Father and Nehru: From the attic of my memory

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Reverence and hero worship for Jawaharlal Nehru was normal not only with the older generation but with our generation as well. My father, Bhim Sen Sachar was a Congressman who had participated in all the Congress movements and Satyagraha and had been in prison many times between 1921 and 1942. In 1937 he was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Nehru campaigned for my father in that election. Even though I was just 14, I got ample opportunity to have a close view of him at meetings and functions.

The election for the Punjab Legislative Assembly was held in 1946. My father was a minister in the coalition government, which comprised the Unionist Party and the Congress. The coalition was necessary to prevent the Muslim League from forming a government in Punjab.

After the Partition in 1947, our family had decided to stay in Lahore. My father automatically became a member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan according to the law. I accompanied him to Karachi for its first meeting.

While going to Karachi we took a train and had also booked our return tickets. At that time there was no air connectivity between Karachi and Lahore but I learnt that there was a flight service from Karachi to Delhi. I had never travelled by air, so I asked my father to return to Lahore via Delhi by air. My father agreed and also decided to meet Nehru in Delhi. When we met Nehru, he asked my father in a quite disturbed tone, “My office tried to contact you for the last two days but could not, where were you?” Father replied, “Pandit Ji, I was attending the Constituent Assembly at Karachi. Nehru calmed down and said: “Then you do not know Punjab is on fire. Take the military escort and start evacuating people from West Punjab (then in Pakistan)”. My father went to Pakistan with the military to help with the evacuation. I stayed with one of our relatives in Delhi. Those were the times when both India and Pakistan were facing the aftermath of Partition.

Later, the Legislative members of the Punjab Assembly who had migrated from West Punjab (Pakistan) to India, became members of the existing Punjab Assembly (India). In April 1949 there was public resentment against the Congress government in Punjab headed by Gopi Chand Bhargava. Keeping that in view, at the insistence of Nehru and Maulana Azad, father was made the chief minister. I was already a member of the Socialist Party and was also active in Delhi politics.

RAJINDER SACHAR | Former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court
RAJINDER SACHAR | Former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court

In May 1949, the Socialist Party under Ram Manohar Lohia’s leadership held a demonstration in front of the Nepal embassy in New Delhi to protest against the Rana government in the Himalayan kingdom. We were arrested (about 50 of us including Lohia) for violating Section 144 CRPC  and remained in jail for a month and a half. It was during that imprisonment that Nehru and Indira sent a basket of mangoes to Lohia. Sardar Patel wrote to Nehru expressing his annoyance for sending mangoes to a person in jail who had violated the law. Nehru in his quiet way told him that politics and personal relationships are two separate things and should not be mixed up.

In 1952, the Congress returned to power with a clear majority in the Punjab Assembly elections. Nehru and Azad appointed my father as the leader of the Congress party and he again became the cm of Punjab, which then comprised of present-day Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.