There’s something incurably romantic about fighters pursuing a cause, even if the cause is a bit dubious. For example, the Spanish Civil War attracted idealistic Europeans, and they have been immortalized by Ernest Hemingway and the remarkable image of a dying soldier by photographer Robert Capa. More problematically, Che Guevara, with his signature beret and flowing locks, is an icon, although there is considerable debate about his extremism and legacy.
A visit to the Gadar Memorial in San Francisco, with its photos of glaring, long-dead men, leaves its mark on any Indian. The most heartbreaking, the most dashing, the most revered of all our fighters is undoubtedly Bhagat Singh, hanged at the age of 23 along with Rajguru and Sukhdev, although I find Kartar Singh Sarabha, of UC Berkeley and the Gadar Party, hanged at the age of 19, equally tragic.
Of all the major figures in India’s independence struggle, none captures the imagination as much as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose does, in his military uniform, with his Indian National Army that almost managed to free India from the British yoke, with Japanese help. In one of those sad, “if only…” scenarios, we imagine that that an INA, supported by the Japanese army, would have been a much better bet than the brutal British imperialists, and then the Nehruvians, although that is debatable.
What is not debatable is that Gandhi and Nehru and the Congress Party treated Bose shabbily, in effect exiling him and refusing to support his legitimate struggles, and in retrospect, erasing him from memory. So far as I know, there is not a single Indian institution of importance named after Bose (compared to literally thousands forced to bear Nehru dynasty names). This patriot, flawed though he may have been, was treated like something the cat dragged in: offensive, but necessary to deal with.
This itself is reason enough to support Bose. Beyond that, there is the very real possibility – some are now articulating it after decades of being too afraid to consider it – that, contrary to the mythology, it wasn’t Gandhi’s pacifism and satyagraha that persuaded the British to leave, but a combination of post-war penury, and the very real danger that there would be an armed insurrection that would put their lives, and their embedded ‘assets’ in positions of power, in serious jeopardy.
The fact that the INA managed to attract large numbers of Indians from Southeast Asia when Japan overran those territories, and that there was a naval mutiny in Mumbai, must have weighed on the British planners’ minds. The memory of the 1857 First War, in which the British took some serious casualties, as well as Chauri Chaura and other acts of violence, probably indicated that Indians were not always going to be meek and pacifist.
And anyway, it was clear that Britain was finished as a global power at the end of WW2: it was too puny, and too dependent on America. To give credit where it is due, Americans were not altogether enamored of the oppressed colonies the British maintained (although later they too decided they’d like to have colonies of their own, but I digress), and Roosevelt may have put some pressure on the British to depart.
How India would have turned out if we had Bose in an equal relationship with Gandhi and Nehru (and with the support of the Japanese) is a moot question. Growing up, perhaps because of Kerala’s leftist slant, it was generally accepted that Bose was a hero – I am not sure how it was for people growing up elsewhere in India. I had no idea of Bose’s political views, other than that I had heard vaguely about the All-India Forward Bloc, by then a spent force in Kerala.
Later, a friend’s father, a Bengali professor at IISc, gave me the monumental “Brothers against the Raj”, about Subhas Bose and his brother Sarat. I found the professor, and pretty much all other Bengalis I knew, to be staunch admirers of Netaji. But I must confess that I was unable to make much headway with the book, and returned it, half-read. I too was still very enamored of the dashing Bose, and there was the family story of the very distant relative Captain Lakshmi who was prominent in the INA.
It was only later that I began to realize that Bose was a leftist. Perhaps leftism was fashionable and even appeared plausible at that time. This sits awkwardly with suggestions that he found Swami Vivekananda and the Gita to be his inspiration: I suspect he was in fact an atheist. Bhagat Singh was a leftist too, though a problematic one: even though he was radical, he eschewed the violence and terrorism that today’s leftists espouse. Perhaps Bose too was leftist only in the sense of rejecting the dominant hegemonic imperialists of the day. But the Forward Bloc, true to his ideas so far as I can tell, was rendered impotent by more doctrinaire Communists, which may have been Bose’s fate as well.
The Bose family has also been noticeably dubious (excluding his German wife and daughter). There is one guy, a grand-nephew, I think, a professor somewhere in the US, who can be counted upon to support any anti-national project. Similarly, others in the family have been in the forefront of what I consider damaging attacks on India.
In keeping with general leftist principles, Bose was also an appeaser of Muslims. Perhaps it was inevitable given the demographics of united Bengal Province (which later hived off East Pakistan). Nevertheless, he exhibited the same unthinking preference for Muslim ideas that Nehru later because so infamous for: an example is the very name of the Indian National Army, as Azad Hind Fauj, all three Urdu words, when alternatives existed: Swatantra Bharata Sena, perhaps. Even ‘Jai Hind’, which he popularized, eclipses ‘Jai Bharat Mata’, which has existed for long. Another slogan, baffling to this Southerner, was ‘Ittefaq, Etemad, Qurbani’. No Sanskrit equivalents for Unity, Agreement, Sacrifice? I also read somewhere that Bose favored the use of Roman script rather than Devanagari for Hindi/Urdu.
So it is unclear if a Bose-run India would have been altogether different from the Nehruvian Stalinist state we have endured. The very flag of the Forward Bloc is telling: the usual hammer and sickle inn a corner, and a leaping Bengal tiger on a red background. Other than the tiger there’s nothing Indic about the whole thing, even after it has been demonstrated rather clearly that Communism is a cruel myth.
Why, then, is Bose interesting? To put it bluntly, to make Nehruvian Stalinists squirm. There is something very suspicious about the fact that the Bose stories never did add up. There is the letter that has surfaced that Nehru wrote to British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, calling Bose a “war criminal”. Several obviously fake versions, photoshopped, begun circulating suspiciously just when 100 files were declassified on January 23rd, and the sworn testimony of the stenographer who actually typed the letter was brought out. (Congress dirty tricks department up to its usual damage control?)
The impugned letter shows Nehru – as if we needed confirmation – to be an arrogant, self-important man. The unsaid sub-text is even more disturbing, because it suggests there was some sort of collusion between Nehru and the British. Many have had the unsettling realization that the British were happy to leave Nehru in charge of India – for they realized both that he thought of himself as a brown saheb, and that he could be manipulated to keep India enslaved. They must have felt vindicated when he rushed to the UN in 1948 instead of letting his troops push the tribal invaders out of Kashmir and relieve Gilgit-Baltistan that a low-level British officer had unilaterally and illegally gifted to Pakistan.
There must be more skeletons in the closet, as a detailed analysis by historians of the trove of papers will show. The story about Bose dying in a plane crash in Taiwan is almost certainly a fake, and it is likely that he ended his days in a Soviet gulag, as many have surmised. The treasure that he was carrying – a lot of money made up of small donations from millions of Indians – was grabbed by someone: Nehru, or the British, or the Soviets.
The fact that it has taken seventy years for the Bose papers to be released is almost certain proof that it has material that damages the Nehru dynasty. L K Advani said on the 23rd that when he was in charge, there was tremendous pressure (which he obviously succumbed to) to not publish these papers. Earlier, it was said that releasing these papers would damage relations with a friendly country. Now what could that country be: Britain (which doesn’t count any more), Russia (whom we can’t any more accuse of being the Soviets)? Or was it just an excuse?
For once, there is a genuine story in the headlines, that the MSM cannot ignore: the betrayal of Bose (See “UK’s secret talks imply Netaji survived crash”, The Pioneer, 24 Jan 2016). Whether this will have much of an impact in a discourse where #PathankotAttack and #MaldaRiots have vanished without trace in the wake of the (manufactured) outrage over Rohith Vemula is unclear. However, it does bring up some serious questions about the clay feet of Nehruvian idols, and about the extent to which they were complicit in the subsequent ruin of the country and its inability to follow the East Asians to prosperity, mostly because Nehruvians may have actively sabotaged India’s rise.
Yes, after all these years, Netaji matters, mostly as a symbol of how badly the country has treated its own, simply to ensure the rule of the Nehru dynasty, which the #deepstate is heavily invested in. It also shows you what happens to those who defy it: you are erased from history and liquidated. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had better beware.
1650 words, 24 January 2016