The story of Jawaharlal Nehru, as the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi described it, “is that of a man who evolved, who grew in storm and stress till he became the representative of much that was noble in his time.” This anthology tells that story to the young readers through the words of Jawaharlal Nehru himself. It comprises 71 extracts from his writings and speeches, spread over a period of more than three decades. The extracts presented in nine thematic sections, are taken from his writings and speeches, many of them published in his lifetime as well as those which have been complied and published only in recent years. Jawaharlal Nehru’s passion for freedom was rooted in his deep love for fellow human beings. As independent India’s first Prime Minister, he laid down the basic framework of objectives and policies for the building of a new India. Uncompromising in his struggle against obscurantism, communalism and all forms of chauvinism, he had a humane, rational and scientific approach to all aspects of life. His writings and the inspiring values they represent are a part of our precious legacy. Today, to this legacy the young generation must look back for hope and light when dark forces are threatening the values we developed during the long decades of our freedom struggle and have cherished them since then.
This book was in the press when assassin’s bullets killed India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. We had been looking forward to its release by her on 14 November, the day Jawaharlal Nehru was born ninety –five years ago. At this point of time, when she is no more, and the dark forces of obscurantism and communalism are clouding the vision of building a new India, the value system which Nehru represented in his life and work and which she imbibed needs to be reiterated, particularly for the younger generation.
The primary reason for preparing this anthology of Jawaharlal Nehru’s writings and speeches is to open the young minds to a world-view which is deeply rooted in reason and humanism and is marked by a passionate commitment to social justice and betterment of fellow human being.
The child in Nehru never grew old. Till the last he retained the child-like freshness of mind- the sense of wonder that a tired or frigid mind never knows. He understood and loved children. He understood the almost limitless potential of their minds. Many of his writings and speeches were addressed to them. “I like being with children and talking to them”, said Jawaharlal Nehru, “even more playing with them. For a moment I forget that I am terribly old and that it is a very long time since I was a child.”
In nature, he experienced again and again the sense of the pristine wonder that a child experiences in his early contacts with the world around him: “ I gazed at those white mountains, calm and inscrutable and untouched by human folly. They could remain there whatever men did, and even if the present generation committed suicide or went to oblivion by some slower process, the spring would still come to the hill-sides, and the wind rustic through the pine trees and the birds sing”. Perhaps Nehru went back to the children again and again as if to renew the freshness of his mind.
Nehru’s writings are the product of fine sensibilities, informed by a keen awareness of the human situation. He said, “School children learn many things which are no doubt useful but they gradually forget that the essential things is to be human and kind and playful and to make life richer for ourselves and others.”
He had a versatile and penetrating mind and took keen interest in all human endeavours. He loved life, and was a man of intense feeling. He was free from prejudices, pomposity and self-deception. He invited the young minds to wider horizons. He asked them to read and think, and live their life without pettiness and without fear.
In his voyage to discover India, Nehru discovered himself, and developed a sense of history and a faith in the destiny of man. For, he believed that history had no meaning unless it could provide us with an insight into the ways to change the world. He was deeply interested in the study of the past, not merely out of curiosity, but as a guide to thought and action in the present, because the past, the present and the future “are inextricably intertwined and interrelated”.
Nehru’s vision of a new India was rooted in his search for the spirit of India- the enduring vitality of India. “ It was this spirit of India that I was after… I felt that it might give me some key to the understanding of my country and people, some guidance to thought and action”. His search for India brought him face to face with the reality of India’s poverty. He felt the need to free the poor from tyranny, oppression, hunger, superstition, ignorance and greed. In a letter to his daughter, he wrote, “We want independence. But we want something more, we want to clear stagnant pools…. sweep away the dirt and the poverty and misery from our country and clean up the cobwebs from the mind.” Thus his passion for freedom was combined with a passion for the building of a new India. And his unbounded love for the people of India and his commitment to the cause of their betterment- not only their political liberation. But also social and economic liberation- found expression in his advocacy of socialism.
Like Gandhiji, he championed the cause of the women of India. He always felt proud about them and the role they played in India’s freedom struggle and could play in the future of India. He inspired them to free themselves from the tyranny of manmade customs and laws.
Perhaps the most important component of Nehru’s world-view was his scientific approach to life. He always advocated that everything be tested in the light of reason. He was against any kind of bigotry. He condemned communalism as an anti-national force which stood in the way of progress. He firmly believed that religious fanaticism had no place in the centuries-old composite culture of India. Nehru wanted science to become a liberating force in the Indian society. In his speeches and writings he always stressed the relationship between science, society, politics and economy, viewing the human situation in its totality.
In his Azad Memorial Lecture, he said, “I want India to advance on the material plane, to raise the standard of living of her vast population; I want the narrow conflicts to today in the name of religion and caste, language or province, to cease and a classless and casteless society to be built up, where every individual has full opportunity to grow according to his worth and ability….
Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision was not confined to India. He brought an international perspective to everything he spoke or wrote on, be it history, culture, freedom or social progress. He looked at India’s struggle for freedom as a part of the world-wide struggle for freedom and progress. One of his major concerns was the preservation of world peace. The objective which he stood and struggled for throughout his life were freedom and unity of the country, secularism, socialism, scientific outlook and internationalism.
An attempt has been made to select materials particularly suitable for the age-group 12-18. The pieces included in this anthology have been selected from Jawaharlal Nehru’s numerous writings and speeches spread over a period of more than three decades before independence and after he had become the Prime Minister of the country. Some of these are reproduced from his well known books such as Glimpses of World History, An Autobiography. The Discovery of India and four volumes of his speeches published by the publications Division. Other selected passages are not so well known and have been included only in recent years in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru published by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. We have also included excerpts from his inspiring address at the time of the adoption of independent India’s national flag. It is reproduced here from a contemporary report in National Herald. Also included is a brief excerpt from a long interview which he gave to a foreign journalist. The selection, by no means comprehensive, is in nine sections-arranged more or less thematically- though they are all interrelated. The selection aims at conveying to the young readers a value system through the life, experience and ideas of one of the greatest of Indians of all time. It is hoped that this book will help the young minds imbibe the values which have inspired millions of Indians for over half a century, so that the new generation can realize his dreams and vision of building a new India.
This is an inspiring book and it meets a widely felt need. We owe it to the initiative and dedicated work by Dr. P.L. Malhotra. Such books help us in a real sense to make a close contact with the life and thought of the truly great men and women of our country. What ideals and ideas inspired them! What were the great experience and ‘experiments’ which gave them joy and sustained them and which go to shape the future of our country, and indeed of mankind. What can be more inspiring and of greater enduring value than to know and understand these things?
We live in a most momentous time in human history. It is a time of unparalleled opportunities for man’s advancement- material, social, and moral-spiritual. But it is also a time of unprecedented dangers. Never before was there such knowledge and understanding of the physical and biological world as today, and yet never before so much suffering, fear, and violence. The very survival of mankind is at stake. This underscores the extreme educational importance, and urgency, of the present book. It is to be hoped that the NCERT will bring out more of such publications, not only in English, but also in other languages. Energetic, imaginative and devoted effort is necessary if these books are to find effective and wide use in our schools and colleges.
Gandhi and Nehru always stressed on the character building role of education. “True education means building character.” Swaraj is self-control, self-discipline, declared the Mahatma. And let us always bear in mind the words of Nehru, never more significant and relevant than today: “We cannot be untrue to science because that represents the basic fact of life today. Still less can we be untrue to those essential principles for which India has stood in the past throughout the ages. Let us then pursue our path to industrial progress with all our strength and vigor and, at the same time, remember that material riches without tolerance and compassion and wisdom may well turn to dust and ashes”. The future belongs to Science and Ahimsa.
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