Before we talk about him, it is important to note that he wasn’t democratically elected as the first PM of India. Neither merit nor popular support put him at the helm. The early 1946 presidential elections in the Indian National Congress had a very clear mandate – they wanted Sardar Patel to lead the party, and hence the nation once the freedom had dawned on Mother India. 12 out of 19 Pradesh committees had nominated Sardar, while none had nominated Nehru. But Patel decided to desert the honor he had rightfully earned, because his mentor and fellow Gujrati M.K.Gandhi whom he respected a bit too much felt Nehru was better suited to lead the country.
1. Promising Plebiscite In Kashmir
As has been widely documented, Pakistan invaded the princely state of Kashmir in October of 1947. As the Pakistani army disguised as tribals plundered, looted and raped their way into Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh fled with his 3 wives, 85 cars, a son and 8 trucks loaded at full capacity with stones and gems worth Rs. 500 Crore to Jammu, leaving his people at the mercy of fate. The state of Kashmir was strategically very crucial to Indian defense and Pakistan conquering it would have spelled disaster for Indian security. Sardar Patel offered help to Hari Singh under one condition that he would have to sign the instrument of accession. Maharaja had no other option, he signed the IOA under the condition that Sardar had to keep his word and rescue his people.
Sardar did keep his word. The Indian Army acted very swiftly and pushed back the enemies as far as they could. By the monsoon of 1948, they were on the verge of salvaging the crucial Gilgit Baltistan region that was under Pakistani Occupation. This is when the disaster happened.
At this point, it is important to note that plebiscite was not a part of the Instrument of Accession. Nehru announced ceasefire and immediately ran to the United Nations and promised a plebiscite in Kashmir. By doing this, he established himself as the only world leader who preempted the war he was winning. Had he avoided this mistake, Kashmir probably wouldn’t have bled for the last 70 years.
2. The Sino-Indian War (1962)
Jawaharlal Nehru for some reason, applied “forward policy” in dealing with China in the late 50s. As Dalai Lama was granted political asylum in India in 1958, India moved its border patrols forward into the Chinese Occupied Tibet. By 1961, the Indian Army had established 43 posts on the Ladakh frontier claimed by China. Indian Military officers asked Nehru to avoid this direct confrontation. Indian Defense was unprepared, both militarily and logistically. The Chinese Army was very experienced on the uneven mountainous terrains, thanks to the Korean War. Nehru thought that China wouldn’t bother messing with India, a country backed by global titans such as USA and Russia. But unfortunately, both USA and Soviet Union got involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sensing an apt opportunity, China attacked India. By the time China announced cease fire a month later, the statistics were mind boggling on the Indian side.
Not only did India lose thousands of brave-hearts, India also lost thousands of miles of her land.
3. Aksai Chin
What is now Chinese Occupied Kashmir was once under the princely state of Maharaja Hari Singh. Under the Instrument Of Accession, the land legally belongs to India. But for several years during the Nehru rule, China built a road right through it. The construction completed in 1957. Nehru turned a blind eye to it. Eventually, China finally captured 38,000 kilometer square of land. Reacting to it in the parliament, Nehru indifferently remarked, “Not a single blade of grass grows there”.
4. Failed Economic Policies
India had the least percentage of American GDP during the Nehru years when compared with contemporary nations like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Korea.
This has been widely documented how Nehru’s over reliance on Socialism ruptured the Indian economy. He aimed to distribute wealth, but never created it. His pre-concieved notions against capitalism and exports deeply hurt the Indian economy. Wars against China and Pakistan aggravated the problem further. Neither the public sector nor the agricultural sector showed any significant signs of growth. While even the sub-Saharan countries registered a growth of 5.2%, India’s growth rate was just 4% per annum. How could he possibly expect quality to develop while he limited the capacity?
These slow years of growth have been termed as “Hindu years of growth” for no real reasons. These years need to be termed as “Nehruvian years of growth” as a befitting tribute to the man who heralded India during these years.
5. Muslim Appeasement
Although he was thought of as progressive, his actions with regards to his religious policies speak otherwise. His opinion on a Uniform Civil Code is as follows :
“We have passed one or two laws recently and we are considering one … in regard to Hindu marriage and divorce. These are personal ingrained in custom, habit and religion. Now we do not dare to touch the Muslims because they are a minority and we do not want the Hindu majority to do it. These are personal laws and so will remain for the Muslims until they want to change them. We do not wish to create the impression that we are forcing any particular thing in regard to Muslims’ personal laws.”
He wanted Triple Talaq and polygamy to stay, because he didn’t want the Hindu majority enforcing themselves on the Muslim minority.
His Hajj Committee act of 1959, that allowed for Hajj Subsidy to the Muslims was a cruel joke on the starving Hindu majority. What crime did they commit to not receive any subsidy on Chaar Dhaam yatra? It was probably them being Hindu and their Prime Minister scorned at everything “Hindu”.
While he is hailed as the architect of modern India, and he undoubtedly was a visionary, he is a tad bit overrated in my opinion.