India faces choice between fiction and reality: Nayantara Sahgal

The choice before the people today, or the choice between one idea of India or another, is, in fact, a choice between fiction and reality, she asserted. 

New Delhi, March 31st, 2019: It was Jawaharlal Nehru’s accomplishment as the leader of India for its first 17 years of independence that he made an inclusive national consciousness a daily experience for Indians and the legacy of modern India, writer Nayantara Sahgal said on Saturday.

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“As a political creation, modern-day India dates from 1947, when this subcontinent became a singular political entity for the first time in its history. The Congress that came to power had been the first political formation to demand political independence from British rule and to build a country-wide movement under Gandhi to fight for it,” Sahgal said, delivering the keynote address at a conclave on ‘Nehru’s legacy: Its relevance to contemporary India’. The event was organized by a retired civil servants’ collective, Constitutional Conduct Group.

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“Allegiance to that movement and active participation spread across region, religion, class, language, and gender. And its inclusiveness gave the movement its unique character,” she said. Referring to Mahatma Gandhi as the architect of “this first national consciousness and unity”, Sahgal, Nehru’s niece and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit’s second daughter, said Nehru took this consciousness forward and made it an everyday experience for Indians.

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She said a fight for freedom was always accompanied by the frame of mind that inspired it, and the then government’s “avowed commitment to equality, pluralism, and secularism came out of this experience of unity about differences and a shared Indian identity”.

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“After the bloodshed and devastation of Partition, Nehru’s immediate and overwhelming priority was communal harmony. His personal pledge to safeguard religious freedom left no room for doubt,” she said.

Contrasting this idea of India with “a diametrically opposed idea of India”, which she called Hindutva, which even attacks the former, the writer said Indians would have to answer if Nehru’s legacy will “survive this onslaught” in a global political climate now “replicated in India where democracy, pluralism, and human rights are being retracted by an enforced uniformity and criminalization of those who do not conform”.

The choice before the people today, or the choice between one idea of India or another, is, in fact, a choice between fiction and reality, she asserted.

The article first published  in The New Indian Express

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Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi

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