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Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India .
11. Imprisonment during World War II
When, at the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, committed India to war without consulting the autonomous provincial ministries, the Congress Partys high command withdrew its provincial ministries as a protest. Congresss action left the political field virtually open to Jinnah and the Muslim League. Nehrus views on the war differed from those of Gandhi. Initially, Gandhi believed that whatever support was given to the British should be given unconditionally and that it should be of a nonviolent character. Nehru held that nonviolence had no place in defense against aggression and that India should support Great Britain in a war against Nazism, but only as a free nation. If it could not help, it should not hinder.In October 1940, Gandhi, abandoning his original stand, decided to launch a limited civil disobedience campaign in which leading advocates of Indian independence were selected to participate one by one. Nehru was arrested and sentenced to four years imprisonment. After spending a little more than a year in jail, he was released, along with other Congress prisoners, three days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. When the Japanese carried their attack through Burma (now Myanmar) to the borders of India in the spring of 1942, the British government, faced by this new military threat, decided to make some overtures to India. Prime Minister Winston Churchill dispatched Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the war Cabinet who was politically close to Nehru and also knew Jinnah, with proposals for a settlement of the constitutional problem. Crippss mission failed, however, for Gandhi would accept nothing less than independence.
The initiative in the Congress Party now passed to Gandhi, who called on the British to leave India, Nehru, though reluctant to embarrass the war effort, had no alternative but to join Gandhi. Following the Quit India resolution passed by the Congress Party in Bombay (now Mumbai) on August 8, 1942, the entire Congress working committee, including Gandhi and Nehru, was arrested and imprisoned. Nehru emerged from this his ninth and last detention only on June 15, 1945.Within two years India was to be partitioned and free. A final attempt by the viceroy, Lord Wavell, to bring the Congress Party and the Muslim League together failed. The Labour government that had meanwhile displaced Churchills wartime administration dispatched, as one of its first acts, a Cabinet mission to India and later also replaced Lord Wavell with Lord Mountbatten. The question was no longer whether India was to be independent but whether it was to consist of one or more independent states. While Gandhi refused to accept partition, Nehru reluctantly but realistically acquiesced. On August 15, 1947, India and Pakistan emerged as two separate, independent countries. Nehru became independent Indias first prime minister.
12. Achievements as prime minister
In the 35 years from 1929, when Gandhi chose Nehru as president of the Congress session at Lahore, until his death as prime minister in 1964, Nehru remained despite the debacle of the brief conflict with China in 1962 the idol of his people. His secular approach to politics contrasted with Gandhis religious and traditionalist attitude, which during Gandhis lifetime had given Indian politics a religious cast misleadingly so, for, although Gandhi might have appeared to be a religious conservative, he was actually a social nonconformist trying to secularize Hinduism. The real difference between Nehru and Gandhi was not in their attitude to religion but in their attitude to civilization. While Nehru talked in an increasingly modern idiom, Gandhi was harking back to the glories of ancient India.
The importance of Nehru in the perspective of Indian history is that he imported and imparted modern values and ways of thinking, which he adapted to Indian conditions. Apart from his stress on secularism and on the basic unity of India, despite its ethnic and religious diversities, Nehru was deeply concerned with carrying India forward into the modern age of scientific discovery and technological development. In addition, he aroused in his people an awareness of the necessity of social concern with the poor and the outcast and of respect for democratic values. One of the achievements of which he was particularly proud was the reform of the ancient Hindu civil code that finally enabled Hindu widows to enjoy equality with men in matters of inheritance and property.
Internationally, Nehrus star was in the ascendant until October 1956, when Indias attitude on the Hungarian revolt against the Soviets brought his policy of nonalignment under sharp scrutiny. In the United Nations, India was the only nonaligned country to vote with the Soviet Union on the invasion of Hungary, and thereafter it was difficult for Nehru to command credence in his calls for nonalignment. In the early years after independence, anticolonialism had been the cornerstone of his foreign policy, but, by the time of the Belgrade conference of nonaligned countries in 1961, Nehru had substituted nonalignment for anticolonialism as his most pressing concern. In 1962, however, the Chinese threatened to overrun the Brahmaputra River valley as a result of a longstanding border dispute. Nehru called for Western aid, making virtual nonsense of his nonalignment policy, and China withdrew.
The Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan remained a perennial problem throughout Nehrus term as prime minister. His tentative efforts to settle the dispute by adjustments along the ceasefire lines having failed, Pakistan, in 1948, made an unsuccessful attempt to seize Kashmir by force. In solving the problem of the Portuguese colony of Goa the last remaining colony in India Nehru was more fortunate. Although its military occupation by Indian troops in December 1961 raised a furor in many Western countries, in the hindsight of history, Nehrus action is justifiable. With the withdrawal of the British and the French, the Portuguese colonial presence in India had become an anachronism. Both the British and the French had withdrawn peacefully. If the Portuguese were not prepared to follow suit, Nehru had to find ways to dislodge them. After first trying persuasion, in August 1955 he had permitted a group of unarmed Indians to march into Portuguese territory in a nonviolent demonstration. Even though the Portuguese opened fire on the demonstrators, killing nearly 30, Nehru stayed his hand for six years, appealing meanwhile to Portugals Western friends to persuade its government to cede the colony. When India finally struck, Nehru could claim that neither he nor the government of India had ever been committed to nonviolence as a policy.Nehrus health showed signs of deteriorating not long after the clash with China. He suffered a slight stroke in 1963, followed by a more debilitating attack in January 1964. He died a few months later from a third and fatal stroke.
While assertive in his Indianness, Nehru never exuded the Hindu aura and atmosphere clinging to Gandhis personality. Because of his modern political and economic outlook, he was able to attract the younger intelligentsia of India to Gandhis movement of nonviolent resistance against the British and later to rally them around him after independence had been gained. Nehrus Western upbringing and his visits to Europe before independence had acclimatized him to Western ways of thinking. Throughout his 17 years in office, he held up democratic socialism as the guiding star. With the help of the overwhelming majority that the Congress Party maintained in Parliament during his term of office, he advanced toward that goal. The four pillars of his domestic policies were democracy, socialism, unity, and secularism. He succeeded to a large extent in maintaining the edifice supported by these four pillars during his lifetime.Nehrus only child, Indira Gandhi, served as Indias prime minister from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, was prime minister from 1984 to 1989.
14. Politics and the Independence Struggle
Jawaharlal Nehru returned to India in August of 1912, where he began a halfhearted practice of law in the Allahabad High Court. Young Nehru disliked the legal profession, finding it stultifying and insipid.He was much more inspired by the 1912 annual session of the Indian National Congress (INC), however, the INC dismayed him with its elitism. Nehru joined a 1913 campaign led by Mohandas Gandhi, in the start of a decadeslong collaboration. Over the next few years, he moved more and more into politics, and away from law.During the First World War (191418), most upper class Indians supported the Allied cause even as they enjoyed the spectacle of Britain humbled. Nehru himself was conflicted, but came down reluctantly on the side of the Allies, more in support of France than of Britain.More than 1 million Indian and Nepalese soldiers fought overseas for the Allies in World War I, and about 62,000 died. In return for this show of loyal support, many Indian nationalists expected concessions from Britain once the war was over, but they were to be bitterly disappointed.
15. Call for Home Rule
Even during the war, as early as 1915, Jawaharlal Nehru began to call for Home Rule for India. This meant that India would be a selfgoverning Dominion, yet still considered a part of the United Kingdom, much like Canada or Australia.Nehru joined the All India Home Rule League, founded by family friend Annie Besant, a British liberal and advocate for Irish and Indian selfrule. The 70yearold Besant was such a powerful force that the British government arrested and jailed her in 1917, prompting huge protests. In the end, the Home Rule movement was unsuccessful, and it was later subsumed in Gandhis Satyagraha Movement, which advocated complete independence for India.Meanwhile, in 1916, Nehru married Kamala Kaul. The couple had a daughter in 1917, who would later go on to be Prime Minister of India herself under her married name, Indira Gandhi. A son, born in 1924, died after just two days.
16. Declaration of Independence
The Indian nationalist movement leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru, hardened their stance against British rule in wake of the horrific Amritsar Massacre in 1919. Nehru was jailed for the first time in 1921 for his advocacy of the noncooperation movement. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Nehru and Gandhi collaborated ever more closely in the Indian National Congress, each going to prison more than once for civil disobedience actions.In 1927, Nehru issued a call for complete independence for India. Gandhi opposed this action as premature, so the Indian National Congress refused to endorse it.As a compromise, in 1928 Gandhi and Nehru issued a resolution calling for home rule by 1930, instead, with a pledge to fight for independence if Britain missed that deadline. The British government rejected this demand in 1929, so on New Years Eve, at the stroke of midnight, Nehru declared Indias independence and raised the Indian flag. The audience there that night pledged to refuse to pay taxes to the British, and to engage in other acts of mass civil disobedience.Gandhis first planned act of nonviolent resistance was a long walk down to the sea to make salt, known as the Salt March or Salt Satyagraha of March 1930. Nehru and other Congress leaders were skeptical of this idea, but it struck a chord with the ordinary people of India and proved a huge success. Nehru himself evaporated some sea water to make salt in April of 1930, so the British arrested and jailed him again for six months.
17. Nehrus Vision for India
During the early 1930s, Nehru emerged as the political leader of the Indian National Congress, while Gandhi moved into a more spiritual role. Nehru drafted a set of core principles for India between 1929 and 1931, called the Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy, which was adopted by the All India Congress Committee. Among the rights enumerated were freedom of expression, freedom of religion, protection of regional cultures and languages, abolition of untouchable status, socialism, and the right to vote.As a result, Nehru is often called the Architect of Modern India. He fought hardest for the inclusion of socialism, which many other Congress members opposed. During the later 1930s and early 1940s, Nehru also had almost sole responsibility for drafting the foreign policy of a future Indian nationstate.
18. Partition and Prime Ministership
The British released Nehru from prison after the war was over in Europe, and he immediately began to play a key role in negotiations over the future of India. Initially, he vigorously opposed plans to divide the country along sectarian lines into a predominantlyHindu India and a predominantlyMuslim Pakistan, but when bloody fighting broke out between members of the two religions, he reluctantly agreed to the split.After the Partition of India, Pakistan became an independent nation led by Jinnah on August 14, 1947, and India became independent the following day under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru embraced socialism, and was a leader of the international nonaligned movement during the Cold War, along with Nasser of Egypt and Tito of Yugoslavia.As Prime Minister, Nehru instituted widespread economic and social reforms that helped India reorganized itself as a unified, modernizing state. He was influential in international politics as well, but could never solve the problem of Kashmir and other Himalayan territorial disputes with Pakistan and with China.
19. Sino Indian War of 1962
In 1959, Prime Minister Nehru granted asylum to the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan refugees from Chinas 1959 Invasion of Tibet. This sparked tensions between the two Asian superpowers, which already had unsettled claims to the Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh areas in the Himalaya Mountain range. Nehru responded with his Forward Policy, placing military outposts along the disputed border with China, beginning in 1959.On October 20, 1962, China launched a simultaneous attack at two points 1000 kilometers apart along the disputed border with India. Nehru was caught off guard, and India suffered a series of military defeats. By November 21, China felt that it had made its point, and unilaterally ceased fire. It withdrew from its forward positions, leaving the division of land the same as before the war, except that India had been driven from its forward positions across the Line of Control.
Indias force of 10,000 to 12,000 troops suffered heavy losses in the SinoIndian War, with almost 1,400 killed, 1,700 missing, and nearly 4,000 captured by the Peoples Liberation Army of China. China lost 722 killed and about 1,700 wounded. The unexpected war and humiliating defeat profoundly depressed Prime Minister Nehru, and many historians claim that the shock may have hastened his death.
20. The Pandits Legacy
Many observers expected Parliament member Indira Gandhi to succeed her father, even though he had voiced opposition to her serving as Prime Minister for fear of dynastism. Indira turned down the post at that time, however, and Lal Bahadur Shastri took over as the second prime minister of India.Indira would later become the third prime minister, and her son Rajiv was the sixth to hold that title. Jawaharlal Nehru left behind the worlds largest democracy, a nation committed to neutrality in the Cold War, and a nation developing quickly in terms of education, technology and economics.
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