- His persona was seductive and charismatic
Millions of Muslims preferred to stay in India than move to Pakistan after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 because they trusted what the Congress president and the first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, promised. During the struggle for freedom from the British colonists, Nehru had assured the Muslims that they would be equal citizens in secular India. The articulate Nehru had stated that the Hindus and Muslims were the joint inheritors of a millennium-old heritage but were at daggers drawn because of the divisive colonial policy of “divide and rule” and once the British were kicked out, there would be the same love and peace between them in liberated India that existed before the arrival of the imperialists. Millions of Muslims took Nehru for his word despite the contrary warnings of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, the archrival of the Congress.
The persona of Nehru was seductive and charismatic. The way he presented his promises convinced many Muslims to accept him as their undisputed leader. His ability to build close relations with several Muslim notables such as Maulana Azad, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, etc, made many Muslims to adore Nehru and not Jinnah as their very own leader. Before and after partition, Nehru remained the “darling” and “messiah” of the Indian Muslims. In pin-drop silence, they waited for hours at public meetings to have a glimpse of “their leader” riding in an open Chevrolet, wearing his trademark cap and a rose in the buttonhole of sherwani. In so high esteem was he held that some Muslims identified him and not Maulana Azad as the leader of the Indian Muslims. When he stood side by side the iconic revolutionary leaders such as Gemal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Tito of Yugoslavia to plead the cause of the Non-Aligned Movement that included fifty-two Muslim countries, his Hindu identity did not stand in the way to win praise of the Muslims such as the popular Pakistani poet Raees Amrohvi, who wrote:
Jap raha hai maala ek Hindu ki Arab!
Brahman-zaadey mein shaan-e-dilbari aisi to ho!
Hikmet-e-Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ki qasam!
Mar mitey Islam jis pe, kaafiri aisi to ho!
(The Arab world is chanting the name of a Hindu!
A Brahmin with such an incredible ability to win hearts and minds!
Look at the vision of Pandit Nehru!
A non-believer and yet the world of Islam lies at his feet!)
Even when he died after a premiership of seventeen years, he was paid a glowing tribute by none other than a Muslim poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin in these words:
Woh shashjahat ka aseer
Nikal gaya hai bahut door,
justajoo bun kar.
(Like an arrow, that prisoner of day and night,
Has shot into the distant spaces like aspiration.)
The image builders of Congress were quite successful in painting Nehru as a revolutionary leader who confronted the British Raj head on. This is far from true!
This very Nehru betrayed those very Muslims who loved, revered and trusted him. He had been an ardent advocate of a united India but he betrayed all those who believed him by accepting the partition of the subcontinent. There are letters from Nehru which demanded that boundaries between India and Pakistan be demarcated “fairly rapidly.” Among the possible explanations are that the Congress leaders including Nehru were getting old (by the way Nehru was just 58 in 1947) and so were in a hurry to get power.
Moreover, Nehru was in the know that Jinnah was terminally ill and had he died “no one knew with whom, and for how long, negotiations would have to be conducted” in the Muslim League. Actually, the price for keeping India united entailed power-sharing with the Muslims which the Congress was not willing to; thus, it was Nehru and Co who imposed partition on Jinnah and the League and not vice versa. Those who have any doubts about this may read Ayesha Jalal’s seminal work “Sole spokesman” and Jaswant Singh’s biography of Jinnah. The most scathing criticism of Nehru comes from his loyal Muslim friend, Maulana Azad, who served as the president of Congress for six consecutive crucial years from 1940 to ’46 and was highly respected by Nehru for his intellectual brilliance, so much so that Nehru’s letters to his daughter Indira Gandhi revealed his desire “to learn Urdu and Persian poetry from the Maulana.” Azad is on the record to have told the historian K M Ashraf that Nehru wanted the British Raj to be replaced with the Congress Raj, which, though, propagated as “secular” was in actuality “undiluted Hindu Raj” which over time has putrefied into ‘Hindutva.’ In the hurry to become the prime minister of divided India, Pandit Nehru gave no serious thought to the future of Indian Muslims, 180 million of whom have to confront biased “Hindu Raj” on daily basis, today. Furthermore, Nehru did not pick even a single Congressman in his cabinet who had any sympathy for the 90 million Muslims left behind in India at the time of partition. These are serious charges from an insider and require clarifications from “Nehru lovers.”
The image builders of Congress were quite successful in painting Nehru as a revolutionary leader who confronted the British Raj head on. This is far from true! A pertinent example is the nationalist uprising of 1857 which was dubbed by the “nationalist” Nehru as a “feudal uprising” in his “Discovery of India” to adjust his views with the British interpretation of the war of 1857. He was greatly in debt of Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, who had “facilitated the transfer of power on terms acceptable to Nehru;” to repay that debt Nehru ordered in 1957 the “organisers to tone down the commemoration of the centenary of the 1857 uprising” so as not to hurt the sensitivities of Mountbatten. So much of a “freedom fighter” he turned out to be! The roots of today’s controversy of building Ram temple over the Babri mosque can also be traced back to Nehru under whose premiership the idols of lord Ram mysteriously appeared beneath the central dome of the mosque for the first time in 1949 against which he took no serious action, therefore, raising doubts about his complicity in the sordid affair. Last but not the least, it was Nehru, who, as prime minister, first ordered a division of the Indian army to attack the princely state of Hyderabad in September 1948 which resulted in the massacre of over 40,000 Muslims and later on tried to hush up the publication of the fact-finding report prepared by Pundit Sunderlal about these massacres.
Such was the character and stature of Jawaharlal Nehru, who is still considered the greatest Indian leader after Gandhi. History is taking Nehru to task for his great betrayal of the Indian Muslims and the indictment has come from one of his great admirers, the liberal Indian nationalist journalist Saeed Naqvi in his autobiographical book.