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Why I Think It’s High Time Congress Embraced Nehru

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For Nehruvians (if such a tribe ever existed), 10, five, or even two years ago, the world was a hostile place. They would get looks of disbelief and disdain of being Satan worshipers. They were suspected of receiving money from Congress although Congress did not even care about Nehru, despite the party being run by his namesake family. The sole defender of Nehru in the Congress party was Dr. Shashi Tharoor who ironically was a Nehru-baiter until then.

Nehru was accused of promoting dynasty and blamed for dying without naming a successor in the same breath.  Nehru and his sister were said to have promoted “snake-charmer image” of India in the world while accused of refusing free offers like nuclear weapons and permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Why would world’s superpowers give away such highly coveted prizes to a nation of snake-charmers? In 1947 the Western world had claimed that India as a country would not even last even for a decade. Winston Churchill called India no more of a country than the Equator. Yet, within five years of Independence, if those same Western powers were so eager to shower India with such great honors, whom should we credit this to?  Hint: Nehru was the Prime Minister as well as the External Affairs Minister!

These claims of blunders of Nehru contradict one another and fail to stand up to truth and logic. It is obvious that these accusers do not know anything about Nehru, nor any Indian history, civics or geography. Most of the claims can be disproved if one just read books written by Nehru himself. But unfortunately, in India, nobody reads! Even if they read, they cannot rationalize and hence perpetuate flawed narratives of generations old without even reflecting on it. The intellectual laziness of the educated Indians made it so easy to blame one person and his 17-year administration for all the evils of thousands of years before him and 54 years after so that we ourselves have no responsibility! Our own social responsibility is thus limited to cursing the Great Satan (Nehru) and lament our misery and helplessness caused by what he did or did not!

Congress’ Slumber Was BJP’s Advantage

Many articles appeared in last couple of years accusing the Modi Government of starting the systematic vilification of Jawaharlal Nehru in the year 2014.  While no other government before Modi undertook any official purge of Nehru, the ideology began gaining credibility in 1990s.  These new Nehruvian enthusiasts may not have noticed or may even have taken part in that process.  What used to be laughed off as loose-talk, frustration and irrational accusations by the earlier generations have been given mainstream political platform under leadership of LK Advani and then by Narendra Modi.

But most disappointing was Congress’ indifference. Congress was never shy of reacting firmly and quickly when Sonia, Rajiv or Indira were attacked. When it came to Nehru, however, there was a deafening silence. The causes can only be known to Congress. One can speculate that Congressmen didn’t know Nehru any more than his haters did.  Neither Sonia nor Rahul ever saw Nehru. Maybe they thought Nehru already gathered so much mud by then that cleaning him up would be unproductive and even risky. Congress probably thought it would be prudent to protect their immediate vote catching personalities (Indira, Rajiv and Sonia) and hoped Nehru’s thing would blow over.

BJP under leadership of Advani understood this dynamic and stayed clear of Sonia and Indira while chipping away at Nehru, unhindered and away from safe zone of Congress. The plan worked perfectly as Congress steadily lost its credibility and legitimacy probably without them even realizing what had hit them.

Rajaji, Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru

Birthers Movement, The Indian Version

During the Presidency of Barack Obama, a group of right-wing activists tried to force his impeachment by claiming that Obama was born in Kenya and not within the 50 United States of America. The implication of the claim was that he would not meet the minimum requirements set by the US Constitution to become the President of the country thus delegitimizing his Presidency.

Likes of Advani understood that the credibility of Congress Party flows from Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. It would be impossible to neutralize the towering presence and many contributions of Nehru especially if Nehru was Mahatma’s legitimate choice.  So, alternative truth was fabricated that Nehru stole the job of Prime Minister from Sardar Patel and Subhas Chandra Bose. If Nehru really stole Mahatma’s approval from anybody, it would be C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) whom at least until 1927 the Mahatma considered as his political successor!

It was claimed that Nehru blackmailed Mahatma Gandhi manipulating Gandhi’s passions and fears to remove Sardar Patel out of his way. It was further claimed that Nehru took Stalin’s help to eliminate Bose. BJP government’s hyped declassification of Bose Files was unsurprisingly a damp squib.

Narratives of Nehru later starting the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty whom “uneducated” people of India meekly accepted, slowly gained currency. Educated or not, the people of that generation were far more politically informed and active than any of the “educated” Indians today. They gave up their jobs, livelihood, families, went to prison and had their properties confiscated by the British with the hope for better future for their children and rest of us. To suppose they voted for “Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty” out of ignorance or fear is contempt and arrogance on our part.

Somnath Temple

The context and motivations behind rebuilding the Somnath Temple in the erstwhile Princely State of Junagarh seem to have been lost for Indians.  Modiji falsely accuses Nehru of trying to stop Patel from rebuilding the temple yet he never seems to get refuted.  Sardar Patel’s trusted lieutenant VP Menon’s in his book “Integration of the Indian States” describes a Sardar Patel who was ridden with guilt at the time he visited Junagarh in November 1947 when he decided to rebuild the temple.

According to VP Menon, Sardar Patel tried to give Kashmir away to Pakistan while evidently oblivious to the consequences of such gesture.  In October 1947, the Pathan “Raiders” have infiltrated through the unguarded Durand Line into the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.  The Raiders quickly occupied Muzaffarabad, Uri and Baramulla and committed unspeakable crimes, which VP Menon likened to the invasions of Mahmud Ghazni.  It is conceivable that Patel was deeply disturbed and understood his error.

During the following month when Patel paid his first visit to the newly annexed Princely State of Junagarh, his decision to visit Somnath (destroyed once earlier by Mahmud Ghazni) was driven by repentance on part of Sardar Patel.  Both Gandhi and Nehru were supportive of rebuilding the temple but with private funds. Given the milieu of nearly 2 million deaths and largest mass migration in the history of mankind that was perpetrated in the name of religion, keeping the rebuilding of the temple at a low key should be expected.

Patel atoning his sin by championing rebuilding of the Somnath Temple was understandable  But to paint this as Nehru’s hatred for Hinduism and for Patel is false and uncalled for. Nehru did nothing wrong in Kashmir and hence his conscience was clear, so he could be objective unlike Sardar Patel.

“Nehruvians” Are The Biggest Threat to Nehruvian Legacy

BJP could not have sustained such a big mountain of lie for so long without implicit endorsement of independently minded intellectuals as well as few self-proclaimed Nehruvians. When I read likes of Sarvepalli Gopal, Inder Malhotra and Ramachandra Guha I feel that Nehru would be better off without their support and endorsement.  While Kashmir, Socialism and 1962 are what come to mind when contemporary Indian thinks of Nehru, this is precisely where these “Nehruvians” throw him under the bus and eagerly offer Nehru’s head on a platter.

Inder Malhotra accused Nehru of destroying India by being misled by Krishna Menon, BM Kaul and the China while innocently wondering at the same time as to why Indians hate Nehru so much these days. In a bizarre argument, Guha suggests that Modi is entitled to insult Nehru if Nehru’s descendants (whom Nehru had never even seen) continue in politics (which Nehru had nothing to do with).  Guha sanctioning such distortion of history while claiming to be a historian is just sad.  Shouldn’t that rule apply to Lal Bahadur Shastri as well as Sardar PatelGuha is among those who routinely accused Congress of promoting Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty while ignoring others. This claim needs serious contemplation because this is widespread and yet false:

  1. What about BJP’s claim that Congress hated Jawaharlal Nehru and elected Sardar Patel as the Prime Minister?
  2. Congress is like any other political organization that should be catering to the present and future needs of Indians, and not building statues of dead people and rehabilitating their descendants.
  3. Why would Congress promote anybody including Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty unless there is a benefit? Congress expelled Nehru’s daughter twice from the party. If Congress thinks Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty cannot get them votes, it will dump them in a heartbeat.
  4. Nehru made Sardar Patel’s daughter a member of the Parliament multiple times but never his own daughter. Congress named hundreds of institutions after Patel. When will it be enough?
  5. How ridiculous is the expectation that Congress turn itself into a bhajan group singing praises of dead people? Why is it Congress’ job and nobody else’s?
  6. Why is it Congress’ responsibility to keep giving credit to everybody and their brothers while rest of us don’t have to? Did Congress ever stop any of us from doing so?
  7. Congress disowned and even wronged many other leaders like Rajaji, JB Kriplanai and VK Krishna Menon. Some were wronged by Sardar Patel himself.  Why isn’t BJP appropriating them and correcting the wrongs?

A New Hope

Nearly after three decades, the Congress seems to have found its spine in recent days with ever reluctant Rahul Gandhi now bravely trading punches with BJP. We have seen him mocking Modi for repeatedly blaming Nehru along with the rest of the “dynasty”. When Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sent a malicious tweet on Nehru, it was quickly refuted by Dr. Shashi Tharoor. On Independence Day, Jaitley tweeted a group picture of freedom fighters without Nehru in the picture. This was criticized by Ravish Kumar of NDTV among others. In the past, it would just be reported approvingly. Each time Modi lies about Nehru, someone seems to come out with a blog refuting him, which was not the case earlier.

BJP’s attempt to evict Nehru from Nehru Memorial Museum and Library should be effectively countered by Congress as well as the intelligentsia, although much damage has already been done. With returning to power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajastan, one can hope that Congress undoes earlier BJP governments’ erasure of Nehru from school texts.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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