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Jawaharlal NehruPandit Jawaharlal Nehru from Persian Javâher-e La'al, meaning 'Red Jewel') (November 14, 1889 – May 27, 1964) was a political leader of the Indian National Congress, a pivotal figure in the Indian independence movement and the first Prime Minister of Independent India. He was also a key figure in International politics in the post-war period, and was one of the founding figures of the non-alignment. Popularly referred to as Panditji (Scholar), Nehru was also a writer, scholar and amateur historian, and the patriarch of the Nehru-Gandhi family, one of the most influential forces in Indian politics.
The son of the wealthy Indian barrister and politician Motilal Nehru, Nehru had become one of the youngest leaders of the Indian National Congress. Rising under the mentorship of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru became a charismatic, radical leader, advocating complete independence from the British Empire. An icon for Indian youth, Nehru was also an exponent of socialism as a means to address long-standing national challenges. Serving as Congress President, Nehru raised the flag of independent India in New Delhi on August 15 and served as prime minister, as would his daughter Indira and grandson Rajiv.
Early lifeJawaharlal Nehru was born in the city of Allahabad, situated along the banks of the Ganges River (now in the state of Uttar Pradesh). Jawahar means a "gem" in Arabic and is a name similar in meaning to moti, "pearl". He was the eldest child of Swarup Rani, the wife of wealthy barrister Motilal Nehru. The Nehru family descended from Kashmiri heritage and belonged to the Saraswat Brahmin caste of Hindus. Training as a lawyer, Motilal had moved to Allahabad and developed a successful practise and had become active in India's largest political party, the Indian National Congress. Nehru and his sisters — Vijaya Lakshmi and Krishna — lived in a large mansion called Anand Bhavan and were raised with English customs, mannerisms and dress. While learning Hindi and Sanskrit, the Nehru children would be trained to converse fluently and regularly in English.
After being tutored at home and attending some of the most modern schools in India, Nehru travelled to England at the age of 15 to attend Harrow. He proceeded to study natural sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge before choosing to train as a barrister at the Inner Temple in London. Frequenting the theatres, museums and opera houses of London, he would spend his vacations travelling across Europe. Observers later described him as an elegant, charming young intellectual and socialite. Nehru also actively participated in the political activities of the Indian student community, growing increasingly attracted to socialism and liberalism, which were beginning to influence the politics and economies of Europe.
Upon his return to India, Nehru's marriage was arranged with Kamala Kaul. Married on February 8, 1916 Nehru age was 27 and his bride was 16 years old. The first few years of their marriage were hampered by the cultural gulf between the anglicized Nehru and Kamala, who observed Hindu traditions and focused on family affairs. The following year Kamala gave birth to their only child, their daughter Indira Priyadarshini. Having made few attempts to establish himself in a legal practise, Nehru was immediately attracted to Indian political life, which at the time was emerging from divisions over World War I. The moderate and extremist factions of the Congress had reunited in its 1916 session in Lucknow, and Indian politicians had demanded Home Rule and dominion status for India. Joining the Congress under the patronage of his father, Nehru grew increasingly disillusioned with the liberal and anglicized nature of Congress politicians, which included his father. Although frequently hailed as a future leader of the Congress and India, Nehru's political rise did not begin until the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on India's political arena.
Young leaderNehru was very strongly attracted to Gandhi's philosophy and leadership. Gandhi had led a successful rebellion on behalf of indentured Indian workers while a lawyer in South Africa. Upon his return to India, Gandhi organised the peasants and farmers of Champaran and Kheda in successful rebellions against oppressive tax policies levied by the British. Gandhi espoused what he termed as satyagraha — mass civil disobedience governed by ahimsa, or complete non-violence. A forceful exponent of Indian self-reliance, Gandhi's success electrified Indians, who had been divided in their approach to contesting British rule. Having met Gandhi and learning his ideas, Nehru assisted him during the Champaran agitation.
President of All India Trade Unions CongressIn the 1920s, Nehru was elected president of the All India Trade Unions Congress. He and Subhash Chandra Bose had become the most prominent youth leaders, and both demanded outright political independence of India. In 1927 he became a member of the League against Imperialism created in Brussels. Nehru criticised the Nehru Report prepared by his father in 1928, which called for dominion status for India within the British Empire. The radicalism of Nehru and Bose would provoke intense debates during the 1928 Congress session in Guwahati. Arguing that India would deliver an ultimatum to the British and prepare for mass struggle, Nehru and Bose won the hearts of many young Indians. To resolve the issue, Gandhi said that the British would be given two years to grant India dominion status. If they did not, the Indian National Congress (INC) would launch a national struggle for full political independence. Nehru and Bose succeeded in reducing the statutory deadline to one year.
India's First Prime MinisterNehru and his colleagues had been released as the British Cabinet Mission arrived to propose plans for transfer of power. The Congress held a presidential election in the knowledge that its chosen leader would become India's head of government.
Once elected, Nehru headed an interim government, which was impaired by outbreaks of communal violence and political disorder, and the opposition of the Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who were demanding a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. After failed bids to form coalitions, Nehru reluctantly supported the partition of India as per a plan released by the British on June 3, 1947. He would take office as the Prime Minister of India on August 15, and delivered his inaugural address titled "A Tryst With Destiny:"
"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity."
Economic policiesNehru presided over the introduction of a modified, "Indian" version of state planning and control over the economy. Creating the Planning commission of India, Nehru drew up the first Five-Year Plan in 1951, which charted the government's investments in industries and agriculture. Increasing business and income taxes, Nehru envisaged a mixed economy in which the government would manage strategic industries such as mining, electricity and heavy industries, serving public interest and a check to private enterprise. Nehru pursued land redistribution and launched programmes to build irrigation canals, dams and spread the use of fertilizers to increase agricultural production. He also pioneered a series of community development programs aimed at spreading diverse cottage industries and increasing efficiency into rural India. While encouraging the construction of large dams, irrigation works and the generation of hydroelectricity, Nehru also launched India's programme to harness nuclear energy.
For most of Nehru's term as prime minister, India would continue to face serious food shortages despite progress and increases in agricultural production. Nehru's industrial policies encouraged the growth of diverse manufacturing and heavy industries, yet state planning, controls and regulations began to impair productivity, quality and profitability. Although the Indian economy enjoyed a steady rate of growth, chronic unemployment amidst entrenched poverty continued to plague the population. Nehru's popularity remained unaffected, and his government succeeded in extending water and electricity supply, health care, roads and infrastructure to a large degree for India's vast rural population.
Education and social reform
Jawaharlal Nehru was a passionate advocate of education for India's children and youth, believing it essential for India's future progress. His government oversaw the establishment of many institutions of higher learning, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management. Nehru also outlined a commitment in his five-year plans to guarantee free and compulsory primary education to all of India's children. For this purpose, Nehru oversaw the creation of mass village enrollment programmes and the construction of thousands of schools. Nehru also launched initiatives such as the provision of free milk and meals to children in order to fight malnutrition. Adult education centres, vocational and technical schools were also organised for adults, especially in the rural areas.
Under Nehru, the Indian Parliament enacted many changes to Hindu law to criminalize caste discrimination and increase the legal rights and social freedoms of women. A system of reservations in government services and educational institutions was created to eradicate the social inequalities and disadvantages faced by peoples of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Nehru also championed secularism and religious harmony, increasing the representation of minorities in government.
Final yearsMr. Nehru had led the Congress to a major victory in the 1957 elections, but his government was facing rising problems and criticism. Disillusioned by intra-party corruption and bickering, Nehru contemplated resigning but continued to serve. The election of his daughter Indira as Congress President in 1959 aroused criticism for alleged nepotism. Although the Pancha Sila (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence) was the basis of the 1954 Sino-Indian treaty over Tibet, in later years, Nehru's foreign policy suffered through increasing Chinese antagonism over border disputes and Nehru's decision to grant asylum to the Dalai Lama. After years of failed negotiations, Nehru authorized the Indian Army to annex Goa from Portugal in 1961. While increasing his popularity, Nehru received criticism for opting for military action.
In the 1962 elections, Nehru led the Congress to victory yet with a diminished majority. Opposition parties ranging from the right-wing Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Swatantra Party, socialists and the Communist Party of India performed well. In a matter of months, a Chinese invasion of northeastern India exposed the weaknesses of India's military as Chinese forces came as far as Assam. Widely criticised for neglecting India's defence needs, Nehru was forced to sack the defence minister Krishna Menon and accept U.S. military aid. Nehru's health began declining steadily, and he was forced to spend months recuperating in Kashmir through 1963. Upon his return from Kashmir in May 1964, Nehru suffered a stroke and later a heart attack. He died in the early hours of May 27, 1964. Nehru was cremated as per Hindu rites at the Shantivana on the banks of the Yamuna River, witnessed by hundreds of thousands of mourners who had flocked into the streets of Delhi and the cremation grounds.
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