UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – May 06

06 May 1861

Birth of Motilal Nehru


What happened?

Motilal Nehru, independence activist and member of the Indian National Congress was born on 6 May, 1861.

Motilal Nehru Biography

In this edition of This Day in History, you can read about the life and contributions of Motilal Nehru, independence activist and father of Pandit Nehru. It is important to know the contributions of various freedom fighters briefly for the IAS exam.

  • Motilal Nehru was born in Agra to Gangadhar Nehru, a Kotwal of Delhi and his wife Jeorani.
  • Gangadhar Nehru had fled Delhi in the wake of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 to settle in Agra. He died three months before Motilal was born.
  • Motilal was raised by his elder brother who moved the whole family to Allahabad in order to practice law there.
  • Motilal studied in Allahabad and in 1883, passed his High Court exam. He then went to Cambridge University and studied to become a barrister. Returning to India, he started his legal practice in Kanpur and later shifted to Allahabad.
  • His practice was quite successful and he amassed a huge personal fortune. He westernised completely in his attire and lifestyle. Later, under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi, he would give up western practices and readopt Indian mores.
  • Since having been raised in relative poverty, Motilal made sure that his family had the best of everything. He raised his three children including Jawaharlal with all the luxuries his wealth could offer. He even educated his daughters which was considered a taboo back then.
  • After joining the INC, he became involved in the freedom movement.
  • He served as the organisation’s president twice, for the first time in 1919 (Amritsar) and then in 1928 (Calcutta).
  • He was even the president of the Allahabad branch of the Home Rule League started by Annie Besant.
  • In 1918, he broke away from the moderate faction of the INC and began advocating more radical reforms from the government. He still favoured only constitutional means to achieve this purpose.
  • In 1920, under Gandhi’s influence, he renounced his western ways.
  • He was arrested for his involvement in the non-cooperation movement along with Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • When Gandhi cancelled the movement because of the Chauri Chaura incident, he parted ways with the INC and formed the Swarajya Party along with CR Das.
  • He became a member of the Central Legislative Assembly in 1923 serving as the Leader of the Opposition.
  • Motilal Nehru is most remembered for the Nehru Report. In the aftermath of the Indian leaders’ opposition to the Simon Commission, the Secretary of State for India, Lord Birkenhead dared Indians to draw up a constitution, indirectly insinuating that Indians were not up to the challenge as they could not find a common path.
  • The Indian leadership took up the challenge and formed a committee for this purpose cutting across party lines. Motilal was the chairman of this committee. This report was submitted at the all-party Lucknow session in 1928 becoming one of the earliest attempts by Indians to frame a constitution.
  • In 1929, he resigned from active politics due to ill-health.
  • He died in 1931 aged 69.
Also on this day

1542: Francis Xavier, Roman Catholic missionary arrived in Goa from Portugal. 1856: Birth of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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