Jawaharlal Nehru was one among the few freedom fighters of India who sacrificed his life for the cause of the motherland. He was one of the fortunate leaders who brought the independence struggle to a successful termination. Among Gandhi’s great lieutenants in the struggle for freedom, no doubt, Nehru had a prominent place.
Nehru was born on 14th November 1889 in an aristocratic Kashmiri Brahmin family of Allahabad. His father Motilal Nehru was not only a reputed lawyer, but also a popular Congress leader, a Swaraj Party leader, a member of Central Legislative Assembly and also had framed the Nehru Report which sought dominion status for India.
Like the early stage of his father’s life, Nehru was influenced by the western culture and had led a luxurious life. After completing his education in England, Nehru came back to India in 1912.
Nehru’s entry into Indian politics marked the fluidity of the situation. Indian National Congress already had a split due to the conflict between the moderates and the extremists. The Congress was yet to have a mass base. With the “divide and rule” policy of the British Government, Muslim League was already formed. As a member of the Indian National Congress, he attended the Congress session at Bankipore (Patna) in 1912. He found the organisation without energy and initiative.
The situation was dull and frustrating. He began his political association with the Home Rule League established by Tilak and Annie Besant. He also became active in the functioning of the Kisan Sabha of Uttar Pradesh in 1915. He met Gandhiji in the Lucknow Session of the National Congress in December 1916 and was tremendously influenced by his towering personality. Nehru was shocked with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 1919.
An Inquiry Committee was formed to enquire non-officially into the incident consisting of Gandhiji, C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru. As the Secretary of this Committee, he got the opportunity to visit the place and to listen the torture of the people. Though the Committee held General Dyer responsible, the British Government exonerated him.
His nationalist spirit was awakened and despite the objection of Motilal, he was determined to take active part in the agitation against the British Government. But he was disinterested with the Khilafat Movement as it was a religious issue for him. When the non-cooperation movement was launched in December 1920, he participated in it and was arrested for his active role in the Satyagraha.
Thereafter, jail going became a regular feature from him. He spend more than nine years in British jail at different intervals. The sudden suspension of the movement after the Chauri-Chaura incident made him annoyed. He wrote to Gandhi that this incident was a byproduct of provocation from the side of the government. In such a mass struggle, violence here and there would be inevitable and non-violence should not be used as an end in itself. However, his revolutionary zeal was reconciled with the Gandhian method of movement. In 1923, he was appointed as the General Secretary of the Congress.
As the official delegate of the Indian National Congress in 1927, he participated in the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels. Nehru utilized this opportunity to impress upon other countries about India’s non-violent struggle against the imperial British Government. He emerged as an international figure and was elected as a member of the executive committee of the League to fight against imperialism. He was influenced by communist ideology while visiting Soviet Russia in 1927.
Since not a single Indian was included in the Simon Commission, the Congress party rejected to co-operate with it. Nehru participated in the ‘hartals’ in protest of the Commission. Along with Subhas Chandra Bose, and Srinivas Iyenger, Nehru put forward the demand that complete independence should be the goal of Congress Party as opposed to the idea of Dominion status. By that time, Dominion status had become the aim of the All Parties Committee organised under the president ship of Motilal Nehru.
He redefined the concept of Swaraj in terms of complete independence. With Gandhiji’s blessings, Nehru became the president of the Indian National Congress at Lahore and the historic independence resolution was passed on the midnight of December 31, 1929. He also became the president of the National Congress in 1936, 1937 and 1946. Nehru participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement at Allahabad and was imprisoned till January 1931. Though Congress boycotted the First Round Table Conference, yet Gandhiji agreed to participate in the Second Round Table Conference as per the understanding of Gandhi-Irwin.
Pact of March 1931. But Gandhi could not achieve any practical success in the Conference and returned empty handed. Nehru opposed severely the “Communal Award” of the British Government which provided separate electorate to Sikhs, Muslims, Europeans and other oppressed classes. When Gandhiji started his fast till death against the communal award, it created a deep emotion on Nehru.
The Government of India Act 1935 was far away from the demands of the Congress. Nehru termed it as “a charter of slavery and oppression”. Yet the Congress decided to participate in the election which was announced as the provision of the Act. Under Nehru’s leadership the Congress secured absolute majority in six provinces, and formed coalition government in two others out of the total eleven provinces.
But the Congress Governments resigned in October 1939 when India was made a party with Britain in the Second World War without any consultation with the Indian leaders. The British Government also encouraged communalism to the maximum extent by giving support to Muslim League’s demand of a separate homeland for Muslims on the soil of India.
With the failure of the Cripps Mission, Gandhiji urged for the right of self-determination to India. While Gandhi was wanting immediate withdrawal of the British Government and adopted a stern attitude to pressurize for it, there was also difference of opinion among the Indian leaders. Though Nehru initially was reluctant to go for a Movement, Gandhiji was determined to start “Satyagraha”. But since the British Government was adamant, Nehru changed his mind. The Quit India Resolution was moved by him and on 8th August 1942, at the Bombay session of the Congress it was adopted. He was arrested and imprisoned for three years.
After the war when Nehru was released, he became a leading figure of the Congress in various negotiations with the British Government. Being invited by Lord Wavell to form the government, he headed the first Indian (interim) Government of India. In the same year elections to the Constituent Assembly was also held. Lord Mountbatten was deputed as the Viceroy of India and completed the transfer of power. Despite the opposition of Gandhi, Nehru etc. India was partitioned under the “two nation” theory of Jinnah. Nehru continued to be the Prime Minister of independent India till his death on 27th May, 1964.
The role of Nehru in the political life of India was unique. He was not only a stalwart of Indian freedom struggle, but also the maker of modern India. He had laid the foundation of democracy, secularism, planning and socialism. He provided India a distinct place of importance in the international sphere with his policy of non-alignment and “Panchasheela”. His life was devoted for the cause of the motherland both in the pre and post independent era.