On Children’s Day, Meet the Kid Who Once Saved Pandit Nehru’s Life

At the age of 14, Harish Mehra saved Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s life. Here’s how.

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(This story was first published on 14 November, 2018 and is being republished from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of Children’s Day.)

Harish Mehra is 74 years old, but at heart, he’s still a kid. Forever the boy from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area who saved India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's life.

Harish Mehra was the Indian civilian to lead Republic Day’s Parade on 26 January 1958.
Harish Mehra was the Indian civilian to lead Republic Day’s Parade on 26 January 1958.
(Photo: The Quint)

2 October 1957, Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi

At the age of 14, Harish, the son of a freedom fighter, was on duty as a scout of the VIP canopy where Pandit Nehru was sitting to watch the Ramlila.

Suddenly, the VIP shamiyana caught fire.

Without caring for his life, Harish ran inside the shamiyana, took Nehru's hand and escorted him to safety.

He ran back into the inferno, climbed a 20-foot pole and, with his scouting dagger, cut off the burning cloth. As a result, his hands were severely burnt.

Harish’s act of bravery didn’t go unnoticed. It announced a special National Gallantry Award. Indira Gandhi herself visited his school to give him the good news that Prime Minister Nehru wants to award him for his bravery.

14-year-old Harish Mehra with Jawaharlal Nehru after receiving his Bravery Award on 3 Ferbruary 1958.
14-year-old Harish Mehra with Jawaharlal Nehru after receiving his Bravery Award on 3 Ferbruary 1958.
(Photo: The Quint)
It’s because of Harish’s courage that National Bravery Awards were started.

3 February 1958, Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi

“Indira Gandhi read out my commendation letter. After she finished, Nehru stood up and said, ‘This man needs no introduction. I was a witness to his act of bravery,’”.
Harish Mehra, First National Bravery Award Winner

Five years after the incident, Harish had to leave his studies. He had to take up a job to support his family.

“It’s not just me, many winners of these awards have to go through the same fate. I know many of them are now selling tea and newspapers. Some even had to sell their medals.”
Harish Mehra, First National Bravery Award Winner

Harish was also the first civilian to lead the Republic Day Parade on 26 January 1958.

Harish still lives in Chandni Chowk. Everyone knows him as ‘Nehru ki jaan bachane wala bachha’. Just like he saved Nehru’s life, Harish Mehra’s only wish now is that Nehru’s true legacy can be saved.

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