Sunday, 4 August 2013

Jawaharlal Nehru on Secularism

Jawaharlal Nehru

I shall now come to the proposal which touches upon the exchange of population. In the present context this can only mean a forcible exchange of population. As far as voluntary exchange is concerned, it is already taking place. The doors are open and people come and people go. In fact, it taking place at such a pace that we can hardly cope with it. Indeed, it has created what is called the refugee problem. Now, on the one hand, we are unable to cope with this problem because of the pace at which the voluntary exchange is taking place; on the other, it is suggested that the pace would be increased, that the process be made speedier. They say it should be a planned exchange, as if the addition of the word 'planned' makes any difference. Plan, by all means. Nobody prevents people, for instance, from rehabilitating the incoming refugees. but if we fail in this, what guarantee is there that we would succeed if ten times the present number of people should suddenly come? We are bound to fail. Planning depends on a hundred other factors. It is not confined to the question of money, though of course money is necessary. 

Apart from the principles these proposals violate, these proposals are unacceptable even from the practical point of view. In fact, far from taking us towards a solution, they take us miles away from any solution. That is why I ventured to say on the first day that I wondered if I was lacking in sanity or whether some of the honourable Members were lacking in it.

An exchange of population must be a compulsory one. It must inevitably mean sending away people who do not want to go. It means, of course, as an honorable Member acknowledge, scrapping our Constitution. Scrap it if you want to but know what you are doing. We have bandied about the word 'secular', which I dislike. It means acknowledging our inability to cope with any national problem in a civilised manner. This brutal and barbarous approach would be unique in the annals of history and, of course, completely at variance with all that the Congress has stood for. You are certainly at liberty to put an end to the Congress itself but do so with your eyes open. Such proposals shame us in the eyes of the world. They show that we are narrow, petty-minded, parochial bigots who talk of democracy and secularism but who, in fact, are totally incapable of even thinking in terms of the world or of this great country. They put us in a position in which we have to say to people who are our own fellow-citizens, 'We must put you out, because you belong to a faith different from ours'. This is a proposition which, if it is followed, will mean the ruin of India and the annihilation of all that we stand for and have stood for. I repeat that we will resist such a proposition with all our strength, we will fight it in houses, in fields and in market places. It will be fought in the council chambers and the streets, for we shall not let India be slaughtered at the altar of bigotry.


This is an excerpt from Jawaharlal Nehru’s reply to debate on the Bengal situation in Parliament, New Delhi, August 9, 1950

Courtesy: Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speeches 1949-1953 
Publications Division,Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
First Published 1954, Fourth Impression, June 1967 (Page174-175)

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