Our Main Failing

By Jawaharlal Nehru

From inaugural address at the 30th annual session of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, New Delhi March 23, 1957

I do not want any of us in India to hide our failings. We do not get over them by hiding them. One of our principal failings has been, and is, a great tendency to disrupt, a great tendency to forget the basic unity of India, and to get excited about secondary matters. Now, secondary matters are secondary matters, and the moment you make them primary matters, you lose your sense of perspective and proportion and you are lost. That is what we have seen in the recent elections. They have been very good elections, and I think we can be proud of the elections in spite of some odd happenings here and there. 

But what I am trying to put before you is that the elections have brought up not only this business of caste again, but provincialism and linguism. Kept in their proper place, these may be all right, but if they get out of their proper sphere, they are dangerous to India as a whole. I am not entering into the merits of the arguments that have been raised in regard to States redistribution. The thing has been finalized by Acts of Parliament and it seems to me very foolish, without adequate thought and adequate time having been given and experience gathered, to upset things which have been decided. 

I want you to think of this and I want others to think of this. Here we are struggling against grave political and economic problems; but some of our friends and colleagues have their minds completely occupied with the question of the boundary of a State being changed or not. It passes my comprehension that people do not see how this concentration on matters of secondary value injures our work in the primary fields of activity, national or international.

It may be that many people are annoyed or angry with something which our Government did. In certain circumstances firing took place. Some people were shot down and killed; others were wounded. I do not think anyone in India can dislike this firing business as I do. I have a horror of it; I think it is a bad thing and I hope that it will be possible to put an end to it. My heart goes out in sympathy for those who may have suffered from it, specially if they are young people who are the hope of our nation. 

But having noted that, let us not mix up sentiment, however justified it may be, with higher political considerations of the nation’s welfare. After all a nation and a people are judged in terms of their maturity. How mature are they? Do they get swept away by tides of sentiment or do they balance things and then act? These are what will be taken into consideration. I hope we are a mature nation and I hope therefore that we shall consider questions that come up before us in a mature way and not merely in an emotional, sentimental way.

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