Jawaharlal Nehru, Tryst with
Nehru (1889–1964), first president
of post-partition India, was an aristocratic
Kashmiri Brahmin. Educated in England at
Harrow School and Cambridge University, he
was admitted to the English bar and practiced
law in India for several years. After the
Amritsar Massacre of 1919, he devoted himself
to the struggle for Indian freedom, working
closely with Mahatma ("Great Soul")
Gandhi. Four times president of the Indian
National Congress, Nehru spent many of the
years from 1930 to 1936 in prison for conducting
civil disobedience campaigns against the
British. He and Gandhi opposed the participation
of Indian troops in support of the British
during the World War II — unless India
were granted immediate independence — and
for his opposition he was again imprisoned,
from 1942 to 1945. Released after the Allied
victory, he became the principal negotiator
of the Indian independence movement, a role
for which he was uniquely fitted by his English
education, his long experience of the imperial
cast of mind, his legal training, and the
aristocratic background that gave him much
in common with the aristocratic Mountbatten.
The two of them tried, with Gandhi, to preserve
a united India, but, after 1946, Jinnah and
the Muslim League would accept nothing less
than a separate Muslim state. At partition,
Jinnah became the first governor general
of the new dominion of Pakistan, and Nehru
the first prime minister of the new India.
What follows was his first speech in that
[Speech delivered in the Constituent Assembly,
New Delhi, August 14, 1947, on the eve of
the attainment of Independence]
years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and
now the time comes when we shall redeem our
pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but
very substantially. At the stroke of the
midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India
will awake to life and freedom. A moment
comes, which comes but rarely in history,
when we step out from the old to the new,
when an age ends, and when the soul of a
nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment
we take the pledge of dedication to the service
of India and her people and to the still
larger cause of humanity.
At the dawn of history India started on
her unending quest, and trackless centuries
are filled with her striving and the grandeur
of her success and failures. Through good
and ill fortune alike she has never lost
sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals
which gave her strength. We end today a period
of ill fortune and India discovers herself
again. The achievement we celebrate today
is but a step, and opening of opportunity,
to the greater triumphs and achievements
that await us. Are we brave enough and wise
enough to grasp this opportunity and accept
the challenge of the future?
Freedom and power bring responsibility.
The responsibility rests upon this assembly,
a sovereign body representing the sovereign
people of India. Before the birth of freedom
we have endured all the pains of labour and
our hearts are heavy with the memory of this
sorrow. Some of the pains continue even now.
Nevertheless, the past is over and it is
the future that beckons to us now.
That future is not one of ease or resting
but of incessant striving so that we may
fulfil the pledges we have so often taken
and the one we shall take today. The service
of India means the service of the millions
who suffer. It means the ending of poverty
and ignorance and disease and inequality
of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest
man of our generation
>> note 1 has
been to wipe every tear from every eye.
That may be beyond us, but as long as there
are tears and suffering, so long our work
will not be over.
And so we have to labour and to work, and
work hard, to give reality to our dreams.
Those dreams are for India, but they are
also for the world, for all the nations and
peoples are too closely knit together today
for any one of them to imagine that it can
live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible;
so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and
so also is disaster in this One World that
can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
To the people of India, whose representatives
we are, we make an appeal to join us with
faith and confidence in this great adventure.
This is no time for petty and destructive
criticism, no time for ill will or blaming
others. We have to build the noble mansion
of free India where all her children may