|Prof Irfan Habib|
Veteran historian Prof S Irfan Habib has taken strong exception to what he calls efforts to drag into controversy one of India’s topmost nationalist icons – Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – by those who have little to with him – or with his "politics during the freedom struggle.”
In a strongly-worded critique in a well-known left-of-centre site, scroll.in, Prof Habib, who is among India’s top-ranking historians, says that Bose has been “invoked by the right-wing political groups during the past two years.”
Habib’s view comes even as a well-known right-wing site, swarjyamag.com, declared (click HERE) that Netaji considered Hinduism “as an essential part of Indianness”, insisting he was “thoroughly influenced” by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the founder of the concept of Hindutva.
Suggesting that Bose was not a Hindutva sympathizer, Prof Habib said, Bose, in fact, favoured a socialist India. Thus, the historian quotes Bose as saying, “I want a socialist Republic of India. I want political freedom and complete economic emancipation.”
Bose, Prof Habib adds, further noted in the Karachi session of the Congress in 1931, “Every human being must have the right to work and right of living wage. There shall be no drones in our society and no unearned incomes.”
Bose had continued, adds Prof Habib, that “there must be equal opportunities for all. Above all, there should be a fair, just and equitable distribution of wealth. For this purpose it may be necessary for the state to take over the control of the means of production and distribution of wealth.”
Prof Habib further quotes Bose as saying, “I want social equality for all. There should be no caste, no depressed classes. Every man will have the same rights and the same status in society.”
Suggesting all this showed where Bose’s sympathies lie, the historian further quotes Bose as saying that “there shall be no inequality between the sexes, either in social status or in the law, and women shall be, in every way equal partner of men.”
Regretting that such Netaji’s statements have “remained under wraps”, Prof Habib says, unfortunately, there has been an effort to create “a mystique around his disappearance” and generate “huge controversies.”
A Marxist historian, Prof Habib created flutter decades ago by differing from Karl Marx’s notion Asiatic of mode of production, according Asian, including Indian, societies, were characterized by absence of private ownership of land, autonomous village communities, and a despotic centralized state in charge of public works.
“The tragedy with the right is that its unique selling proposition in politics is nationalism, while its share in creating a plural nationalist ethos, particularly since 1925, is abysmally poor”, says Prof Habib, adding, “This leaves the right with no credible nationalist icon to look up to and their only option is to hang on to the most popular ones at the slightest opportunity.”
“These icons are conveniently reduced to being just nationalists and ‘martyrs’, with no reference to their ideas and politics so as to somehow fit them into the current right wing politics of nationalism and slogans”, he adds.
“Nationalism is not empty rhetoric – it can’t be flaunted by mere chest thumping or even by branding some fellow citizens as anti-nationals”, says Prof Habib, adding, Bose was a nationalist and “in the vanguard of our freedom struggle and not engaged in some apolitical and safe socio-religious reform programme.”