Motilal Nehru


Alok Deshwal**,,

Motilal Nehru (6th May, 1861 – 6th February, 1931) was one of the most eminent figures of modern India. He was associated with the Indian National Congress in its early years and after he was elected to the Provincial Legislative Council in 1910 his sphere of public activity both inside and outside the legislature increased considerably.

He supported the Home Rule Movement started by Smt. Annie Besant and was elected President of the Allahabad branch of the Home Rule League.

Shri Motilal Nehru was appointed a member of the Congress Enquiry Committee to enquire into the events of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This brought him into close contact with Mahatma Gandhi. He made a forceful Presidential address before the annual session of the Indian National Congress held in Amritsar in 1919 highlighting the Jallianwala Bagh incident.

He played a prominent role in the non-cooperation movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. The decision to participate in the movement brought about a radical change in the lifestyle of Shri Motilal Nehru and he totally gave up the western way of living and started wearing simple khadi clothes which had become the symbol of Gandhian nationalism in India. He also gave up his legal practice at the call of the Mahatma.

Shri Motilal Nehru was a member of the committee which prepared the report on the national situation after the suspension of the non-cooperation movement and this report is a detailed and illuminating account of the non-cooperation movement and the manner in which the British Government sought to crush it. It is a valuable record of a very significant phase of the freedom movement in India.

With the collapse of the non-cooperation movement in 1922, it was necessary that a new direction be given to the popular desire for freedom from the British rule. Shri Motilal Nehru, in association with Shri C.R. Das and other nationalist leaders, met this need by organising the Swaraj Party.

Shri Motilal Nehru made a pioneering attempt to draft a Constitution for free India, with the provision of adult franchise. The report prepared on the initiative of a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Shri Motilal Nehru constituted by the All Parties Conference came to be known as the Nehru Report which was released by the All India Congress Committee in 1928. This Report represented a pioneering effort by the nationalist leadership under the able guidance of Shri Motilal Nehru to create a constitutional design for an independent and democratic India and it anticipated the key features of the Constitution prepared in 1950 after the Independence of India.

Shri Motilal Nehru presided over the Calcutta Congress in December 1928 and his presidential speech was a clarion call for unity among the different nationalist groups and this Congress gave one year to the British to accept the demand of Dominion Status. His role in institution building – as Congress President in 1928 and as an elected legislator – are especially relevant in today’s multi-party parliamentary democracy.

The years 1929-1931 saw a very crucial phase of the Indian freedom struggle in which Shri Motilal Nehru played a significant role. The Indian National Congress passed the Complete Independence resolution at its Lahore session in December 1929 followed by a mass Civil Disobedience Movement. Despite his ill health Shri Motilal Nehru travelled to Jambusar in Gujarat to demonstrate his moral support for the salt satyagraha initiated by Gandhiji. The popular movement spread all over the country. As a result, most Congress leaders and workers were put in jail. Shri Motilal Nehru had to shoulder the responsibility of the Congress President till he was also arrested on 30 June and jailed. His health further deteriorated in jail. In view of his ill health he was released on 8 September 1930, a few months before he passed away on 6 February 1931.

Shri Motilal Nehru did not live to see the day when India became free but the leading role which he played in the national politics during the early stages of the Gandhian movement ensured that British rule over India would come to an end before long. He had grown up as an admirer of British values and institutions but as the exploitative character of the British rule unfolded before his eyes he became a strong adversary of the Raj. He plunged into the struggle for freedom with a rare sense of commitment and love for his country. Shri Motilal Nehru, occupies a very special place in the history of the struggle for freedom in India.

He was a stalwart of the freedom struggle in more ways than one. As draftsman of the Nehru Report of 1928 he laid the foundation stone for a democratic system with adult suffrage, cultural and religious rights for all. In celebrating his memory we also rededicate ourselves to a common legacy created through a selfless public life.


On the Occasion of 150th Birth Anniversary of Motilal Nehru.

*Deputy Director (Media & Communication)


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