Why do we celebrate Nehru Jayanti as Children’s Day? We have a ready-made answer with a punch quote of Nehru already on hands: Because Nehru was known for his love for children and was fondly called Chacha Nehru! And Nehru once said, “The children of today will make the India of tomorrow. The way we bring them up will determine the future of the country”. Here goes the narrative which has been established in the public domain over the years. According to the popular belief, after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, it was unanimously decided to celebrate his birthday as Children’s Day in India.
But the reality is something else. It is a widely held misconception that November 14 is celebrated as Children’s Day after the death of Nehru. Reports and documents suggest that Nehru’s birthday was celebrated as Children’s day in 1955! Who did issue order to celebrate Nehru’s birthday as children’s day? Indeed, it was declared by the then Prime Minister of India, none other than Chacha Nehru! Interestingly, it had nothing to do with children or Chachaji’s eternal love and affections for India’s young buds. It was merely a public relations exercise, organised to please his Soviet Union masters Comrades Bulganin and Khrushchev who embarked on an India visit during that time.
Organiser Weekly, dated November 21, 1955, came out with a stinging editorial, penned by the then editor and stalwart journalist KR Malkani, targeting Jawaharlal Nehru for misusing the entire educational machinery to build up his dictatorship. Comparing Nehru’s humbug with that of Adolf Hitler, the editorial states, “Preparations to celebrate Pt. Nehru’s birthday and the Russian leaders’ arrival have set us thinking. It has been said of Hitler that he built up his dictatorship on the devotion of “Hitler Youth” organisation. It is well known that he assumed dictatorial powers without much amending the Weimer Constitution, that most perfect of democratic instruments. We must confess that the above preparations remind us of the “Hitler Jugend “, Organiser hit out at Nehru.
“For three weeks now, the entire educational machinery in the capital has been put out of gear. Since a number of students from every class in almost all the schools has been out rehearsing and re-rehearsing their allotted role for couple of hours every day, tuition has almost ground to a halt,” the editorial said.
The editorial condemns the repeated child rights violation occurred in the name of Children’s Day celebration as truckload of Delhi students, both boys and girls, had been daily transported to Kutub Minar ground for lessons in drilling, smiling, garlanding, clapping and shouting slogans!
“The official explanation is that they are observing Children’s Day. Wasting children’s education for three weeks is a rather wonderful way of celebrating Children’s Day. Nor is it clear why Pt. Nehru’s birthday should have been particularly selected for observation as ‘Children’s Day’, Shri Malkani wonders! “If any living dignitary’s birthday has to be celebrated on a national scale, the only right and indeed obvious, choice would be that of Rashtrapati’s,” he says.
The visionary journalist raised his concerns, asking whether the annual birthday celebration of Nehru continues into perpetuity, that later turned out to be true. “Also, is it the idea that ‘Nehru Jayanti” should be observed as Children’s Day forever hereafter? Or the Children’s Day chance with every incoming Premier’s birthday?,” he asks.
Interestingly, the editorial puts forth another suggestion that the right day for Children’s Day would be Krishna Janmashtami that birthday of the great child of all times-Sri Bala Krishna. Apart from Organiser, On November 14, 1956, The Times of India reported the Children’s Day: “Nearly 100,000 children assembled at the National Stadium today to participate in a Children’s Day rally, which coincided with the Prime Minister’s 67th birthday celebrations.” This is a new variant of the invisible colonialism which Nehru warned against, in his ‘Discovery of India’. It is high time to review and reexamine the readymade answers cooked up by so-called Nehruvians, for our frequently asked questions including, ‘why do we celebrate Nehru Jayanti as Children’s Day?’