Open letter: 'Dear Modiji, Nehru's legacy will live on'

An open letter to PM Modi on Nehru's birth anniversary

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (AFP photo)

King Parikshith, the son of Abhimanyu, went hunting one day and strayed too far into the forest. He did not know how to make his way back to his palace. After wandering for a long time, and feeling tired and thirsty, he stopped his horse as he came to a clearing. Suddenly, he noticed a sage in meditation. The great king called out to him but got no response; he tried to nudge him out of his meditation, but the sage wouldn’t open his eyes.

The king, feeling ignored and insulted, spoke to him harshly. Yet, no response. Furious and frustrated, the king picked up a dead snake that was lying nearby with his sword and hung it around the sage’s neck and started to laugh wickedly. Just then, a student of the sage had come there and watched the king insult his guru. In a fit of anger, the student cursed the king: “Within seven days, oh king, you shall die of snake bite”. We all know what happened next in the story. A small worm came out of an apple that the king bit into, grew into the poisonous snake, Takshaka, which angrily buried its fangs into Parikshith’s face. The great king died instantly.

I was reminded of this story, Mr Prime Minister, when I heard that you, too, after having shouted and screamed much at Jawaharlal Nehru throughout the last four years and more, finally picked up a dead snake and put it around his neck. That’s what you did when you put Arnab Goswami, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Ram Bahadur Rai on the Board of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML).

Read also: EDITORIAL | ‘Obliterate Nehru’ plan in full gear

Of course, insulting Nehru is not new to you and your ideological fellow travellers. I grew up reading Rashtrottana Parishat’s Bharatha-Bharathi books. A biography of Jawaharlal Nehru used to be a part of the series. Now, though, Jawaharlal’s biography has disappeared from the English series. There is one on Motilal Nehru, there is one even on Kamala Nehru, Jawaharlal’s wife who died after suffering from tuberculosis for many years — years that Jawaharlal spent in jail. But there is no Jawaharlal Nehru. Such is the Sangh Parivar’s outlook in recent years. I wanted to buy that series for my children, but I did not. The story of Jawaharlal is already my 8-year-old son’s favourite. He knows what Nehru’s contribution to the freedom struggle was and appreciates his idea of India. 

In 2015, your government installed Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in NMML. Since then, events are held in Upadhyaya’s name — in Nehru Memorial! Even Nehru’s picture was replaced with Upadhyaya’s. You keep fuming that in the 70 years since Independence, way too many things have been named after Nehru. I agree. But in four years, you have beaten even the “ek parivar” that you so hate to name and rename roads, railway stations and government schemes after Upadhyaya. What exactly is Upadhyaya’s contribution to India? Is it that he wrote a critique of the Second Five Year Plan? Or, is it that he coined the slogan ‘Integral Humanism’? Pray, what humanism could he have taught a bunch of people who believe it’s okay to murder fellow human beings to save cows!

Also read: What would’ve Patel said?

And then, there was that speech that you made — a prime minister standing in Parliament and in a motion of thanks to the President’s address. “If Sardar Patel had been PM...”, you thundered. Do prime ministers resort to counterfactual history, that too in Parliament? And didn’t you overlook some crucial facts of history — that Patel himself stepped aside for Nehru on Gandhi’s advice? Indeed, didn’t Gandhi accept that Nehru’s vision for the nation’s future — which is what you perhaps unknowingly praise today when you praise the IITs or our nuclear and space scientists for the INS Arihant, Mangalyaan, etc — was the better one than either his or Patel’s vision? Weren’t Nehru and Patel still a great team, despite their Left-Right, liberal-conservative, secular-pro-Hindu differences, because they both respected each other and were both patriots of a greater idea of India, not just of Hindu India — Patel uniting provinces politically as per VP Menon’s scheme, Nehru infusing into that united India its soul and bringing hearts together? Wasn’t Patel in 1947 already the age when you would have put him in Margadarshak Mandal? Indeed, what would Patel have said if he were alive today and found you insulting his friend and leader Jawaharlal?

Also read: Iron man’ and the irony

Why, you even tried to paint Nehru as the one who shunted Subhas Chandra Bose out of Congress and who conspired with the British against him, that he had set spies on Bose’s family post-Independence! What did you find after you grandly announced that you would open up the government’s archives on Bose? That Nehru went to great lengths to ensure that Bose’s Austrian wife Emilie Schenkl and daughter Anita Bose were taken care of, as a duty to his dead friend and fellow patriot.

You spoke publicly to insinuate that Nehru had been evil to Bose, why haven’t you spoken about what the truth is? And wasn’t it Patel and the Congress right-wing — not Nehru, as you keep falsely insinuating — that prevailed on Gandhi to oust Bose because he was too radically Left for their comfort? Why did Subhas Bose name his guerrilla brigades Gandhi Brigade and Nehru Brigade, but did not name one after Patel? Wasn’t it Nehru, not Patel, who donned the lawyer’s robes to defend Azad Hind Fauj soldiers at the Red Fort trial in 1945-46? Why dont you and the Sangh Parivar come out with whatever evidence you have against Nehru, instead of tarnishing with innuendo and insinuation a man whose ‘niyat’ even Patel did not ever question and who has been dead for over 54 years?

Also read: EDITORIAL | Statue of divisive politics

Think about it: when Independence came, even your Gods willed that the singular honour of millennia to come — that of addressing a new nation and arousing its “soul long supressed” with his soaring vision — went to Nehru, none else. Not all the dead snakes one can hang around Nehru’s neck, at NMML and elsewhere, can erase Nehru’s tryst with destiny, nor his vision of our destiny. And India, “our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new”, in Nehru’s beautiful phrase, will not forget one of her greatest sons.

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Open letter: 'Dear Modiji, Nehru's legacy will live on'

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