Hon’ble Chairperson, Raiiv Gandhi Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I feel honoured to be speaking in front of this distinguished gathering on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of the Late Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, an outstanding statesman who not only shaped the destiny of Free India, but also that of the post-colonial new world order.
At the outset, let me pay homage to him on my own behalf, and on behalf of the people of Nepal who enjoyed Nehru’s full support in our relentless journey to democracy right after India’s independence.
Our great leaders like late B P Koirala, K P Bhattarai and Man Mohan Adhikary were highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru, and thus participated and even faced imprisonment during India’s freedom struggle. The shared values of freedom and democracy brought the leaders of our two nations together and even after Mahatma Gandhi’s tragic assassination, Nepal’s crusade for democracy under the leadership of the Nepali Congress Party continued based on the same principles and with support of Pandit Nehru. Pandit Nehru mediated for the end of the Rana oligarchy in Nepal in solidarity with the Nepali Congress. These tall leaders of that exciting era believed that a country could only be truly independent only when democracy was established.
Who could understand more the power of independence than Nehru who not only gave up all the luxuries and privileges he was born with, but also devoted his entire life for the cause of freedom. He chose to be a prisoner himself, for the larger cause and much larger dream of Independence for India, and democracy for all.
A politician can sit quiet with one stint in power, but a statesman cannot. Nehru as the first Prime Minister of Independent India, faced the enormous challenge of bringing dignity and pride to a Former colony on the one hand, and raising the living standards of her people in millions. A mixed economy with a blend of socialism with focus on the most oppressed and deprived was something the experimented with. He laid the foundation of prosperous India. He also took the lead in outlining a more secured world order through his initiative of the Non-Aligned Movement when the world was divided in military blocs.
Time changes. So does political philosophy. But a statesman thinks of the future world taking into account the preset realities and their historical perspective and that is what Nehru was able to do. The ideals he espoused for equity and equality for all in order to bring reinforce democracy has stood the test of time. As we now have witnessed wars within and between countries for establishing basic essential rights and freedoms, we must acknowledge and admire the far-reaching vision that Nehru espoused.
As someone from Nepal, l have more special reasons to pay my tribute to Late Nehru. He extended his moral support to the crusade for democracy in 1960 when the then King dissolved cabinet and the first ever elected Parliament and imprisoned all its top leaders including B P Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh and K P Bhattarai in continuity of the same legacy, the Indian National Congress extended full support to the cause of democracy when King Gyanendra took over power and isolated political parties in 2005-06. Currently, we are struggling hard to write the new constitution in Nepal after we failed to do so through the first Constituent assembly. lndia has a rich history in constitution-making. We do need your goodwill and support in this endeavor. We are fully aware that there cannot be peace and development without Democracy.
Pandit Nehru stood for and fought for democracy. He believed that it is the only system that acknowledges and accepts the supremacy of the people, and he used politics as the tool for their emancipation and rise. He stood for a world woven by the thread of equality. This concept now resonates in the world in a more prolific manner, especially as transportation and technology brings us closer together than ever before. Leaders all over the world realize the need to come together in forums that will strengthen commitments to democracy and eliminate global challenges. Nehruji was truly a visionary leader who envisioned a free world order before its times. After the successful establishment of Independent India, he also inspired former colonies in Africa and Asia for freedom and independence. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the Late Pandit Nehru was a key catalyst to ending colonial regimes all over the world.
One other point that l must make - as it is also the one l admire the most - his leadership in preserving democracy in India. As we look around the world, we see many nations who gained independence and democracy after the Second World War but India stands out as a shining example of a nation which reinforced and build itself upon this great ideal. l truly belief it was the path laid by Pandit Nehru and his stewardship of it that has made India the nation it is now.
This great and unstinting belief that Nehru had in freedom, democracy and equality makes him a leader relevant for all the times. Even in this century as the world faces new challenges for peace, security and freedoms, the core values espoused by Nehru remains relevant for the resolution of all these issues.
I once again thank you all, and especially Madam Sonia Gandhi for the honour given to me.