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!
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.
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.
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.
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 Patel? Guha 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:
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.