A plethora of tributes to charismatic Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose have poured in to mark his 125th birth anniversary. Yet, politics within politics still pervades over an honest rehabilitation of Bose in the history of Freedom Movement of India.
By Prasanta Paul
It has almost become a fad for political parties and leaders, especially those from Bengal, to chant and chirp on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose every year, be it his birthday or birth anniversary. All this brouhaha over this respected fighter is to gain as much political mileage as possible, rounds of mudslinging and heaps of cheap garbage-throwing notwithstanding. Ordinary people of India, these leaders have taken for granted, would sing to their tune.
Little do these `modern’ leaders realize that Bose belongs to a different class whose sacrifice for Mother India, like umpteen unsung heroes of the Freedom Movement, cannot match with the selfish and corrupt culture today’s leaders exemplify. Their unsolicited, clandestine maneuvers to extract as much ‘juice’ as possible by stirring the myth of Bose stand exposed to the people.
Hence, I would purposefully desist from referring to any political party or its leaders in my humble tribute to this legend called Bose. I am no hagiographer of Bose though.
If one has the patience to go through his letters, writings, speeches during different phases of Indian Freedom struggle, it would be crystal clear that there was a continuous process of evolution in his social, economic and political concepts vis-a-vis the development of his own mind and the shifting political and socio-economic environment in India and the World outside. Which is why, unlike many of his contemporaries who made vain attempts to sabotage his meteoric rise, Bose catapulted to the level of an undisputed and popular leader at a very early age.
However, he was never an insolent, audacious and power-hungry person, thanks to his religious and spiritual persona which had been derived from his arduous reading of the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Even in the battlefields at South East Asia, he always used to carry a miniature Bhagawat Gita in the breast pocket of his field uniform, and often plunged into deep meditation at dead hours of night, as his fellow INA (Indian National Army) officers would vouchsafe. While in Singapore, he often drove to Ramakrishna Mission late at night to meditate.
His ‘Great Escape’ is still the stuff of legend and enigma; but what is extremely crucial was its immaculate planning and equally deft execution. Interestingly, none of the upper echelons of Congress leadership was privy to the entire exercise. Not that Bose had scant regard for them; he was merely apprehensive of the fact that a minor breach in secrecy could absolutely sink his boat.
What led Bose to gradually distance himself from the Congress and its contemporary leaders is an open secret. In fact, it was one of the chief reasons why the successive Congress governments post Independent India had developed a sort of pathological allergy to any kind of probe into the mystery behind the much-touted death of Bose in an air crash at Taihoku airfield in Taiwan. Of the three Commissions set up to probe the mystery, the Mukherjee Commission had cast a doubt on the theory that was floated by the British and their henchmen about the air crash.
Coming back to the point of distance between Bose and the contemporary Congress, one must make an unbiased study of the period spanning from 1885 to 1930 when there had been overt and covert endeavors mounted by the Gandhi coterie to prevent Bengalis from getting the post of the Congress president.
A large number of patriots of undivided India who took an emotive part in the Non-Cooperation movement launched by Gandhiji, felt betrayed when it was suddenly called off in 1921, allegedly on ideological grounds. The movement was at its peak then, triggering a widespread whiff of sabotage. However, one of the most crucial factors that had shaped the current apathy of a large number of people, specially Bengalis, towards the Father of the Nation was the treatment the latter meted out to Bose. The only fault of Bose lay in refusing to be one of those sycophants in the contemporary Congress who were steadfast in their vigil on the vicious girdle laid around Gandhi.
Bose, in his late 30s and junior to Gandhi by nearly as many years, was bubbling with ideas and visions that obviously proved to be anathema to Gandhi who relied more on traditions and clung to dead wood. Yet, Bose restrained himself from any sort of public outburst against a person whose stature was much bigger than him.
Things had really come to a head when Pattavi Sitaramaiya, a Gandhi loyalist and fore-runner in the Congress Presidential poll, suffered a humiliating defeat in a straight contest against Bose, despite Gandhiji’s vigorous support to Sitaramaiya. Acrimonious differences between Bose and Gandhi spilled out in the open. Gandhiji ticked Bose off with his now famous observation “Defeat of Sitaramaiya is my defeat”. In the Tripuri Congress session, Gandhi decided to stay away as Bose was in the chair. Subsequently, allies of Gandhi made it impossible for Bose to function, prompting Subhas to tender his resignation.
The turn of events and nasty attack on Bose from the fellowship of Gandhiji never went down well in the psyche of the people in the large swathe of undivided India, specially the East and Punjab province. However, Bose maintained stunning silence before launching Forward Bloc.
Those in India who still harbour veneration for Gandhi, have failed to reason out how a person of his stature had to throw all accepted civil norms of democracy to wind. Because, Bose had, after all, gone through a fair election process!!!
Ironically, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, another fabled icon of the Bengalis as well as India, too, failed to see an eye to eye with Gandhiji on two major occasions. And on both the occasions, Gurudev dashed off letters to Gandhi to register his protest. The first was obviously the inglorious exit of Bose as the Congress president.
Queries galore and answers are few and far between. It was not for nothing that before his tragic assassination, Gandhiji came round to the view that Bose was, indeed, not “an apostle of violence; Subhas was a prince among patriots.” Afflicted probably by intense remorse, Gandhiji, the bitterest critic of Bose, had finally discovered in Bose his true colors. By then, the ‘prince among patriots’ who did not harbour any rancour though, had already dedicated a brigade in his name and christened it as “Gandhi Brigade” in the INA.
125 years must have been a long way; flowers, bouquet and paeans of praise on Bose for his unflinching love and sacrifice for Mother India, besides gallantry, have been pouring in from several quarters including unwanted ones. That hardly matters; what matters most is the fact that there has been little sincerity in all these staged shows. Had there been an iota of it, Bose would have, by now, been properly rehabilitated in the annals of the Freedom Movement of India, all this sham notwithstanding. (EOM)
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The author has served no less than Al Jazeera and German TV, and India’s Parliamentarian magazine among others! To his credit goes a deep-rooted empathy for social issues and humans. He has wide experience in covering the northeast of India. His coverage on the 2020 Amphan cyclone in eastern India has easily been the best around the world