- Pandit Motilal Nehru was born on 6 May 1861 in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, to a Kashmiri Brahmin family. He spent his childhood in Khetri, Rajasthan where his elder brother Nandlal was the ‘Diwan’. Motilal was taught lessons in Arabic, Persian and English as he completed his schooling from Government High School, Kanpur.
- He proceeded to get a law degree from Muir Central College, Allahabad (now Prayagaj).
- Motilal married as a teenager, but lost both his wife and first born son during childbirth. Soon, he also lost his brother Nandlal and was forced to take care of his extended family comprising his brother’s widow and their 7 children. He was just 25 at the time.
- He married a second time to Swarup Rani Kaul, and in 1889, she gave birth to a son, Jawaharlal. The couple also had two daughters — Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Krishna Nehru.
- Motilal started practising law in 1883 at Kanpur and then joined the High Court Bar in Allahabad as an advocate.
- As Motilal grew in his legal career, his standard of living also improved dramatically. He was among the richest Indians later in his life.
- The clash between the moderates and the extremists factions within the Congress brought him into the political arena. He chose the moderate faction, alongside Surendra Nath Banerjee and Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
- At the age of 46, Motilal presided over a provincial conference of the moderates held at Allahabad in 1907. Following the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909, Motilal became a member of the United Provinces Legislative Council.
- He also actively participated in the Home Rule movement started by Annie Besant in 1916. The Pioneer newspaper conferred him the title ‘Brigadier General of the Home Rule League’.
- Motilal also launched a daily newspaper, The Independent, in 1919, facing severe financial losses while starting out. He was also elected to preside over the Amritsar Congress session in the same year.
- He went on to lend his support to, and participate in, the Mahatma Gandhi-led non-cooperation movement. Its impact on him was great, as he renounced his Western lifestyle and took a turn towards khadi. He also gave up on his legal career.
- A year later he even established his own political outfit, Swaraj Party, along with C.R Das. Swaraj, in Hindi, means ‘self-rule’. It was seen as a political wing of the Congress.
- However, the party was disbanded by 1927 as it was unable to achieve its objectives.
NEHRU REPORT AND SALT SATYAGRAHA
- In 1928, Motilal chaired the committee that prepared the Nehru report — a draft constitution for an Independent India — which was written in response to the formation of the Simon Commission.
- The report, written in a legal style comprising 22 chapters and 87 articles, claimed dominion status for India, and included sections on fundamental rights, among others. It was rejected by Britain.
- Following the rejection of the report, Motilal continued his struggle against the British rule by participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930. The same year, he gave up his residence Anand Bhawan to the Congress party for use as its headquarters.
- Despite his poor health, Motilal participated in the movement and travelled to Jambasur, Gujarat, to support Gandhi’s salt satyagraha. He was jailed for a couple of months and was released in light of his poor health.
- Motilal died a few months later on 6 February 1931.