Ever since the Netaji files declassification issue rode back from oblivion to the front pages of newspapers, some detractors too started coming up with lazy theorems suggesting why Netaji has been a no issue. The latest of the lot is writer Aakar Patel who thinks Netaji's efforts were insignificant in our freedom struggle. He says the man spent too much time posing himself as a military leader and spent significant time checking his troops and giving radio broadcasts than doing other greater things.
Patel mocks the efforts of the Indian National Army (INA) in the north-east and thinks they were ordinary. I believe Patel wanted Netaji to go all the way to the Red Fort and plant the Azad Hind Fauj's flag, to acknowledge his efforts. A quick search on the internet gave me some of the same paragraphs Patel wrote as many as five years ago, making the new attack blunt and nothing more than a rehash of his own past work. And, a little more Wikipedia material to back it up, of course.
What Patel did not see in the last few years might give him a shock. Experts at the National Army Museum in London selected the Battles of Imphal and Kohima as the greatest Britain has ever fought. History has it that Netaji's Azad Hind Fauj was a party in the battle. Alas, the museum did not have the time to arrive at a considerate view by seeking Patel's opinion too.
Patel quotes text from Nirad C Chaudhuri's book to say that Netaji was an attention-seeker and that play-acting of soldier-soldier was his model of militarism. Netaji marked an even more flamboyant entry at the 1938 Haripura session of the Congress. The US edition of Time magazine of March 7, 1938 gave Netaji's image on the cover and described him in the cover story "Chariot of Freedom" as "Among the slick, top handful of Congress politicians, most of them obviously enjoying the incense of power and prestige, Subhas Bose stands out." Did I mention that the Bose family suspects the hand of Chaudhuri in the arrest of Sarat Chandra Bose, Subhas's elder brother? Chaudhuri was secretary to Sarat until a day before Sarat's arrest, and then he was given a top position in All India Radio by the British.
And Patel very cleverly drags Adolf Hitler's camaraderie with Netaji into his claims and asks if Netaji is the same man who was enamoured by Hitler. Yes sir, he was the same man. Not just Hitler, the Italian chief Benito Mussolini had also helped him. Italian foreign minister and Mussolini's son-in-law Count Galeazzo Ciano wrote in his diary, "Mussolini allowed himself to be persuaded by the arguments produced by Bose to obtain a tripartite declaration in favour of Indian independence. He has telegraphed the Germans proposing - contrary to the Salzburg decisions - proceeding at once with the declaration." Netaji further won over Germany's foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, and at one point had support from Japan, Italy, and German foreign ministry in his effort to force Hitler into taking favourable decisions. And yes, he found time for all these diplomatic arrangements in his free time after the radio broadcasts and military checks!
What was the option Netaji was left with? A lame Congress that would just do lip service and call off movements with the same passion with which it started them? It is shameful to see people opposing Netaji for his association with another country in booting out the British forces from India. For god's sake, we were fighting for freedom from Britain and not Germany!
If that is not enough, take the case of Mahatma Gandhi who wrote to Hitler in December 1940, addressing him "DEAR FRIEND". He further explained that it was no formality to call him friend, but he meant it as he owned no foes. Despite his dislike for Hitler's politics, Gandhi wrote that he had intended to address a joint appeal to both Hitler and Signor Mussolini whom he had the "privilege of meeting" when he was in Rome. He concludes the letter reiterating that he was Hitler's friend. Come on Mr Patel, now do a round of Gandhi frying too!
Patel contradicts himself several times in his article and admits Netaji is a national hero and that his mother would tweak his ear if she read his column. True, a spoilt child is every parent's worry, Mr Patel.