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Nehru in Political Attire as a Historian

The concept of India is seriously threatened today, and religious and sectarian groups are using history as a weapon to distort it beyond recognition and destroy the notion of India

Niraj Krishna

Praise of our first Prime Minister, who presided over an independent India for the longest stretch of time in its history—17 years—has grown risky in the modern day. Consider Nehru the “maker of modern India,” and you’ll be met with criticism from social media trolls who think May 2014 is when history started. There is a concerted attempt to erase Nehru’s legacy or to downplay his role in the creation of an independent India.

The concept of India is seriously threatened today, and religious and sectarian groups are using history as a weapon to distort it beyond recognition and destroy the notion of India. All of his errors are being emphasized. Yes, he committed a few serious errors, but what great leader in any nation does not? But a dispassionate analysis of Nehru’s contribution to the Indian liberation movement and his tenure as the country’s first prime minister demonstrates that his accomplishments much exceed his shortcomings.

The first Prime Minister of India, Nehru, is frequently recognized for his important contribution to the development of contemporary India. A closer examination indicates that Nehru’s approach to politics was intricately entwined with his historical sensibility, even if his contributions to the independence struggle and post-independence government are what will always be remembered as his political legacy. In fact, one could argue that Nehru was just as much of a historian as a politician, with his political judgment and vision for India greatly impacted by his knowledge of the past.

He was extremely knowledgeable about Indian society and history. Jawaharlal Nehru left behind an independent India after giving his all to liberate the country from British empire, the place where “the sun never sets.” The three famous works Nehru authored during the liberation fight were “The Discovery of India,” “Glimpses of World History,” and “An Autobiography.” There has never been a prime minister in global history who wrote as well as Nehru did.

Nehru has a lifetime fascination for history and engaged with it beyond just an academic pursuit. His works, particularly “The Discovery of India” and “Glimpses of World History,” demonstrate his profound understanding of the past and his wish to place India’s liberation movement in a larger historical perspective. These pieces are not just accounts of past events but also analyses of modern politics by drawing on historical lessons.

Nehru provides a thorough history of India in “The Discovery of India,” highlighting the endurance and continuity of Indian civilization. His story is imbued with a vision of a contemporary, secular, democratic India as well as a sense of pride in India’s cultural legacy. His policies, in particular his stress on unity in variety and his attempts to create a unified national identity, were greatly influenced by this historical viewpoint.

Nehru was an outspoken opponent of reading historical accounts of monarchs, battles, and other acts from “an old and completely outdated perspective.” On the other hand, Nehru stressed the “social aspect of history,” which is now widely acknowledged as the standard in contemporary historiography.

Thorough investigation into the everyday experiences of ordinary people is necessary. In his singularly exquisite language, he said, “Perhaps into the family budgets from a hundred or a thousand years ago… which gives us some sense of what humanity’s life was like in the past ages.” “Only then can we fill the dry bones of history with life, flesh, and blood.”

Nehru was a supporter of what is now known as “connected history” and argued for seeing history in a global context. “The notion of chronicling the history of a single nation is progressively losing its relevance,” he declared. It is hard to consider a nation’s history in isolation from the rest of the globe these days. There is a growing global integration. The past of today needs to be viewed globally.

Historians, Nehru emphasized, should not write only for the benefit of other historians or for people with a very specific interest that “loses all interest for the general public.” They ought to “strive to appeal to the minds of the broader public—the intelligent or semi-intelligent masses.”

Popularity did not, in his opinion, imply a departure from scholarship. I don’t believe that a popular approach and true scholarship are inherently at odds.” He argued, as early as 1933, that books need to be written such that everyone, even someone with very no reading experience, like a laborer or farmer, could grasp them. Our efforts will be in futile unless the entire public comprehends it.”

He was drawn to history. It gave him a perceptive grasp of history, a profound and instantaneous comprehension of the present, and the uncommon ability to consider and make plans for everyone’s future. Being a brilliant historian, Nehru used his knowledge of the past to create a new, democratic India freed from social injustice and economic hardship via scientific problem-solving and scientific thinking. The combination of his distinctive personality with the revolution of Marx, the non-violence of Gandhi, the Vedanta of Swami Vivekananda, science and history, idealism and realism, literature and politics, was truly remarkable. In the words of Norman Cousins, Nehru was ‘not a person but a community of personalities.’

Nehru made history and altered the course of events. He was a man of strong convictions and ideals. He established the strong foundations of democracy in India and always spoke and understood the language of the ordinary people, the socially disadvantaged, and the downtrodden, leaving an enduring impression on the globe. Nehru’s legacy endures to this day, drawing interest from academics, social activists, the media, politicians, and dreamers in India and beyond.

Nehru will gain increasing significance with time—not only for India but for the entire world. His opinions on social, political, and economic matters are, in fact, more pertinent now than they were when he was alive. Nehru’s goal for the advancement of India and Indians should be reflected in the ideas and deeds of policymakers, legislators, intellectuals, and scientists.

Gaining an understanding of Jawaharlal Nehru’s historical background is essential to understanding his political thought and deeds. He frequently used historical allusions and comparisons in his writings and speeches, highlighting his conviction that history is cyclical and that we may learn from the failures and achievements of the past. He was able to observe political possibilities and difficulties through a unique prism thanks to this historical perspective.

Nehru’s historical sensitivity also helped him to express an outlook for India that was both forward-thinking and firmly grounded in knowledge of its past. His determination to revitalize India’s ancient strengths and modify them to meet current demands propelled his modernization initiatives. In addition to being a political platform, Nehru’s vision of India as a secular, democratic, and inclusive country was a historical quest to recover and redefine India’s position in the world.

Nehru made equally important contributions to history. His understanding of history gave his political beliefs and deeds a sense of depth and continuity that molded his vision for India. Nehru’s legacy, then, is not just that of a politician who guided India through its formative years but also that of a historian who gave the process of nation-building a deep understanding of historical context. His distinct fusion of political savvy and historical understanding still inspires and directs India today.

One should study “The Discovery of India,” “Glimpses of World History,” and “An Autobiography” in order to comprehend Nehru’s vision, goal, intellect, commitment, scientific thinking, and humanistic approach toward the people. The thoughts, deeds, and writings of Nehru will reverberate for generations to come. It was none other than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, who created the solid foundation the country has accomplished today. As Nehru correctly said, “If India perishes, who lives? If India survives, who loses?

As Nehru himself famously said, “My interest in history has not remained an academic interest in past events; it has become an intense personal interest because fortune and circumstances have placed me in a position to play a role in the saga or drama of India over the past twenty or thirty years.” I wanted to attempt to gaze into the future, to comprehend those events in light of today, and to understand today in light of what transpired yesterday. One must study history in order to comprehend the present and what the future ought to hold.”

Marx stated that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it,” contending that history was a resource for “men of action” such as Nehru, who sought to understand the present in order to influence the future, rather than a meaningless story placed in chronological order. This is how Nehru asked historians to interpret the past.

Nehru was a talented writer and journalist in addition to his novels. His thoughts and articles on social justice, international relations, and current political concerns were printed in a number of newspapers and periodicals. His work was distinguished by its incisiveness, clarity, and potent ability to sway public opinion. Nehru’s journalistic endeavors were essential in conveying the ambitions of the Indian independence movement to audiences across the country and beyond.

The literary works of Nehru have had a lasting impression on Indian political philosophy and literature. Because of his writings’ literary value and historical relevance, they have been examined and appreciated. In addition to chronicling the vibrant stage of India’s independence movement, Nehru’s writings provide enduring lessons in nation-building, democracy, and leadership.

In addition to being a brilliant leader, Jawaharlal Nehru was a skilled writer and historian whose works provide deep, complex insights into politics, history, and the human condition. Anyone wishing to comprehend the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary India and the legacy of one of its most significant figures would find great value in his works.

Niraj Krishna



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