The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with Arvind Kejriwal at its helm brings back the memories of the forgotten hero of India’s struggle for independence: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Netaji was uncompromising in his opposition to foreign rule and never in his illustrious career did he lose sight of that objective. Recently, I read ‘His Majesty’s Opponent’ written by Prof. Sugata Bose, a grand-nephew of the great leader. It brings out, in great detail, Netaji’s commitment to the country at the cost of everything else; family, wealth, health, prestige, position, honour, and many other things that most of us hold dear. The only two things he stuck to throughout his life were his love for the country and his belief in a life of the spirit.
Netaji’s INA performed incredible feats in the war against imperialism and although he accepted help from the Axis powers, he never subscribed to their philosophy of totalitarianism and fascism. Only the bigoted and the sycophants of the Nehru-Gandhi family would bring such a charge at his door.
The INA, formed in 1942 by Mohan Singh, after the British and the Commonwealth forces had lost Singapore to the Japanese; its flagging fortunes were revived by Netaji in 1943 when he declared that the army was his Arzi Hukumat-e-Azade-Hind (The Provisional Government of Free India). A number of Indian soldiers, who had fought for the British in the Burmese and south-East Asian theatre of war, had been taken as prisoners by the Imperial Japanese Army. Many of these POWs were willing to join the Azad Hind Fauj and fight the Commonwealth forces with the sole objective of bringing independence to India. It was for this reason that the Indian soldiers insisted that Netaji be appointed the Commander of the joint forces of the Japanese Army and the INA.
Bose’s daring escape from house arrest and subsequent travel in various disguises to Europe is legendary stuff. He managed to convince the Germans to help in the cause of Indian freedom from colonialism and was successful in forming the Free India Legion and to start the Azad Hind Radio. At no time was Bose prepared to exchange one master for another, and both the Japanese and the Germans knew that his commitment was only, and only, to make India free from colonial rule.
A true secularist, Bose had no time for any kind of fundamentalism, theocratic or autocratic. A Bengali by birth, he was not only a son of Bengal, but a true pan-Indian. His great intellect saw him pass the tough ICS examination in London with ease, but his integrity made him decline the fruits of wealth and prestige that the ICS brought in its wake. Plunging headlong into the struggle for independence he found that the Indian National Congress of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel had very different ideas about the struggle and the assumption of power once the goal was achieved. For Bose there was never any question of a sectarian vivisection of the sub-continent. He had never looked at Hindus and Muslims as two different nations. For him there was only one India and all its inhabitants were Indians. When the Azad Hind Fauj was taken over by him on 15th February, 1943, its command was given to Lt. Col. M. Z. Kiani. Lt. Col. Bhonsle was appointed as the Director of the Military Bureau, under whom served Lt. Col. Shahnawaz Khan as Chief of General Staff, Maj. P. K. Sehgal as Military Secretary, and Maj. Habibur Rehman as Commandant of the Officer’s Training School. The other commanders of the various regiments were Col. Inayat Kiani, Col. Gulzara Singh, Lt. Col. G. S. Dhillon, and Col. Abdul Tajik. The Rani of Jhansi regiment, consisting of female volunteers, was led by Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal, nee Swaminathan.
Netaji gave perhaps the most complete slogan to the INA: Itmad, Ittefaq, and Kurbani. These three Urdu words meaning Faith, Unity, and Sacrifice, combine all the ideals that a progressive movement should strive to achieve. The selection of Hindustani as the language of communication was a deliberate choice as it was the language of the masses and had been the court language during the pre-British period of Indian history. Maulana Hasrat Mohani’s phrase “Inquilab Zindabad” was adopted by him as a call to galvanize the masses in their march to freedom. Another slogan Jai Hind too was coined by him and it has now become the regular form of salutation in the Indian Armed forces.
Netaji’s death and the conspiracy theories surrounding the mystery of his disappearance have never been properly explained and the controversy kept alive for unknown reasons. RTI applications have been rejected on such spurious grounds that the information would jeopardize relations with foreign countries.
The enemy this time may not be an imperial external power, but the damage that 60 odd years of Congress rule at the centre has done, is perhaps much more harmful than the British did in 200 years. The Congress has systematically destroyed any sense of nationalism that the people had inherited at the time of independence, and created a nation divided along the narrowest possible bands. With the bifurcation of Andhra into Telengana and Seemandhra, the ball has yet again been set rolling for further vivisection, ostensibly in the name of governance, but actually fuelled by political ambitions of disgruntled regional rent-seekers. Today, every individual has become a nation demanding his pound of flesh from the mother.
Much like the Azad Hind Fauj, the Aam Aadmi Party has become a beacon, shining in the distance, carrying its promise of deliverance from the tyranny and misrule of the political system. But there will be many hard battles ahead before the soul of India can be freed from its long self-imprisonment. For a start, the Aam Aadmi party would do well to adopt Netaji’s slogan, Itmad, Ittefaq, and Kurbani, as the party’s motto. Using the aam aadmi’s language of communication is perhaps the most potent unifying force against the centripetal forces unleashed by short-term political vision of our present day netas. The mutual suspicion between different religions can be addressed without falling into the secularist’s pitfall of making religion the enemy of the nation.
To give shape to the future agenda of the AAP, I strongly recommend a reading of Subhas Chandra Bose’s writings because he has some brilliant ideas about the reconstruction of the nation after freedom. The AAP has to clearly spell out its political, social and economic agenda, and Bose can be of invaluable help in drafting the same. It is all right to say that there will be austerity in the lives of the leaders, no red beacons etc., etc., but the people want to know what the party is going to do to alleviate their misery and bring a semblance of law and order in their lives. One Jan Lokpal alone cannot make any significant difference. Corruption has spread its tentacles so deep and wide that to clean up the system would practically mean the disbandment of the entire administrative structure; something that is at once impractical and unthinkable. But the problem cannot be wished away by saying that it is intractable. Perhaps Bose has some insight on the subject.
For the sake of the country, I am optimistic that the hope that the people have invested in this party will be fully justified and the nation will redeem the pledge made on 15th August 1947, by the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, which has remained largely unfulfilled!
By Vijaya Dar
Image Source: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons