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One quest above all

Part I: History Lesson: The Death of Nehru's India

It was in pursuit of indigenous capabilities that Jawaharlal Nehru initiated the building up of what he called the 'temples of modern India' -- basic industries and infrastructure, a string of science and defence technology research institutions and premier higher education institutions whose praises are being sung around the world today.

Nehru's whole life was defined by one quest above all: the struggle to achieve freedom of action for India, and a distinct path of self-development and world role.

Many have attributed Nehru's attitudes and policies to an alleged European mindset, others to his Soviet socialist leaning. But the struggle for autonomy and self-development is a quintessentially Indian quest.

As Karl Potter explained in his 1963 book Presuppositions of Indian Philosophy, the ultimate civilisational value of India is the search for 'nirvana' - freedom. The essence of the Gita lies in Krishna's exhortation to Arjuna to be himself, to seek to achieve his own potential and self-development and not seek to be a cog in another's wheel.

In fact, Nehru himself wrote that while he had been enamoured of the Soviet Socialist experiment in the 1930s, a decade later he was not so sure about that model and had in fact come to appreciate what he called 'the Vedanta approach.'

For Nehru, India had to be freed from British rule so that India and Indians could determine their own path and destiny.

Image: August 9, 1942: Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas K Gandhi at the historic meeting of the All India Congress Committee in Bombay, where the Quit India resolution was adopted demanding that Britain leave India.

Text: S Raghotham, Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images

Also see: Nehru responsible for India's success? Or failure?


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