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Nehru: India's last English PM! - The Observer

D P Sinha ()
12 November 1997

Title: Nehru: India's last English PM!
Author: D P Sinha
Publication: The Observer
Date: November 12, 1997

In a passing moment of emotional weakness, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first
Prime Minister of Independent India, shared a deep secret with the then
American diplomat John Galbraith, who said: "It did not especially surprise
me, when once in a relaxed' moment he (Nehru) said - well, you know I am
the last Englishman to rule in India".

To believe this is difficult. Is it possible that India's first Prime
Minister, a man who defiantly challenged the British rule, belligerently
criticised its policies and went to jail again and again, could claim to be
an Englishmen? And that, too, with an unmistakable stamp of pride. An
irony indeed!

The developmental patterns of any person and what direction these patterns
will unfold are pretty much determined during a person's childhood and
early youth. Take the example of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister
of Pakistan. Bhutto's anti-Hindu psychology first evolved in his
adolescence. At 17, he wrote to Muhammed Ali Jinnah: "Muslims should
realise that the Hindus can never and will never unite with us, they are
the deadliest enemies of our Koran and Prophet..."

Young Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to his father from England: "Indians were
bound to have self-government but ... not before a few aeons of geological
time! This may mean anything between a few million years and wholly
incomprehensive period. The chief difficulty was the want of education and
some million generations will be required to educate them (Indians) up to
the colonial standard".

This letter written at the age of 21 clearly establishes the fact that
young Jawaharlal was deeply aware of the 'supremacy' of the British, and,
all his life, suffered from pangs of inferiority in relation to the white
rulers.

In his court trial of 1922, Nehru himself stated: "Less than ten years, I
returned from England after a long stay there ... I had imbibed most of
prejudices of Harrow and Cambridge and in my likes and dislikes I was
perhaps more an Englishman than an Indian. I looked upon the world almost
from a Englishman's stand point ... as much prejudiced in favour of England
and the English as it was possible for a Englishman to be".

The independence movement in India did witness a sartorial change in Nehru,
but not of heart. Like a first love, Nehru's romance with the English and
all that is English continued to influence his heart and mind and
manifested itself at the slightest opportunity. In the year 1946 as Prime
Minister of the interim government, Nehru embarked on his flight
resplendent in traditional Indian attire - sherwani, chooridar and
'Gandhi-cap'. But, Nehru arrived in England every inch an English,
gentleman, fitted out in tweeds, tie, hat and a smoking cigar in his hand.
This journey had somehow transformed the humble son of India into a dashing
gallant with his clothes dictated by prevailing tastes, Savoir-faire
demeanor, a native returning home. By the time Nehru reached the British
Isles, he had himself become British. He did let go of his Park Avenue
acquired wardrobe only after his actions were criticised back home in the
print media.

Discarding his English outfit was easy enough. But, Nehru remained to the
core an awestruck admirer of the English quintessence. According to B R
Nanda, "In the Indian Constituent Assembly, he threw his weight in favour
of Parliamentary democracy on the British model and as Prime Minister, did
all he could to evolve traditions conforming to established practices in
Britain".

After years of slavery, when people revolt, a nation is reborn. The prime
mission of the new government is nation building. Such government is
infused with revolutionary vigour and intellectual boldness. It dares to
lay down its own agenda which may be entirely different from that of the
now expelled rulers.

But Jawaharlal Nehru did not conceive of independent India's new fledged
government as an insurrectionary government with all its inherent potential.

The anti-Hindu policy is another heirloom from the white rulers which the
Nehru government wholeheartedly followed.

In August 1947, Dr Rajendra Prasad, who was the chairman of the Constituent
Assembly wrote to Nehru about cow slaughter and the fact that a majority of
Hindu sentiments run high against the cow slaughter.

Jawaharlal Nehru responded that he is well aware of the Hindu
sentimentality and, yet he would much rather resign from the prime
ministerial position than bow before it.

The man who can derive pleasure from the weakening and fragmenting of the
Hindu society can hardly be a Hindu himself. Disclaiming his Hindu
identity, Nehru declared that by education he was an Englishman, by culture
a Muslim and by accident of birth, a Hindu. It is a mere throw of the dice
that he was born to a Hindu couple, otherwise he had no undertaking with
the Hindus.

Albeit, it is a different matter that to remain the beloved Prime Minister
of a Hindu majority electorate, Nehru stuck to his Brahmanical title
'Pandit' pretty much in the same way as he stuck to the Gandhi cap on his
bald head: Both lending him validity and at the same time functioning as
tools to hoodwink Hindu masses. It was the same exigency that compelled
him to accept anti-cow slaughter as one of the Directive Principles of our
Constitution.

Two questions can be asked here. First, that if Nehru was such an ardent
fan of the British life-style, why did he, in the first place, participate
in a movement against the British? Secondly, what made him such a British
enthusiast?

Jawaharlal Nehru was an ambitious father's ultra ambitious son. He had a
dream. A dream of leading an independent India as its very first Prime
Minister. To make his dreams a reality Nehru did what was the need of the
hour. He opposed the British rule, even went to jail.

Yet throughout all this, at a deep, more personal level, Nehru continued to
experience a humbling respect and love for the British culture. Upon
analysis of Jawaharlal Nehru's behaviour it is clear that to him there was
no apparent conflict between love for all things English and an active
struggle against the English.

For a deeper understanding we need to go back further. In the early years
of 19th century, in East India Company, there was a debate on the education
policy for Indians.

While some believed that Indians should be formally instructed in their
native language of Sanskrit and Persian, the public instructions committee
headed by Lord Macaulay recommended that Indians should be taught in the
western traditions and the medium of instruction should be English.

Macaulay wrote that the aim of English education is "to create a class who
would act as interpreters between us and the millions we govern, a class of
Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals
and in intellect".

East India Company adopted Macaulay's suggestions and teaching in English
language began in India.

Merely hundred years later, India was abound with 'black British' who were
only by 'blood and colour' Indians.

Apart from their 'blood and colour' nothing in them remained Indian.

No wonder this breed of Indians feel such pride in calling themselves
'English'.


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