Source: The Royal Coronation Number and Who's Who in India, Burma and Ceylon, ed. and comp. Thos. Peters (Poona: The Sun Publishing House, 1937), 160

Jawaharlal Nehru

Born in 1889, Jawaharlal Nehru was the only son of a multi-millionaire. As a young schoolboy in England, he had a voracious appetite for learning about current events. The defeat of Czarist Russia at the hands of Japan fanned his ambition of freeing India from being ruled by the British. In the midst of the uproar caused by the Rowlatt Act, Nehru was inspired by Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement. However, at the request of Gandhi, he abandoned the idea of participating in the Satyagraha movement. During a brief stay in Allahabad, he took a brief walk through the villages and saw a large number of ‘kisans’ who, though living in appalling conditions, were full of new consciousness about the goings-on of the political scene. This touched Nehru and he became determined to better their lives and involve them in the Congress movement. The advent of the Non-Co-operation movement saw Nehru wholly devoting his energies into it, travelling through villages to invigorate the masses into becoming proponents of freedom. He further organised a Congress Volunteer Corps to bring about strikes and hartals during Prince Wales’ visit.

His work led to his first imprisonment in 1922. Upon his release, he grew disgruntled by the arguments of the two parties within Congress and took up municipal work as the Chairman of the Allahabad Municipality. After a farcical trial following an incident, he was imprisoned for a second time during which he became aware of the outmoded system of administration of the States. This spurred him to organise a movement calling for the abolishment of these rules. While recuperating in Europe, he studied the Soviet planned economy in Russia and was convinced that not only was Socialism the cure for the poverty of the masses, it was also crucial for political freedom. The achievements of Russia’s economic planning also led Nehru to stress the import of national planning in India. This idea later took form in the founding of the National Planning Committee.

 

Nehru also recognised that the changes to be made in India had to be carried out from the stance of India’s economic interests and not Europe’s. After his return to India, he criticised the Congress’ moderate pursuit of dominion status and at his urging, independence became the eventual goal of the Congress. In 1929, he was elected as one of the youngest Presidents of the Congress. With his new title, Nehru repeatedly emphasised that the economic issues confronting India’s people ought not to be overlooked in the course of Congress’ fight for independence. To Nehru, the roots of the poor living conditions of the masses were in the existence of Imperialistic masters, along with landlords and capitalists. His influence was palpable in the Karachi Congress of 1931, where his socialistic ideas were adopted and translated into resolutions that emphasised the need for agrarian reform and state control of vital industries. He went on to establish the A.I.C.C Foreign department to distribute propaganda in other countries about the Indian National Movement to engender sympathies in India’s favour, one of his many innovations in Congress. He also widened the Congress’ outlook towards freedom and it began to assert its support to freedom movements around the world.

In his later years, he organised a Defence Council for the captives of the Indian National Army and marshalled mass calls for their release. As President of the States’ Peoples’ Conference, he called for the British to advance responsible government and suggested that the solution to the States’ problem would be the formation of autonomous units of the federation of Free India through the merging of small states in neighbouring provinces. Gandhi exerted a great influence on his thoughts though, unlike Gandhi, Nehru was more adamant that the entire system of despotic power, regardless of its cause as capitalism or imperalism, was an inherent evil.

Sources: C.F Andrews, “Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru: The Champion of the Indian People”, Great Men of India, ed. L.F. Rushbrook Williams (Bombay: The Home Library Club, 1939), 346-357; Sunil Kumar Mitra, “Jawaharlal Nehru”, Eminent Indians Vol. 1, ed. Ermine A. Brown (Calcutta: Shanti Mitra, 1948), 40-52

Works

Recent Essays and Writings: On the Future of India, Communalism and Other Subjects (Allahabad: Kitabistan, 1934)

China, Spain and the War: Essays and Writings (Allahabad: Kitabistan, 1940)

Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (New York: The John Day Company, 1941)

The Unity of India: Collected Writings, 1937-1940 (New York: The John Day Company, Inc., 1942)

Ideas of IndiaIdeas of India