Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
Jawaharlal Nehru was an Indian nationalist who campaigned for Indian Independence. Under the tutelage of Gandhi, Nehru became India’s first Prime Minister on gaining independence in 1947. Nehru held this position until his death in 1964.
Nehru was born in Allabhad and was educated in England, going to school at Harrow and later studying law at Trinity College Cambridge.
On returning to India in 1912, he practised law and got married to Kamala Kaul. They had one daughter – Indira Gandhi (who would later succeed her father as Prime Minister of India).
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 Mahatma 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.
On gaining independence on August 15th 1947, Nehru was India’s first Prime Minister. However, his joy at gaining independence was overshadowed by the wave of sectarian killing and conflict over Kashmir which continues to this day.
As Prime Minister, Nehru was one of the leading figures in the non-aligned movement. Nehru sought to keep India out of the Cold war; he didn’t want India to rely on foreign states be it Russia or America. On the domestic front Nehru was in the tradition of Fabian socialism – seeking to use state intervention to redistribute resources throughout society. 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.