Jawaharlal Nehru's rhetoric of diversity and inclusion

December 2023
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Jawaharlal Nehru was a leading figure in India’s freedom struggle, who subsequently served as the first prime minister of independent India. Besides being a popular leader and a statesman, he was also a philosopher and a historian. Through his rhetoric and actions, Nehru strengthened the unity of India when the British left it as a collection of several principalities. He strongly advocated for scientific advancement while staying rooted in the progressive values of ancient Indian civilization. He laid the foundation of a secular democracy where all people had equal rights and freedom of worship. In the following study, I analyze Nehru’s writings and selected speeches through rhetorical criticism. Rhetorical criticism of public address as a discipline has a long history in the US and Europe. While it is an established field in the West, there are only a few rhetorical studies on Indian texts. The analysis of Nehru’s texts fulfills a gap in the field of world rhetorics, throwing light on the history of India’s culture, philosophy, language, and rhetoric. The methods in the field of rhetorical criticism have evolved from strictly following Aristotle’s theories to critical pluralism. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell writes that “any critical procedure applied rigidly as a method becomes… reductive and formulary (101). While traditionally rhetoric is defined as an art of persuasion, in the context of comparative rhetoric, Keith Lloyd defines it as the “shaping of What and How” (ch. 1). Following this definition, my research questions are: What are important messages in Nehru’s speeches and how they are formulated? How can Nehru be read as both an eminently Indian and cosmopolitan rhetor and thinker? Besides these questions, I also explore Nehru’s influence in India and around the world, and why Nehru is still relevant. While highlighting Nehru’s messages and rhetorical strategies, this criticism also sheds light on why Nehru attracted the masses as opposed to contemporary liberal leaders who turn away a significant number of people from reason and logic into a world of conspiracy theories and propaganda of reactionary and divisive forces.

Language, Rhetoric and Composition