Intro : Netaji, my heart got filled with emotions and anger when it came to light that government even spied on your family. I wonder, what can be a more disastrous dedication to someone who lived for the sole purpose of freedom.
I address this ‘Open Letter’ to you because I still don’t know whether you are living or dead. Have you been living, you would have celebrated your 118th birthday on January 23. Since we Indians are very pious about occasions, I wish by the time we celebrate your 125th birth anniversary, the world should know about your fate at its last. Nonetheless, a devout Hindu which you were, a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramhans and Swami Vivekananda which you were, I believe that soul is immortal and you listen to this.
The post-colonial history writing about you has committed a crime of highest order. It is unfortunate that one of the greatest sons of Bharat Mata finds merely one or two paragraphs in the school textbooks. The liberated spirit of this county, for which you sacrificed so much didn’t even care to unmask the mystery shrouding your survival or doom. I wonder why even your comrades many in number, whether the Congress volunteers, soldiers or party cadre, didn’t raise their voices to an audible range, for a justification about this disservice of history towards you? Why a party which you founded (Forward Bloc) is an ignorable minority in contemporary India? Why no significant textbook on modern Indian Political Thought name you along the lines of the ‘Makers of Modern India’? Why you don’t have a lineage of followers as Gandhi, Nehru or Ambedkar have? This all dooming pessimism gets an answer in many like me, who still carry a fire of an alternative nationalism—Motherland first. A nationalism, which doesn’t get a limited approach of violence/non-violence, caste/class, socialism/capitalism, but an approach where Motherland comes first, in whichever way. Netaji, your nationalism represented this idea of cultural amalgamation of religion and values of Indian tradition, which we follow today.
The question of you being almost absent from the textbooks, can be attributed to a specific history writing practise in this country. In post-colonial India, what a group can be termed as ‘Nehruvian Historians’ hegemonies the history writing practise. They sung only Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, except the Mahatma, whom they could not afford to ignore. The same fate was meted to your other comrades like Sardar Patel and others. Bhimrao Ambedkar was later somehow accepted, that too because of a strength of followers behind the man. The way everything commences and ends with a particular ‘Idea of India’, has been a great service being done to Jawaharlal Nehru, and an injustice done to many like you. Isn’t this ironical, that reports claiming your escape from that 1945 airplane crash were not accepted by a Parliament which you must have dreamt of? I wonder, if you would have been alive as some claim to witness this, what thoughts of despair would have crossed you?
Netaji, interestingly you must know that many who hegemonies the knowledge system in this country for so long claimed you as a ‘Fascist’. Imagine, the greatest son of his motherland being criticised as dictatorial, autocratic and authoritarian. Do you know why this happened? In Burma, when you exclaimed, “Give me blood, and I will give you freedom”, it represented an alternative towards freedom which your once hearty Congress claimed. You were so passionate to see the motherland free from the colonial rule that you didn’t bother for the methods and approach. I remember you once claiming, “Freedom is not given, it is taken.” The other allegation is that you became a partner with the devil itself. Many of them who have attempted to malign you claim that shaking hands with Adolf Hitler was a hint towards your Fascist temperament. They cannot understand that your devotedness in the service of India, found the ideological issues of little significance.
Nonetheless, again a government has risen which should and must uncover all the mysteries of the past about you. And this must be done one day, for Mother India still awaits her most loving son to be embraced in her glorious history.
BA (Hons.) History,
Banaras Hindu University)