Remembering Netaji: How Nehru denied India her true freedom hero

The country's first PM ensured that Subhas Chandra Bose was buried in the pages of history.

 |  4-minute read |   22-01-2016
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History always leans towards the ruling class. It happened in the case of India too. When the Indian National Congress (INC) came to power in 1947 after Independence, the party distorted Indian history in its own way. And, the true national freedom hero Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was buried in the pages of history. India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had even tried his best to contain Netaji.

Many historians agree that Nehru's Congress and independent India had shown unpardonable ingratitude to the real hero of India's freedom.

Lt Manwati Arya from the Rani Jhansi regiment of the erstwhile INA candidly exposes many facts regarding the anti-Netaji policy of the Congress and Nehru in her 2010 book, Judgment, No Air crash, No Death. In the book, she says that Jawaharlal Nehru had given a cold response to the call for unearthing the truth about Netaji's death. He also explains that the Nehru government had adopted an anti-Netaji policy to steadily banish records of all contributions of Netaji and his struggle against the British.

Nehru's ploy

The first prime minister of India had tried to place a ban on the display of Netaji's portraits in public places, including offices and army mess halls. In a confidential memo, dated February 11, 1949, undersigned by Major General PN Khandoori, the government recommended: "The photos of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose be not displayed at prominent places, Unit Lines, Canteens, Quarter Guards, or Recreation Rooms."

In her book on Netaji, Lt. Manwati Arya says that during her talks in All India Radio (AIR), she was briefed by her programme producers, without fail, about the national policy against any reference to the INA, including the name of Netaji.

All these actions were expected from Nehru, a prime minister heavily favoured by the British. Nehru had succeeded in getting support for his anti-Netaji policies even from Netaji's comrades in INA, including Shah Nawaz Khan and SA Ayer. Many historians are of the opinion that INA comrades had betrayed Netaji for high-profile positions offered by Nehru in the then government. For the record, Shah Nawaz Khan was the chairman of the National Inquiry Committee (NIC) constituted by Nehru in 1956.

The national hero

Who is the foremost hero of India's freedom struggle? This question remains controversial. Many eminent historians had neglected the over-exaggerated projection of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as the father of modern India. Dr RC Majumdar in his book, History of the Freedom Movement in India (1948), put forward:

"The honour and esteem with which every Indian regarded the members of the INA, offered a striking contrast to the ill-concealed disgust and contempt for those sepoys (soldiers) who refused to join the INA and remained true to their so-called salt. The British came to realise that they were sitting on the brink of a volcano which may erupt at any moment. It is highly probable that this consideration played an important role in their final decision to quit India in 1947. So, the members of the INA did not die or suffer in vain, and their leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has secured a place of honour in the history of India's struggle for freedom."

In the same book, Majumdar bluntly states that "the contribution made by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose towards the achievement of freedom in 1947 was no less, and, perhaps, far more important than that of Mohandas Gandhi, and I hope true historians and all lovers of truth now accept this view."

From the horse's mouth

Clement Attlee was the prime minister of Britain when India got freedom in 1947. Obviously, his words on Netaji hold relevance and assume great significance in any context. Attlee had visited Kolkata when PB Chakraborti was the acting governor of West Bengal. The following are the words taken from Chakraborty's thanks note (dated March 30, 1976) for the publication of Dr RC Majumdar's book:

"I had then a long talk with Attlee about the real grounds for the voluntary withdrawal of the British from India. I put it straight to him like this: The Quit India Movement of Gandhiji practically died out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at that time which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a hurry. Why did you then do so? In response, Attlee had cited several reasons, the most important of which were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which had weakened the very foundations of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British government.

I also asked Attlee about the extent to which their decision to quit India was influenced by Gandhiji's activities. On hearing this, Attlee's lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered slowly, putting strong emphasis on each single letter: 'MI-NI-MAL'."

But distorted historical facts have been given the go by our history textbooks penned by pseudo-historians. It is high time we realised and recognised the great contributions of India's true, but forgotten hero, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose while building modern India.

(The article commemorates the 119th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on January 23.)


Dipin Damodharan Dipin Damodharan @dipinbharath

The writer is co-founder of EduQuest and Ex-Editorial Head, DC Media, DC Books.

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