‘Who is Bharat Mata, whose victory you wish?’ asked Jawaharlal Nehru—a leading light of the Indian freedom movement who would become the country’s first prime minister—at a public gathering in 1936. And then he explained: the mountains and rivers, forests and fields were of course dear to everyone, but what counted ultimately were ‘the people of India…spread out all over this vast land. Bharat Mata, Mother India, [is] essentially these millions of people, and victory to her [is] victory to these people.’
This collection of writings and speeches by and on Nehru shows us the mind—the ideology, born of experience, observation and deep study—behind this democratic and inclusive idea of India. It is a book of particular relevance at a time when ‘nationalism’ and the slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ are being used to construct a militant and purely emotional idea of India that excludes millions of residents and citizens.
‘Who Is Bharat Mata?’ contains selections from Nehru’s classic books—An Autobiography, Glimpses of World History and The Discovery of India; his speeches, essays and letters from the pre- and post-Independence years; and some of his most revealing interviews. The concluding section of the book comprises reminiscences and assessments of Nehru by his contemporaries—among them, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sheikh Abdullah, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Ali Sardar Jafri, Martin Luther King Jr and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In this carefully put-together anthology—which also carries an illuminating introduction—Nehru emerges as a remarkable man of ideas and action who had an instinctive understanding of India’s civilizational spirit, as also a clear commitment to the scientific temper; and as a leader who, despite the compulsions of politics, remained a true democrat. His legacy continues to be extremely relevant—for, in the words of the editor, an understanding of ‘Nehru’s political and intellectual journey is a pre-condition for India’s survival as a democratic polity and as a humane, compassionate society’.
‘Who is Bharat Mata?’ edited by Purushottam Agrawal