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Sunday Sentiments


    Posted On January 30, 2022

    By Karan Thapar

    Now that Subhash Chandra Bose’s statue stands under a canopy originally intended for a King Emperor – an ironic twist of fate, if ever there was one – let’s reflect on some of the things Netaji said and did. There’s a lesson here for the men who rule us although I doubt they’ll heed it. But it could be revealing for everyone else.


    Perhaps you know the popular military greeting ‘Jai Hind’ is taken from the Indian National Army but are you aware the INA’s insignia, worn on every epaulette, was Tipu Sultan’s springing tiger? Its motto was three Urdu words - ittehad, itmad aur qurbani (unity, trust and sacrifice). Of its four brigades, three were named after Gandhi, Nehru and Maulana Azad. So, I doubt if Netaji would have changed the names of Allahabad and Mughalsarai.


    Let’s now turn to Netaji’s view of our history. He certainly didn’t see it in terms of ‘barah sau saal ki ghulami’ (1200 years of slavery). In his book ‘An Indian Pilgrim’ he writes: “History will bear me out when I say that it is a misnomer to talk of Muslim rule when describing the political order in India prior to the advent of the British. Whether we talk of the Mughal Emperors at Delhi or of the Muslim Kings of Bengal, we shall find that in either case the administration was run by Hindus and Muslims together, many of the prominent Cabinet Ministers and Generals being Hindus. Further, the consolidation of the Mughal Empire in India was affected with the help of Hindu commanders-in-chief. The Commander-in-chief of Nawab Sirajudowla, whom the British fought at Plassey in 1757 and defeated, was a Hindu.”


    Now, Netaji died nearly 80 years ago but his thoughts and actions have great relevance for the country we’ve become and the way we’re governed. Let me cite two examples.


    In 1938, when he was President of the Congress Party, Netaji established the ‘Planning Committee’. He appointed Jawaharlal Nehru as its chairman. After independence, Nehru converted the Planning Committee into the Planning Commission. This bit of Netaji’s legacy continued till 2015, when it was replaced by the Niti Aayog.


    More important is how Netaji viewed the mosaic of multiple faiths that combine to create the Indian nation. “The government of India should have an absolutely neutral and impartial attitude towards all religions”, he wrote in ‘The Indian Struggle’. “Religious fanaticism is the greatest thorn in the path of cultural intimacy … and there is no better remedy for fanaticism then secular and scientific education.”


    This means it’s hard to believe Netaji would have claimed the fact Karna was born from Kunti’s ear is proof genetic science was known at the time or that Ganesh’s elephant head is evidence there were plastic surgeons in those days.


    If he was prime minister, how would Netaji have responded to the bloodcurdling calls for muslim genocide made at a Dharam Sansad last month? Would he have stayed silent? Or would he have stood by what he said on 14th June 1938 in Comilla? “Communalism has raised its ugly head in an all-out nakedness … we hear voices of Hindu Raj in India owing to a majority of Hindu population. These are useless thoughts. Do the communal organizations solve any of the problems confronted by the working class? Do any such organizations have any answer to unemployment and poverty?”


    Finally – because yesterday’s Beating Retreat was the first without Abide With Me – how would Netaji have viewed this decision? The answer is surely imbedded in the fact Netaji was the first to call Gandhi ‘Father of the Nation’. I don’t know how he viewed Christian hymns or whether he liked Monk’s haunting melody – although I’d be very surprised if the answer is in the negative – but I’m confident he would have retained Gandhi’s beloved choice.


    So, as he looks down Rajpath towards the seat of the Modi government, I’d like to believe there is a wry smile on Netaji’s face!

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