Excuse me, but Netaji was never ‘right’!

Modi government’s attempts to appropriate his legacy will have to contend with the great freedom fighter’s views against right-wing politics

pankaj-srivastava

Pankaj Srivastava | February 22, 2016 | New Delhi


#Subhash Chandra Bose   #Netaji Files  


On the occasion of Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary, January 23, the Modi government de-classified 100 files relating to the great freedom fighter. Two days later, his grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose joined the BJP at a rally in Howrah, in the presence of party president Amit Shah. Bose then said, “I believe that it is only the BJP that can realise the vision of Netaji, Swami Vivekananda and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee.” He also said, “The BJP believes in the ideology of Subhas Chandra Bose.”

These remarks can come handy for the BJP that has been trying to appropriate the legacy of Netaji. There are speculations that Bose may get the party ticket in the coming assembly elections in West Bengal as the BJP is keen to woo voters in the name of Netaji.
Bose has the right to choose his political stance but putting Netaji, Vivekananda and Mookerjee in the same bracket is a distortion of their contrasting visions for the country.

Mookerjee was the founding president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a political party launched by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the precursor to the BJP. Earlier, he served as president of the Hindu Mahasabha too.

Netaji, on the other hand, was a strong critic of the policies and ideology of the Hindu Mahasabha which, according to him, was a communal organisation.

He had written an editorial in his weekly Forward Bloc on May 4, 1940, titled ‘Congress and Communal Organisations’. He wrote, “There was a time, not long ago, when leaders of the Congress could be members of the communal organisations like Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League….But in recent times, circumstances have changed. These communal organisations have become more communal than before. As a reaction to this, Indian National Congress has put into its constitution a clause to the effect that no member of a communal organisation like the Hindu Mahasabha or the Muslim League can be a member of an elective committee of Congress.”

Subhas Chandra Bose was a true secular, impartial to all religions. According to him, “The government of free India must have an absolutely neutral and impartial attitude towards all religions and leave it to the choice of every individual to profess or follow a particular religion of his faith; religion is a private affair, it cannot be made an affair of the state.”

It is easy to understand how far Netaji was from the ideology of a Hindu Rashtra. Take this for an example: whereas Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar and former RSS chief MS Golwalkar were admirers of Manu Smriti, the Hindu code of law which bars equal rights to shudras and women, Netaji in his presidential address at the Maharashtra provincial conference held at Pune on May 3, 1928, said, “If you want to make India really great we must build up a political democracy on the pedestal of a democratic society. Privileges based on birth, caste or creed should go and equal opportunities should be thrown to all irrespective of caste, creed or religion.”

This difference in ideology is apparent on the economic front too. Netaji believed in socialism. In his presidential address at the Students Conference held at Lahore in October 1929, he elaborated his concept of freedom. He said, “This freedom implies not only emancipation from political bondage but also equal distribution of wealth, abolition of caste barriers and social inequalities and destruction of communalism and religious intolerance.” He wanted to reduce or minimise the privileges of landlords, capitalists and higher classes in society. “Free India will not be a land of capitalists, landlords and castes. Free India will be a social and political democracy.” But right-wingers never had any problem with capitalism. They were totally against to any idea of central planning. They enjoyed massive support from the royalty and landlords. At the time of zamindari abolition, Jan Sangh was more concerned about rehabilitation of zamindars.

Today, the RSS and the BJP are praising Netaji for his military endeavours to liberate India but their ideological ancestors had done totally the opposite: when Netaji was revamping the Azad Hind Fauj (or INA) in Japan and Gandhiji had given the ‘Quit India’ call, Hindu nationalists were hand in gloves with the British. Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership organised recruitment camps for the British armed forces. Savarkar noted, “Whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of war and this can only be done by intensifying the (British) government’s war efforts to defend India. Hindu Mahasabhaites must, therefore, rouse Hindus especially in the province of Bengal and Assam as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.”

The RSS had also distanced itself from the Quit India movement of 1942. Golwalkar himself admitted, “In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly.” History tells that the “routine work” of RSS was to widen the gap between the Hindus and the Muslims, and thus helping the British rulers as well as the
Muslim League achieve their goal.

To get political mileage, BJP is portraying Subhas Chandra Bose as Gandhi’s victim and Nehru’s rival, but in reality Netaji always had the highest regards for both of them. He indeed named two INA regiments after Gandhi and Nehru. It was Netaji who first gave Gandhi the epithet of ‘Rashtrapita’, or the father of the nation, in a radio address from Singapore in 1944. It was the same year when a member of Hindu Mahasabha, Nathu Ram Godse, made his first attempt to kill Gandhi. That year Godse was caught twice while trying to approach Gandhi with a dagger. His eventual success would have been the greatest sin in the eyes of Netaji. Subhas Chandra Bose could never have condoned the killers of his ‘Rashtrapita’, nor agreed to the politics of their successors.

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