14 November 1889
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was born
On 14 November 1889, Jawaharlal Nehru was born in Allahabad to parents with Kashmiri Pandit lineage. He played a prominent role in the freedom struggle and became the first prime minister of independent India.
In this article, you can read about Pandit Nehru’s biography in brief and about his contributions to making modern India. He was an important freedom fighter and member of the INC and is hence very important for the UPSC exam.
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. – Pandit Nehru, 15 August 1947.
- Nehru’s parents were Motilal Nehru and Swaruprani Thussu. Motilal Nehru was a prominent lawyer and a member of the Indian National Congress, and also served as its president twice.
- Nehru’s family was affluent thanks to his father’s legal practice. He describes his childhood as uneventful and sheltered in his autobiography. He grew up in a grand house called ‘Anand Bhavan’. He had two sisters, both younger to him.
- At the age of 15, Nehru went to study at the Harrow School in England. After that, he studied natural science at Trinity College, Cambridge University, and passed out with a degree in 1910. Nehru also read books on politics, economics, literature and history.
- As a child, he read about Garibaldi, the Italian national hero, and Nehru himself was inspired and dreamed of India’s freedom from British rule.
- He was influenced by the works of G B Shaw, H G Wells, Bertrand Russell, J M Keynes, Meredith Townsend and Lowes Dickinson. After acquiring a degree, Nehru studied to become a lawyer and entered the Bar in 1912.
- In 1912, Nehru returned to India and started practice at the Allahabad High Court. However, he was disinterested in this job and soon drifted towards the national cause. He attended a Congress session in 1912 in Patna and felt that the membership of the party was restricted to upper-class elites. The INC at that time was in its moderate phase.
- Nevertheless, he worked for the party. His ideas were radical. He spoke of complete independence at a time when most people were content with a few constitutional reforms.
- He advocated for non-cooperation and resigning from honorary positions. He supported more aggressive nationalists who were pressing for home rule.
- He was influenced by Annie Besant and worked for her Home Rule League.
- Nehru met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916 and was drawn to him instantly. He became his close friend, follower and associate.
- He was involved in the non-cooperation movement in 1920 and was imprisoned for the first time. When Gandhi called off the movement in the wake of the violence at Chauri Chaura, there was a split in the party and Motilal Nehru and C R Das formed the Swaraj Party. Jawaharlal Nehru, however, remained with the Congress and Gandhi.
- As a national leader, he understood the importance of having a worldview and sought relations with similar democratic movements in other nations as well. He visited several countries. He represented India at a meeting of oppressed nationalities in Brussels.
- Nehru also played his part in making the struggles of the people of the princely states align with the freedom movement in British India.
- He became the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee in September 1923. He was the party president in the Lahore session in 1929 when the declaration of complete independence as the goal of the freedom movement was passed.
- He became the president of the All India States Peoples Conference in 1935. He threw open its membership to people across the political spectrum. This organisation would play an important part in the integration of the princely states into India.
- Nehru was at the forefront in various movements like the Salt Satyagraha and the Quit India Movement and was arrested a total of nine times by the British.
- From 1946, he was elected the president of the congress party and served as its president for three more terms.
- Nehru headed the interim government of India in 1946. After India achieved independence on 15 August 1947, Nehru became the prime minister. As prime minister, he delivered his now-famous address to the nation, ‘Tryst with Destiny’.
- Nehru’s vision of a united India led to the speedy integration of the princely states into the Indian Dominion. He was ably supported by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and V K Krishna Menon, his aide in this matter.
- Nehru, as prime minister advocated a mixed economy. He was established heavy industries believing them to be essential to the development of a country. But there were also heavy control and regulations of the industry.
- In 1953, he appointed the States Reorganisation Commission to redraw state boundaries on linguistic lines.
- He advocated the use of Hindi as the country’s official language but this met with heavy resistance from non-Hindi speakers.
- Nehru also believed in secularism but his selective implementation of this ideal has led to several debates even today. He is said to have secularised many personal laws for the majority community but has left the Muslim personal law from legislation.
- He enacted many laws to criminalise certain practices like caste-based discrimination. He also increased legal rights for women.
- Nehru was leading a newly independent country and initiated many projects like setting up the IITs, the defence academies, the nuclear energy program and so on.
- He was also keen on having cordial relations with other nations of the world.
- He was a founder and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.
- Nehru was also responsible for the liberation of Goa after years of failed negotiations with the Portuguese.
- He was a prolific author and some of his works are ‘The Discovery of India’ and ‘Glimpses of World History’.
- Pandit Nehru died on 27 May 1964 of a heart attack. He was the Prime Minister of the country till his death and is the longest-serving prime minister till date. He was 74.
- He was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri as the prime minister. His only daughter Indira Gandhi would become the prime minister later.
- From 1957, his birth anniversary is celebrated as ‘Children’s Day’ in India.
Also on This Day
1969: Jawaharlal Nehru University was inaugurated. 1993: Death of Gandhian social worker Dr. Manibhai Desai. 2000: Jharkhand is formed as a new state.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.