Nawab Nehru, Muhammad bin Tughlaq and Tyranny: An Analysis

Among all the myths created about Nawab Nehru, he is compared favourably with the Muhammad bin Tughlaq for being a misunderstood visionary genius.
Nawab Nehru, Muhammad bin Tughlaq and Tyranny: An Analysis

DECEMBER 6, 1992 MARKED the structural death-blow for Nehruvianism. The fall of the disputed structure at Ayodhya was the collective graveyard of all the forces that had waged a prolonged war against Hindu Dharma in its own homeland. The events over the next three decades were akin to different chapters in the book-length epitaph of Nehruvianism. 

In one respect, there is an eerie similarity between Nawab Nehru and Jinnah. While Jinnah birthed an Allah-directed and Quran-driven Pakistan, Nawab Nehru — like Jinnah — thought he was “creating” a “new” India from the scratch. It was supposed to be an India which would magically function on an undefined scientific temper and socialism. It was supposed to be an India which would regard its foundational ethos of Dharma as a superstition. 

Jinnah succeeded while Nawab Nehru spectacularly failed. Forget everything else. Take one look at Rahul Gandhi to understand the full magnitude of this failure. 

Rahul Gandhi’s failure is also Nawab Nehru’s ultimate legacy. It is a legacy of tyranny, entitlement, venality, sleaze, corruption and cruelty whose natural parents are stupidity and obstinacy. Nawab Nehru became Prime Minister in 1947, when he was fifty-eight years old. At fifty-three, Rahul Gandhi is literally on the streets obstinately living out the fantasy that he will be the next Prime Minister. As the adage goes, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. 

OF ALL “DAYS” that India celebrates each year, only Engineers’ Day is meaningful, and Children’s Day, the most undeserving. It stretches the limits of incredulity to find a link to Nawab Nehru and children. Even in primary school, when the textbook lesson told me that November 14th, Nehru’s birthday, was celebrated as Children’s Day because “Nehru was fond of children” and “he gave a red rose to every child he met,” a deep suspicion gnawed at me. Doubtless, Children’s Day was also an inextricable part of creating the Nehru Myth. But it’s also deeply sinister for it follows an old script: catch the kids young and watch their lives grow around the Nehru Myth. Which evokes a straightforward question: name exactly one instance of Nawab Nehru’s service to children. 

The Nehru Myth has been indeed proven effective and durable than the Gandhi Myth. Deep down, nothing much has really changed for the Nehru dynasty despite two consecutive drubbings in the Lok Sabha elections. In fact, their grip on the Congress party remains tighter. Their family jewels are safe. And look at what’s happened to Mohandas Gandhi’s lineage. 

Among all of the myths spun around Nawab Nehru, two prominent ones haven’t been given the attention they deserve.

For the longest time, Nawab Nehru was favourably compared with the 14th century Islamic zealot, Muhammad bin Tughlaq. There are few parallels to Tughlaq in the realms of bigotry, cruelty and recklessness. These apart, Tughlaq was also… insane. In the literal sense. It is hard to find any monarch in India’s history who put the value of gold on the same pedestal as copper and bronze. It is equally hard to find any monarch who not only shifted his capital from Delhi to Devagiri but ordered the entire population of Delhi to physically migrate to a place that was 1200 kms away. But the Tughlaq Myth recasts all such bouts of insanity as acts of a visionary genius who was far ahead of his time and therefore misunderstood. This “visionary genius” myth was thrust wholesale upon Nehru. 

A prime purveyor of this myth was the late Girish Karnad, whose 1964 play was unimaginatively titled as Tughlaq. Karnad was just 26 years old when he wrote it. Its lead character is the historical Muhammad bin Tughlaq but what we really see is Nawab Nehru. Through the historical Tughlaq, Karnad portrays Nehru as a farsighted statesman and a tragic hero let down by his corrupt and incompetent followers. Tughlaq was a career-making play which catapulted Karnad directly into the drawing rooms of Literary Lutyens and endeared him to the Nehruvian cultural bureaucracy. One example suffices to show the kind of clout that it gave Karnad: in 1972, the whole of Purana Qila in Delhi was transformed into one giant stage where Tughlaq was performed.      

But I agree with the Nehru - Tughlaq comparison for opposite reasons. 

In fact, the parallels are so glaring and evident that I cursed myself for not noticing them earlier. 

Like Tughlaq, Nehru too, regarded India as a playground on which he could play varied sports of his own devising. And like Tughlaq, every single sport that Nehru played, ended up grievously wounding and killing the actual players — real people, the citizens of India. 

Like Tughlaq, Nehru too, was full of ideas. But, to our eternal misfortune, the Nawab practically implemented those ideas whose rightful place are in the realm of delusion. It gifted India with impoverishment and social strife, and made us the laughing stock of the world.  

Like Tughlaq, Nehru’s unrivalled cluelessness was only complemented by his irredeemable megalomania. Tughlaq at least lived in a time when monarchy was the order of the day and the Royal Ego was a desired qualification in a ruler. What excuse did this champion of democracy have when he wrote the following in the third person in November 1937 in a Calcutta journal profiling himself?  

…he has all the makings of a dictator in him—vast popularity, a strong will, energy, pride…and with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient….in normal times, he would just be an efficient…executive, but in this revolutionary epoch, Caesarism is always at the door, and is it not possible that Jawaharlal might fancy himself a Caesar? Therein lies the danger for Jawaharlal and India.

Which brings us to the second myth. This is the myth that Nawab Nehru was a true democrat.

To be continued

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