‘Bapu’ and ‘Chacha’: Builders of Modern India
During the last two thousand five hundred years and more of India's history, two individual combinations made tremendous impact both on India's civilization and polity. The first duo was that of Kautilya and his trusted disciple Chandragupta Maurya who together laid the foundation of the first great historical empire of ancient India. The other duo was that of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru who were instrumental in laying the base of a modern Indian state and giving shape to ideas in the realm of education, culture and democracy.1 Gandhi founded the Satyagraha Ashram after returning from South Africa and successfully employed the principles of Satyagraha in uniting the peasants of Kheda and Champaran against the government. After this victory Gandhi was bestowed the title of Bapu and Mahatma and his fame spread far and wide. Jawaharlal Nehru was not only the first Prime Minister of India, but in that apacity, was also a major world figure during the mid-twentieth century. Like many national leaders who first lead, or play a major role in leading, their nation to independence, Nehru was widely loved and respected and ended up not only serving as the nation's leader for many years but also shaped much of the nation's political life. Practically every official act of such a leader is a first and often becomes a precedent that his successors follow.2 His great love for roses as well as children is a well-known fact. In fact he often compared the two, saying that children were like the buds in a garden. They should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they were the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow. He felt that children are the real strength of a country and the very foundation of society. Most importantly he did not discriminate between the sexes and believed in giving equal opportunities to girls and boys. Quite naturally, he was the 'beloved' of all the children who gave him the endearing name of 'Chacha Nehru'. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru are internationally well-known personalities, who had been venerated and respected by the intelligentsia. Both of them were born in the nineteenth century and passed away in the twentieth century. The Mahatma was the leader and Nehru was the most devoted disciple of the Mahatma. Both of them were giants in their respective fields of the work. The Mahatma was assassinated and Nehru died. Both of them lived the biblical figure, three score and ten. The Mahatma was the father of the nation. Nehru was the builder of the nation. 3 Nehru first time met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916 and admired his role in South Africa. When Gandhi started Satyagraha in 1919 against Rowlatt Act, Nehru for the first time came into contact with the peasants (kisans) and this contact with the peasants influenced his later thought. He wrote, “Looking at them (kisans) and their misery and overflowing gratitude, I was filled with shame and sorrow-shame at my own easy-going and comfortable life and our pretty politics of the city which ignored this vast multitude of semi-naked sons and daughters of India. A new picture of India seemed to rise before me, naked, starving, crushed and utterly miserable.” This experience with peasants indicated to Nehru the degree to which the nationalist movement coincided with Gandhi’s rise to prominence in the congress and this strengthened Nehru’s consciousness of peasant India. Nehru played a significant role in the Non-Cooperation Movement launched in 1921, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. A basic question could be put here: what was the influence of Gandhi upon Nehru during this period? Gandhi’s stress on the religious and spiritual side of his movement was somewhat incomprehensible to Nehru. Nehru with his modern, scientific and rational approach to life simply did not speak the same language as Gandhi (1921). Nehru wrote: “but we felt that we knew him quite well enough to realize that he was a great...
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