Few politicians in history have attracted admiration and loathing to the degree that Jawaharlal Nehru has. More than five decades after his death, India’s first Prime Minister remains a supreme political figure and a prime target of disinformation, particularly on social media. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has publicly expressed his view about his party’s respect for Nehru, many of his party’s supporters including some who the PM himself follows, have been at the forefront of spreading misinformation about him. Here is a compilation of instances of misinformation and/or disinformation regarding Jawaharlal Nehru that Alt News has chronicled.
1. False claim about Nehru attending RSS shakha meeting
Had India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru attended an RSS shakha meeting? Apparently so, if one were to believe the narrative surrounding a photograph which was circulated on social media. A Facebook page I Support Doval, posted this photo along with the message, “This photograph was procured with great difficulty. This is Nehru ji standing at an RSS shakha. Now please tell us if Nehru ji was also a saffron terrorist” (translated).
That is indeed Pandit Nehru in the picture, but he is NOT attending an RSS shakha. This photograph is of the year 1939 and it was clicked in Naini, Uttar Pradesh. Pandit Nehru can be seen wearing a white cap. However, the uniform of the RSS introduced in 1925 has a black cap and not a white cap.
2. Affectionate pictures with sister and niece shared with mischievous intent
Nehru has been sought to be projected as a philanderer. Photographs of him with his sister and niece were shared by BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya, among others.
The woman seen in the first and third picture (Left to Right) is Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru. The woman seen in the last picture (bottom right) is Nayantara Sehgal, his niece and the daughter of Vijayalakshmi Pandit.
3. Fake quote: “I am Hindu by accident of birth”
A statement which is attributed to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru has circulated online for the past few years. According to this quote, Nehru had said, “I am English by education, Muslim by culture and Hindu merely by accident”. Among those who claimed that Nehru had said this include BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya and national BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra in a recent debate on Republic TV.
Alt News found that this statement had been made not by Jawaharlal Nehru but by a Hindu Mahasabha leader, N B Khare who had first made this claim in 1959 that Nehru had said these words in his autobiography. However, this statement is nowhere to be found in Nehru’s autobiography.
4. False claim: Nehru called Subhas Chandra Bose a ‘war criminal’
A letter has been shared widely on social media by detractors of Nehru. According to this letter purportedly written by Nehru to then British PM Clement Attlee, Subhas Chandra Bose has been referred to as a “war criminal” who has entered Russian territory. The letter is dated December 27, 1945 whereas Bose had died in an aircrash in Taiwan in August, 1945 according to the official version of events.
Alt News fact checked this claim and found that this letter had not been written by Nehru. It was supposedly part of a testimony by one Shyamlal Jain, who was the stenographer of Nehru. Jain had claimed before the Khosla commission, which had been established in 1970 to probe the mysterious disappearance of Bose, that this letter had been dictated by Nehru in December 1945. Alt News found that neither Nehru nor Asaf Ali at whose residence in Delhi the letter was claimed to be written, were in Delhi on the dates mentioned.
5. False claim on scrapping of currency notes featuring Bose
An image of a currency note featuring Subhas Chandra Bose was shared online, along with the claim that these notes were ‘demonetised’ by the Jawaharlal Nehru government. The text along with the image stated, “नेताजी सुभास चंद्र बोस की तस्वीर वाला 5 का नोट जिसे नेहरूजी ने बंद करवा दिया था , ताकि भारतीय इस सच्चे स्वतंत्रता सेनानी को भूल जाये लेकिन इसे इतना शेयर करो की सरकार इसे वापस शुरू कर दे” (This is the 5 rupee note featuring Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which was scrapped, so that Indians forget this freedom fighter, but share this to the extent that the government resumes printing it- translated).
Alt News’s fact-check found that these notes were issued in pre-independent India by the Azad Hind Bank, which had been set up in Yangon, Myanmar in 1944 to finance the war effort of the Azad Hind Fauj against the British. These currency notes were never legal tender and thus there was no question of the Nehru government scrapping these notes.
6. False claim on British minister lambasting Nehru over education policy
The person in the following clip is the 1st Muslim Minister of British Cabinet. He is blunt in saying that Nehru destroyed Hinduism in India systematically. Pls spare 2 minutes to see this video.👇👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼 The video accompanying this message shows an elderly gentleman criticising former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru over his education policy. The claim that this person is the first Muslim minister in the British cabinet, along with the video was also shared widely on WhatsApp.
Alt News found that the above video had been posted on YouTube by a channel called ‘Hindu Academy’. Hindu Academy is an organisation based in Britain that is involved in promoting and teaching Hinduism in schools in the UK. The person in the video is no British cabinet minister but Jay Lakhani, who describes himself on his Twitter profile as a theoretical physicist and teacher of Hinduism. Lakhani’s videos have been shared frequently by pro-Hindutva groups.
7. False claim about Nehru thrashed by mob
Several social media users had shared a photograph of Jawaharlal Nehru along with the claim that he was thrashed by a mob after India’s failure in the 1962 war with China. Alt News found that this claim had been circulated for years, with the earliest instance from 2013.
Alt News found that while the photograph was indeed of 1962, it was taken BEFORE the Sino-Indian war and was in no way related to it. The photo was taken at the plenary session of the Congress party at Patna in January 1962. A stampede had broken out and Nehru in an effort to restore order tried to plunge into the crowd but was restrained by security personnel.
8. False claim on lack of financial support to football team in 1948 Olympics
An image juxtaposing two pictures was shared on social media platforms. The photo on the left shows two sportspersons shaking hands with each other, while the adjacent image shows India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru debarking with his pet. The posts claimed that the Indian football team did not have shoes to play football during the period when Nehru’s dog was travelling in aeroplanes.
Alt News’ fact-check found that the Indian football team was not forced to play without boots due to lack of financial support but preferred to play barefoot as that is what they were accustomed to. The players continued to play barefoot till the change in International regulations later mandated them to wear boots.
Jawaharlal Nehru is perpetually in the crosshairs of the right-wing social media ecosystem which has adopted diverse means to denigrate him, concocting stories and manipulating photographs. From malicious gossip over his lineage to the false claim that he died of AIDS, rumours surrounding Nehru have been pervasive. Among the tallest leaders of the freedom movement and as the longest serving Prime Minister, Nehru has left behind a powerful legacy which is sought to be erased through systematic, organised and malicious attempts.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.