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Subhas Bose & New India's Legacy Raid || Midweek Matters 44

11-02-2022published_dt 2022-02-11T06:41:39.227Z11-02-2022 12:11:39 IST
Updated On 11-02-2022 12:12:31 ISTmodified_dt 2022-02-11T06:42:31.905ZUpdated On 11-02-20222022-02-11T06:41:39.227Z11-02-2022 2022-02-11T06:41:39.227Z - 2022-02-11T06:42:31.905Z - 11-02-2022

Hello and Welcome to

Midweek Matters.

New India's leaders are successful legacy raiders. Their appropriation of Sardar Patel is now nearly complete. Their latest raid is to appropriate the legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose. That they’re able to do this easily, without facing any forceful challenge is unfortunate. What is troubling, however, is the way these legacy raids are presented to the country. They are packaged as efforts to right the wrongs done to the historical personalities deliberately by those who presided over Old India. One cannot have quarrel with any attempts to right any historical wrongs. But the unspoken yet loudly suggestive sub text in the narrative of the present legacy raids is that it was a petty minded Jawaharlal Nehru who made sure that some personalities were not given their due honour. What makes these attempts suspect and questionable are the ugly efforts to undermine or even erase the place of Nehru as one of the foremost leaders of our freedom movement and as the primary architect of modern India. Today I want to share my reflections on these dark attempts by New India's leadership. 

On 23 January, on the occasion to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose, our Prime Minister pressed a button to bring Netaji's hologram statue alive near India Gate in Delhi. Soon a statue made of granite will be installed there. What the PM  spoke on the occasion gives us an idea of New India's legacy raid project packaged as righting the wrongs of Old India. The PM said, and I give an English translation of his Hindi words: 

"It was unfortunate that after independence, efforts were made to erase the contribution of several great personalities, along with the culture and heritage of the country. The freedom struggle involved the Tapasya of lakhs of people but there was an attempt to limit their history. But today, after decades of independence, the country is correcting those mistakes." 

The Home Minister echoed the allegation. He said, and again I give an English translation of his words. 

"There has been an attempt to push into oblivion many such personalities who struggled for India’s freedom." 

There are two attempts here by the Prime Minister and New India. One is to fire the gun at Nehru off the shoulders of Netaji. Two, to appropriate Bose and showcase him as BJP's icon. Both attempts show New India leadership's ignorance of the history of our freedom struggle and Bose's ideological proclivities. There is also an insidious attempt to show the uneasy, and at times antagonistic, relationship between Bose and Gandhiji as a clash between Bose and Nehru. There were hardly any differences between Bose and Nehru except on the question of Gandhiji's leadership of our freedom movement. However serious the differences might have been between Gandhiji and Bose on the one hand and Nehru and Bose on the other, neither Gandhiji nor Nehru had ever belittled the contribution of Bose to the freedom movement. They never questioned Bose's patriotic credentials. It was Bose, at times, who was rash with his words in venting out his anger against them both. I will give you a few examples of exchanges and writings of the three leaders to illustrate my point. 

Bose was never comfortable with Gandhiji and remained unimpressed by the Mahatma's methods. Bose left his first ever meeting with Gandhiji in July 1921 in Bombay, immediately on his return to India from England, with the impression that Gandhiji was either confused or deliberately evasive in answering his questions. The first major clash between the two took place in 1929 at the Lahore Congress. Bose moved a resolution which proposed the formation of a parallel government in the country by the Congress. Gandhiji opposed it, saying 

"If you think that you can have a parallel government today then, let me tell you that the Congress flag does not at present fly even in one thousand villages." 

He dismissed Bose's proposal as imprudent and unwise."

Bose had immense respect for Gandhiji, however. But he considered the Mahatma's methods unacceptable.

He wrote to his German friends in February 1934: 

"There is nobody I admire and respect more [than Gandhi.] He has changed the face of India…. Politically, however, I cannot agree with him anymore. He has a certain ways of dealing with the British… which endanger our political progress. We need firmer methods to force the British from the Indian scene and to gain independence for our country."

Here is another example of Bose's attitude towards Gandhiji. He issued a public statement along with Vithalbhai Patel that Gandhi as a political leader had failed and the time had come for radical reorganisation of the Congress on new principles and methods for which a new leader was essential." In his book, The Indian Struggle, published in 1935, Bose attacked Gandhiji's philosophy of non-violence. He wrote, and I quote, 

"As for the doctrine of non-violence, it had evoked some response in India, but in any other country such as Italy, Germany or Russia, it would have led Gandhi to the Cross or to the mental hospital…. Gandhi has ceased to be a dynamic force; maybe it was the effect of age." 

However, Gandhiji was not averse to Bose leading the Congress as its President. In November 1937 the Mahatma wrote, and I quote, 

"I have observed that Subhas is not at all dependable. However, there is nobody but he who can be the President." 

And Bose presided over the Haripura Congress in February 1938. The clash between Gandhiji and Bose came to a head when the latter sought a reelection at Tripuri Congress. We don’t need to go into the details here. The point is that the differences between Bose and Gandhiji were deep, and ideological in nature, with Bose time and again questioning the leadership of Gandhiji.

Now let us turn to the Nehru-Bose equation. Before we proceed, I’d like to remind you that Nehru published his autobiography around the same time as Bose brought out his The Indian Struggle. In his autobiography, Nehru devotes two chapters and about 40 pages to openly discuss his differences with Gandhiji's outlook and programme. But unlike Bose, Nehru never questioned Gandhiji's leadership nor did he consider the Mahatma as out of step with Indian reality. Nehru and Bose saw each other as comrades in arms, as like minded. Nehru collaborated with Bose in everything except in Bose's defiance of Gandhiji's leadership. They both collaborated in challenging Congress leadership on the question of Dominion status versus Total Independence for India. In 1936 when Nehru presided over the Lucknow Congress, Bose urged Nehru to team up with him to rid the Congress of Gandhiites and radicalise the party. In March 1936 Bose wrote to Nehru, and I quote: 

"Among the front-rank leaders of today — you are the one to whom we can look up for leading the Congress in a progressive direction." 

But Nehru did not oblige.

Nehru too faced, after he became President at Lucknow Congress, what Bose was to face later. Except three socialists the rest 12 working Committee members resigned saying that socialist agenda of class struggle will jeopardise the larger political aim of country's independence. The crisis was averted when Gandhiji intervened and pulled up Nehru for his over enthusiasm. And Nehru's willingness to defer to the Mahatma eased the situation. On the contrary, Bose saw himself as a challenger to Gandhiji. When Bose was arrested, Nehru gave a call to observe 10 May 1936 as 'Subhas Day' in protest against the arrest. This was despite Nehru's misgivings about Bose's perception of the international situation. While in Europe, Bose met with Mussolini, Goering and other Fascist leaders. In newspaper articles and in The Indian Struggle Bose forecast that the next phase in world history will produce a synthesis between Communism and Fascism. He even hoped that such synthesis could be produced in India. He wanted an unsentimental approach: 'whatever strengthens Britain is bad for us; whatever weakens her is welcome' was his position.

Vallabhbhai Patel was at loggerheads with Bose on the question of the custody of funds left by his brother Vithalbhai Patel. Nehru refused to endorse the statement issued against Bose by Vallabhbhai Patel and others when Bose sought a reelection at Tripuri Congress. However, Bose felt that Nehru had let him down by not supporting his leftist cause. He wrote, and I quote, 

"Nobody has done more harm to me personally and our cause than Pandit Nehru." 

Bose accused Nehru of vacillation, riding on two horses, and joining the Rightist camp. The essence of the differences between Bose and Nehru was on the question of Gandhiji's leadership. While Nehru deferred to the Mahatma, Bose wanted to dislodge Gandhiji. 

From1928 until Bose's death, the polar opposites to him were Gandhiji and Vallabhbhai Patel. It was not Nehru. But the New India and it’s legacy raiding leadership are unmindful of this. Or perhaps they themselves do not know it. They want us to ignore that. And they also want us to ignore that ideologically Bose saw himself as a left wing radical, and had much in common with  Nehru. His views on the Hindu-Muslim question were completely opposite to the ones held by the leadership of our New India. Let me quote what Bose said in his The Indian Struggle: 

"With the advent of the Mohammedans, a new synthesis was gradually worked out. Though they did not accept the religion of the Hindus, they made India their home and shared in the common social life of the people – their joys and their sorrows. Through mutual co-operation, a new art and a new culture was evolved ….” 

A categorical disapproval of New India's penchant for frequently alluding to Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan as dog whistles.

If New India takes Patel as its icon, Bose doesn’t fit in in its pantheon. In fact, Patel, who detested the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha, himself cannot be its icon at any rate. And if Savarkar and Godse are it’s icons, Gandhiji cannot be. But the New India has concocted a folklore which recruits Gandhiji, Savarkar, Godse, Patel and now Bose to serve its crafty narrative of patriotism. It’s not troubled by the conflicting ideas of India they held as long as it can fire the gun off their shoulders at Nehru. It wants to acquire the credential of patriotism despite staying away from our freedom movement and even collaborating with the British against it. Not burdened by the legacy of participation in the freedom movement, it is a complete stranger to the secular, liberal and pluralist idea of India that took shape during the glorious struggle. New India's legacy raiding today is an inescapable consequence of its leadership's unbearable lightness of being absent in the freedom movement. 


That’s all for this week.

Will be back again next week, Wednesday, lunchtime at 1:00 o’clock. 

Stay safe and do take good care of yourselves and all your loved ones.

Until then, Bye.