As a great believer in pluralism, socialism and democracy, Jawahar Lal Nehru was one of the central figures of Indian politics during India's struggle for independence and the first Prime Minister of India who developed the nation as a secular nation true to its thousand years old cultural heritage. He had immense love for children and his birthday, November 14, is celebrated as Children's day in India. 'Chacha Nehru', as he was fondly called by children, was amongst the prominent names behind the establishment of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM).
Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14 November 1889, in a wealthy Kashmiri Brahmin family in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. His father, Motilal Nehru was a renowned advocate and also an influential political activist. Nehru family was elitist in most of their practices and English was spoken and encouraged.
Young Nehru was sent to Harrow school, then later to Cambridge University in England to obtain a degree in natural sciences. After spending two years at the Inner Temple, London, he qualified as a barrister. During his stay in London, Nehru studied subjects like literature, politics, economics and history. He got attracted to the ideas of liberalism, socialism and nationalism. In 1912, he returned to India and joined the Allahabad High Court Bar.
Nehru married to Kamala Kaul on 8 February, 1916. Brought up in a traditional Hindu Brahmin family, Kamala felt an outsider amongst the progressive Nehru family but tried her best to adapt to the family ethos and values.
Joined freedom movement
In the wake of the Amritsar massacre and growing calls for Indian independence, Nehru joined the Indian National Congress in 1919. He was a supporter of complete independence for India. During the 1920s and 1930s, he actively participated in the civil disobedience campaigns and was jailed on several occasions. He was one of the rising stars of the Indian independence movement and became closely allied to Gandhi. Nehru soon became seen as Gandhi's successor.
Nehru was initially opposed to the plan to separate India into two. However, under pressure from Mountbatten (the last British Viceroy), Nehru reluctantly agreed.
Nehru as Prime Minister of India
On August 15, 1947, a free India was born. Nehru was elected as the first Prime Minister of independent India. He was the first PM to hoist the national flag and make his iconic speech "Tryst with Destiny" from the ramparts of the Lal Quila (Red Fort).
In the year 1949, Jawaharlal Nehru made his first visit to the United States, seeking a solution to India's urgent food shortage. In 1951, Jawaharlal Nehru launched the country's "First Five-Year Plan" emphasizing on the increase in the agricultural output.
He paved way for India's educational exaltation by envisioning the country's top tier institutions like Indian Institute of Technology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and India's first space program.
He was a life long liberal and pursued policies to improve the welfare of the 'untouchable class' and Indian Women.
In 1962, India was involved in conflict with China over a border dispute. Militarily India was defeated and this took a heavy toll on Nehru. Nehru died in 1964. Two years later his daughter Indira Gandhi took office. Nehru was cremated at the Shantivana on the banks of the Yamuna River, Delhi.