils, international affairs are poisoned and law and justice have disappeared from them.
- The Unity of India : Collected Writings, 1937-1940 (1942), p. 280
- They fought because they were paid for it; they were not interested very much in the conquest of Greece. The Athenians on the other hand, fought for their freedom. They preferred to die rather than lose their freedom, and those who are prepared to die for any cause are seldom defeated.
- On the defeat of the forces of Darius the Great of Persia at the Battle of Marathon, in Glimpses of World History; Being Further Letters to His Daughter, Written In Prison, And Containing A Rambling Account of History For Young People (1942); also in Nehru on World History (1960} edited by Saul K. Padover, p. 14
- We must constantly remind ourselves that whatever our religion or creed, we are all one people. I regret that many recent disturbances have given us a bad name. Many have acquiesced to the prevailing spirit. This is not citizenship. Citizenship consists in the service of the country. We must prevail on the evil-doers to stop their activities. If you, men of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, serve your countrymen without distinction of class and religion, you will bring honour to yourselves and to your country.
- Radio address to the Defence Services (1 December 1947)
- In times of crisis it is not unnatural for those who are involved in it deeply to regard calm objectivity in others as irrational, short-sighted, negative, unreal or even unmanly. But I should like to make it clear that the policy India has sought to pursue is not a negative and neutral policy. It is a positive and vital policy that flows from our struggle for freedom and from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Peace is not only an absolute necessity for us in India in order to progress and develop but also of paramount importance to the world. How can that peace be preserved? Not by surrendering to aggression, not by compromising with evil or injustice but also not by the talking and preparing for war! Aggression has to be met, for it endangers peace. At the same time, the lesson of the past two wars has to be remembered and it seems to me astonishing that, in spite of that lesson, we go the same way. The very processes of marshaling the world into two hostile camps precipitates the conflict that it had sought to avoid. It produces a sense of terrible fear and that fear darkens men's minds and leads them to wrong courses. There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear. As a great President of the United States said, there is nothing really to fear except fear itself.
- Speech at Columbia University (1949); published in Speeches 1949 - 1953 p. 402; as quoted in Sources of Indian Tradition (1988) by Stephen Hay, p. 350
- Wars are fought to gain a certain objective. War itself is not the objective; victory is not the objective; you fight to remove the obstruction that comes in the way of your objective. If you let victory become the end in itself then you've gone astray and forgotten what you were originally fighting about.
- If in the modern world wars have unfortunately to be fought (and they do, it seems) then they must be stopped at the first possible moment, otherwise they corrupt us, they create new problems and make our future even more uncertain. That is more than morality; it's sense.
- Interview by James Cameron in Picture Post (28 October 1950)
- Ultimately what we really are matters more than what other people think of us. One has to face the modern world with its good as well as its bad and it is better on the whole, I think, that we give even licence than suppress the normal flow of opinion. That is the democratic method. But having laid that down, still I would beg to say that there is a limit to the licence that one can allow, more so in times of great peril to the State.
- Parliamentary Debates [Parliament of India] Pt.2 V.12-13 (1951); also quoted in Glorious Thoughts of Nehru (1964), p. 146
- [When asked in 1963 that "now that there is Communist government in Kerala, what would happen if communists came to power at the Centre?"] - Communists, communists! Why are you all so obsessed with communism and communists? What is that the communists can do what we cannot do and have not done?... Why do you imagine the communists will ever be voted to power at the Centre? The danger to India, mark you, is not Communism. It is Hindu right-wing communalism. (Jawaharlal Nehru, a Biography; by Sankar Ghose, p 180.)
- Communalism of the majority is far more dangerous than that of a minority. The majority, by virtue of it's being a majority, has the strength to have its way: it requires no protection. It is a most undesirable custom to give statutory protection to minorities. It is sometimes for example, to backward classes, but it is not good in the long run. I do not say that the majority should accept the wrong things done by the minority. How can it do so? (But) It is the duty and responsibility of the majority community, whether in the matter of language or religion, to pay particular attention to what the minority wants and to win it over. The majority is strong enough to crush the minority, which might not be protected.
- The majority community must show generosity in the matter to allay the fear and suspicion that minorities, even though unreasonably, might have.
- When the minority communities are communal, you can see that and understand it. But the communalism of a majority community is apt to be taken for nationalism.
- We have thus communalism ingrained in us and it comes out quickly even at the slightest provocation and even decent people begin to behave like barbarians when communalism is aroused in them.
- We still have these ideas of casteism and communalism with us, whether we are Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs. The communal and caste weaknesses of the people had been deprecated in numerous resolutions of the Congress Working Committee and AICC. 'These resolutions were against these caste and communal tendencies.' Yet, in our daily life, we do not understand them fully. If a lot is said about these weaknesses, it hurts people.
- If we cannot forget these caste and communal weaknesses, which erupt in us at the slightest provocation, and cannot tolerate other communities, then to hell with Swarajya.
- During his various speeches; taken from: "The Muslims of India: A Documentary Record", A.G. Noorani ; Jawaharlal Nehru's Speeches Vol. 3 (1953-1957); Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru Vol. 7.
- I want to go rapidly towards my objective. But fundamentally even the results of action do not worry me so much. Action itself, so long as I am convinced that it is right action, gives me satisfaction. In my general outlook on life I am a socialist and it is a socialist order that I should like to see established in India and the world.
- Statement of 1951, in Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru Vol. 5 (1987), p. 321
- I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West … Out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Perhaps my thoughts and approach to life are more akin to what is called Western than Eastern, but India clings to me, as she does to all her children, in innumerable ways … I am a stranger and alien in the West. I cannot be of it. But in my own country also, sometimes I have an exile's feeling.
- Every little thing counts in a crisis and we want our weight felt and our voice heard in quarters which are for the avoidance of world conflict.
- Jawaharlal Nehru's Speeches 1949 - 1953 (1954), p. 144
- Theoretical approaches have their place and are, I suppose, essential but a theory must be tempered with reality.
- Jawaharlal Nehru's Speeches 1949 - 1953 (1954), p. 235
- Without peace, all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes.
- Address to the United Nations (28 August 1954); as quoted in The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations (1993) by Lewis D. Eigen and Jonathan Paul Siegel, p. 698
- The only alternative to coexistence is codestruction.
- As quoted in The Observer [London] (29 August 1954)
- Democracy and socialism are means to an end, not the end itself. We talk of the good of society. Is this something apart from, and transcending, the good of the individuals composing it? If the individual is ignored and sacrificed for what is considered the good of the society, is that the right objective to have?
It was agreed that the individual should not be sacrificed and indeed that real social progress will come only when opportunity is given to the individual to develop, provided "the individual" is not a selected group but comprises the whole community. The touchstone, therefore, should be how far any political or social theory enables the individual to rise above his petty self and thus think in terms of the good of all. The law of life should not be competition or acquisitiveness but cooperation, the good of each contributing to the good of all.
- As quoted in World Marxist Review : Problems of Peace and Socialism (1958), p. 40
- You don't change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall.
- Statement to Nikita Khrushchev, as quoted in The New York Post (1 April 1959), and in The Cynic's Lexicon : A Dictionary of Amoral Advice (1984) by Jonathon Green, p. 184
- We talk about a secular state in India. It is perhaps not very easy even to find a good word in Hindi for "secular". Some people think it means something opposed to religion. That obviously is not correct. What it means is that it is state which honours all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities; that, as a state, it does not allow itself to be attached to one faith or religion, which then becomes the state religion.
- Statement of 1961, as quoted in Locked Minds, Modern Myths (1997) by T. N. Madan
- Democracy is good. I say this because other systems are worse. So we are forced to accept democracy. It has good points and also bad. But merely saying that democracy will solve all problems is utterly wrong. Problems are solved by intelligence and hard work.
- As quoted in The New York Times (15 January 1961), and in Lifetime Speaker's Encyclopedia (1962) by Jacob Morton Braude, p. 173
- Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. It is never a narrowing of the mind or a restriction of the human spirit or the country's spirit.
- The Quintessence of Nehru (1961) edited by K. T. Narasimhachar, p. 120
- Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.
- As quoted in Al Arab Vol. 9 (1970) by the League of Arab States, p. 9
- America is a country no one should go to for the first time.
- As quoted in The Traveling Curmudgeon: Irreverent Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes on Dismal Destinations, Excess Baggage, The Full Upright Position, and Other Reasons Not To Go There (2003) by Jon Winokur, p. 5
- 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.
- As quoted in Building A Life Of Value : Timeless Wisdom to Inspire and Empower Us (2005) by Jason A. Merchey, p. 74
- The Bhagavad Gita deals essentially with the spiritual foundation of human existence. It is a call of action to meet the obligations and duties of life; yet keeping in view the spiritual nature and grander purpose of the universe.
- As quoted in A Tribute to Hinduism : Thoughts and Wisdom Spanning Continents and Time about India and Her Culture (2008) by Sushama Londhe, p. 191
The Discovery of India (1946)
- The discovery of India — what have I discovered? It was presumptuous of me to imagine that I could unveil her and find out what she is today and what she was in the long past. Today she is four hundred million separate individual men and women, each differing from the other, each living in a private universe of thought and feeling. If this is so in the present, how much more so to grasp that multitudinous past of innumerable successions of human beings. Yet something has bound them together and binds them still. India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. Overwhelmed again and again her spirit was never conquered, and today when she appears to be a plaything of a proud conqueror, she remains unsubdued and unconquered. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive.
- The world of today has achieved much, but for all its declared love for humanity, it has based itself far more on hatred and violence than on the virtues that make one human. War is the negation of truth and humanity. War may be unavoidable sometimes, but its progeny are terrible to contemplate. Not mere killing, for man must die, but the deliberate and persistent propagation of hatred and falsehood, which gradually become the normal habits of the people. It is dangerous and harmful to be guided in our life's course by hatreds and aversions, for they are wasteful of energy and limit and twist the mind and prevent it from perceiving truth.
- History is almost always written by the victors and conquerors and gives their view. Or, at any rate, the victors' version is given prominence and holds the field.
A Tryst With Destiny (1947)
- Speech in the Constituent Assembly of India, on the eve of India's independence (14 August1947)
- Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. 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. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
- Freedom and power bring responsibility.
- The ambition of the greatest men of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.
And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
The Light Has Gone Out (1948)
- Speech after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi (30 January 1948) Full text online
- Friends and Comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more.
- The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate past, it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.
- A great disaster is a symbol to us to remember all the big things of life and forget the small things of which we have thought too much. In his death he has reminded us of the big things of life, the living truth, and if we remember that, then it will be well with India.
Speech to the US Congress (13 October 1949)
- Full text of Speech
- Where freedom is menaced or justice threatened or where aggression takes place, we cannot be and shall not be neutral.
- We have achieved political freedom but our revolution is not yet complete and is still in progress, for political freedom without the assurance of the right to live and to pursue happiness, which economic progress alone can bring, can never satisfy a people. Therefore, our immediate task is to raise the living standards of our people, to remove all that comes in the way of the economic growth of the nation. We have tackled the major problem of India, as it is today the major problem of Asia, the agrarian problem. Much that was feudal in our system of land tenure is being changed so that the fruits of cultivation should go to the tiller of the soil and that he may be secure in the possession of the land he cultivates. In a country of which agriculture is still the principal industry, this reform is essential not only for the well-being and contentment of the individual but also for the stability of society. One of the main causes of social instability in many parts of the world, more especially in Asia, is agrarian discontent due to the continuance of systems of land tenure which are completely out of place in the modem world. Another — and one which is also true of the greater part of Asia and Africa — is the low standard of living of the masses.
- India is industrially more developed than many less fortunate countries and is reckoned as the seventh or eighth among the world's industrial nations. But this arithmetical distinction cannot conceal the poverty of the great majority of our people. To remove this poverty by greater production, more equitable distribution, better education and better health, is the paramount need and the most pressing task before us and we are determined to accomplish this task. We realize that self-help is the first condition of success for a nation, no less than for an individual. We are conscious that ours must be the primary effort and we shall seek succour from none to escape from any part of our own responsibility. But though our economic potential is great, its conversion into finished wealth will need much mechanical and technological aid. We shall, therefore, gladly welcome such aid and co-operation on terms that are of mutual benefit. We believe that this may well help in the solution of the larger problems that confront the world. But we do not seek any material advantage in exchange for any part of our hard-won freedom.
Autobiography (1936; 1949; 1958)
- Several editions of Nehru's autobiography were published in his lifetime, including An Autobiography (1936), Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography, with Musings on Recent Events in India (1949), and Toward Freedom : The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1958) Some passages occur in all of these, but with slight variations of wording.
- Religion merges into mysticism and metaphysics and philosophy. There have been great mystics, attractive figures, who cannot easily be disposed of as self-deluded fools. Yet, mysticism (in the narrow sense of the word) irritates me; it appears to be vague and soft and flabby, not a rigorous discipline of the mind but a surrender of mental faculties and living in a sea of emotional experience. The experience may lead occasionally to some insight into inner and less obvious processes, but it is also likely to lead to self-delusion.
- For the first time I began to think, consciously and deliberately of religion and other worlds. The Hindu religion especially went up in my estimation; not the ritual or ceremonial part, but it's great books, the "Upnishads", and the "Bhagavad Gita".
- Jawaharlal Nehru, an autobiography, p. 15
- Essentially I am interested in this world, in this life, not in some other world or future life. Whether there is such a thing as soul, or whether there is survival after death or not, I do not know; and important as these questions are, they do not trouble me the least.
- What the mysterious is I do not know. I do not call it God because God has come to mean much that I do not believe in. I find myself incapable of thinking of a deity or of any unknown supreme power in anthropomorphic terms, and the fact that many people think so is continually a source of surprise to me. Any idea of a personal God seems very odd to me.
Intellectually, I can appreciate to some extent the conception of monism, and I have been attracted towards the Advaita (non-dualist) philosophy of the Vedanta, though I do not presume to understand it in all its depth and intricacy, and I realise that merely an intellectual appreciation of such matters does not carry one far.
- Many a Congressman was a communalist under his national cloak. But the Congress leadership stood firm and, on the whole, refused to side with either communal party, or rather with any communal group. Long ago, right at the commencement of non-co-operation or even earlier, Gandhiji had laid down his formula for solving the communal problem. According to him, it could only be solved by goodwill and the generosity of the majority group, and so he was prepared to agree to everything that the Muslims might demand. He wanted to win them over, not to bargain with them. With foresight and a true sense of values he grasped at the reality that was worthwhile; but others who thought they knew the market price of everything, and were ignorant of the true value of anything, stuck to the methods of the market-place. They saw the cost of purchase with painful clearness, but they had no appreciation of the worth of the article they might have bought.
- I turned inevitably with goodwill towards communism, for, whatever its faults, it was at least not hypocritical and not imperialistic. It was not a doctrinal adherence, as I did not know much about the fine points of Communism, my acquaintance being limited at the time to its broad features. There attracted me, as also the tremendous changes taking place in Russia. But Communists often irritated me by their dictatorial ways, their aggressive and rather vulgar methods, their habit of denouncing everybody who did not agree with them. This reaction was no doubt due, as they would say, to my own bourgeois education and up-bringing.
- Russia apart, the theory and philosophy of Marxism lightened up many a dark corner of my mind. History came to have a new meaning for me. The Marxist interpretation threw a flood of light on it... It was the essential freedom from dogma and the scientific outlook of Marxism that appealed to me.
- India is supposed to be a religious country above everything else, and Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and others take pride in their faiths and testify to their truth by breaking heads. The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere has filled me with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seems to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition and exploitation, and the preservation of vested interests. And yet I knew well that there was something else in it, something which supplied a deep inner craving of human beings. How else could it have been the tremendous power it has been and brought peace and comfort to innumerable tortured souls? Was that peace merely the shelter of blind belief and absence of questioning, the calm that comes from being safe in harbour, protected from the storms of the open sea, or was it something more? In some cases certainly it was something more.
But organized religion, whatever its past may have been, today is largely an empty form devoid of real content. Mr. G. K. Chesterton has compared it (not his own particular brand of religion, but other!) to a fossil which is the form of an animal or organism from which all its own organic substance has entirely disappeared, but has kept its shape, because it has been filled up by some totally different substance. And, even where something of value still remains, it is enveloped by other and harmful contents. That seems to have happened in our Eastern religions as well as in the Western.
- I knew that Gandhiji usually acts on instinct (I prefer to call it that than the "inner voice" or an answer to prayer) and very often that instinct is right. He has repeatedly shown what a wonderful knack he has of sensing the mass mind and of acting at the psychological moment. The reasons which he afterward adduces to justify his action are usually afterthoughts and seldom carry one very far. A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.
- Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends. Life is not all logic, and those ends will have to be varied from time to time to fit in with it, but some end must always be clearly envisaged.
- To be in good moral condition requires at least as much training as to be in good physical condition. But that certainly does not mean asceticism or self-mortification. Nor do I appreciate in the least the idealization of the "simple peasant life." I have almost a horror of it, and instead of submitting to it myself I want to drag out even the peasantry from it, not to urbanization, but to the spread of urban cultural facilities to rural areas.
- Organised religion allying itself to theology and often more concerned with its vested interests than with the things of the spirit encourages a temper which is the very opposite of science. It produces narrowness and intolerance, credulity and superstition, emotionalism and irrationalism. It tends to close and limit the mind of man and to produce a temper of a dependent, unfree person.
Even if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him, so Voltaire, said … perhaps that is true, and indeed the mind of man has always been trying to fashion some such mental image or conception which grew with the mind's growth. But there is something also in the reverse proposition: even if God exist, it may be desirable not to look up to Him or to rely upon Him. Too much dependence on supernatural forces may lead, and has often led, to loss of self-reliance in man, and to a blunting of his capacity and creative ability. And yet some faith seems necessary in things of the spirit which are beyond the scope of our physical world, some reliance on moral, spiritual, and idealistic conceptions, or else we have no anchorage, no objectives or purpose in life. Whether we believe in God or not, it is impossible not to believe in something, whether we call it a creative life-giving force, or vital energy inherent in matter which gives it its capacity for self-movement and change and growth, or by some other name, something that is as real, though elusive, as life is real when contrasted with death.
Quotes about Nehru
- My father was a statesman, I’m a political woman. My father was a saint. I’m not.
- Thirty years of struggle and sacrifice have left their mark. Each year has taken away something of the warmth, gaiety and outgoing charm … The brown eyes that were ever ready to sparkle at some witty sally often hold an expression now of hard defiance or weary frustration. His face is that of a tired man who seems to be driven by some internal force which never relents, never lets go. His smile today is the smile of a self-possessed man, a polite Prime Minister, fully aware of his power, defying any criticism... In the eyes of the world, he is undoubtedly the only man in India who can guide and control her destiny in these difficult times. Nevertheless, there is danger for him and for India if he is spoiled too much with adulation. In his own words, "It must be checked. We want no Caesars!"
- Upon Gandhi's assassination in 1948, a year after independence, Nehru, the country's first Prime Minister, became the keeper of the national flame, the most visible embodiment of India's struggle for freedom. Gandhi's death could have led Nehru to assume untrammeled power. Instead, he spent a lifetime trying to instill the habits of democracy in his people — a disdain for dictators, a respect for parliamentary procedures, an abiding faith in the constitutional system. He himself was such a convinced democrat that, at the crest of his rise, he authored an anonymous article warning Indians of the dangers of giving dictatorial temptations to Jawaharlal Nehru. "He must be checked," he wrote of himself. "We want no Caesars."
- This man has overcome two of the greatest failings in human nature -he knows neither fear nor hatred
- Winston Churchill, 1949
- [Nehru's father was] in Macaulay's famous phrase, 'Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect'. ... There being no vacancies at Eton, in 1905 he packed 15-year-old Jawaharlal off to Harrow, determined that the boy grow up a proper English gentleman. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, and years later, at Cambridge, Jawaharlal wrote his father asking permission to transfer to Oxford: 'Cambridge is becoming too full of Indians.' Those disliked countrymen, much to their ruin, would one day be led by Jawaharlal".
- Joseph Shattan, review of Stanley Wolpert: Nehru: a Tryst with Destiny, "The English gentleman who came to ruin India". In: American Spectator, Feb. 1997,Vol. 30 Issue 2, p72.
- ↑Rajiv Gandhi, ‘The Vision of Jawaharlal Nehru’, Gandhi Marg, Nov-Dec 1988, p.457