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Why did Jawaharlal Nehru offer Oppenheimer an Indian citizenship?

Nehru Oppenheimer
Jawaharlal Nehru and J Robert Oppenheimer

NEW DELHI, JULY 24: As movie enthusiasts in India flock to theaters to watch Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer, there emerges an intriguing revelation about the man behind the controversial atom bomb – J Robert Oppenheimer. Bakhtiyar K Dadabhoi, the author of Homi Bhabha’s autobiography, and Kai Bird, the co-author of the biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer, shed light on a surprising offer made to Oppenheimer in the 1950s by Jawaharlal Nehru.
Amidst being vilified by the United States Atomic Energy Commission for alleged Communist sympathies, Oppenheimer found himself stripped of his security clearance in 1954. It was during this tumultuous period that Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru extended an unexpected offer – Indian citizenship and the chance to settle down in India.
In an interview, Bird reveals Nehru’s gesture, stating that the Indian Prime Minister personally invited Oppenheimer to come to India and become a citizen. It seems that Nehru’s motivation for this offer stemmed from a desire to support Oppenheimer, who was enduring harassment in the
However, despite the tempting offer, Oppenheimer’s unwavering patriotism as an American likely made him hesitate to seriously consider the proposition. As a deeply devoted American, he may not have seen himself leaving his homeland.
Interestingly, a recently-released book by Bakhtiyar K Dadabhoy, which details the life of Homi Jehangir Bhabha, a close friend of Oppenheimer, further confirms the invitation. According to the book, Bhabha urged Nehru to invite Oppenheimer to India and even offered him the opportunity to immigrate if he so wished.
The turning point in Oppenheimer’s life came nine years after he was celebrated for his pivotal role in developing the atom bomb, which played a significant role in ending World War II. Unfortunately, he later faced a daunting “kangaroo court” led by Lewis Strauss of the AEC during the infamous McCarthy witch-hunts in America.
The revelation of Nehru’s offer adds a new layer of complexity to the life of the brilliant scientist, highlighting the enduring friendship between Oppenheimer and Bhabha. As the world continues to discover the intricate facets of history, Oppenheimer’s legacy remains an enigmatic tale of triumph and tragedy. (Courtesy: TS)