My fourth blog post as part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla, and happily SPONSORED BY RRE Studios and SHOWCASE Events. More posts may be found here.
I was getting ready to write my last piece on farmer agitation at Delhi border, when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s birthday came on 23rd Jan, 2021. Netaji’s memory was relegated to one day in a year, that too a muted celebration, when I was growing up. Other than the contribution of non violent movement, India was ashamed, it seems, to recognise contribution of her sons and daughters who made supreme sacrifice for the motherland. Of late, we hear more about Netaji Bose and it appears both central and state governments fighting to claim Netaji’s legacy. One calls Netaji’s birthday to be Parakram Diwas, another calls it Deshnayak Diwas. Never mind, I am happy, Netaji is coming back from pages of history books to limelight. I thought of sharing some of my understanding of Netaji’s goal, his choice of means to achieve his goals, and his power to persuade and motivate people to make supreme sacrifice towards his goal, that is freedom of motherland.
Who was responsible for freedom of India? Was it non-cooperation movement of Indian National Congress or armed struggle of Indian National Army? Our history books certainly tell us supremacy of nonviolent noncooperation movement over armed struggle. Contribution of many architects of armed movement in Indian freedom struggle, including that of Subhash Chandra Bose, has been systematically downplayed. Many articles and opinion pieces have appeared in reputed news papers and news magazines discrediting Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his efforts. To quote a few :
- Prof. Mridula Mukherjee of Jawaharlal Nehru University published an opinion piece in India Today of April, 20, 2015, where she labelled Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as a misguided patriot;
- Mr. Aakar Patel wrote a sarcastic piece in the Times of India blog titles, “Is our revered Netaji the same person who was enamoured by Hitler?” Mr. Patel even ridiculed Netaji’s leadership, lack of military training, and how poorly trained INA was. According to Aakar Patel, most of the INA was relieved to be captured by the British army.
Intention of this article is not to question wisdom celebrated writers and their view points. I just want to put forward my understanding of Netaji Bose. First and foremost thing that Netaji wanted was freedom of India from the British rule. He had realised that his ideology of armed struggle was unlikely to gel with the ideology of nonviolence of congress party lead by Gandhi ji. So Netaji Bose decided to leave India, declare independence from a foreign soil and raise Indian National Army. Who could have Netaji sought help from? At the time, the British Empire was ruling almost half the world. It was said that “the sun never set on the British Empire!” Countries like Australia, Canada among other owed their allegiance to the British royal family. Most of the countries in the Europe – France, Italy, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Germany etc, had their colonies in Africa, South America, and Asia including India. So Netaji followed the dictum, “my enemies enemy is my best friend,” and sought help from Germany and Japan. Infact, he had initially asked help from Russia. After being declined, Netaji went to Germany.
It is true, Germany and Japan had commited horrible atrocities on their own citizens as well as in the territories they occupied. Germany sent Jews to concentration camps. Japan had treated people of China, Korea and in occupied countries of South East Asia in an abominable manner. But were others any different? What about treatment of aboriginal people in the US, Canada, and Australia? Many were killed mercilessly and later relegated to reserves. Americans routinely engaged in slave trade whereby blacks were bought as slaves to work on cotton plantation; and blacks did not have voting right till 1950s. Russia, under Josef Stalin, had sent a millions of its own citizens, many were jews, to Gulag in Siberia. As many as a million had perished. But US and the Britain had no compunction making an alliance with Russia to fight Germany! Was status of natives much better in European colonies? Did British treat us Indians in a very civilised manner?
For Netaji there was nothing more pressing interest than independence of India. As a result he did what he had to do. For Netaji, atrocities committed by Axis powers were professional hazards that he had to endure. Netaji was clear that he was taking help of Japan only for liberation of India. If Japan decided to stay back, India would fight Japan also. Should Netaji had waited for the world to become a better place for India to have gained independence or should he have dirtied his hand knowing what he was getting into?
Those who criticise Netaji for his choice of friends must realise that world politics does not run on morality but on cold calculation of self interest. How else can one explain the following:
- Indian alliance with USSR, knowing what it had done to her dissidents!
- Neither US, nor Britain or France severed ties with China despite purging one million of its own citizens, occupying Tibet and putting one million muslims in concentration camps!
- US and the west routinely supporting dictators torturing their own citizens but opposing communism!
Netaji had understood that ideologically he would never gel with the leadership of Congress party under Gandhi ji. Even after defeating Pattavi Sitaramayya in the election for congress president in Haripura Congress, Subhash Bose could not accept the position in 1939 because Gandhi ji threatened to resign proclaiming “Sitaramayya’s defeat is my defeat”. Winning an election against candidate backed by Gandhi ji, showed persuasive power of Subhash Chandra Bose. In later years, Neta ji had shown his similar power of persuation when he formed Indian National Army. Without offering any inducement, Netaji Bose could recruit soldiers and motivate them for the supreme sacrifice for the mother land. Many Indians from different religious persuations – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Christians, answered his call of “Give me blood, I shall give you freedom,” without hesitation and fought for the freedom of motherland. If Netaji was as ordinary as it is made out to be, why did prisnors of war in South East Asia and many common Indians in the region trusted him? This may speak a lot about leadership of the man.
People ask what did Subhas Bose achieve, he had only formed a ragtag army that was more than happy to surrender to the British? One needs to ask back the question what did the Indians give to Subhash Bose? He took risk, he showed initiative, he persuaded people to join his army. People trusted Netaji with their life and savings. Netaji did not betray that dream. He formed an army with the people that he had. Remember, these were the same people fighting for the British.
To me, Netaji had a clarity of vision, fixity of purpose and a determined action plan to execute his vision. Given the power of British empire, given the attitude of of British towards India’s freedom, what other options did Subhash Chandra Bose have? A person who had sacrificed everything, put his life at stake, challenged mighty Britain, all for independence of India, it is certainly appropriate to call him misguided! What an irony, indeed!. Someone had better prepared a manual detailing guiding principle for Indian freedom fighters.
I end this post sharing a link of Azad Hind Fauj’s theme song – “Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja….”