Saturday, August 20th, 2022 04:55:56

Rewriting history of Netaji?

Updated: January 31, 2022 4:10 pm

When the country is celebrating the 75th year of our Republic, one should consider whether sufficient honour has been given to those who have fought and laid down their lives for the freedom of the country. Do we always remember and honour our revolutionaries? It is definitely wrong to suggest that the independence has been won by peaceful means only, and those who have shed their blood have no contribution in it. It is equally wrong when some people try to project the pre eminence of one or two families in our freedom struggle to the exclusion of others. One cannot simply overlook that on the occasions of important national programmes the name of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is rarely mentioned. Any attempt to undermine the role of Bose in the struggle of our freedom would be tantamount to the denial of history.

However, this historical blunder is now being appropriated by the present day government. A statue of freedom icon Subhash Chandra Bose will be installed at India Gate in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared recently in his tweets. Until the statue is ready, a hologram of the Subhash Chandra Bose, or Netaji, was put up at the spot.


The Netaji statue will be 28 feet by 6 feet and will stand at the spot that once featured a statue of England’s King George V. That statue was removed and shifted in 1968. “At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate. This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him,” the Prime Minister said in tweets.

The life of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose as an uncompromising fighter for freedom of his country, as the leader of the Congress, as the Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army (I.N.A.) and the President of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, is not only full of colourful and outstanding events, but is also indicative of his idea of India after the independence. Jawaharlal Nehru may be considered as the architect of modern India but there is no denying the fact that Subhas Chandra Bose was well ahead of his contemporaries in his ideas of a modern India.

Nehru Vs Bose

The role of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in the freedom struggle of India is a well documented history. But there is no denying the fact that Jawaharlal Nehru always ran down Netaji, whatever may be his reasons. Here one should consider the fact that every idea of Nehru for national construction after Independence, be it economic planning or industrialisation, all was hugely indebted to Bose.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru always felt insecure from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. But Nehru, even after Independence carried misgivings about Netaji fearing that he might resurface in India and threaten his position. With this suspicion in mind Nehru as Prime Minister unleashed detectives and intelligence agency to keep a tab on family of Netaji. It was at Nehru behest that entire family of Netaji in Calcutta was kept under surveillance. Till 1968, four years after Nehru died in 1964, Netaji’s family was under watch. According to various files related to Netaji, declassified by the Union Home Ministry led by Rajnath Singh and placed in the National Archives, reveals independent India’s dirty state secret. For two decades, between 1948 and 1968, the government placed the Bose family members under intensive surveillance. Sleuths intercepted, read and recorded letters of the family of a freedom fighter who was Nehru’s political co-worker for 25 years. IB sleuths discreetly tailed family members as they travelled around India and abroad, recording in minute detail who they met and what they discussed. The surveillance was exactly as it would be today on a wanted terrorist’s family-rigorous, methodical yet unobtrusive.

A report in India Today, details the modus operandi of sleuths in following the family of Bose. It says “The IB seemed obsessed in knowing what the family was doing and who they were meeting. A series of handwritten messages show IB agents phoned in ‘Security Control’, as IB headquarters was called, to report on the family’s movements. But it was in the intercepted family mail that the IB relied on to know what the family was thinking. Netaji figured heavily in their correspondence. What else would the family discuss? The letters were mostly about mundane family matters. Netaji’s wife discusses their economic hardships, bringing up her daughter Anita and repairs at their flat in Vienna. The Boses in Kolkata sent them money to meet their expenses. The IB annotated and underlined parts of the letters that had names of people meeting Emilie Schenkl to show what they were interested in. An IB comment on a 1953 letter describes her as “the alleged wife of Sri Subhas Chandra Bose”.

Nehru’s fear of Bose was not far from reality. If indeed, Netaji would have been alive, he would be the first choice for the premiership of the country. His speeches at numerous students’ and youth conferences were full of inspiring words no doubt, but at the same time one could find in these speeches important and constructive suggestion on education, culture, science and on various programmes for social, economic and political reconstruction of the country. Bose’s Presidential Address at the 51st Session of the Congress at Haripura in 1938 is significant not only for his excellent analysis of national and international situation and for clarity of ideas about the road to freedom, but also for a number of constructive suggestions about some burning problems of the country. It is really surprising that 84 years ago he could give so much importance to family planning. In his address at the Haripura he said : “With regard to the long-period programme for a free India, the first problem to tackle is that of our increasing population. I do not desire to go into the theoretical question as to whether India is overpopulated or not. I simply want to point out that where poverty, starvation and disease are stalking the land, we cannot afford to have our population mounting up by thirty millions during a single decade…. It is not necessary at this stage to prescribe the methods that should be adopted to prevent a further increase in population, but I would urge that public attention be drawn to this question.”

While Nehru is considered as the proponent of economic planning, in reality Bose should be christened as the father of economic planning in India. Even though Sir M. Visheswarayya of Mysore was the first to write a book on economic planning, it was Bose, who in 1938 as the President of the Congress set up the National Planning Committee with Nehru as its Chairman. In setting up this Committee he was immensely influenced by the experience with economic planning in the Soviet Union. In Haripura Speech, Bose said :  ‘the State, on the advice of a Planning Commission, will have to adopt a comprehensive scheme for gradually socialising our entire agricultural and industrial system in the spheres of both production and distribution.” Bose as the President of the Congress convened meeting of the Congress Prime Ministers in Delhi in May 1938 and discussed with them the issue of national planning. Five months later conference of the Congress Industries Ministers was convened in Bombay, and from this conference Bose declared the formation of the National Planning Committee with Jawaharlal Nehru as its Chairman. This was the beginning of economic planning in India.

Nehru can be accredited with bringing industrialisation in the country, as he was at the helm, but Bose was always for industrialisation of the country. In reply to a question put by Dr. Meghnad Saha, the President of the Indian Science News Association of Calcutta at its third Annual Meeting, on 21 August 1938, as to the attitude of the Congress towards the problems of industrialisation, Subhas Chandra Bose said : “I must say that all Congressmen do not hold the same view on this question. Nevertheless, I may say without any exaggeration that the rising generation are in favour of industrialisation and for several reasons. First, industrialisation is necessary for solving the problem of unemployment. Though scientific agriculture will increase the production of land, if food is to be given to every man and woman, a good portion of the population will have to be transferred from land to industry. Secondly, the rising generation is now thinking in terms of socialism as the basis of national reconstruction, and socialism presupposes industrialisation. Thirdly industrialisation is necessary if we have to compete with foreign industries. Lastly, industrialisation is necessary for improving the standard of living of the people.”

Even the famous “Quit India movement” of Gandhi was the brainchild of Subhas Chandra Bose. According to Nirmal Bose, author of Subhash Chandra Bose and the Indian National Congress, published in Journal of Indian Political Science Association, “Immediately after his return from Europe in 1938, he started speaking that another world war would start soon in Europe and Britain would be involved in it. Bose suggested again and again that taking advantage of this situation, and also taking note of the feelings of the people of the country to fight for freedom, a call for the final struggle for total independence of the country be given. From the Jalpaiguri Session of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee in February, 1939, he suggested that an ultimatum of six months be given to the British Government, and, if after the expiry of this period the British Government did not leave India, the final struggle by the people of the country would start in all places. In his very short Presidential Address delivered at the Tripuri Session of the Congress, on 10 March 1939, he repeated it. He said : “I must give clear and unequivocal expression to what I have been feeling for some time past, namely that the time has come for us to raise the issue of Swaraj and submit our national demand to the British Government in the form of an ultimatum.” He continued, “In my opinion, therefore, we should submit our national demand to the British Government in the form of an ultimatum and give a certain time-limit; if no reply is received within this period or if an unsatisfactory reply is received, we should resort to such sanctions as we possess in order to enforce our national demand. The sanction that we possess today is mass civil disobedience or Satyagraha. And the British Government today are not in a position to face a major conflict like an all-India Satyagraha for a long period.” However, Bose’s suggestion was not approved by the majority of the delegates at Tripuri… Subhas Chandra Bose had to resign from Presidentship of the Congress and he was “virtually ousted” from it. He had to leave India in the early part of 1941, because he realised that he could not do much by remaining in the country. Though his I.N. A. could hoist the Tricolour on the soil of India in Manipur they had to retreat ultimately from the front. Bose could not be seen any more, after the so-called Taihoku air crash. But Bose was not defeated in his mission of life. He had really won. Because of the continuons efforts of Bose for the preparation of the struggle for freedom, the Congress could ultimately come to the path of struggle in 1942. The ‘Quit India, Resolution, passed by the A.I.C.C. at it’s session on 8th August 1942, in Bombay, under Gandhi’s direction, was nothing but the resolution of six months’ ultimatum passed at Jalpaiguri Session of the B.P.C.C. in February 1939 under the leadership of Bose, and proposal for the same made in his Tripuri Speech in the same year. The Quit India Resoulution was actually the vindication of the stand taken by Bose and his Forward Bloc. But by the time the ultimatum was given in 1942, it was too late. If Bose could not come out in open revolt in the late thirties and formed his Forward Bloc to carry on the uncompromising struggle for freedom, the Quit India Movement within the country and the I.N.A. outside could not, perhaps, take place, and the independence of the country could be further deferred.”

From the very beginning, Narendra Modi‘s government is putting emphasis on rechristening the efforts made by all the revolutionary freedom fighters in attaining the deeply loved independence of this country. Despite some people with vested interests linking these efforts as undermining the role of Gandhi and Nehru in freedom struggle, this is not the truth. This is an effort aimed at giving credence to all the other freedom fighters whose contribution and selfless sacrifice towards the golden aim of attaining the independence and were forgotten by the earlier governments. It is up to the reader now to ascertain who the true leader of the Indian freedom struggle in terms of ideas and dream of free India.



(Note:- this write up is hugely indebted to Nirmal Bose and the Journal of Indian Political Science Association and Select speeches of Subhash Chandra Bose)

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