Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s obsession with the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, appears to be never ending. Modi would not miss any occasion to belittle Nehru, be it in case of India-China war of 1962 or Kashmir issue or releasing pigeons on birthday. Modi seems to think that Nehru was a peacenik and hence weak.
The other day when he launched the 12th edition of the country’s Defence Expo, the prime minister said “We used to release pigeons and now we release cheetahs. The events may appear to be trivial at times, but the underlying message is much bigger.” He spoke of Atmanirbhar Bharat and said we are exporting defence material and equipment to more than 75 countries. That is a different story.
Coming back to pigeons and cheetahs, it is a fact that cheetahs were declared extinct in 1952 when Nehru was prime minister. Modi said nothing has been done over the decades to reintroduce cheetahs in India. This was disputed by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh who called Modi a ‘pathological liar.’ Jairam has posted in social media a letter he wrote in 2009 on ‘project cheetah’ intended to introduce cheetahs in India. It was accompanied by a photo showing Jairam with a cheetah in a foreign country.
In fact, Modi said the deliveries of defence material would henceforth happen at the speed of a cheetah, known for agility, speed and strength.
That Modi wants to project India as a robust, muscular and bold nation is no secret. His surgical strikes against Pakistan, the aggressive lions on Ashoka Stambh atop the new Parliament House appearing furious instead of being pious as in the earlier version adapted from Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka and now pigeons versus cheetahs all go to show that he believes in showcasing India as a strong and confident country. Nehru, on the other hand, thought India should be projected as a peace loving country. It was the Gandhian tradition. Peace is considered by the present leadership of the BJP as a sign of weakness. Nehru, for instance, on his 66th birthday released one white pigeon which was followed by 65 others – one each for Nehru’s 66 years. He used to spend his birthday amidst children and young students. He was addressed by the loving youngsters as chacha. He was one of the tall leaders who were working for world peace.
Modi, on the other hand, released cheetahs on 17 September 2022, his 72nd birthday. He proudly said once we used to release pigeons and the days have changed now we are releasing cheetah.
Modi is not the only BJP leader who is suffering from Nehru phobia. Even the Governor of Maharashtra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari said in July 2021, ”I hold Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in high esteem. However, his biggest weakness was that he used to think he was a messenger of peace. He wanted to release pigeons. This thinking makes the country weak and for a long time (until Modi became the prime minister) it remained that way.” He added, “except for Vajpayee ji’s tenure, the focus of the previous governments towards national security was minimal.” These leaders evidently do not relish peace.
Ashok Chavan of Maharashtra had responded to the Governor’s comment. “According Koshyari’s version, Vajpayee who took ‘Sada-e-Sarhad’ bus to Lahore, Advani who visited mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and Narendra Modi who dropped in Lahore in an unscheduled visit to greet former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, on his birthday should be considered timid persons” said Chavan.
Questioning about China’s occupation of Indian territory as recently as 2000 and the deafening silence maintained by Modi’s government in this aspect might amount to indulging in anti-national activity. It is certainly not a bold stand to take. Claiming that not an inch of Indian territory is ceded to China is as good as Nehru proclaiming in Parliament that not an inch of land will be allowed to be occupied by China. Then JB Kripalani quipped, “How many miles make an inch, Mr. Nehru?” Whether he chooses to release a pigeon or a cheetah on his birthday, Modi should never repeat the mistakes of Nehru, at least in the case China.