The most awaited event of Day 2 or perhaps of the whole KLF event was awaited eagerly by the crowds. The evening sun beating down on the west side of the pavilion or the fact that there were not enough chairs to go around was not an issue for the fans of Tharoor. The session was Makers of Modern India and the discussion was about none other than Jawaharlal Nehru.
There is an increasing trend amongst the right-wing activists who have taken it up as part of their propaganda to repudiate and denigrate Nehru. This attack on Nehru is both systematic and methodic. There are always claims going around that Nehru did this, he was responsible for that, he didn’t do well enough as a Prime Minister etc. Well, Shashi Tharoor reminds us what these right-wing elements would like us to forget. Nehru is a remarkable figure of the 20th century, not just in India, but the world as we know it. His is a giant among the giants and now, since the BJP is slowly attempting to desecrate the image of Nehru in our minds it is essential that we re-examine his legacy 54 years after his death.
The point that Tharoor tries to drive home is that when the British left India in ruins. Nehru was the one who held the reigns and directed us into our tryst with destiny. With 90% of the population living below the poverty line in 1947, it was a Herculean task, to say the least, paving the way for the future. Even when there was a trend of leaders in post-colonial countries amassing power and eventually transforming into dictatorships, Nehru was driven to the establishment of Democracy and stability that has driven us to the future and where we stand today.
The main charge against Nehru is that he was inclined towards Socialism and held a stand on Non-Alignment. Tharoor explained the reasons behind these two decisions. But before we go into Tharoor’s explanation, Socialism isn’t a taboo, maybe in the political scenario of the pre-independence, it would have been viewed in bad-light; thanks to the Chinese and Soviet models. The need for socialism arose because of the bad shape in which the economy found itself when the British left. Nehru came to the realization that to help the population back on its feet, this model would be best suited. And I would argue that it had worked.
Non-Alignment was purely a diplomatic stand which ensured our continued freedom in the global stage. For the past 200 years or so, India was ruled by a foreign power, and after earning our hard-fought independence it would be foolish to surrender it to another power in the form of alignment. Taking this into consideration Nehru decided that India, from now on, will have its own voice, its own stand in matters rather than being subservient to another major power in the global political arena and our voice will be heard.
Another common criticism of Nehru is that he started a family dynasty which Tharoor said is ‘Simple Nonsense’. Nehru never wanted power and almost resigned in 1958 formally. The general public outcry and pleas from leaders both within and outside the country persuaded him to assume office for another year. No man is infallible, to err is human, and leaders are no exception. So is it fair to accuse a man of being human?
During the Q&A sessions, there was a question on the Kashmir issue, two questions-one on the atrocities that have been committed there and the other was regarding the plebiscite. Tharoor apologized for the atrocities that have been committed and deeply sympathized with the people of the valley for that. He said that there is no other alternative other than being on hair-trigger alert for the army. The plebiscite was in fact a three-part agreement. Pakistan should withdraw their troops completely, then India would withdraw them partly and a plebiscite would be conducted. And as Pakistan never did the first pre-requisite of withdrawing their troops, India didn’t follow through with steps 2 and 3. Step 3, being the plebiscite. In 1948, winning the plebiscite was a sure shot. But now things have changed and the politics over the years have made matters worse and winning it is not assured, Tharoor explained.
When you look at his session, it was as always informative. Really energetic, he attacked the right wing mocking them wherever he could. But, to me, personally, I think he was too biased towards his Nehruvian ideals and could’ve criticized or rather explored some more contest points of debate that we’ve been having over Nehru for the last half a century, and maybe admit that Nehru is indeed a man with his flaws, like all leaders.
Blog by Davis Jose