Thursday, February 2nd, 2023 07:06:59

Heat And Fury Over Netaji Controversy

Updated: May 2, 2015 11:42 pm

For once the Nehru baiters and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s admirers are on the same wave-length but with different objectives. They want Nehru to be castigated for allegedly letting the IB snoop on Netaji’s relatives. Their letters were opened and if one of them went abroad, sleuths followed them.

Why Nehru got spies set on the kin of Subash Chandra? Was Nehru suffering from some kind of insecurity or did he fear that if Netaji was alive he could, knowing his fascist tendencies, try to take over the prime ministership. It is said that Gandhi had gone after him because he feared given the popularity of Subhas Chandra; he might create difficulty for Nehru becoming the prime minister.

Another controversy is over the relationship of Bose and Nehru. Historian and educationist Rudrangshu Mukherjee (currently Vice Chancellor of Ashoka University, writes in Nehru & Bose, Parallel Lives) on the parallel lives of two said: “Subhas believed that he and Jawaharlal could make history together. But Jawaharlal could not see his destiny without Gandhi. This was the limiting point of their relationship: one man who was certain that nothing mattered to him more than the freedom of India; and another individual who also cherished his country’s freedom but tried valiantly to link it to his other and often conflicting loyalties.” Both the leaders came from a highly educated background, with Bose being slightly ahead of Nehru but with their different political ideologies, Bose and Nehru drifted away from each other. The author writes about the potential friendship that failed to blossom against the turbulent backdrop of India’s struggle for independence. On the other hand, the Congress, true to its form, questioned the personalities chosen by the Modi government and batted for Kanshi Ram and Syed Ahmed Khan. It seemed that ahead of the state Assembly polls, the Congress was keen to up the ante against the NDA government, implying that the latter is anti-religious minorities and Dalits. After Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi questioned the Modi government’s move, the party decided to take the issue up in the Parliament. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari sought that others including Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Lala Lajpat Rai also be considered for the Bharat Ratna.

“If government going the historical route on Bharat Ratnas it should also consider the names of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukdev, Lala Lajpat Rai…,” he wrote on Twitter. Tewari also suggested names of founders of the INA Rash Behari Bose, Gen Mohan Singh, Annie Besant & AO Hume and Gopal Krishna Gokhale in his tweet. Sugato Bose, a Trinamool MP, a party which is neither an ally of the Congress or of the BJP, sought to criticise the decisions of both parties accusing them of using personalities like Gandhi and Bose to further their own petty interests.

A report published in 1997 in The Indian Express said, “The declaration by a Division Bench comprising Justice Sujatha V Manohar and Justice G B Pattanaik came after the Union government stated on affidavit that in deference to the sentiments expressed by the public and members of the family of Netaji, the government, and on how their individual decisions left an impact on each other, drifting away and yet remaining parallel.”

When talking of Nehru and Bose in the context of India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi’s name cannot be missed out. Thus, the book sums up the biography of not two but three towering figures of the freedom movement.

“People, particularly the Bengali community, think that Nehru and Bose are arch rivals. But that is not true. There were things beyond the bitterness,” Mukherjee said. For instance, the letters between them clearly indicated closeness from Bose’s part. “They were extremely fond of each other. But Nehru never supported fascism which was favoured by Bose. Nehru could not accept of Bose joining hands with Hitler. And there the line was drawn,” said Mukherjee.

But putting the relatives of Subhas Chandra Bose under close surveillance for two decades, most of which was during Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure as Prime Minister, according to archival material, is seemingly inexplicable. The Intelligence Bureau files declassified recently said Bose’s close relatives, including his two nephews, Sisir Kumar Bose and Amiya Nath Bose, sons of his brother Sarat Chandra Bose, were spied upon for 20 years between 1948 and 1968. Nehru was Prime Minister for 16 of these 20 years. The files, now with the National Archives, said the Bose family homes at 1, Woodburn Park and 38/2 Elgin Road, were kept under surveillance. Bose’s family reacted to reports with “shock” and said it was a “poor reflection” on the quality of democracy at that time. “Yes, it is a poor reflection on the quality of India’s democracy in the first two decades that there was such invasion of privacy of freedom fighters. It is not just a family matter.”The most disgraceful aspect of this surveillance is that private letters between my father and his aunt (Netaji’s wife) were being opened and read and copied. It’s a matter of great disrespect to the freedom struggle and freedom fighters,” Sugata Bose, his grand nephew and TMC MP, who read the files and copied the relevant material, said.

“It’s shocking to the family members. Now we know that under instructions from Pandit Nehru the government kept surveillance,” said Chandra Kumar Bose, another grand nephew. The fact is that for Bengal and Bengalis, even those who are Marxists, Chandra is above the mundane and sacrosanct. This is why when reports came that the Modi government was thinking of honouring Netaji by according him Bharat Ratna, there was a bout of fresh controversy. Sugato Bose, TMC MP and grand nephew of the Netaji, said that leaders such as Subhas Chandra Bose should be kept out of the ambit of such awards. He said that crusaders such as Bose and Mahatma Gandhi shouldn’t be turned into pawns in a game of ‘partisan politics’.

The Hindustan Times quoted him as saying, “Keep Netaji out of partisan politics… How can Netaji be given Bharat Ratna after Rajiv Gandhi? Anyone with a sense of history will agree with me.” Now that’s raising another controversy. Many others might decline too. He also told PTI, “The best way to honour him is to declassify government files which can reveal the truth behind his disappearance.”

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