Nehru speaks at the Aligarh Muslim University, 1933

Nehru's speech at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh on15 December 1933. Taken from The Bombay Chronicle, 19 December 1933.

Mr. Vice-Chancellor and young men of the University,

You, Sir! have set up an example by addressing the House in English, and perforce I have to follow that example. I wanted to meet you because I have heard from my childhood of what Aligarh has done and of the large place its products occupy in our national life. Friends! I was going to tell you some of the ideas that have moved me in the past and move me still. I have been a dreamer of dreams.

I am called a dreamer. I wish you were called dreamers too, provided your dreams have some relation to reality. There are not many in the country who are endowed with such a gift. If youth will not dream, do you expect these crabbed and aged people to dream? Age has its advantages. It is remarkable for its store of wisdom but there is hardly any activity in old age.

Read of what fascism is doing in Italy and Hitlerism in Germany, the continuous revolution in Spain and of that most marvellous and unprecedented work of construction in history. I mean the unique and unparalleled economic reconstruction in the U.S.S.R. Think of the revolutionary changes and turmoil in this world. Think of what has happened and what is happening under our own eyes. What do you think you would do if you get power to influence the world and national events? Look how the world is changing. It is an extraordinarily fascinating and cheerful prospect for a big mind; for little minds it is not cheerful at all. It is, I think, Trotsky who says that there has been no such revolutionary period as the present in the history of the world; if anyone disapproves of this period, all I can say is that he has chosen an unfortunate moment to be born. The world today is being moved by large forces, almost like an earthquake. It is trembling with fundamental changes. Your country is engaged in a battle for freedom. Don’t you think it is a cause you should espouse?

I repeat again. Do you dream, and do your dreams point towards action? Do you ever think in these universities of the starving and bare skeletons of our countrymen moved by the elemental force of hunger? Do you ever ask yourself the question—what has happened to them, and if they are going to remain starved and poor for ever?

What is going to be your contribution in their struggle? Even if you wish to, you cannot escape these questions. What are the university men going to do about it? Do they seek the solution through government jobs? Are our vast numbers of graduates, the great many of the prospective unemployed, too proud for manual work, going to be an additional burden on our country and people? I am deeply interested in seeing how you solve these problems.

I wonder what is your view of history. You seem to have images of big men as your heroes. Your view of history seems to present a pageant show which throws a light on the past, but does not give you a key to the understanding of the present. Unless you understand the forces which are working beneath the surface, the tremendous forces of hunger and want which have changed the face of the earth— you cannot get the connecting link.

Mr. President, you have referred to the unity of communities in India and to the diversity of cultures. I believe this diversity of cultures has given us the richness which we should preserve. Unless we have unity of outlook, we cannot achieve anything and I admit that these diversities may be a hindrance. It is amazing to note how the cultural unity of the masses has survived even now. That unity is going to endure.

Europe has to face basic and fundamental problems which is not the case with our communal question. Our question is a ghostly thing, and of no substance. It is the result of political reaction. I admit there may be honest communalists who want to protect their community; that is understandable. Nevertheless communalists take shelter behind political reaction. I submit that if the question is placed before the masses, the solution will be found readily enough.

International conferences have failed because the whole structure of European society is diseased. There are certain conditions and forces that go to destroy the present social structure. The society in its growth wants to break and tear its old dress, and put on a new one. This process in history is called revolution. It is not a question of a few agitators and revolutionaries. It is a tremendous elemental force from below. Politicians do not bring about these revolutions. It is social development that brings them.

You know the history of the noncooperation movement. It began some twelve years ago. Some people thought it was peculiar to India. But it was not a disconnected fact. There were similar movements in western Asia. Gandhi was not there. But the people used fundamentally more or less the same methods. It is difficult to explain.

There was something in the air. Elemental forces were at work. There was something much bigger than the human material it used. When we stress diversities, we ignore the fundamental unity of the country. We of the middle class arrogate to ourselves the exclusive right of being Indian. Outside these walls, there is the real India and if we do not march with the events, it is possible that real India may take things in its hands and march ahead of us.

Source: SWJN, S1V6, pp.131-133

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