Saturday, January 21, 2012


Imagine if the troops of Azad Hind Fauj had marched into Delhi  after running over the Anglo-American forces at Imphal and Kohima in 1945. Imagine if Subhas Chandra Bose, dressed in khaki, wearing round-rimmed glasses and a baton in hand, had reached Delhi as the head of the "Provisional Government of India  " to unfurl the tricolour at Red Fort. Imagine if Netaji had become the first Prime Minister of India.
There were too many "ifs" in Bose's life. Probably that's why he still remains an enigma 66 years after his death in a plane crash. Or why India is still craving for a real leader. In the past six decades, numerous people have "seen" him: as Gumnami Baba on the ghats of Ayodhya; as an "unidentified man" who made a brief appearance at Mahatma Gandhi's funeral; and as a prisoner of war in a Russian gulag. Historians are yet to give a clear verdict on his politics. For the Indian right, Bose is just a nationalist military hero. The left hasn't made peace with him yet. And for the liberals, Bose is an untouchable for his dangerous liaisons with the Axis powers.
So, what was Bose like actually? In this brilliant biography of Netaji, Sugata Bose, professor of history at Harvard and grandnephew of the INA leader, puts all speculations to rest as he tracks the leader's life from his birth in Cuttack to death in Taiwan . The book, packed with interesting anecdotes about his struggles in India, love life in exile, proves beyond doubt that Bose was not an adventurer who jumped from one ideology to another in pursuit of personal glory. And it also dismisses all conspiracy theories about his "mysterious disappearance". But that's not the central idea of the book. It's a remarkable book because it shows Bose as a politician who had a plan — both for India's freedom as well as for the post-Independence scenario. And that's what led to his conflict with Gandhi and Congress ' rightwing represented by the likes of Vallabhbhai Patel and also with Nehru, who he considered his "elder brother". Bose collided with Gandhi because he thought the "premier nationalist party had no definite policy" and it "should depend, for its strength, influence and power on such movements as the labour movement, youth movement, peasant movement, women's movement, student's movement." For people like Patel, this was unacceptable.
In the Congress circle, Bose was closest to Nehru but didn't agree with him on everything as the two had very different world views. "Subhas's discovery of India, unlike that of his great contemporary Jawaharlal Nehru, occurred very early in his life, while he was still in his teens. It happened before rather than after (as in Nehru's case) a direct encounter with Europe , and was intimately connected with a spiritual quest," writes the Harvard professor who went through his grand uncle's letters and personal diaries to put together this book.
Nehru and Bose drifted further away from each other as the INA leader decided to take on the British with help from Hitler and Mussolini. For Nehru there was "no middle road between fascism and communism." For Bose, with Stalin's Soviet Union  in a peace pact with Nazi Germany, "fascism and communism were entwined in a cynical and awkward embrace." With the forces of imperialism and nationalism, fascism and communism arrayed against one another in Europe, Bose believed that India's destiny would unravel in conjunction with global conflict.
Bose never reached Delhi and Nehru became India's first Prime Minister amid the bloodbath of Partition. Bose wanted India to be a "federation of cultures " as he thought a federal state for India was better than a centralized state.
Under Nehru, India moved in a different direction. Many passionate admirers of Bose believe that had their leader been on the scene, India would have been a much better place. It is because of this craving that people keep "seeing" him here and there. "It is one those 'ifs' of history to which there can be no definitive answer," writes the historian. A biographer couldn't have said it in a better way.

No comments:

Post a Comment