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Re-establishing Subhash Babu

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Naresh Tanwar
Naresh Tanwar
Senior Research Fellow Banaras Hindu University

The Rise

Subhash Chandra Bose was one of the most famous freedom fighters. He was a national leader. Clement Attlee confessed in the British parliament that the popularity of Subhash Chandra Bose and his Azad Hind Fauj was one of the primary reasons behind their departure from India. Subash Chandra Bose qualified Indian Civil Service Exam (ICS), the most challenging exam of that time. Qualifying ICS ensured a handsome salary with a reputed position in the government and society. However, rather than going for civil services and serving Britishers, he preferred to serve the nation. The Indian National Congress (INC) was regarded as a torchbearer for the country’s independence. Therefore, he joined INC to accomplish his goal of fighting against the Britishers. Soon after joining INC, he became President of the All India Youth Congress. He also served as secretary of the Bengal State Congress, CEO of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Mayor of Calcutta, and rose to the position of General Secretary and then National President of Indian National Congress. Subhash Babu also worked as an editor for C.R. Das’s newspaper named Forward. Later, he launched his own newspaper called ‘Swaraj’ and authored many books. He was a great leader who gave the famous slogan ‘Jai Hind.’ His ability to lead earned him the title ‘Neta Ji

The Fear

Subhash Chandra Bose was a leader of limitless capabilities. The Britishers feared him the most; they knew he was not like the other congress members. His meeting with Benito Mussolini in Europe gave them nightmares. Neta Ji organised the Volunteer Corps with a complete military uniform and became its General Officer Commanding (GOC), which turned into a center point of discussion in the British press. Besides this, his close connections with Veer Savarkar were also a concern. Bose met Savarkar in Bombay to discuss the possibilities of cooperation between Hindu Mahasabha and Forward Bloc. Savarkar advised Subhash Babu to seek support from axis power and raise an army from the prisoners of war. Soon, it became a piece of news when the Times of India published an article about their meeting. This made Britishers keep a close watch on Subhash Babu. He was under surveillance for several days until he escaped to Germany through Afghanistan.

Not only did Britishers fear him, but a faction of Congress leaders were also afraid of his growing popularity. Bose was elected as president of INC in 1938. The situation became more serious when he got re-elected as president after defeating Gandhi Ji’s candidate in 1939. It was not the defeat of Pattabhi Sitaramayya, whom Gandhi Ji fielded against Subhash Babu, but was a defeat of Gandhi himself. Somewhere remotely, Gandhi was afraid of the growing popularity of Subash Babu and knew that he might lose control over Congress if Subhash Babu continued. Gandhi Ji enjoyed a commanding role in Congress, taking advantage of which he forced Subhash Babu to resign. After resigning from Congress, Neta Ji founded Forward Bloc. In answer to an American journalist, the paranoid Nehru said, “Subhas Bose formed the Forward Bloc to attack the Congress.”

Although Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru worked together for years, Bose gained more popularity than Nehru did. Subash Babu expected support from Nehru against the old guard. However, no help came in. The declassified file from the Shah Nawaz Committee shows the nephew of Subhash Babu, Dwijendra Nath Bose, claiming that Nehru “betrayed Netaji after having promised to help him after Netaji had resigned from the Congress Presidentship in 1939.” Nehru used to look at himself as a successor of Gandhi. There were already many differences between Gandhi and Bose for several reasons. Nehru never wanted to displease Gandhi. He started looking at Bose as a political rival. In 1939, Subhash Babu wrote to his nephew Amiya Nath Bose, “Nobody has done more harm to me than Jawaharlal Nehru.” No wonder what made him say that. Nehru was so afraid of Neta Ji that his family was kept under surveillance for almost two decades, even after his death. Maybe because he never believed in Subhash Babu’s death or knew that Neta Ji was alive and might come back to challenge him in the elections.

The Suppression

Bose propagated Purna Swaraj and the use of force to attain it, which was against Gandhi Ji’s theory of non-violence. Therefore, Mahatma Gandhi never paid attention to his words; no matter how bright and viable his ideas were, they were always suppressed. Subhash Babu called Gandhi “Father of the Nation” even though Gandhi shunted him out of Congress. On the contrary, Mahatma Gandhi called Bose a misguided patriot. Jawaharlal Nehru continued in a similar vein. In his testimony before the Shah Nawaz Committee, Dwijendra claimed that, for Nehru, Bose was misguided, misled, and wrong in his methods. Bose was always portrayed as a fascist only because he sought support from axis power and had different plans for the country’s independence. On fetching the help from axis power, Nehru was heard saying at a press conference in 1942 that “It is a slave’s sentiment, a slave’s way of thinking to imagine that to get rid of one person who is dominating us we can expect another person to help us and not dominate later. Free man ought not to think that way.” In other words, was he referring to Subhash Babu as a slave of the axis power?

The facts about Subhash Babu were consistently suppressed during the Nehruvian era. In fact, during the complete Congress era. Nehru government received several requests to declassify files of Neta Ji, but they were all rejected. Apart from hiding information, the Congress regime even destroyed several files pertaining to Subhash Babu. Chandra Kumar Bose, the grand nephew of Subhash Babu, made some serious revelations in this regard. He claimed that in 1999, Mukherjee Commission came across a few documents that revealed Indira Gandhi’s role in destroying four critical files of Neta Ji in 1972. What was there in those files? Why were they destroyed? Nobody knows, but definitely, there was something that was not good for Congress. Indira Gandhi decided not to bring Neta Ji’s mortal remains back to India from Japan. She also refused the help offered by Japan in 1967 to probe into the disappearance of Neta Ji. Thousand of Azad Hind Fauj soldiers got martyred, fighting Britishers in different parts of the country. However, no place was given to them in history books. Several requests of Subhash Babu’s relatives were also turned down. It is evident that in the last 70 years, the successive Congress regimes have deliberately suppressed and destroyed files on Netaji.

The Re-Establishment

Every government refused to declassify the files of Subhas Babu until 2014, when the Modi government scrapped the law and ordered to make them public. In 2015, the Modi government announced the declassification of Neta Ji’s files. One hundred files were already made public in January 2016; the remaining files came into the public domain by September end same year. In 2019 Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the Subhash Chandra Bose museum at Red Fort and instituted ‘Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar,’ the annual award in disaster management. Further, Prime Minister inaugurated the memorial dedicated to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and started Republic Day celebrations one day early. From renaming the three islands in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago,  residential hostels, and schools after Subhash Babu to declaring 23 January as Parakaram Diwas, the day of Valor, the present government took every possible action to re-establish the Subhash Babu.

Along with the central government, the BJP ruled states also took necessary steps to establish Subhash Babu. Karnataka government celebrated Parakaram Diwas in all schools and colleges across the state. Harayana Government named a park after Subhash Babu, displaying his life story. The Madhya Pradesh government opened a museum in Jabalpur prison dedicated to Neta Ji. Apart from BJP, the other sister organisations of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are also committed to re-establish Neta Ji. Bhartiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM), the organisation that works in the education field, has dedicated one full year to Subhash Babu. Events like painting competitions, quizzes, essays, debates on Subash Babu will be organised the whole year. It seems that the entire country is working to re-establish Subhash Babu.

The Republic Day Parade’s (CPWD) tableau depicted Subhash Babu and the Indian National Army warriors. A web series has already been launched on Neta Ji. A biography of Subhash Babu is yet to be launched. Publishers are thinking of reprinting books on Subhash Babu. Celebrities who used to distance themselves from speaking about freedom fighters have started wishing the country on their birth anniversaries. Subhash Babu is being re-established. Who will be the next?

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Naresh Tanwar
Naresh Tanwar
Senior Research Fellow Banaras Hindu University
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