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Shyama Prasad Mukherjee 'ignored': Why India's rulers try to appropriate Netaji legacy

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

“Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose would have been truly proud of India and its military might”, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a programme organised to commemorate his 125th birth anniversary, which falls next year, 2022. But then the current regime is 'expert' in political profit and loss. Leaders acquire importance in accordance with their 'public image value'.
It is indeed ironic that the Hindu right is trying to grab the legacy of Netaji and his Azad Hind Fauj, whose composition reflects how he was proud of India's multicultural, multiethnic heritage. Yet, the right-wing is glorifying him without reading and understanding his work and ideas. This is how the Brahminical elite seeks to appropriate every icon, cleverly sidestepping progressive ideas.
The right-wing did it with Dr BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. But somehow they failed because the ideological legacy of both of them has been very powerful and fascinating to ignore. Those who know the real contribution of these leaders have successfully rebuffed government attempt to use their name for political end.
As for Netaji, historians feet a bit shy because of his association with the German and Japanese fascists. The fact is, Netaji’s efforts to mobilise support from Germany and Japan at that time was purely for the sake of liberating India, as he felt strongly about the British exploitation of India. His differences with the Congress leadership or even communist leader MN Roy became evident when he opposed their support for the war efforts against fascists, as he felt these parties and leaders were compromising.
However, Netaji’s book 'The Indian Struggle 1920-1934’ is a great representation of his ideas about India. In this book, he asked VD Savarkar and MA Jinnah to leave their political association with the British and instead join hand with him in the struggle for independent India. However, both refused.
Even when Netaji took support from the Japanese to liberate India to counter the British power, it is important to understand his idea about India. He genuinely felt that the Congress was not speaking about the honourable release of those Indians who were incarcerating in the jail for their act of 'militancy'.
Among them, he mentioned the heroic Garhwalis (of the Garhwal Rifles fame) who did not fire upon their own fellow countrymen simply because they happened to be Muslims. It is strange that the Congress leadership, including Gandhiji, refused to speak for them.
The most interesting part of Netaji's idea of India is his insistence that all privileges, distinctions and vested interests would need to be abolished to bring social, economic and political equality. He emphasised, a free India will not be a land of capitalists, landlords and castes. Free India will be social, economic and political democracy, he said. He also spoke about depressed classes and their representation.
Hindu right is trying to grab the legacy of Netaji and his Azad Hind Fauj, whose composition reflects how he was proud of India's multicultural, multiethnic heritage
Will today’s rulers read Netaji, especially his ideological leanings, and not worship his military uniform? The problem with them is that they are against socialism and equality, and worship 'weaponisation' and 'militarism'. How would Netaji be proud when people are being divided and segmented? How would he see a community being targeted just because of its identity? How would he feel farmers committing suicide and being termed as anti-national?
Azad Hind Radio reflected India's diversity. It used to broadcast its messages in Hindi, English, Bangla, Telugu, Tamil and Pashto. Will today’s rulers stop imposing Hindi and respect diversity of different languages of India?
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
It is amusing to see Hindutva votaries seeking to grab Netaji’s image in Bengal while completely ignoring Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, one of their top ideological mentors from Bengal. Let the BJP seek vote in the name of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in Bengal and find out how much support will they get. They must know: Netaji is an icon of inclusive India and one can’t use him for divisive ideas and actions.
Indeed, Netaji’s 'Jai Hind' was the salutation for an ideal, modern India which consists of all communities, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, others. Those who speak about unilateralism can’t claim the legacy of the man who was completely modern and felt India will only be strengthened by encouraging scientific thinking, fair representation of all, including peasants, depressed classes, trade unions etc.
Netaji favoured intellectual discourse. It is time one studies and disseminates his ideological legacy among common people to understand what kind of India he wanted. This is the only way one can counter those who are trying to use him for their ulterior motives.
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*Human rights defender

Comments

Anonymous said…
Election time in Bengal. You name it the BJP will say it as long as it helps them win elections.

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