This day, 100 years, ago began a friendship that defined the idea of India
GN Bureau | December 26, 2016
Gandhi and Nehru. The two people, above all, who defined the national freedom movement, and thus, the moral template of the independent India. (That is not to belittle Tagore, Ambedkar and many others too.) It was on December 26, 1916 that the two met for the first time.
The backdrop was the Lucknow session of the Congress.
Gandhi, coming from Ahmedabad, made a stopover in Allahabad. On December 22, he delivered a lecture on economics and moral progress at the Moore College, with Madan Mohan Malaviya chairing the session. The next day he addressed a public meeting in the city, and then moved on to Lucknow for the Congress annual meet. On December 26 and 27, he attended the Congress sessions.
Chandulal Bhagubhai Dalal notes in his ‘Dinvaari’, the authentic source on Gandhi’s day-to-day engagements, that “It was here that [Gandhi] first met Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.”
Nehru recalls this meeting in his ‘Autobiography’ thus:
“My first meeting with Gandhiji was about the time of the Lucknow Congress during Christmas, 1916. All of us admired him for his heroic fight in South Africa, but he seemed very distant and different and unpolitical to many of us young men. He refused to take part in Congress or national politics then and confined himself to the South African Indian question. Soon afterward his adventures and victory in Champaran, on behalf of the tenants of the planters, filled us with enthusiasm. We saw that he was prepared to apply his methods in India also, and they promised success.”
In the years to come, this unique relationship – friends, mentor-disciple, colleagues, fellow leaders – faced many trials and tribulations. Nehru underwent a radical change following Gandhi’s footsteps even as he refused to agree to his more radical ideas, for example, as expressed in ‘Hind Swaraj’.