India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who is considered as one of the most prominent figures from the past around the world, has been vilified in his own country with many conspiracy theories, whether they can be substantiated or not are surely debatable. The conspiracy theories around him are not just around his politics but also revolve around his personal life.
In a day and age when many people are learning their history lessons on social media forwards, several gossips, innuendo have taken to the centre-stage. It’s not just today that such stories have come to light, these theories have floated even before the advent of internet and social media as well.
Here is a look at some of these ‘stories’ revolving him that have been spoken several times in the past
1) Nehru’s ancestors were Muslims:
In 2015, mischievous changes were allegedly made to the entries on Nehru’s forefathers through a government of India Internet Protocol (IP) address that said that Nehru’s grandfather Gangadhar Nehru was a Muslim. It said that Nehru’s grandfather was Ghiasuddin Ghazi, a kotwal of the Mughals, who changed his name to Gangadhar Nehru. “Gangadhar was born as a Muslim by the name of Ghiasuddin Ghazi but changed his name to a Hindu Ganga Dhar to escape British clutches,” was the edit that was made on Wikipedia. However, these edits were later deleted by volunteer editors of the online encyclopedia.
FACT CHECK: Historic accounts, in fact, suggest that Nehru’s family was Kashmiri Pandits and the oldest known ancestor was Raj Kaul, who was a Sanskrit and Persian scholar in Kashmir. Raj Kaul’s house was by the side of a canal (nahar) and that’s how the surname Nehru evolved.
2) Nehru died of AIDS/STD:
Another conspiracy theory that is making rounds on social media for quite a while now is that Nehru died of Syphillis, a sexually transmitted disease. However, records suggest that Nehru fell ill and later died of heart attack after India was handed a humiliating defeat by China. With the facts that are available, these conspiracies around his cause of death seem like a pure propaganda.
FACT CHECK: The first known case of HIV-AIDS was discovered in 1986, by Dr Suniti Solomon of where female sex workers in Chennai were the patients.
3) Amitabh Bachchan is Nehru’s son:
Of all the conspiracy theories, this one takes the cake. You can find various sites and videos alleging that actor Amitabh Bachchan is Nehru’s son. There are reports attributing this finding to the DNA reports of the duo. A few also attribute the proximity between Gandhi and Bachchan family. You can only imagine how successful these theorists have been in propagating their stories since these videos have got over 1 million views.
FACT CHECK: Beyond bizarre! It is a well-known fact that Amitabh Bachchan is the son of Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Teji Bachchan. The only common connection between the two families is that they both belonged to Allahabad.
4) Character assassination:
To project Nehru as a philanderer, there is a patchwork of images of Nehru at innocuous moments, with Jacqueline Kennedy and Mrinalini Sarabhai, embracing his sister at the airport, lighting a woman’s cigarette. You just have to type Nehru on YouTube and it throws up a slew of smear videos against him: Nehru can do anything to get a girl (over 6 million views), Nehru ki galtiyaan (1.5 million), Nehru died of AIDS (54000 views). Another story that was floated around was that Nehru got a Catholic nun pregnant and was indebted to the church for spiriting her away from India.
FACT CHECK: All serious biographies of Nehru have referred to his relationship with Edwina Mountbatten and Padmaja Naidu.Edwina’s daughter Pamela acknowledged Nehru’s platonic relationship with Edwina. Nehru’s sister, Vijayalaxmi Pandit told Pupul Jayakar, Indira Gandhi’s friend and biographer, that Padmaja Naidu and Nehru lived together for many years. An Outlook report also said that Nehru was involved with Shraddha Mata a young Sanyasin who later delivered their still born love child.
5) Born in brothel
Pandit Nehru was born at a rented house in 1889 in Allahabad’s 77 Mirganj. with time, 77 Mirganj became infamous as a red light area with many sex workers residing there. Owing to the negative prominence that the place received, conspiracy theorists stated that he was born in a brothel.
FACT CHECK: In authoritative biographies, there is no mention of the existence of any brothel where Nehru was born. In fact, the where he was born was demolished in 1931 by municipal corporation much after Nehru moved out. Motilal moved out to a posh location at 9 Elgin Road, close to the historical Alfred Park. As he gained further prominence, in 1899, Motilal moved to what is today known as Swaraj Bhavan.
6) Partition due to Lady Mountbatten:
A video on Youtube by Rajiv Dixit claims that Jinnah, Nehru, and Edwina were college mates. There are even some theories which suggest that the relationship between Edwina and Nehru was responsible for partition.
FACT CHECK: There was a gap of over 10 years of age between all the three of them, with Jinnah being the oldest, then Nehru, and then Edwina. Edwina was a little girl of 9-11 years when Nehru finished his college.
7) Nehru described Subhas Chandra Bose as a war criminal:
Last year, a “historical” letter did the rounds, where Nehru supposedly described Subhas Chandra Bose as a ‘war criminal’.
FACT CHECK: Bose may have disagreed with Gandhi and Nehru, but were known to have had great admiration for each other. In the Indian national army that Bose formed with Japanese support, he named three brigades after Gandhi, Nehru and Maulana Azad, and the fourth brigade was named after himself. On January 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declassified the (in)famous ‘Netaji Files’ – a set of about 100 files that were tucked away for decades. Conspiracy theorists were enthusiastic that it will lay bare Nehru’s lethal plans against Bose. On the contrary, it revealed a tale of warmth – a blend of official work and personal care on part of Nehru.