Father of India Mahatma Gandhi

Father of India Mahatma Gandhi

Smt. Indira Gandhi's Broadcast over All India Radio on Mahatma Gandhi [New Delhi, October 1, 1968]

"In the history of India, there have been occasions when a cloud, no bigger than a man’s hand, has soon covered the whole sky,” so wrote Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. He himself poured life- giving water on a land thirsting for freedom.

In just four weeks in 1919, he changed the outlook of this subcontinent. He transformed the cowed and the weak into a nation which fearlessly asserted its right to be free. He gave his people a new weapon, which ultimately delivered them from colonial rule. This weapon was Satyagraha, civil disobedience or nonviolent non- cooperation. Literally, the word means “insistence on truth.” It was a weapon that did not need physical strength. But to be effective it did need the greatest self-discipline.

After Mahatma Gandhi conducted his first Satyagraha cam­paigns in the country, it took India thirty long years to wrest freedom. During this time we learnt the full meaning of freedom. He taught us that a people who permitted injustice and inequality in their own society did not deserve freedom and could not pre­serve it. Thus equality of opportunity, irrespective of birth, sex, or religion, became the objectives of our struggle for freedom.

These ideals have come down to us through the ages. Buddha, Ashoka and Akbar, to name only three of the many wise and great men who have molded our history. Mahatma Gandhi reinterpreted these old truths and applied them to our daily lives, and so made them comprehensible to the humblest of us. He forged them as instruments for a mass struggle for a peaceful polit­ical and social revolution. His stress was on reconciliation, whether amongst classes or amongst nations.

Mahatma Gandhi interpreted the yearnings of the inarticulate masses and spoke the words that they themselves were struggling to express. Wearing the loincloth, which was then all that the vast majority of our peasants could afford, he identified himself with the downtrodden and the poor. To those whom Indian society had regarded as untouchables, he gave the name "men of God,” and to the last days of his life he worked ceaselessly for their uplift and emancipation. During the communal riots, this frail and aged man walked amongst the people and, through sheer faith and force of spirit, achieved miracles of reconciliation, which peacekeeping armies could not have wrought. He met his martyrdom because he refused to compromise with hatred and intolerance.

Mahatma Gandhi relied on spiritual strength. He believed in limiting one's wants and in working with one’s hands. He modeled his life according to the ancient Hindu book, the Bhagavad-Gita or "the Lord’s song,” but he drew inspiration also from Christianity and Islam. Indeed he thought that no man could follow his own religion truly unless he equally honored other religions. Long be­fore him, in the third century B.C., the Emperor Ashoka had written, "In reverencing the faith of others, you will exalt your own faith and will get your own faith honored by others.”

Mahatma Gandhi called his life story "My Experiments with Truth." His truth was neither exclusive nor dogmatic. As he once wrote, "There are many ways to truth, and each of us sees truth in fragment.” Thus, tolerance is essential to truth; violence is incom­patible with it. Nor can peace come from violence. To him, ends and means were equally important. He believed that no worthy ob­jective could be achieved through an unworthy instrument.

Mahatma Gandhi will be remembered as a prophet and a revolu­tionary. He stood for resistance nonviolent resistance to tyranny and social injustice. He asked us to apply a test, which I quote, "Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, recall the case of the poorest and weakest man who you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him control over his own life and destiny? Will it lead to SWARAJ that is self-government, for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then, you will find your doubts and self melt­ing away." This, test is valid for our times, indeed for all times, it is valid for India and for the world.

As long as there is oppression and degradation of the human spirit, people will seek guidance from him to assert their dignity. The weapon of nonviolent resistance which he has given mankind is today used in other lands and other climes. The world rightly regards Gandhi as the greatest Indian since the Buddha. Like the Buddha, he will continue to inspire mankind in its progress to a higher level of civilization. In India, it is our endeavor to build a future which is worthy of him.

Shri K Kamaraj

Shri K Kamaraj

Kumaraswami Kamaraj played a leading role in shaping India’s destiny after the passing away of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, to the Congress split in 1969.

He was born humble and poor in a backward area of Tamil Nadu on July 15, 1903. He was a Nadar, one of the most depressed castes of Hindu society. His schooling lasted only six years. At the age of twelve, he was already working as a shop assistant. He was barely fifteen when he heard of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which was the turning point in his life.

Two years later when Kamaraj saw Gandhiji at Madurai, he knew his path was chosen.

He became a member of the Indian National Congress. Kamaraj was content for years to remain a rank and file Congress volunteer, working hard for the cause of the freedom movement, unmindful of his personal comfort or career.

He was eighteen when he responded to the call of Gandhiji for non-cooperation with the British. He carried on propaganda in the villages, raised funds for Congress work and took a leading part in organising meetings. At twenty he was picked up by Satyamurthy, one of the greatest orators and a leading figure of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, who would become Kamaraj’s political guru.

In April 1930, Kamaraj joined the Salt Satyagraha Movement at Vedaranyam and was sentenced to two years in jail—the first of his many stints in prison. Jail-going had become a part of his career and in all he went to prison six times and spent more than 3,000 days in British Jails.

Bachelor Kamaraj was forty-four when India became free. Kamaraj was elected President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee in February, 1940. He held that post till 1954. He was in the Working Committee of the AICC from 1947 till the Congress split in 1969, either as a member or as a special invitee.

Kamaraj was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1937, unopposed. He was again elected to it in 1946. He was also elected to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1946, and later to Parliament in 1952.

He became Chief Minister of Madras in 1954. He was perhaps the first non-English knowing Chief Minister of India. But it was during the nine years of his administration that Tamilnadu came to be known as one of the best administered States in India.

In 1963 he suggested to Nehru that senior Congress leaders should leave ministerial posts to take up organisational work. This suggestion came to be known as the ‘Kamaraj Plan’, which was designed primarily to dispel from the minds of Congressmen the lure for power, creating in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and policies of the organisation.

The plan was approved by the Congress Working Committee and was implemented within two months. Six Chief Ministers and six Union Ministers resigned under the plan. Kamaraj was later elected President of the Indian National Congress on October 9, 1963.

Twice he played a leading role in choosing the Prime Minister of India. His defeat in Virudhunagar in 1967 considerably undermined his prestige. It was even said that he was a much disillusioned man. But the landslide victory at Nagercoil in 1969, revived his political stature. However, the split in the Congress in 1969 (he remained in the Organisation Congress) and the General Elections of 1971, resulted in another set-back to his political prestige and authority.

Kumaraswami Kamaraj continued to work quietly among the masses until the very end. He was honoured posthumously with India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1976.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, one of the six children of Jhaverbhai Patel and Ladba, was born in Nadiad, Gujarat. There is no record of his date of birth. The generally accepted date, October 31, 1875, of which the source is his Matriculation certificate, was chosen by Vallabhbhai himself while filling in a form.

The family was an agriculturist one of the Lewa Patidar Community, and could in terms of economic status be described as lower middle-class. It was poor and had no tradition of education.

Vallabhbhai’s childhood was spent away from books, in the ancestral fields at Karamsad. He was already in his late teens when he passed out from the Middle School at Karamsad and went to the High School at Nadiad, from where he matriculated in 1897.

Even as a young boy Vallabhbhai displayed qualities of organization and leadership that marked him out for his future role. Once as a sixth-form boy he organized a successful strike of his classmates that lasted for three days to teach a lesson to one of the teachers who was unduly fond of the rod.

Vallabhbhai must have inherited these attributes from his father who, it is said, had fought in the Mutiny under the Rani of Jhansi and was subsequently taken prisoner by Malhar Rao Holkar.

Vallabhbhai was a mature young man of twenty-two when he matriculated. Owing to the impecunious circumstances of the family, higher education was not within his reach. The next best thing was to take a course in law and set up as a country lawyer. This he did and established a small practice at Godhra.

But an attack of plague, which he contracted while nursing a friend, made him leave the town and after spending some time in Nadiad, he moved on to Borsad in 1902, a town in the Kheda district where at that time the largest number of criminal cases in Gujarat were recorded.

Vallabhbhai became quite popular here as a defence lawyer. Vallabhbhai now wanted to go to England and qualify as a Barrister. From his practice at Borsad he had earned enough for his expenses there but owing to certain circumstances he was not able to make the trip at once.

His brother Vithalbhai expressed his desire to complete his education in an English firm and Vallabhbhai readily acquiesced to this and even paid for his stay. His wife, Zaverbai, died early in 1909 after an operation for some abdominal malady. When news of the bereavement reached Vallabhbhai, he was cross-examining a witness in a murder case at Anand.

With an impregnable composure for which he became known later, he did not show grief but went on with the cross-examination in hand. He finally sailed for England in 1910 and joined the Middle Temple. Here he worked so hard and conscientiously that he topped in Roman Law, securing a prize, and was called to the Bar at the end of two years instead of the usual period of three years.

On his return to India in 1913, he set up practice in Ahmedabad and made a great success of it. He had ready wit, a fund of common sense and a deep sympathy for those who were the objects of the British officials’ wrath and were caught in the clutches of the law, which was not uncommon in the Kheda district. He came to enjoy a respected position in public life due to his eminence as a Barrister.

He accepted Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, having been tremendously impressed by the fearless lead that Mahatma Gandhi gave to right public wrongs. In 1917 he was elected for the first time as the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad.

From 1924 to 1928 he was Chairman of the Municipal Committee. The years of his association with the Municipal administration were marked by much meaningful work for the improvement of civic life. Work was done to improve water supply, sanitation and town planning and the Municipality was transformed, from being a mere adjunct to the British rule, into a popular body with a will of its own.

There were also calamities like plague in 1917 and famine in 1918, and on both occasions Vallabhbhai did important work to relieve distress. In 1917 he was elected Secretary of the Gujarat Sabha, a political body which was of great assistance to Gandhiji in his campaigns.

The association with Mahatma Gandhi became closer during the Kheda Satyagraha in 1918, which was launched to secure exemption from payment of the land revenue assessment since the crops had failed. It took three months of intense campaigning that was marked by arrests, seizures of goods, chattels, livestock and much official brutality before relief was secured from an unwilling Colonial Government.

Gandhiji said that if it were not for Vallabhbhai’s assistance “this campaign would not have been carried through so successfully”. The five years from 1917 to 1922 were years of popular agitation in India. The end of the war was followed by the Rowlatt Act and still further curtailment of individual freedom.

And then followed the Khilafat movement with massacres and terror in the Punjab. Gandhiji and the Congress decided on non-cooperation. Vallabhbhai left his practice for good and gave himself up wholly to political and constructive work, touring villages, addressing meetings, organizing picketing of foreign cloth shops and liquor shops.

Then came the Bardoli Satyagraha. The occasion for the Satyagraha was the Government’s decision to increase the assessment of land revenue from Bardoli taluka by 22 per cent and in some villages by as much as 50 to 60 per cent.

Having failed to secure redress by other means, the agriculturists of the taluka decided at a Conference on February 12, 1928, to withhold payment of land revenue under the leadership of Vallabhbhai Patel.

The struggle was grim and bitter. There were seizures of property and livestock to such an extent that for days on end, people kept themselves and their buffaloes locked in. Arrests followed and then brutalities of the police and the hired Pathans.

The struggle drew the attention of the whole country to it. Patels and Talatis resigned their jobs. Government revenues remained unrealized. The Government had to ultimately bow before popular resolve and an inquiry was instituted to find out to what extent the increase was justified and the realization of the increased revenue was postponed.

It was a triumph not only of the 80,000 peasants of Bardoli but more particularly of Vallabhbhai personally; he was given the title of “Sardar” by the nation.

About this time the political situation in the country was approaching a crisis. The Congress had accepted its goal of Purna Swaraj for the country, while the British Government through their policy of pitting one interest against another and through constitutional tricks, were trying to stifle the voice of freedom and doing everything they could to reinforce their rule.

The boycott of the Simon Commission was followed by the launching of the famous Salt Satyagraha by Gandhiji. Vallabhbhai Patel, though he had not committed any breach of the Salt Law, was the first of the national leaders to be arrested. He was in fact arrested on March 7, 1930 – some days before Gandhiji set out on the march to Dandi. He was released in June.

By then Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders were in jail and the tempo of the struggle in the country was rising. In a few months Vallabhbhai was back in prison.

In March 1931 Vallabhbhai presided over the 46th session of the Indian National Congress which was called upon to ratify the Gandhi-lrwin Pact, which had just then been concluded.

The task was not an easy one, for Bhagat Singh and a few others had been executed on the very day the Congress session opened and delegates, particularly the younger sections, were in an angry mood, while Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose were not happy with the terms of the Pact.

But the Congress finally put its seal on the Pact with one voice. Civil Disobedience was suspended, political prisoners were released and the Congress agreed to participate in the Round Table Conference.

The Round Table Conference failed. Gandhiji and other top leaders were arrested and a policy of repression followed. Vallabhbhai Patel was lodged with Gandhiji in Yeravada Jail and they were together there for sixteen months-from January 1932 to May 1933.

Vallabhbhai then spent another year in the Nasik Jail. When the Government of India Act 1935 came, the Congress, though generally critical of the Act, decided to try out those of its constitutional provisions that seemed to grant to Indians a measure of self-government and to take part in the elections for Provincial legislatures that were envisaged under it.

In seven of the eleven Provinces, Congress majorities were returned and Congress Ministries were formed. Vallabhbhai Patel, as Chairman of the Congress Parliamentary Sub-Committee, guided and controlled the activities of these Ministries.

Not for very long, however, for, on September 3, 1939 when Britain declared war on Germany, the Viceroy without consulting either the Central or the Provincial Legislatures, proclaimed India as having entered the war as an ally of Britain.

The Congress could not accept this position and the Congress Ministries resigned. Gandhiji launched Individual Civil Disobedience opposing India’s participation in the war, and the Congress leaders began to court arrest. Vallabhbhai Patel was arrested on November 17, 1940. He was released on August 20, 1941 on grounds of health.

Then the All India Congress Committee passed the famous Quit India resolution in Bombay on August 8, 1942, and Vallabhbhai, along with the other members of the Working Committee, was arrested on August 9, 1942 and detained in the Ahmednagar Fort while Gandhiji, Kasturba and Mahadev Desai were detained in the Aga Khan’s Palace.
The Sardar was in jail for about three years this time. When, at the end of the war, the Congress leaders were freed and the British Government decided to find a peaceful constitutional solution to the problem of India’s Independence, Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the chief negotiators of the Congress.

When India attained Independence he became the Deputy Prime Minister and was responsible for the Home, States and the Information and Broadcasting portfolios.

It was in this capacity that he was called upon to tackle the most intricate and baffling problem of the States’ integration into the Union of India. And it is here that his tact, his powers of persuasion and his statesmanship came into full play.
He handled the question as only he could have handled it, managing, in less than a year’s time, to reduce the Princely States from 562 to 26 administrative units and bringing democracy to nearly 80 million people of India, comprising almost 27 per cent of the country’s population.
The integration of the States could certainly be termed as the crowning achievement of Vallabhbhai Patel’s life. But for him, this may not have been achieved easily and quickly.
As Minister of Home Affairs, he presided over efforts to bring back order and peace to a country ravaged by communal strife unprecedented in its history. He accomplished this task with the ruthless efficiency of a great administrator.

He sorted out the problems of partition, restored law and order and dealt with the rehabilitation of thousands of refugees with great courage and foresight. He reorganised our Services which had become depleted with the departure of the British and formed a new Indian Administrative Service, to provide a stable administrative base to our new democracy.

While Gandhiji gave to the Congress a programme for a broad-based action, it was Vallabhbhai who built up the Party machinery so as to carry out that programme. No one before him had given adequate thought to the need of having an effective organisation, but Vallabhbhai realised this need during his campaigns and devoted his organisational talents and energy to building up the strength of the Party which could now fight in an organised and effective manner.

His grip over the Party organisation was complete. Vallabhbhai Patel was thus one of the chief architects and guardians of India’s freedom and his contribution towards consolidating the freedom of the country remains unrivalled.

He died on December 15, 1950, leaving behind a son, Dahyabhai Patel, and a daughter, Maniben Patel.

Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri

Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri

Tribute to Lal Bahadur Shastri
(From Tribute to the late Prime Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, at an All-Party Memorial Meeting, New Delhi, January 11, 1967)

Today is a day of poignant memories for us and for the entire nation. We meet here to pay homage to the memory of our late Prime Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, who a year ago laid down his life in the service of the country. Shastriji was a man of quiet greatness, who lived for India and for peace, and who died for India and for peace. He was identified with the Indian people. He was imbued with the spirit of service, and he thought always of the welfare of the people. He led our country at a time of severe trial, and helped India demonstrate both unity and determination.

Shastriji was a great product of the Gandhian era. The basic teaching of Gandhiji was that all men are brothers and differences among them should be settled non-violently. Non-violence to Gandhiji did not mean the mere absence of violence. It was not a negative concept; it was a positive quality of always seeking friendship and reconciliation, of believing that people can evolve towards a higher level of living only in, and through, peace. This was how we fought the British, eschewing violence and believing completely in reconciliation and negotiation. This was also Shastriji’s belief and, as I said, he not only lived for it, but he also gave his life for it.

We have tried in nineteen-and-a-half years of freedom to reflect this profound belief in our internal and international policies. In our foreign policy, we have always pleaded for the settlement of disputes without resort to arms. Our opposition to military blocs, the doctrine of PanchSheel, our initiative in Korea and Indo-China and numerous other assignments on behalf of world peace—all these have sprang from our belief in the peaceful settlement of disputes. The Tashkent Declaration is a reaffirmation of this policy. What Shastriji talked there and signed there was nothing new for India. But the most worthy fact about Tashkent was that through fruitful exchanges between our leader, Chairman Kosygin and President Ayub, Pakistan also subscribed to the importance of eschewing the use of arms to settle differences.

On this first anniversary of the Tashkent Declaration, I repeat anew our dedication to the principles enunciated in Tashkent.They are the principles bequeathed to us by Gandhiji and by Shastriji. And they are linked with Shastriji’s life and work. We shall gain nothing by trying to analyse whether the Declaration has achieved as much as it was hoped it would, and if it has not, who is at fault. What is more to the purpose is to tell ourselves and show to the world that India stands by it.

Shastriji left us the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan. This new slogan is in a way of speaking, an extension of our old slogan Jai Hind. India can have victory only through jawans [soldiers| and kisans[farmers]. The freedom of our country is guarded by the jawans as well as by all those who work and produce. In the trying days of Kutch and later in the northern conflict, Shastriji wanted the nation to clearly realise that the defence of the country required the strengthening not only of the defence forces, but also of the economic base. At present there is no fighting, but the military threat has not receded. The jawan has to be alert. But we have had another invader, namely drought, and this invader cannot be fought by the Jawan but by the Kisan. Unless we achieve food self-sufficiency our security and exist­ence will be in peril. This we should do in the minimum time, four or five years. The only way we can see that no one pushes us around is by becoming self-reliant. I think this is what Shastriji had in mind when he gave us this meaningful slogan.

Many voices will join us today in paying tribute to his memory. We miss him because we were close to him and we were accustomed to his advice and guidance. The nation misses his solicitude for its problems and his gentle presence.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Translation of a Hindi speech by Smt Indira Gandhi at a meeting to welcome the relics of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Delhi, December 17, 1967.

Many of us assembled here today knew Netaji well, and on this occasion we are overwhelmed by the memory of one who gave us the slogan Dilli Chalo. He is not with us. But his sword—which we have the privilege to receive here today—reminds us of his powerful and beautiful presence. Netaji was truly a symbol of India’s bravery.I still remember how thrilled we used to get as children by just looking into his fiery eyes. It was this fire, this patriotic fervour in him that led him to create the Indian National Army which brought many brave fighters for freedom, men and women alike, together, and which gave, a new impetus to our struggle for independence.

The struggle for India’s independence was a long struggle; it was sustained by the sacrifices of millions of Indians. Among those who sacrificed their all in this struggle, the name of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose takes a high place. He will always retain a place of affection and honour in every Indian heart.

Netaji’s entry into political life gave a new turn to India’s struggle. A new wave of enthusiasm swept the country. His restless and dyna­mic spirit led him to a path that was somewhat different from our own. Gandhiji used to say that the only wrong path is the path of cowardice. The path of courage can never be wrong. Netaji’s was a path of courage, and it did bring the goal of independence nearer.

Bankim Chandra gave us Bande Mataram, which became the marching song of the freedom struggle. On becoming free, we adopt­ed Rabindranath Tagore’s Jana Gana Mana as the national anthem. But today our biggest national slogan is Jai Hind. This slogan can be heard from NEFA, Nagaland and Kashmir in the north right down to the deep south. This slogan was given to us by Netaji. It reminds us of him, and also of the ideals which he placed before us.

The President and the Vice-President, in their addresses, referred to the need for national unity. Equally important is the need in every Indian heart of an intense love of the country. This was the love that inspired Netaji. This sword here is as much a symbol of Netaji’s courage as of his intense love for his country. This intensity, this passion and fire, is something lacking in us today. We fritter away our passion in petty disputes and in the pursuit of narrow personal or group gains. We do not put this passion into the service of the nation. If we do this, we will have the courage to face every difficulty. Netaji had this courage. He was ever prepared for sacrifice. This courage, this spirit of sacrifice, is his message. We need this message in our struggle to give economic and social content to our freedom. This struggle is with us. To carry on this struggle we have to cultivate in us the courage, the fire, the passion of which Netaji’s sword is a perfect symbol.

Maulana Azad

Maulana Azad

Pt Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speech in Lok Sabha on the death of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, February 24, 1958)

MR. SPEAKER, SIR: It has fallen to my lot often to refer in this House to the death of a colleague or a great man. I have to perform that sad duty again today in regard to one who was with us a few days ago and who passed away rather suddenly, producing a sense of deep sorrow and grief not only to his colleagues in Parliament but to innumerable people all over the country.

It has become almost commonplace, when a prominent person passes away, to say that he is irreplaceable. That is often true; yet I believe that it is literally and absolutely true in regard to the passing away of Maulana Azad. We have had great men and we will have great men, but I do submit that the peculiar and special type of greatness which Maulana Azad represented is not likely to be reproduced in India or anywhere else.

I need not refer to his many qualities, his deep learning, his scholarship and his great oratory. He was a great writer. He was great in many ways. He combined in himself the greatness of the past with the greatness of the present. He always reminded me of the great men of several hundred years ago about whom I have read in history: the great men of the Renaissance, or in a later period, the encyclopaedists who preceded the French Revolution, men of intellect and men of action. He reminded also of what might be called the great quality of olden days—the graciousness, a certain courtesy or tolerance or patience which we sadly seek in the world today.

Even though we may seek to reach the moon, we do it with a lack of graciousness or of tolerance or of some things which have made life worth-while since life began. It was the strange and unique mixture of the good qualities of the past, the graciousness, the deep learning and toleration, and the urges of today which made Maulana Azad what he was.

Everyone knows that even in his early teens he was filled with the passion for freeing India and he turned towards ways even of violent revolution. Soon after he realized that violence was not the way which would gain results.

Maulana Azad was a very special representative in a high degree of the great composite culture which had gradually grown in India. He, in his own venue, in Delhi or in Bengal where he spent the greater part of his life, represented this synthesis of various cultures which had flowed in and lost themselves in the ocean of Indian life and humanity, affecting and changing them and being changed themselves by them. He came to represent more specially the culture of India as influenced by the cultures of the nations of Western Asia, namely, the Persian culture and the Arabic culture which have affected India for thousands of years. In that sense, I can hardly conceive of any other person who can replace him, because the age which produced him is past. A few of us have some faint idea of that age which is past.

Change is essential lest we should become rooted to some past habit. But I cannot help expressing a certain feeling of regret that with the bad, the good of the past days is also swept away and that good was eminently represented by Maulana Azad.

There is one curious error to the expression of which I have myself been guilty about Maulana Azad’s life and education. Even this morning the newspapers contained a resolution of the Government about Maulana Azad. It is stated that he went and studied at Al Azhar University. He did not do so! It is an extraordinary persistence of error. As I said, I myself thought so. Otherwise, I would have taken care to correct it in the Government resolution. The fact is that he did not study at Al Azhar University. Of course, he went to Cairo and he visited Al Azhar University. He studied elsewhere. He studied chiefly in Calcutta, in the Arabic schools as well as in other schools. He spent a number of years in Arabia. He was born there and he visited Egypt as he visited other countries of Western Asia.

We mourn today the passing of a great man, a man of luminous intelligence and mighty intellect with an amazing capacity to pierce through a problem to its core. The word “luminous” is perhaps the best word I can use about his mind. When we miss and when we part with such a companion, friend, colleague, comrade, leader and teacher, there is inevitably a tremendous void created in our life and activities.

Babu Jagjivan Ram

Babu Jagjivan Ram

Jagjivan Ram, popularly known as Babuji was a national leader, a freedom fighter, a crusader of social justice, a champion of depressed classes, an outstanding Parliamentarian, a true democrat, a distinguished Union Minister, an able administrator and an exceptionally gifted orator. He had a towering personality and played a long inning, spanning over half a century in Indian politics with commitment, dedication and devotion. Babuji was married to Indrani Devi in June 1935. Indrani Devi was herself a freedom fighter and an educationist. Her father Dr. Birbal, a renowned medical practitioner, had been in the British army and had been awarded the Victoria Medal by the then Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne for his services in the Chin-Lushai Expedition of 1889-90. A son, Suresh Kumar was born to them on 17 July, 1938, and a daughter Meira on 31 March, 1945. Suresh Kumar passed away on 21 May, 1985, leaving his parents completely heart-broken.

Jagjivan Ram was born in a small village, Chandwa in Shahabad District, now Bhojpur, in Bihar on 5 April, 1908, to Sobhi Ram and Vasanti Devi. Jagjivan Ram imbibed his idealism, humanitarian values and resilience from his father, who was of a religious disposition and the Mahant of the Shiv Narayani Sect. He was still in school when his father passed away leaving young Jagjivan in the care of his mother. Under his mother’s guidance, Jagjivan Ram passed his Matriculation in first division from Arrah Town School. Despite facing caste based discrimination, Jagjivan Ram successfully completed the Inter Science Examination from the Banaras Hindu University and later graduated from Calcutta University.

Jagjivan Ram had organized a number of Ravidas Sammelans and had celebrated Guru Ravidas Jayanti in different areas of Calcutta (Kolkata). In 1934, he founded the Akhil Bharatiya Ravidas Mahasabha in Calcutta and the All India Depressed Classes League. Through these Organizations he involved the depressed classes in the freedom struggle. He was of the view that Dalit leaders should not only fight for social reforms but, also demand political representation. The next year, i.e. on 19 October, 1935, Babuji appeared before the Hammond Commission at Ranchi and demanded, for the first time, voting rights for the Dalits.

Babu Jagjivan Ram played a very active and crucial role in the freedom struggle. Inspired by Gandhiji, Babuji courted arrest on 10 December, 1940. After his release, he entrenched himself deeply into the Civil Disobedience Movement and Satyagraha. Babuji was arrested again on 19 August, 1942, for his active participation in the Quit India Movement launched by the Indian National Congress.

Babuji had a long and distinguished political career of over five decades. Starting his public life as a student activist and freedom fighter, he went on to become a Legislator at the young age of 28 in the year 1936, as a nominated member of the Bihar Legislative Council. Again in 1936, he stood as a candidate of the Depressed Classes League. He was declared elected unopposed to the Bihar Legislative Assembly from the East Central Shahabad (Rural) constituency on 10 December, 1936. When the Congress Government was formed in 1937, Babuji was appointed as the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Development. However, in 1938, he resigned along with the entire Cabinet.

Jagjivan Ram was again elected unopposed in 1946 and was inducted into the Interim Government on 2 September, 1946, as the Minister of Labour. Thereafter, he remained a member of the Union Cabinet for nearly 31 years. Right from 1937, he played a dominant role in the Indian National Congress. During the pre-Independence period, Babuji held important offices at the State level in the Congress party. After Independence, he became the axis of the Party and indispensable for party affairs as well as governance of the country. He was a member of the All India Congress Committee from 1940 to 1977 and was in the Congress Working Committee from 1948 to 1977. He was in the Central Parliamentary Board from 1950 to 1977. Due to his astute political acumen, he was dear to stalwarts like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Smt. Indira Gandhi.

Dr B R Ambedkar

Dr B R Ambedkar

It takes courage to break free from the shackles of social inequality. It takes enormous amounts of courage to believe that things can change. It takes a leader to fight these inequalities and establish a new social order.

Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a scholar, a social reformer and a leader who dedicated his life to eradicating social inequality in India. He established an India of equals, a country which provided greater opportunities for people who were historically disadvantaged.

Babasaheb’s family was from the Mahar community and came from the Ambavade town of Mandangad taluka in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. However, he was born in the military cantonment town of Mhow, now in Madhya Pradesh on 14 April 1891 as his father was then a Subedar Major with the Mahar Regiment of the Indian Army.

He went to a government school where children from lower castes, regarded as untouchables, were segregated and given little attention or assistance by the teachers and not allowed to sit inside the classroom. Students from the community had to go without water if the peon did not report for duty. In 1894, Babasaheb’s family moved to Satara in Maharashtra, and his mother passed away shortly after their family moved to Satara.

His teacher Mahadev Ambedkar, a Brahmin, was fond of him and changed his surname from ‘Ambavadekar’ to his own surname ‘Ambedkar’ in school records. In 1897, Babasaheb’s family moved to Bombay. He married Ramabai in 1906 when he was 15 and Ramabai nine years old. This however, did not deter him in his academic pursuits as he passed the matriculation examination in 1907 and entered the Elphinstone College the following year, becoming the first person from an untouchable community to do so.

By 1912, he obtained his degree in Economics and Political Science from Bombay University and took up employment with the government of the princely state of Baroda. This opened up new avenues for Babasaheb as he got an opportunity to pursue his post-graduation at the Columbia University in the United States in 1913 through a Baroda State Scholarship instituted by the Gaekwads of Baroda awarding £11.50 (Sterling) per month for three years.

He passed his MA exam in June 1915 majoring in Economics, with Sociology, History, Philosophy and Anthropology as other subjects of study; he presented a thesis ‘Ancient Indian Commerce’. In 1916 he offered another MA thesis, ‘National Dividend of India – A Historic and Analytical Study’.

On 9 May, he read his paper ‘Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development’ before a seminar conducted by the anthropologist Alexander Goldenweiser. In October 1916 he studied for the Bar examination at Gray’s Inn, and enrolled at the London School of Economics where he started work on a doctoral thesis.

In June 1917 he was obliged to go back to India as the term of his scholarship from Baroda ended, however he was given permission to return and submit his thesis within four years. He was appointed as Military Secretary to the Gaekwads of Baroda but had to quit within a short time, pushing him into financial hardship.

In 1918 he became Professor of Political Economy in the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Bombay and though he was very popular with his students, he had to face discrimination from his colleagues.

It was during this period that Babasaheb started taking greater interest in politics as he was invited to testify before the Southborough Committee, which was preparing the Government of India Act 1919. During this hearing he argued for creating separate electorates and reservations for untouchables and other religious communities.

In 1920, he began publication of the weekly Mooknayak in Mumbai with the help of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, Maharaja of Kolhapur. A social reformer, the Maharaja played a pioneering role in opening up education and employment to people of all castes. Babasaheb continued to fight for justice for the untouchables in the years that followed, as a practicing lawyer and as a social reformer.

By 1927, he decided to launch active movements against untouchability and espousing access to public drinking water resources and the right to enter Hindu temples. He led a satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town.

He was appointed to the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the Simon Commission in 1925. While the Commission had faced protests across India and its report was largely ignored, Babasaheb himself wrote a separate set of constitutional recommendations for the future.

Babasaheb was invited to attend the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1932 but Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to a separate electorate for untouchables as this would split the nation.

In 1932, the British announced a Communal Award of a separate electorate, Gandhi ji protested by fasting while imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail of Poona. This resulted in an agreement widely known as the Poona Pact in which Gandhi ji ended his fast and Babasaheb dropped his demand for a separate electorate. Instead, a certain number of seats were reserved specifically for the ‘Depressed Class’.

In 1935, Babasaheb was appointed principal of the Government Law College in Mumbai and continued in that position for two years. He lost his wife Ramabai during this period and this marked the beginning of an important chapter in Babasaheb’s life.

On 13 October that year, he announced his intention to convert to a different religion and exhorted his followers to leave Hinduism while speaking at the Yeola Conversion Conference in Nasik and repeated his message all through the country.

In 1936, Babasaheb Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party, which contested the 1937 Bombay election to the Central Legislative Assembly for the 13 reserved and 4 general seats, securing 11 and 3 seats respectively. He served on the Defence Advisory Committee and the Viceroy’s Executive Council as minister for Labour during this period.

This is also the period when Babasaheb wrote extensively on the condition of Dalits and the caste system in Hindu society. During this period, Babasaheb renamed his party as the Scheduled Castes Federation which later evolved into the Republican Party of India.

He was initially elected to the Constituent Assembly from Bengal but his seat went to Pakistan following the Partition of India. He was subsequently elected from the Bombay Presidency in place of a senior jurist Jaykar, ahead of Shri GV Mavalankar.

India became an Independent nation on 15 August, 1947 and Babasaheb Ambedkar was appointed as the Union Law Minister and Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, which was given the responsibility to write India’s new Constitution.

Babasaheb Ambedkar’s text provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination. Granville Austin described the Indian Constitution as ‘first and foremost a social document’.

He argued for equality and also won wide support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the civil services, schools and colleges. This was aimed at providing a voice to people who had suffered grave injustices through centuries.

The Constituent Assembly formally approved the draft Constitution on 26 November 1949 and Babasaheb’s greatest work, the Indian Constitution, became our way of life on 26 January 1950.

Struggle was a part of Babasaheb’s life as he had to work hard for everything he achieved. While he is remembered for his relentless crusade for a new social order, the Indian nation shall always remain indebted to him for giving us a Constitution that defines our core values as a nation.

He was the man who made us a nation of equals.

Shri Rajiv Gandhi

Shri Rajiv Gandhi

At 41, Rajiv Gandhi was the youngest Prime Minister of India and perhaps one of the youngest elected heads of Government in the world. His mother, Indira Gandhi, was eight years older when she first became Prime Minister in 1966. His illustrious grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was 58 when he started his 17 year long innings as free India’s first Prime Minister.

Besides being the harbinger of a generational change in the country, Mr. Gandhi received the biggest mandate in the nation’s history. In the elections to the Lok Sabha, which he ordered as soon as the mourning for his slain mother was over, the Congress party got a much higher proportion of the popular vote than in the preceding seven general elections and captured a record 401 seats out of 508.

Such an impressive start as the leader of 700 millions Indians would have been remarkable under any circumstance. What makes it even more so, indeed unique, is that Mr. Gandhi was a late and reluctant entrant into politics even though he belonged to an intensely political family that served India for generations, both during the freedom struggle and afterwards.

He was born on August 20, 1944, in Bombay. He was just three when India became independent and his grandfather became Prime Minister. His parents moved to New Delhi from Lucknow. His father, Feroze Gandhi, became an M.P. He earned a reputation as a fearless and hard working Parliamentarian.

Rajiv Gandhi spent his early childhood with his grandfather in the Teen Murti House, where Indira Gandhi served as the Prime Minister’s hostess. He briefly went to school at Welham Prep in Dehradun, but soon moved to the residential Doon School in the Himalayan foothills. There he made many lifelong friendships and was also joined by his younger brother, Sanjay.

After leaving school, Mr. Gandhi went to Trinity College, Cambridge, but shifted to the Imperial College, London, soon enough. He did a course in mechanical engineering. He really was not interested in “mugging for his exams”, as he was to say later.

By this time it was clear that politics did not interest him as a career. According to his classmates, his bookshelves were lined with volumes on science and engineering, not works on philosophy, politics or history. Music, however, has had a place of pride in his interests. He liked Western and Hindustani classical music as well as modern music. Other interests included photography and amateur radio.

His greatest passion, however, was always flying. No wonder then that on returning home from England, he quickly passed the entrance examination to the Delhi Flying Club, went on to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence and soon became a pilot in Indian Airlines, the domestic national carrier.

While studying at Trinity College, he met a young Italian student studying English at the Bell Educational Trust’s language school in the city of Cambridge, named Edvige Antonia Albina Màino. He would later marry her in a Hindu Ceremony in New Delhi in 1968. Rajiv Gandhi and his wife, now known as Sonia Gandhi, stayed in Smt. Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi with their two children, son Rahul and daughter Priyanka. Theirs was a very private life despite the surrounding din and bustle of political activity.

But Sanjay’s death in an air crash in 1980 changed all that. The pressure on Mr. Gandhi to enter politics to help his mother, then besieged by many internal and external challenges, grew. He resisted these pressures at first but later bowed to their logic. He won the by-election to Parliament, caused by his brother’s death, from Amethi in U.P. The Constituency returned to him by a whopping margin that too has become a national record.

For no one could have ascended to power—becoming both Prime Minister and Congress President—in more tragic and tormenting circumstances than Mr. Gandhi did in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s brutal assassination on 31 October, 1984. But he wore the awesome burden of personal grief and national responsibility with remarkable poise, dignity and restraint.

Congress lost the 1989 elections and Mr. Gandhi became the leader of the opposition. The National Front collapsed in early 1991 and elections were announced in May, 1991. He died in a tragic bomb blast on 21st May, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.

A modern-minded, decisive but undemonstrative man, Mr. Gandhi was at home in the world of high technology. And, as he had repeatedly said, one of his main objectives, besides preserving India’s unity, was to propel it into the twenty-first century.

Dr Manmohan Singh

Dr Manmohan Singh

Dr Manmohan Singh, India’s 14th Prime Minister, presided over a decade of phenomenal growth and development. Under Dr Singh’s stewardship, India witnessed the highest growth rate in its history, averaging at 7.7% to become a nearly two trillion-dollar economy. India was catapulted from tenth position when Dr Singh took over into the world’s third largest economy by 2014, raising the living standard of millions.

At the core of Dr Singh’s idea of India was the belief in not just high growth but inclusive growth and of a tide that would raise all boats. This belief was enshrined in the passage of bills that ensured citizens the legal Right to Food, Right to Education, Right to Work and the Right to Information. Dr Singh’s rights-based revolution created a new era in Indian politics.

This story of unprecedented growth and prosperity is the story of Dr Singh’s premiership from 2004-2014. But it began during his tenure as Finance Minister from 1991-1996 when the script first began to take shape. In July 1991, Dr Manmohan Singh ended his budget speech with the words “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. I suggest to this august House that the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be one such idea.” This was the beginning of his idea of India.

It is this period that launched India on its path to economic superpower status and also burnished Dr Singh’s credentials as an innovative thinker and administrator. However, the foundations of Dr Singh’s beliefs and his dedication to public service can be traced back to his early twenties and the very beginning of his career.

Dr Manmohan Singh was born on September 26, 1932 in Punjab. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Economics from Panjab University in 1952 and 1954 respectively. He completed his Economic Tripos from Cambridge University in 1957. He followed this with a D.Phil in Economics from Oxford University in 1962.

Dr Singh went on to teach at Punjab University and the Delhi School of Economics. He joined the Government of India as Economic Advisor in the Commerce Ministry in 1971. He was soon promoted to Chief Economic Advisor in the Finance Ministry in 1972. After a short stint at the UNCTAD Secretariat, he was appointed Secretary General of the South Commission in Geneva from 1987-1990. In addition, Dr Singh also held the positions of Secretary in the Finance Ministry, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Advisor to the Prime Minister and Chairman of the University Grants Commission.

Dr Singh has been a Member of the Rajya Sabha since 1991, where he was Leader of the Opposition from 1998-2004. Following, the Congress Party’s historic wins in 2004 and 2009, he took the Office of Prime Minister on 22nd May, 2004 and again on 22nd May, 2009.

Dr Singh’s commitment to development and his many achievements have been recognized through the many honours that have been conferred upon him. These include the Padma Vibhushan in 1987, the Euro Money Award for Finance Minister of the Year in 1993, the Asia Money Award for Finance Minister of the Year in both 1993 and 1994 and the Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award of the Indian Science Congress in 1995.

However, Dr Manmohan Singh is known not only for his vision that led India to become an economic powerhouse but also for his hard-work and his humble, soft-spoken demeanor. He is a Prime Minister who will be remembered not only for the leaps and bounds by which he took India forward but also as a man of thought and of integrity.

Smt Indira Gandhi

Smt Indira Gandhi

Smt. Indira Gandhi saw herself as a latter day Joan of Arc—such was her ardour and faith in herself as a patriot. Like the “The Maid of Orléans”, she too died as a martyr for the unity of her country.

She had said before her tragic death: “Every drop of my blood will contribute to the growth of this nation and make it strong and dynamic.”

She was a woman of courage and admired people with fighting spirit, people who triumphed over handicaps. For instance, Helen Keller and Douglas Bader.

In her childhood, her father was a source of inspiration to her. The letters Pt Nehru wrote to Indira Priyadarshini became a part of “Glimpses of World History”.

Anand Bhawan, Allahabad, was next only to Gandhiji’s Ashram as the headquarters of the freedom struggle. Here she came into contact with the great men and women of the time. When she was only 12, she mobilized the children to help liberate the country. Her army of child volunteers was called the ‘Vanar Sena’.

She received her formal education at Poona’s Santiniketan and in Europe, but her real education was in the political life she was to later lead. She married Feroze Gandhi in 1942.

Her political apprenticeship was under her father after he became the Prime Minister of India.

Her election as the President of the Congress, in 1959, marked her entry into politics as an all-India figure.

On her father’s death, she was drafted into the Union Cabinet by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri as a reluctant Minister for Information and Broadcasting. Shri Shastri died in January 1966 and Smt. Indira Gandhi became his successor.

Her premiership was stormy and embattled. First was the confrontation with the so-called ‘Syndicate’ in the party which led to a split in the Congress in 1969. This was followed by the crisis created by the massive inflow of refugees from East Bengal.

In the Bangladesh war she defied the might of a superpower like America. The Navnirman movement in Gujarat and Jayaprakash Narayan’s call for a “total revolution” caused tensions and led to the declaration of Internal Emergency in 1975.

After the Emergency was lifted, the Janata Party came to power and Smt. Indira Gandhi had to face much harassment and even imprisonment for a short while. In 1978, there was another split in the Congress but she commanded a majority and her group came to be called the Congress (I).

In 1980, she swept back into power. But her troubles were not over. The Congress (I) lost Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and there was trouble in a number of states like Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and Punjab.

The rise of regionalism in Punjab proved a challenge to her leadership. She was compelled to order “Operation Bluestar” but there was no considerable abatement of Sikh terrorism. On October 31, 1984, she was assassinated by her own bodyguards.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

India's first and longest serving Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, was a man of vision. Having participated in the long struggle for freedom from the British, Nehru, fondly called Pandit Nehru, a reference to his Kashmiri Pandit community roots, was a firm believer in nation building, as he understood that the young Indian nation had a tryst with destiny.

A foreign-educated barrister and a close confidante of Mahatma Gandhi, he came as close as anyone has, or ever will, to becoming the People's Prince. He was Mahatma Gandhi's chosen political heir, and free India's first elected Prime Minister. After the death of Vallabhbhai Patel in 1950, he towered amongst his colleagues in the Congress. His vision of an India fired by educational institutions, steel plants and powered by dams, was widely shared.

He was seen as a brave man, who fought chauvinists; as a selfless man, who had endured years in jail to win freedom; and above all as a visionary. His appeal cut across the conventionally opposed categories of low caste and high caste and was undoubtedly, the darling of the masses.

Nehru realised that the country, cobbled together from a loose confederation of princely states, that both owed their allegiance to the British as well as opposed them, needed to work hard to unleash its potential and energy into a nationalised channel that would help build India as a truly democratic nation where every citizen matters.

Nehru's first commitment was to make India a self-sufficient economy. As a result, he set up temples of modern learning and giant public sector industries that catered to the needs of a growing nation and its people. His efforts to create a scientific temper can be seen from his zeal to establish higher centres of learning.

Many Indians believe that the credit for India being a vibrant democracy, an industrial powerhouse, a knowledge partner, a globally respected military power and a technology and space innovator, should go to Nehru; that he had laid strong foundations upon which the institutions built themselves with strong and focused targets.

To understand Nehru better, one needs to see his other side, where he inspires children or the ‘future citizens’ as he called them. Hailed as Chacha (uncle) Nehru by children, his birthday on November 14 is celebrated as Children's Day.

Looking back, we can see that Nehru was at a juncture where he fought the very people who had empowered him with education. His perfect sense of right and wrong and his Indian upbringing despite a western education, gave him the opportunity to join and rise up the ranks of the Congress party in its freedom struggle. After he became Prime Minister, he maintained equal distance from both the superpowers, America and the Soviet Union, without fear or favour, even as he charted a Non-Aligned course for the country based on the policy of Panchsheel.

A socialist at heart, he signed the Panchsheel Agreement between China and India that was to serve as the five guiding principles of the relationship between these two sovereign nations. Not surprisingly, he felt betrayed when the Chinese attacked India even as he spoke about ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’. An underprepared Indian army took on waves of Chinese soldiers, fought valiantly and paid a heavy price.

Nehru's meticulous nurturing of India's democracy during its troubled birth and childhood stands out. Scholars are convinced that democracies cannot be established at low levels of income. Thus, India's democratic longevity is unique. It is perhaps due to the country having a popular anti-colonial movement. More importantly, Nehru, though all-powerful, did not fritter away pre-independence legitimacy. In fact, he strengthened it to the last root and set the agenda for inclusive growth. Nehru understood and practiced it.

During the seventeen years he was the Prime Minister, Nehru strode the Indian political stage like a colossus. But he never imposed his political will and always had an ear for what others had to say. Though not in favour of linguistic states, he adhered to popular wishes. He did not choose chief ministers, but allowed the party organisation at the state-levels to elect their leaders. When courts challenged his land reform programmes, instead of being critical of the judges, he chose to undertake constitutional amendments. A liberal and a true democrat at heart, Nehru wanted a healthy political debate.

In 1952, during free India's first general elections, nearly 175 million voted. As three-fourths of citizens were illiterate, candidates were given symbols such as bicycles, lanterns, lamps, animals, flowers and symbols of everyday usage. It was a six-month process where those deputed for election work rode camels, took boats and even trekked to remote corners. The general elections in 1957 and 1962 deepened the legitimacy of the electoral process on the Indian consciousness.

Crafting democracy was hard work as Sarvepalli Gopal, Nehru's foremost biographer recalls: “Receiving, throughout the years of his prime ministership, about 2,000 letters every day... Nehru spent four to five hours every night dictating replies. And "there were the years when the Prime Minister was... putting in twenty-hour days with hardly even breakfast as a private meal." Such was the commitment.

Today, citizens gleefully point to the Indian democracy's various weaknesses, but the very edifice of democracy and the freedom we enjoy as a sovereign democratic republic would not have been possible without Nehru's unwavering commitment to such institutions. It is an enduring legacy. Otherwise, power would not have touched all sections of people and made ours a broad-based democracy.

Nehru's greatest contribution was the clear establishment of a vision to lift India from the 18th to the 21st century.  It spoke of the impoverishment inflicted on India by the imperialists. So the leaders who inherited the mantle of leadership had to tackle centuries of neglect. But, aided in their leadership was a vision. For example, when Nehru was making his first trip to America as the prime minister, some members of his cabinet suggested that he ask that country for food to tackle shortages at home. He refused: “I am not making my first trip to America with a begging bowl. We have to sort this problem ourselves.”

The Bhakra-Nangal multipurpose river valley project on the Sutlej, India's first and one of the biggest dams in the world was flagged off in 1954. Nehru, while inaugurating the completed project, describes it as the "greatest and holiest" of India's modern shrines.

Nehru and most of his contemporaries believed that only large-scale industrialisation could really change the economy and enable India to be a player on the world stage as well as helping its own citizens.

In his Presidential Address at the 1951 Congress Session in New Delhi, he spelt out his vision:

"The only way to build for the future is to put aside or save something each year, and use this saving for some kind of progress. This may be improved agriculture, more river valley projects, more factories, more houses, more education or better health services. Our resources are limited and the most that we may hope to save has been indicated in the plan. Because of this limitation of resources, we have to make hard choices at every step and priorities become important.

We have to choose sometimes between a river valley scheme and more housing or more schools. Unfortunately we cannot have all that we want at the same time. The plan recommends one set of priorities. This may be varied, but we cannot go beyond the limits set by our resources as well as the social and political conditions and the Constitution."

Nehru helped to ensure the deep rooting of fundamental values in the Indian polity, and tried to work out ways in which these could be expressed. His most positive influence and what he valued most of all, was the attempted construction of a plural, open, and democratic polity working for change in the lives of all citizens. He used to speak of India as a composite nation, and of the ground-breaking experiment of trying to achieve socio-economic change by democratic processes and consent, in contrast to state-directed revolution with its risk of profound violence.

Nehru faced the most difficult situation in Independent India, as he had to immediately quell the fires of Partition. Nehru told his home minister that it must be quelled:

“For India, if it was anything at all, was emphatically not Pakistan. Over there they might ill-treat or persecute their minorities; over here, we would protect and respect ours. There was a constant cry for retaliation and vicarious punishment of the Muslims of India, because the Pakistanis punish Hindus. That argument does not appeal to me in the slightest.”

For India was not a mirror image of Pakistan, a Hindu State to its Islamic State. "Our secular ideals," insisted Nehru to Patel, "impose a responsibility to our Muslim citizens in India."

There's the story of how during the 1947 riots, he was travelling in his Ambassador car as Prime Minister and he suddenly saw a Muslim tailor being attacked in Chandni Chowk. He asked the driver to stop the car and charged out of the car to save the man.

He also refused a request to replace Muslim cooks from his kitchen, because of the Partition.

He didn't just preach secularism, but practiced it to the hilt. Pandit Nehru not only imbibed democratic and secular values in every citizen, but also taught a young and independent India to be self confident and self-reliant. If Mahatma Gandhi is the Father of the Nation, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the Father of the Constitution, then Nehru could be rightly called, the father of Indian Democracy.