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Bengal: Bhagwat’s Call to Emulate Netaji is a Bid to ‘Appropriate’ his Legacy, Say Critics

Bose never subscribed to all-consuming Hindutva ideology, was an ‘out and out secular’ person, say academics, flaying RSS chief’s address on Netaji’s birth anniversary.
Neta Ji

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Kolkata: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat recently said that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s dream of making India great is still “incomplete” and that “we all have to work to fulfil it”, raising the ire of several experts who said this was nothing but an attempt by RSS to “appropriate” Netaji’s legacy.

The RSS chief was speaking at an event in Kolkata at Shahid Minar Maidan  on the occasion of Parakram Diwas, marking the 126th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. It may be  recalled that while Leftists, including Netaji ‘s own party – Forward Bloc, observe the day as Deshprem Diwas  (Patriotism Day) the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government observes the day as Parakram Diwas (Day of Courage).

Bhagwat also said that the entire world was looking up to India for providing leadership and that “we have to lead by example”.

Talking to Newsclick, Soumya Basu, an independent researcher and author of a couple of books on Netaji and on Sangh Parivar, criticised the RSS’s attempt to “appropriate” Netaji’s legacy and highlighted that that after his expulsion from Indian National Congress, Bose had tried to build an alternative platform against imperialism consisting of non-Congress parties. He met Jinnah, Savarkar, Ambedkar, Justice Party among others and urged them to join the platform.

Basu said Bose organised an anti-compromise conference in Ramgarh and as a prelude to that, he met these leaders. It is also known that Netaji sent Tralikyo Maharaj of Anushilan Samity as his emissary to Savarkar, and later in his visit to Pune, he also he met with Hedgewar who was RSS sarsanghchalak at that time, according to Basu.

However, the fact remains that not once did these parties side with Netaji’s principles but accepted his proposal of a possible anti-imperialism front, said Basu, adding that this was the only connection with RSS that Netaji had.

Basu said there was one leader named Senapati Bapat, who was with Congress and Hindu Mahasabha at the same time, who used to be Bose’s contact in Maharashtra. However, Netaji soon understood that these parties would neither side with him nor was any mass movement possible without Gandhi.

“Just having a discussion with them does not mean that both these sides have ideological assimilation. All he tried was to set up an anti imperialism front, which he did not succeed in,” said Basu.

“Even before his (Bose) great escape to foreign shores after his house arrest, he had appealed to Gandhiji to give an anti-imperialism call based on which all the forces of Indian freedom struggle could work together to realise the goal of freedom....Bose’s idea of a pan-India platform was markedly different with that of RSS, which is making an attempt to appropriate his legacy. The communal attitude of RSS is a thing that Netaji despised and he never subscribed to all-consuming Hindutva ideology. Like Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru, his vision of India was of a huge race formed out of the joint formation of different races. In the Indian National Army, he did the same thing. Though in his personal life he adhered to religion, in public life he was against any religion,” said Basu.

Basu has authored two books in Bengali -- The Controversial Patriot (on Subhas Chandra Bose) and another book on The Chronological History of Hindu Mahasabha in the Pre-independence Period -- published by Bookpost Publications.

NewsClick also spoke with Shouvik Mukhopadhya, professor of history, Calcutta University, who said that the attempt to “appropriate Netaji by RSS is a hilarious” as there are instances of RSS and Netaji’s supporters being at loggerheads and vandalising each other’s meetings.

“RSS is trying to appropriate Netaji. His daughter had recently said that her father did not comprehend taking a single step together with the Hindu Right... he was specially at loggerheads with Shyamaprasad Mukherjee of the Hindu Mahasabha (who later went on form Janasangh , the precursor to BJP),” he added.

Noted historian Susanta Das told NewsClick that RSS was trying to “appropriate two Bengali icons -- Swami Vivekananda and  Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose-- based on mythical lies. This is a lie and a jumla, and is being exposed in various newspapers also,” he said.

On Bhagwat’s claim of building the nation on the path of Netaji, Das said if one tries nation-building on Netaji ‘s path then one has to make the dreams of the youth of the country a reality....where now crores of youths are unemployed.”

If Netaji’s dream is to be materialised then unity amongst diversity, Hindu- Muslim unity and an anti-casteist society has to be created, he said, adding that the current rulers of the country “are leading attacks on  dalits and tribal people. Even food habits of the common people of the country are being scrutinised by RSS-influenced men and they are also scrutinising which type of meat the common people are storing in their refrigerators.”

Anjan Bera, professor at Calcutta University, said that “the foundation of RSS politics is a distortion of Indian history...Subhas Chandra Bose was out and out a secular person and his dream of India was also of secular nature. They are lying. Bose’s politics was an example of inclusive nationalism for secularism and against casteist policies, on which RSS has a strong note of dissent. He was for democracy, for secular  principles, which were later enshrined in India’s Constitution,” Bera said.

“The RSS is antithetical and are demeaning renowned historians of the country. Not single iconic figure of India ‘s freedom struggle is from the RSS or were Hindu fundamentalists ....The RSS ploy of appropriating Netaji   must be opposed by all sections of the society. They do not adhere to constitutional values, and are totally against constitutional spirit...”, he added.

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