The Sangh Can Stamp Out Nehru’s Name. Destroying His Legacy Won’t Be So Easy

Jawaharlal Nehru and Albert Einstein

Jawaharlal Nehru and Albert Einstein

What is it about the Nehru parivar that so bothers the Sangh parivar? Why do Sanghis – from the grandees of the BJP and its mentor the RSS, to the neo-supporters who have emerged from the woodwork after years of keeping quiet, to the troll sena that robotically hits out at anyone who is seen as the enemy – break out into a rash at the very mention of Nehru and his progeny? Why don’t the ministers get on with the job of governance instead of constantly plotting different ways to undermine or even wipe out any mention of Nehru in the public domain?

Last week, the government let it be known that the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library would not remain confined to the works of India’s first Prime Minister but also study the great and glorious achievements of others, and especially the current regime. Given that the NMML – under the now ousted Mahesh Rangarajan – was already devoting the majority of its time and resources to personalities and themes that go well beyond Nehru, BJP leaders either don’t know what they are talking about or are using the logic of a broader agenda to undermine the institution in some way. How soon before the name itself is changed?

def11-02Even while this controversy was playing out, the Philately Advisory Committee suggested that the ‘definitive’ stamps bearing the images of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi should be discontinued. Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has accepted this suggestion with alacrity and declared, with disarming honesty, that there was no reason why one family should monopolise the list. The two definitive stamps are part of the series “Builders of Modern India”, which has included famous men and women, including Nehru, E V Ramasami Naicker, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Homi Bhabha, J R D Tata, Satyajit Ray, Mother Teresa and C V Raman. To this, Prasad wants to add Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Shivaji, Maulana Azad, Vivekananda and Maharana Pratap, among others. That is this government’s prerogative, even if it wants to evoke not just India the modern state but India the ancient nation. But why talk about the removal of just these two names? (And while on the subject, does the younger generation even use stamps?)

There is, of course, a political agenda – because it is the BJP’s mission to make India Congress-mukt and ensure that there is no other national political party on the scene. But the Sangh’s exertions in that direction seem overwrought, considering that the Congress itself is doing a fine job of making itself politically irrelevant. No, the BJP doesn’t want to just fight the Congress at the hustings; it wants to obliterate the Nehru-Gandhi family’s place not just in contemporary India but also in history.

Nehru’s secularism the target

It has long been part of Sanghi lore that Nehru was a villain. In the RSS worldview, Nehru was guilty of several things – to begin with, he was an English-speaking, westernised patrician, totally at odds with the essential soul of Bharat. He was schooled in the West and thus not as “Indian” as say Vallabhai Patel, the Sangh’s favourite Congressman, who was all toughness in contrast to the effete Nehru. These are not caricaturish representations of Sanghi thinking; they were repeatedly aired for generations till they became gospel.

The problem is, all this is untrue. Nehru understood India far better than any Sanghi will ever do. One has only to read Discovery of India to know how deeply he loved this country and how much he had studied it. Which work from the RSS archive even comes close to Nehru’s works?

Secondly, Nehru, for all his aristocratic background, threw himself into the freedom struggle and went to jail for a total of 10 years. He was chained and paraded on the streets in one particular incident. He used the time in jail to think and write books. As for all the attempts to drive a wedge between Nehru and Sardar Patel and now Subhas Bose, the evidence just doesn’t hold up. Patel banned the RSS and Bose was no promoter of Hindutva, far from it. Nor were they Nehru’s enemies either. But who needs proof when you have prejudice?

The real reason why Nehru is such a hate figure for the Sangh is his commitment to secularism – not just as a mantra or a platitude that is trotted out in speeches, but as a way of life.

His determination ensured that the government passed four Hindu code bills that unified Hindu personal law. Not just radical Hindu groups but also extremist members of the Congress resisted these moves, but Nehru, who had made a promise to the people, pushed them through. In word and deed, Nehru made fighting communalism a mission of his life. This is what he said in a Lok Sabha speech in 1955: “If I may venture to lay down a rule, it is the primary responsibility of the majority to satisfy the minority in every matter. The majority, by virtue of it being a majority, has the strength to have its way: it requires no protection.” There is much more in this vein. Is it then surprising that the votaries of Hindutva are rabidly against him?

That he was a Kashmiri Brahmin makes it difficult for them to rubbish him on communal grounds; it is hardly surprising, therefore, that anonymous mailers falsely claim he was a Muslim – because that somehow explains his “anti-Hindu” policies. (There is a lot out there on the Internet about his love life too, somehow implicating him as a ‘playboy’, and thus presumably, a sinner.) They see Nehru as a modernist and a liberal, both of which are antithetical to the Sanghi way of thinking. Someone from a government office recently used the official network to edit Nehru’s Wikipedia entry to make these sorts of suggestions. Who the person was the government will not reveal, citing ‘security implications.’

Tilting at windmills

With Indira Gandhi, the situation is a bit more complicated. The Sangh has long admired her for being tough and breaking Pakistan; Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called her Durga after the war of 1971. They may even secretly respect her for declaring the Emergency, because it fits in with their long cherished notion that India needs “discipline”. The recent revelations that RSS Chief Balasaheb Deoras had reached out to Indira Gandhi to support the Emergency (which she rejected) have to be seen in this context.

The BJP occasionally trots out the dynasty card to criticise the Nehru- Gandhis, but in a political environment where every politician is promoting his or her own progeny – parivarvaad is rampant among BJP allies such as the Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, Lok Jana Shakti Party and within the BJP too – that accusation has little traction anymore.

The BJP and the Sangh at large therefore have set out not just to attack the Congress as it is today but also to systematically demolish the Nehru legacy, because that is the only way they will be able to complete their objective of completely altering Bharat that is India. As long as the Nehru name exists, they fear, his legacy will exist too. That is why all that he stood for – and eventually his name too – must disappear not just from public discourse but also from any prime position it occupies in the history books and even stamps.

Yet, all their attempts will ultimately fail because the Sangh is approaching this the wrong way. It thinks that Nehru, with his fancy westernised notions, imposed ‘alien’ concepts like secularism, communal harmony and minority rights on a traditional nation. But it was actually the other way round: It was India’s own deeply held values of tolerance and diversity that created a Nehru. He marveled at the Indian genius for living with great tolerance in a land with a multitude of languages, dialects and religions and drew upon it to create a modern, liberal, secular state. He didn’t give rise to the ‘idea of India’ which the RSS now mocks but it was India that created him. Which is why, removing his name from a museum here or a monument there can easily be done but removing the values he represented is impossible. You can take the Nehru out of India. But how do you take the India out of itself?

  • Murali Gopal

    Very well said. The attempt to malign Nehru is appalling. He was a hero of the freedom movement as was Gandhi, Bose, Patel, Azad, Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar and scores of others. They are all our heroes, the ones who influenced the course of our history and our minds.

    • m Khan

      Sanghis biggest regret. They could not carve out a hindu rashtra country out of independent India. Their goal of ram rajya will remain as distant as sikhs goal of khalistan. Realizing this, all bajrang dalis, sanghis, VHP followers can do is malign every liberal Indian who believes in democracy.

  • naiyer razzaqui

    Compared to Nehru,these are mere small minded persons,and they will be noticed only it they slur giant images.

  • cleverhans

    Some how when two ideas clash, your enemy becomes more dangerous when dead than while alive. It’s true with Nehru and no one knows it better than the people in RSS ranks.

  • bharath

    ‘You can take the Nehru out of India. But how do you take the India out of itself?’ Spot on.

    All in all, a very perceptive article.

    Much appreciated.

    • NCFIND

      Granting himself a Bharat Ratna (worst form of sycophancy), promoting his child to politics , all are aspects of Nehru that cannot be taken out of India so I agree here.

      • bharath

        On the Bharat Ratna, let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. I personally wont allow some sins to blind me to the good points.

        On promoting a child : Doctors, Engineers, Professionals, all do it, why not politicians?

        Problem would have been if a king promoted a prince : people have no choice.

        Last I knew, India was a democracy : Whichever father promoted whichever son or daughter, people free to not vote for the child. Not as if you have a gun to head, friend.

        Free world. Just as Modi can try his luck to be PM, so is Rahul, Sonia, Kejriwal, or indeed, any tom dick or harry.

        That my friend, is called democracy.

        Good day.

        • pgb

          Well said!

  • Dhiraj Mali

    Completely One Sided view …if the legacy is so strong ..why they need to name almost every government scheme, road, institute after the Neharu-Gandhi family?? isn’t it hammering of one family on the conscious of citizens? Forget RSS why every other non Neharuvian voice was suppressed systematically over the years? why fellowships were granted to only those researchers who were loyal to Congress ideology? Why Ambedkar, Sardar Patel ignored for decades till the time others started appropriate them?? As far as postal stamp are concerned, definitive stamps keep getting replaced after few years …many have been replaced so why so much hoopla over replacement of Indira, Neharu, Rajeev stamps? isn’t is it biased loyalty of the writer towards one family ..why questions were not raised when other definitive stamps were replaced? only monarchs can have permanent stamps !!

    • paddy mourya

      Dhiraj, – Atleast you should read Mahatma Phule’s “Gulamgiri” to know what type of mentality the right wingers have. Try to know who were the people who wrote about Mahatma Phule ” Mahatma navhe duratma, Phule Navhe Durgandhi.

      Dr. Nemade once said very correctly that there are two kinds of people : either Fools or obliged. ( Moorkh Kimwa Mindhe). Nehru always opposed the right wingers like RSS and that’s why He is denounced by BJP.

      As far as issuing of stamps are concerned, just check thru google and you will find that more than 20 personalities are appearing on stamps issued from time to time during congress govt.

      These fanatics could have issued series of other personalities without stopping the nehru and indira gandhi’s stamps.

    • anandashtekar

      Though,I am not congress party lover, I think the article is excellent. The present govt.and ruling party is obsessed with Nehru and his legacy and engaged in changing history which does not represent rational act.

  • Krishna Ramesh

    Regarding the Nehru Museum , how can you say that it shouldn’t be dedicated to all the PMs of INDIA .. It’s the right of the citizen of this country to know their PMs’ legacy whom they elected .. Nehru was not the only one .

    ” that there was no reason why one family should monopolise the list ”
    For this quote reality was only one family was DOMINATING the list always .. Check it for yourself .

    ” Is this government’s prerogative, even if it wants to evoke not just India the modern state but India the ancient nation ” ..

    Ancient is were the beginning of any countries history, culture & its roots lies .. Uptil now we were unaware of our past thats the main reason y we felt pathetic of our doomed past – The so called seudo ARYAN DRAVIDAN theory ( now been abandoned internationally ), the great ancient scientific heritage of us which was covered up by the past western historians by corrupting the truth & many more, penetration of English Education system by britishers to break down our education system which was based on our language Sanskrit ( Japan one of the leading nation officialy works & its education system is based on Japanese language , China supposed to be the nxt big thing works in chinese language – may it be their education system or anything , also they have a firm grip on their past and are continuing on that – Chinese ancient martial art form Kung fu is now worlds no1 fight form ( y because they tried to know and sustain their cultural heritage ) where as we having Kalaripayattu from which even kung fu was formed & we just left it to die ( y because the lack of knowledge about its brilliance due to the lack of knowledge about our ancient past ) – and it was the Britishers knowing the capacity of this art banned it in 1793 , the so called NEHRU ruling for 20 odd years what did he done for that ( This is just an example man , their are many more thing )

  • S Thiyagarajan

    Nehru and Gandhi were not the only architects of modern India. there are other countless freedom fighters who lost everything for the motherland without being rewarded or benefitted in any way. For 60 years the congress and ruling family has undermined the many freedom fighters like Bose, Rajaji. and countless others and took special interest in creating and propagating the myth of Nehru and his legacy. Anything and everything is bearing the names of one Nehru, Gandhi or other and very rarely you come across other eminent freedom fighters and builders of modern India has been given the pride of place. Happily it is now changing and the govt. is trying to give due and widespread importance to many forgotten or undermined heroes of the nation. It should be welcomed whole heartedly. For how long you will be seeing the same faces in the postage stamps and currency notes. The status quosists and camp followers of the dynasty are crying hoarse over the genuine attempts of the govt. to honour the other national heroes. why nobody is questioning or condemning the congress for promoting one family image at the cost of other deserving national heroes? the practice should be extended to other areas also and the future generation should remember all the heroes equally and impartially. Well done Govt.

  • Uday

    The patronage eco system created and propagated by and in the name of Nehru/Gandhi family has deep roots. For those who survive and thrive on this eco system, it is absolutely essential that the legacy survives.


    The indian Left LIberal narrative of Nehru as a Secular, Scentific Rationalist who single handedly delivered us Modern India is a bogus propaganda that is meant to justify the existence of the feudal Congress Party and the iron like grip of Nehru Family members over this political party.

    The truth is Nehru was no SUPERMAN, NO SUPERHERO as he is made to be by Left Liberals. He is a product of his times. He was westernised yes but did he really imbibe western values of liberty, equality and republicanism? NEVER. Nehru used his 17 year long rule in Delhi as PM to ensure his daughter was positioned in power and got right branding and power to launch her career (and subsequently make the party a property of her family). Nehru for all his libertarian values gave himself Bharat Ratna and systematically sidelined people from Ambedkar to Rajaji to many others who could be his rivals and ensured that the political party that was born out of freedom movement became a monopoly of his family members.

    And yes, lot of his economic and foreign policies were cut copy paste work from elsewhere and largely failed and it was because of this Genius Nehru that India was in deep economic mess in mid 1960s. To endlessly worship Nehru this day, this age, 51 years after his death is nothing but a crude exercise to justify a dynastic family to rule this country by default. And if opposing conversion of India into a property of a political party is a communal exercise, Let it be so!!


    India will become a Modern republic only when it ceases to endlessly worship some icons and rather critiques each of them and ensures right lessons are learnt.

    We must start with Jawaharlal Nehru , the First prime minister of India. So what if he is modern, gave us IITs this that, does it mean he is above criticism? Are we a totalitarian state like NKorea where we must worship the late dead king?

    Nehru’s First big failure was on Jan 30, 1948. MK Gandhi’s life was under threat but what really stopped PM from ensuring extra security for the father of nation? By cleverly blaming RSS (later disproved in courts) he ensured with help of pliant media that no one questioned the failure of of Nehru in ensuring security for Gandhi .

    The death of MK Gandhi, the death of SC Bose, the death of LB Shastri , the death of Indira gandhi and death of Rajiv Gandhi, the failure of the Nehru Dynasty Run Central government systems and intelligence is completely overlooked by a dynasty worshipping media!

    • qwerty

      Many people appreciate Nehru after critiquing and evaluating him, It;s easy to pile up conspiracy theories and attribute failures to Nehru. Of course he was not superhuman or beyond flaws, but the current vilification seems motivated. The fact that India has come this far with robust institutions is noteworthy – and people of the caliber of Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel if you will, were indispensable to it. (Of course Congress was corrupt etc etc), Left in the hands of the people creating the new narratives of history (myth rather), it remains to be seen how the country will fare. The signs so far don’t seem very encouraging to me. Unless there some directional change, the trends do not point to a rosy future in the immediate coming days.

    • pgb

      Criticism is welcome. But there is a level at which you do it. Maligning, a personality like Nehru’s spreading morphed images, doctored videos, changing wikiepedia, sharing doctored videos on the whatsap and encouraging such moves by opponents is not at all correct. It will do more harm than good for the opponents.

  • Vijay Sekhar

    Nehru and secular what a joke… India is not secular country till date…..secular as defined in Oxford Dictionary ” Not connected to religious or spiritual matters” … With out uniform civil code we will not be secular. What a foolish view that a man who initiated division of country and created provision for differential rights basis religion is Secular , has legacy . There can be only two categories of people who will think like that either ignorant or sponsored by Specefic party.