Indian Express , February 5, 1997
Nehru may have had gay tendencies, reveals biographer
The suggestion that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru may have had homosexual experiences was made after extensive research and conversations with those who knew him, according to Prof Stanley Wolpert, author of Nehru: A Tryst With Destiny, a new biography which has outraged sections of the Indian intelligentsia.
Speaking to The Indian Express from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) where he teaches Indian history, Prof Wolpert said his conclusions were based on "interviews with a lot of people and my own discussions with Nehru".
But the controversy, he added, was being blown out of proportion because the references to Nehru's gay tendencies "constituted only a small section of the book." The 'revelation' though is mentioned on the book jacket.
Prof Wolpert said he did not broach the subject during his three meetings with Nehru in 1957-58, when he spoke with the Indian leader for his doctoral dissertation on the Indian freedom movement. But his own interaction with Nehru during the meetings also helped him to the conclusion, he added.
My own aim as a scholar is to get as close to the truth as possible... I believe in the Indian motto of Satyameva Jayate.... if I was not convinced enough I would not have written it ... those who say 1 have overstated it should counter it with evidence, "the historian said, while himself not proffering any "evidence."
In the book which has just hit the stands in the United States, and
is due for release in India shortly, Wolpert implies that Nehru had
several homosexual encounters during his early years in Allahabad,
and later at Harrow and Cambridge.
He also describes instances when Nehru dressed in drag "Wearing his
wig, made up with lipstick, powder and eye shadow, his body draped
in silks and satins, Jawahar most willingly offered himself up
night after night to those endless rehearsals for the Gaekwar's At
Home as a beautiful young girl, holding out her jug of wine and
loaf seductively to her poet lover, Omar," he writes in one
He also describes instances when Nehru dressed in drag "Wearing his wig, made up with lipstick, powder and eye shadow, his body draped in silks and satins, Jawahar most willingly offered himself up night after night to those endless rehearsals for the Gaekwar's At Home as a beautiful young girl, holding out her jug of wine and loaf seductively to her poet lover, Omar," he writes in one passage.
The book has received favourable reviews in the American press Publishers Weekly describing it as a "warts-and-all portrait of India's brilliant and charismatic first prime minister" in which Wolpert "convincingly goes beneath Nehru's exalted image to reveal some pesky demons." The New York Times Book Review described the book as being "respectful of its subject but free of the hagiography that has often diminished academic writing on Nehru."
Neither review touched on Nehru's supposed homosexual liaisons.
Asked why none of the previous biographies, including the more recent one by M J Akbar, did not allude to this aspect of Nehru's fife, Wolpert said "I have no idea."
In the book, Wolpert says Nehru's first attachment was with a young
man called Ferdinand Brooks who was his French teacher. Brooks was
a theosophist but Wolpert says before coming to India the
"handsome' man was a disciple and lover of Charles Webster
Leadbeater, a renegade Anglican curate who was accused of child
molestation and pederasty on several continents. Leadbeater openly
advocated mutual masturbation among young boys.
Wolpert also suggests Nehru may have had a gay relationship in
Harrow and makes much of Panditji's admiration for Oscar Wilde.
Wolpert also suggests Nehru may have had a gay relationship in Harrow and makes much of Panditji's admiration for Oscar Wilde.
After historian Stanley Wolpert published his highly detailed and well-researched biography of Pandit Nehru, the Brahmin-dominated press of India raised a hue and cry over the book. Unable to challenge Mr. Wolpert's meticulous and well-corroborated research work backed up with voluminous cross-references, they resorted to savage name-calling and character assassination. One Indian newspaper, in a rare display of fair play and journalism, agreed to publish Mr. Wolpert's reply: -
The Pioneer, February 14, 1997
Isn't India ready to question 'icons', asks Wolpert
Historian Stanley Wolpert, professor of South Asian History, University of California, Los Angeles, has stirred a hornet's nest with his allegation that the young Nehru had several homosexual encounters both in India and abroad. Following publication of excerpts from his book in The Pioneer on January 26, there has been both condemnation of his "scandalous" allegations and support for his research.
This week, we received a fox communication from Prof Wolpert, defending his book and criticising The Pioneer's "selective" publication of excerpts as well as our editorial comment. In the interests of public debate and journalistic fairplay, we publish below Mr Wolpert's letter in full.
Your vicious and malicious attack against me and my best and most important book, Nehru: A Tryst With Destiny, cannot go unanswered. You devoted two columns of your front page to quoting several passages all taken out of context, from my 500 page life of Nehru, distorting what little I noted about his youthful sexual attitudes and his relationships at Harrow and in Cambridge. You headlined that piece "A below-the-belt attack...... which indeed it was on the part of the writer, Mr Kanchan Gupta, who revers Nehru as "the icon of modern India." An icon is a "sacred image," or an "object of uncritical devotion, worshipped as a divinity. "
Two days after your first assault, you wrote a lead editorial, headlined "Sacrilege!", ending that piece of wretched libel by calling my biography "blasphemy." You obviously consider Nehru nothing less than a God, whose fife may only be written about and discussed by anointed priests who offer appropriate puja and genuflect at the altar of his Teen Murti Mausoleum.
Nehru himself abhorred such nonsense, bowing to no icon, closing his remarkably brilliant mind to no truth, however painful it might be, believing, as I do, in your Government's fine motto, Satyameva Jayate!
Is India not yet ready after half a century of freedom to read about, and freely to discuss and debate, the true nature and human weaknesses, as well as divine strengths, of your greatest leaders, national heroes, inspired poets, sages, pandits, and Mahatmas?
Are you not strong enough as a Nation, or are some of your self-appointed guardians of the "sacred icon" not brave enough or wise enough fully to face at times disturbing, even painful, truths about human beings like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and Krishna Menon, and Subhas Bose, or "Dickie" Mountbatten, and his wife Edwina, each and all of whom helped in some way, great or small to shape and change the course of recent Indian History?
Must India wait till the next millennium before opening all those scaled riles of public papers and private letters, before opening what should be an illuminating and enlightening debate about the wisdom or errors, the faith and folly even of Prime Ministers and Presidents?
I first met Prime Minister Nehru when I came to India 40 years ago to write my doctoral dissertation on Tilak and Gokhale. I admired him then, and I still admire him, having taught the History of India here ever since, inspired to do so in good measure, thanks to his Discovery of India and Towards Freedom. I think I know him better now, of course, but that knowledge is the karmic fruit of my half century of devotion to the study of Indian History and freedom struggle. Mine is no "film scribe's" fascination, as you have so grossly put it (in the editorial).
Long years ago, I made my own tryst with India, Sir, and have since published no fewer than fifteen scholarly books on the subject.
One further point of personal privilege. You have insultingly linked my name to the "Western" sins of Robert Clive and Thomas Babington Macaulay, obviously never having read a word of my "A New History of India", now in its fifth edition.
I deal at some length with the swashbuckling bully" Clive, as I call him, whose rapacity and greed plundered and looted Bengal of its riches, with which he sailed home to buy up London houses and "Nabob" carriages with the rotten-borough seats in Parliament that brought no peace to his sick mind, finally driving him to blow out his own brains before he turned 50.
Macaulay was much less rapacious, of course, but even more arrogant than Clive, for as I note in my textbook. Though he had by confession "no knowledge of either Sanskrit or Arabic," he nonetheless smugly argued that "all the historical information from all the books in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than whit may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England."
I have learned enough Sanskrit to read some or its great classics and full 40 years I have taught thousands of my own students that the English still ran naked and painted their bodies blue when Indians mastered the Vedantic wisdom of "Tat tvam asi" and recited the Bhagavad Gita.
Sir, I believe with Mahatma Gandhi that "Ahimsa paramo Dharma ahe!" Please do not again compare me to Clive. I hope you have the decency to publish this letter.
Mr. Wolpert's work essentially closes the debate beteen Brahminists and Dalits as to who is to be given credit for having created Indian democracy, the largest in the world. The Brahmins of all hues and ideologies, ranging from Pseudo-Secular to Hindutvadi to Marxist, have always claimed it was Pandit Nehru who originated the concept of Indian democracy and was the brain behind the Indian Constitution, whereas the Dalits claimed it was Dr. Amedkar. Recently, a Brahmin writer named Arun Shourie published a book "Worshipping False Gods" which maliciously sought to malign and degrade the great Ambedkar. The sole purpose of Mr. Arun Shourie's work was to take all honours for founding the Indian constitution from Dr. Ambedkar and bestow it upon Arun Shourie's caste-brother, Pandit Nehru the Brahmin.
However, three facts are responsible for closing this grand debate in favour of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar:
We congratulate Mr. Wolpert on his successful and highly acclaimed biography of Pandit Nehru. The non-Brahmins of India are advised to read this eye-opening book, which reveals many startling facts which have been hidden from the eyes of the non-Brahmin by the all-powerful Brahmin press of the Indian Union for the last fifty years.
by Dilip Majhi
Volume 4, Issue 4, July 2001