Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of modern India, was born on November 14, 1889, in Allahabad, British India. He hailed from a family deeply rooted in the Indian freedom struggle, and his early life was shaped by the political and intellectual milieu of the time.
Nehru was born into a distinguished Kashmiri Brahmin family. His father, Motilal Nehru, was a prominent lawyer and a key figure in the Indian National Congress, while his mother, Swarup Rani Nehru, came from a well-educated and affluent family. Nehru’s privileged upbringing allowed him access to the best education, both in India and abroad.
Nehru’s early education took place at home, where he was tutored by private tutors. His academic prowess became evident early on, and he soon developed a keen interest in science, literature, and history. In 1905, at the age of 16, Nehru left India to pursue higher education at the prestigious Harrow School in England. The experience of living in a foreign land and exposure to diverse cultural influences left a lasting impact on his worldview.
After completing his studies at Harrow, Nehru went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he immersed himself in the intellectual and political currents of the time. His time at Cambridge exposed him to socialist ideas, and he became increasingly aware of the political and social challenges facing India under British colonial rule. Nehru’s intellectual curiosity and passion for justice were evident in his involvement with the Fabian Society, a socialist group that advocated for social reforms.
Returning to India in 1912, Nehru plunged into the nationalist movement. His commitment to the cause of Indian independence deepened, and he became an active participant in the Congress-led agitations against British rule. During the First World War, Nehru, like many other nationalists, saw an opportunity to press for India’s self-rule in exchange for supporting the British war effort. However, the post-war period brought disappointment as the British government failed to fulfill its promises of greater self-governance.
In 1920, Mahatma Gandhi emerged as the leader of the Indian National Congress, and Nehru became one of his ardent followers. The two leaders shared a vision of a free and independent India, and Nehru’s association with Gandhi marked a turning point in his political career. Nehru actively participated in the non-cooperation movement launched by Gandhi in 1920, which aimed at boycotting British institutions and promoting Indian self-reliance.
As Nehru’s political stature grew, he played a pivotal role in the formulation of the Purna Swaraj (Complete Independence) resolution at the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress in 1929. The resolution declared that January 26, 1930, would be celebrated as Independence Day, and it laid the foundation for the Civil Disobedience Movement. This movement saw Nehru and other leaders leading protests against unjust British laws, including the infamous salt tax.
Nehru’s commitment to socialism and his vision of a secular and democratic India were reflected in his role as the president of the Lahore Session of the Congress in 1929. It was during this session that the tricolor flag was hoisted, symbolizing India’s struggle for freedom. The influence of socialist ideals was also evident in Nehru’s book “The Discovery of India,” where he explored the country’s rich history, culture, and diversity.
The early 1940s brought significant changes to the political landscape of India. The Quit India Movement of 1942, spearheaded by Gandhi, called for the immediate withdrawal of the British from India. Nehru, along with other Congress leaders, was arrested and imprisoned for his participation in the movement. The years spent in prison allowed him time for introspection and provided an opportunity to refine his vision for post-independence India.
As the struggle for independence gained momentum, the need for a united front became apparent. The demand for a separate Muslim state, however, led to the creation of Pakistan in 1947, resulting in the partition of India. The partition was a traumatic event that left an indelible mark on Nehru, who had always envisioned a united and secular India. Despite the challenges posed by communal tensions and the mass migration of populations, Nehru assumed office as the first Prime Minister of independent India on August 15, 1947.
Nehru’s tenure as Prime Minister was marked by his unwavering commitment to democracy, secularism, and social justice. He played a crucial role in drafting the Indian Constitution, which became the cornerstone of the nation’s governance. The Five-Year Plans were introduced under his leadership, focusing on economic development, industrialization, and poverty alleviation.
Nehru’s foreign policy was characterized by a commitment to non-alignment, a stance that sought to maintain India’s independence from both the Western and Eastern blocs during the Cold War. He played a key role in establishing the Non-Aligned Movement, a coalition of nations advocating for a neutral stance in international affairs.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership was not without its challenges. The Sino-Indian War of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 posed significant geopolitical challenges, testing Nehru’s diplomatic skills and India’s military capabilities. Despite these setbacks, Nehru’s commitment to democratic values and secularism remained steadfast.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s political journey came to an end with his death on May 27, 1964. His legacy, however, endures in the form of modern India—a democratic, secular, and diverse nation that emerged from the crucible of the independence struggle. Nehru’s contributions to the nation’s political, social, and economic development have left an indelible mark, making him a revered figure in Indian history.