” Mr Speaker, Sir, it has fallen to my lot often to refer in this House to the death of a colleague or some great man. I have to perform that duty, a sad duty, again today in regard to one who was with us till a few days ago and who passed away rather suddenly, producing a sense of deep sorrow and grief not only to his colleagues in Parliament, but to innumerable people all over the country.
Now, it has become almost, if I may say so, a commonplace, when a prominent person passes away, to say that he is irreplaceable, that his passing away has created a void which cannot be filled. To some extent that is often true; yet, I believe that it is literally and absolutely true in regard to the passing away of Maulana Azad. I do not mean to say that no great men will be born in India; certainly not. We have had great men and we will have great men, but I do submit that that peculiar and special type of greatness that Maulana Azad represented is not likely to be reproduced in India or anywhere else.
I need not refer to his many qualities which we all know-his deep learning, his scholarship and his great oratory. He was a great writer and he was great in many ways. There are other scholars, there are other writers, there are other orators, but there was this combination in him of the greatness of the past with the greatness of the present. He represented and he always reminded me of what I have read in history about the great men of several hundred years ago, say, if I think of European history, the great men of the Renaissance, or, in a later period, of the encyclopaedists who preceded the French Revolution, men of intellect, men of action. He reminds me also of what might be called the great qualities of olden days-the graciousness of them. There were many bad qualities, of course, in the olden days, but there was certain graciousness, a certain courtesy, a certain tolerance, a certain patience, which is sadly to seek in the world today. There is little of graciousness in the world, even though we may become more and more advanced in scientific and technical ways. Even though we may seek to reach the moon, we do it with a lack of graciousness, with a lack of tolerance, with a lack of some things which have made life worthwhile since life began. So, it was this strange and unique mixture of the good qualities of the past, the graciousness, the deep learning and toleration with the urges of today that made Maulana Azad what he was.
Everyone knows that even in his early teens he was filled with the passion for freeing India and he turned towards ways even of violent revolution. And then, he realized, of course soon after, that that was not the way which would gain results.
He was a peculiar and a very special representative in a high degree of that great composite culture which has gradually grown in India. I do not mean to say that everybody has to be like Maulana Azad to represent that composite culture. There are many representatives of it in various parts of India, but he here in Delhi or in Bengal or Calcutta, wherever he spent the greater part of his life-represented this synthesis of various cultures which have come one after another to India, rivers that had flowed in and lost themselves in the ocean of Indian life, India’s humanity affecting them, changing them and being changed themselves by them.
So, he came to represent more specially the culture of India as affected by the culture of the nations of Western Asia, the Iranian culture, the Persian culture, the Arabic culture, which affected India for thousands of years especially Iran-as everyone knows. So, in that sense I said that I can hardly conceive of any other person coming who can replace him because there was already a change in the age which produced him and that age is past. A few of us are just relics, who have some faint idea of that age that is past.
I do not know if the generation that is growing up will even have any emotional realization of that age. We are functioning in a different way, we think in a different way, and a certain gap in mental appreciation and understanding separates us, separates the generations. It is right that we change, I am not complaining. Change is essential lest we become rooted to some past habit which, even if it was good at some time, becomes bad later. But I cannot help expressing a certain feeling of regret that, with the bad, the good of the past days is also swept away and that good was something that was eminently represented by Maulana Azad.
So, we mourn today the passing of a great man, of course a man of luminous intelligence and a mighty intellect with an amazing capacity to pierce through the problem to its core. I used the word “luminous’. I think perhaps that is the best word I can use about his mind-a luminous mind. When we miss and when we part with such a companion, friend, colleague, comrade, leader, teacher-call him what you will there is inevitably a tremendous void created in our life and activities.
It is possible that the initial reaction may not be a full realization of that void. The initial reaction is one of shock and sorrow. Gradually, as days pass, the void appears deeper and wider and it becomes more and more difficult to fill that place which was filled by a person who has passed away. But that is the way of the world and we have to face it. We have to face it not negatively but positively by devoting and dedicating ourselves to what he stood for and trying to carry on the good work which he and others who have left us-captains and generals of our peaceful forces who have worked for independence and progress and advancement of India, who have come and who have gone leaving their message behind. And so, I hope, though he may go, he will live and his message will live and illumine us as it did in the past.”__Jawaharlal Nehru.
Taken from a speech in the Lok Sabha, 24 February 1958. Lok Sabha Debates (Second Series), Vol. XII, cols. 2091-2095.
Reference ~Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (January 1958 – March 1958),
Series 2 | Vol. 41, page number 832~834.