Nehru on reservation, Periyar, Ambedkar, Muslims, Christians and Gita

Today is the 133rd birthday of India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 – 1964). This day is celebrated in India as “Nehru Jayanti” and also as “Children’s Day” because of Nehru’s fondness and dedication to a better future for the children of India through his economic and educational policies.

I have read about Nehru since childhood and until now I have mostly seen his views getting cherry-picked by left-wingers and being completely ignored or fabricated by the right wing to further their nefarious agenda.

Regardless of what might be the agenda of such people behind misrepresenting or selectively representing the biographical points and his saying, I will nevertheless provide some of his quotes on some of the most controversial subjects in present-day politics of India.

Nehru viewed reservation to encourage people to remain “second-rate or third-rate”.

In a letter from June 27, 1961, Nehru had written to chief ministers of India, that:-

“I have referred above to efficiency and to our getting out of our traditional ruts. This necessitates our getting out of the old habit of reservations and particular privileges being given to this caste or that group. The recent meeting we held here, at which the chief ministers were present, to consider national integration, laid down that help should be given on economic considerations and not on caste. It is true that we are tied up with certain rules and conventions about helping Scheduled Castes and Tribes. They deserve help but, even so, I dislike any kind of reservation, more particularly in service. I react strongly against anything which leads to inefficiency and second-rate standards. I want my country to be a first class country in everything. The moment we encourage the second-rate, we are lost.”

The letter further reads:-

“But if we go in for reservations on communal and caste basis, we swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate. I am grieved to learn of how far this business of reservation has gone based on communal consideration. It has amazed me to learn that even promotions are based sometimes on communal and caste considerations. This way lies not only folly, but disaster. Let’s help the backward groups by all means, but never at the cost of efficiency. How are we going to build our public sector or indeed any sector with second-rate people?

I wonder if any leaders of present India would like to express similar words on this issue which has become not only the biggest tool for their political advances but also one of the greatest menaces to Indian growth.

Nehru won’t visit the funeral of B. R. Ambedkar, the first law minister of India. His reaction to Ambedkar’s death was as follows:-

“When I think of Dr Ambedkar, many things come to my mind, because he was a highly controversial figure. He was not a person of soft speech. But, behind all that was this powerful reaction and an act of rebellion against something that repressed our society for so long. Fortunately, that rebellion had the support, not perhaps in the exact way he wanted it, but in a large measure, the principle underlying that rebellion had the support of Parliament, and, I believe, every group and party represented here. Both in our public activities and in our legislative activities, we did our utmost to remove that stigma on Hindu society. One cannot remove it completely by law, because custom is more deep-rooted and, I am afraid, it still continues in many parts of the country even though it may be considered illegal. That is true.”

Lok Sabha Debates – Part 2, Volume 10 – Page 2059

This reaction and refusal by Nehru to participate in Ambedkar’s funeral expose the hype created by both left and right-wing these days, with regard to B.R. Ambedkar’s legacy. There could be no sensible motive behind rejuvenating him either when he was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1990 by the coalition government of VP Singh, BJP and leftists, or the ongoing glorification of Ambedkar by BJP since their coming into power in 2014.

Nehru viewed Dravidian extremist E.V.R. Periyar as a “perverted mind” who deserved to be in a “lunatic asylum”.

Nehru wrote the following words in his letter to the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, K. Kamaraj:

“I am much distressed by the anti-Brahmin campaign continuously carried on by E.V. Ramaswami Naicker. I wrote to you I think about this some time ago, and I was told that this matter was under consideration. I find that Ramaswami Naicker is going on saying the same thing again and again and calling upon people at the right time to start stabbing and killing. What he says can only be said by a criminal or a lunatic. I do not know him adequately to be able to decide what he is, but one thing is clear to me that this kind of thing has a very demoralizing effect on the country. All the anti-social and criminal elements imagine that they can act in this way also. I suggest, therefore, to you that there should be no delay in dealing with this matter. Let him be put in a lunatic asylum and his perverted mind treated there.”

Nehru deemed Muslims’ contribution to India to be “inferior to what prevailed then in India”.

In his autobiography, “Discovery of India”, Nehru writes about Muslims:

“The Muslims who came to India from outside brought no new technique or political or economic structure. In spite of religious belief in the brotherhood of Islam, they were class bound and feudal in outlook. In technique and in the methods of production and industrial organization, they were inferior to what prevailed then in India. Thus their influence on the economic life of India and the social structure was very little.”

In his last interview in 1964, he blamed Jinnah, Muslim landlords and the British for partition, by saying:

“In fact, he [Jinnah] opposed it. The Muslim League was started by 1911 and it was started really by the British, encouraged by them so as to create factions. And ultimately that came to partition.”

While maintaining that he and Mahatma Gandhi were opposed to partition, Nehru added:

“But ultimately I decided like others did. It is better to have partition than this constant trouble. You see, the leaders of the Muslim League were big landlords who did not like land reform. We were very anxious to have land reforms, which we did have afterwards. That is the reason we agreed for partition”

In April 12, 1932, Nehru wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi, to explain to her about Jesus and Christianity. He described in this letter how Christians have failed to understand the teachings of Jesus.

“Instead of understanding and following the teachings of Jesus, the Christians argued and quarreled about the nature of Jesus’s divinity and about the Trinity. They called each other heretics and persecuted each other and cut each other’s heads off. There was a great and violent controversy at one time among different Christian sects over a certain diphthong. One party said that the word Homo-ousion should be used in a prayer; the other wanted Homoi-ousion-this difference had reference to the divinity of Jesus. Over this diphthong fierce war was raged and large numbers of people were slaughtered. These internal disputes took place as the Church grew in power. They have continued between various Christian sects till quite recent times in the West.”

Nehru was an admirer of the holy Hindu scripture Bhagavada Gita. He wrote in his book “Discovery of India” about Bhagavada Gita:

“The Gita deals essentially with the spiritual background of human existence and it is in this context that the practical problems of everyday life appear. It is a call to action to meet the obligations and duties of life, but always keeping in view that spiritual background and the larger purpose of the universe. Inaction is condemned, and action and life have to be in accordance with the highest ideals of the age, for these ideals themselves may vary from age to age.”

In any case, we can be thankful that Nehru’s writings on these subjects are well preserved regardless of the nature where they are used.


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