3.10.15

Netaji Bose

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Politics, Netaji Bose and the ‘Ramzade’ version of Hindutva

Ashish Tripathi and The Times of India

West Bengal government recently declassified 64 confidential files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and chief minister Mamata Banerjee has gone on record saying Netaji might have survived August 18, 1945, plane crash in Taihoku, Formosa (now Taipei, Taiwan). Before that, the Uttar Pradesh government approved Rs 1.5 crore for a museum in Faizabad to preserve belongings of Gumnami Baba alias Bhagwanji, who many believe was Netaji living incognito disguised as a Sadhu after independence and died on September 16, 1985. The two decisions followed after some personalities, who claim to be Netaji devotees, from different walks of life came together to form a Janata Commission to unravel the mystery surrounding Netaji’s death. Undoubtedly we all want to know whether Netaji survived the plane crash or not. But for me, more important is the question: If alive, what Netaji would have done today?
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The question assumes importance because many including some in the Janata Commission accuse successive Congress governments after independence of covering up Netaji’s death. The accusations, as assessed by my close friend Deepak Kabir, have not only strengthened conspiracy theories surrounding Netaji’s death, but have also manufactured an atmosphere, which, on one hand attacks Jawaharlal Nehru and his policies and on the other paints a picture of Netaji as ‘a Hindu sadhu who lived in Ayodyha’. And, I agree with Deepak because I can see Sangh Parivar, which includes Hindu mahasabha, covertly trying to appropriate Netaji, while its political arm Modi sarkar indulging in selective leakages of classified documents to demonize Nehru.
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If Nehru did wrong with Netaji, it should be exposed. Similarly, it should be probed whether Gumnami Baba was actually Netaji or not – If yes, why he chose to live incognito and if no, who are behind the conspiracy theory and if there is any connection between the Gumnami Baba story and placing of idols in Babri mosque for creating Ramjanambhoomi controversy. But under no circumstances, Netaji should be allowed to be used to serve vested interest of the ideology which is exactly opposite of what the great leader followed all his life. I am sure that had Netaji been alive, the same Sangh Parivar would have called him ‘sikular’ and targeted him for marrying a woman of foreign origin. I am also sure, had Netaji been alive, he would have fought against corrupt Congress regimes we saw after independence. And, I am doubly sure that had Netaji been alive today, he would have waged a war against the divisive communal ideology, which ironically is ruling the country at present, responsible for assassination of Gandhi, whom he called the father of the nation.
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From VD Savarkar to LK Advani and now Modi Sarkar, the Sangh Parivar has been relentlessly trying to paint Netaji as an Hindutva icon after Independence. They have succeeded up to some extent because of ignorance of the Indian people who are swayed by propaganda and do not devote time in reading and understanding Netaji’s life and writings. The mainstream media has also become a tool in the hands of those in power. After reading a little bit of his writing, I have come to the conclusion that Netaji doesn’t fit into Sangh Parivar’s definition of ‘Ramzade’. Contrary to the Sangh Parivar’s regressive and faulty interpretation of `Hindutva’ and ‘Bhartiya Sanskriti’, Netaji in his autobiography “An Indian Pilgrim” has declared that he believes in eclectic version of Hinduism and composite culture of India. He has made it clear that unlike British rulers who invaded India only to plunder its resources, the Muslim invaders settled and contributed in its development.
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Netaji on India being Hindu state
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As early as January 1928, Netaji had rejected the idea of Hindu state as suggested by BS Moonje, mentor of RSS founder KB Hedgewar. And even before that in 1924-25, as chief executive officer of Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Netaji implemented reservation for Muslims in jobs. As Congress president in 1938-39, he banned dual membership, ie, no member of Hindu Mahasabha or Muslim League could become a member of an elective committee of the Congress. In 1940, he tried to bring Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim league together at a common platform and persuaded them to leave their communal agenda, but both ditched him. He came to the conclusion that these communal forces, if required, should be crushed with force. Later, Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League formed coalition governments in 1942 in Bengal, Sind and North Western Frontier Province and supported British rulers, when Congress had launched Quit India movement inside the country and Netaji was fighting from outside with his Indian National Army (INA).
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INA anthem and songs
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Netaji was the first head of the independent Indian government, although it was in exile. The way he conducted affairs of INA and his government provide us a glimpse of how he would have ruled India, if elected to power, after British left in 1947. He brought all castes, communities and faith together without discrimination in the INA government. He named INA brigades after Nehru and Gandhi. He got Bengali version of Jan Gan Man written by Guru Rabindranath Tagore translated into Hindi and made it the national anthem. The same song was adopted as national anthem by free India. Sangh Parivar claims that Tagore wrote it to praise British emperor in 1911. If the claim was true, Netaji would have never adopted it. Listen carefully the two famous songs of INA ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja’ (quick march of INA and now of Indian army) and `Hum Dilli Dilli Jayenge’. First line of the third stanza of `Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja’ is `Teri Himmat Badhti Rahe, Khuda Teri Sunta Rahe’. And, the fourth line of the fourth stanza of `Hum Dilli Dilli Jayenge’ is `Khudaa Bhi Humaaraa Saathi Hai’ . Both have word `Khuda’, which in Persian means God. I am sure Sangh Parivar would dub this as Muslim appeasement but the fact is for Netaji `God called by any name was God’.
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During 1945-46 INA Red Fort trial of Netaji’s lieutenants Prem Kumar Sahgal, Shah Nawaz Khan, and Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (A Hindu, Muslim and Sikh), the popular slogan in the country was “Lal kile se aayee awaz, Sahgal-Dhillon-Shah Nawaz, teenon ki ho umar daraz”. This reflects how Netaji inspired people to unite keeping aside their differences.
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Gandhi, who did not agree with the idea of armed struggle, said “Even if INA failed in its immediate objective, it achieved a lot. The greatest among these was to gather together, under one banner, men from all religious and races of India and to infuse into them the spirit of solidarity and oneness to the utter exclusion of all communal or parochial sentiment. It is an example we should all emulate. If they did this under the glamour and romance to fighting, it was not much. It must persist in peace. The greatest and the lasting act of Netaji was that he abolished all distinctions of caste and class. He was Indian first and last.
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What more, he fired all under him with the same zeal so that they forget in his presence all distinctions and acted as one man. The greatest lesson that we can draw from Netaji’s life is the way in which he infused the spirit of unity into his men, so that they could rise above all religious and provincial barriers and shed together their blood for the common cause.” And, Nehru said “The communal problem that troubles us so much was solved by 0the INA and its great leader Subhas Chadra Bose. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lived together as Indians, and struggled unitedly for the common cause.”
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Netaji about Muslims
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In his autobiography Netaji has written: “…I am inclined, however, to think that in proportion to their numbers, and considering India as a whole, the Muslims have never ceased to play an important role in the public life of the country, whether before or under British rule -— and that the distinction between Hindu and Muslim of which we hear so much nowadays is largely an artificial creation, a kind of Catholic—Protestant controversy in Ireland, in which our present-day rulers (British) have had a hand. History will bear me out when I say that it is a misnomer to talk of Muslim rule when describing the political order in India prior to the advent of the British. Whether we talk of the Moghul Emperors at Delhi, or of the Muslim Kings of Bengal, we shall find that in either ease the administration was run by Hindus and Muslims together, many of the prominent Cabinet Ministers and Generals being Hindus. Further, the consolidation of the Moghul Empire in India was effected with the help of Hindu commanders-in—chief. The commander-in-chief of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daullah, whom the British fought at Plassey in 1757 and defeated, was a Hindu, and the rebellion of 1857 against the British, in which Hindus and Moslems were found side by side, was fought under the flag of a Muslim, Bahadur Shah. Be that as it may, it is a fact so far as Bengal is concerned, whatever the causes may be, most of the prominent personalities that arose soon after the British conquest were Hindus. The most outstanding of them was Raja Ram Mohun Roy (1772-1833) who founded the Brahmo Samaj in 1828. The dawn of the 19th century saw a new awakening in the land. This awakening was cultural and religious in character and the Brahmo Samaj was its spearhead. It could be likened to a combination of the Renaissance and Reformation. One aspect of it was national and conservative —— standing for a revival of lndia’s culture and a reform of India’s religions. The other aspect of it was cosmopolitan and eclectic — seeking to assimilate what was good and useful in other cultures and religions. Ram Mohon was the visible embodiment of the new awakening and the herald of a new era in India’s history. His mantle fell successively on ‘Maharshi’ Devendra Nath Tagore (1818-1905), father of the poet Rabindra Nath Tagore, and Brahmanand Keshav Chandra Sen (1838-1884) and the influence of the Brahmo Samaj grew from day to day….”
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In the second part of his autobiography, the Indian struggle, he has written: “…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 which was different from the old but which nevertheless was distinctly Indian. In architecture, painting, music — new creations were made which represented the happy blending of the two streams of culture. Moreover, the administration of the Mohammedan rulers left untouched the daily life of the people and did not interfere with local self-government based on the old system of village communities. With British rule, however, there came a new religion, a new culture and a new civilisation which did not want to blend with the old but desired to dominate the country completely. The British people, unlike the invaders of old, did not make India their home. They regarded themselves as birds of passage and looked upon India as the source of raw materials and as the market for finished goods. Moreover, they endeavoured to imitate the autocracy of the Mohammedan rulers without following their wise policy of complete non-interference in local affairs. The result of this was that the Indian people began to feel for the first time in their history that they were being dominated culturally, politically and economically by a people who were quite alien to them and with whom they had nothing whatsoever in common. Hence the magnitude of the revolt against the British domination of India.
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About Mughal ruler Akbar
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We all know the views of Sangh Parivar including BJP about Mughal emperor Akbar. Here is what Netaji has written about Akbar: “…During the sixteenth and seventeenth century under the rule of the Moghul emperors, India once again reached the pinnacle of progress and prosperity. The greatest of them was Akbar, who ruled in the latter half of the sixteenth century. The great merit of Akbar was not only the political unification of the country, but what was perhaps more important, the working out of a new cultural synthesis — in order to reconcile the new stream of culture with the old — and evolve a new culture. The state machinery which he built up was also based on the whole-hearted co-operation of the Hindu and Mohammedan communities.
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About admministration before and after Aryan invasion and under Muslim and British rulers Netaji wrote 
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“…Under the Mohammedan rulers, though there was unbridled autocracy, the Central Government rarely interfered in provincial or local affairs. The governor of a ‘Suba’ or a province was of course appointed by the Emperor, but as long as revenue was regularly sent into the imperial coffers, the provincial administration was not interfered with in any way. Though occasionally a fanatical ruler would attempt proselytisation, on the whole the people enjoyed complete freedom in religious, cultural and social affairs, no matter who occupied the throne at Delhi. British historians are without exception guilty of overlooking this fact and when they loosely talk of despotism to which orientals are accustomed, they forget that behind this cloak of despotism, the people enjoyed a large measure of real liberty, which they have been denied under British rule. Both before and after the Aryan conquest of India, autonomous village institutions have been a consistent feature of the public life of India. This is true as much of the Aryan kingdoms of the north of the Tamil kingdoms of the south. But under British rule these institutions have been destroyed and the long arm of the bureaucracy stretches into the remotest villages. There is not one square foot of land where the people feel that they are free to manage their own affairs….”
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Netaji’s faith and philosophy of life
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I autobiography Netaji has written that after studying various philosophies and on the basis of his personal experience, he has come to the conclusion that the Absolute Reality is Love and Truth: “…My own view is that most of the conceptions of reality are true, though partially, and the main question is which conception represents the maximum truth. For me, the essential nature of reality is LOVE. LOVE is the essence of the Universe and is the essential principle in human life. I admit that this conception also is imperfect – for I do not know today what reality is in itself and I cannot lay claim to knowing the Absolute today – even if it be within the ultimate reach of human knowledge or experience. Nevertheless, with all its imperfection, for me this theory represents the maximum truth and is the nearest approach to Absolute Truth. I may be asked how I come to the conclusion that the essential nature of reality is LOVE. I am afraid my epistemology is not quite orthodox. I have come to this conclusion partly from a rational study of life in all aspects – partly from intuition and partly from pragmatic considerations. I see all around me the play of love; I perceive within me the same instinct; I feel that I must love in order to fulfil myself and I need love as the basic principle on which to reconstruct life. A plurality of considerations drives me to one and the same conclusion….The Reality is Spirit, the essence of which is Love, gradually unfolding itself in an eternal play of conflicting forces and their solutions.”
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It will take time to unravel the mystery shrouding Netaji’s death. Let’s bring him to life by following his faith – the love
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Jai Hind