Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose displaces Mahatma Gandhi as the Father of India’s Independence struggle
Posted on January 25th, 2022

by Senaka Weeraratna

January 25 is India’s Republic Day. It will be celebrated on a grand scale this year as usual but with a marked twist. The Govt. of India will formally salute Netaji Subash Chandra Bose as the father of India’s freedom struggle displacing Mahatma Gandhi from a pedestal that many thought was unassailable.

Its plans to elevate Subhas Chandra Bose above all other Indian freedom fighters include:  

1)     Commencement of the Republic Day celebrations from January 23 so as to include Bose’s birthday anniversary, which has been declared as ‘Parakram Diwas’ (day of valour) by the Central Govt. to inspire people, especially the youth, to act with fortitude in the face of adversity as Netaji did, and to infuse in them a spirit of patriotic fervour, and

2)     The construction of a grand statue of Netaji made of granite which will be installed soon at the India Gate in New Delhi. Until such time this is done Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unveiled a hologram statue of Bose on January 23. The statue is titled ‘  Liberator of India’ 

Modi said that the freedom struggle had involved the sacrifice of lakhs of people, but after Independence, there was an attempt to erase their contribution. Today, he said, the country was taking steps to correct those mistakes. He cited his government’s decisions, including observing Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas in honour of tribal freedom fighter Bhagwan Birsa Munda, constructing the Statue of Unity in honour of Sardar Patel, and naming an island in the Andamans after Netaji, as steps in that direction.

These moves represent a historic shift towards changing the grand narrative of India’s liberation from British occupation. The colonial hangover of not saying anything to displease the former masters i.e., British Raj, now appears to be a thing of the past.

The highly publicized narrative that Mahatma Gandhi using ‘Ahimsa’ and ‘non- violence’ in his civil disobedience campaigns won freedom for India has been discarded.

It was a big myth propagated by the British and empire loyalists in India.  Gandhi’s ‘Quit India’ Satyagraha campaign launched in 1942 fizzled out with no effect on the colonial Govt. They saw no threat to their colonial rule from Gandhi and the Indian Congress.

Here is a comment on social media:

when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took over as the President of the Congress in 1920 he started a tamasha called the non-violent movement. He would call fasts and he would call off fasts at his whim. This tamasha started to suit the British well and they ruled without any difficulty for 27 years thereafter and would have ruled for another 27 years but for Hitler and WW II. This is what Dr. B R Ambedkar thought about the non’- violent movement ——-

“….. courting prison has become an act of martyrdom in India. It is regarded as both patriotic and also as an act of courage……. prison life today has lost all its terrors. It has become a mere matter of detention. Political prisoners are no longer treated as criminals. They are placed in a separate class. There are no hardships to suffer, there is no reputation to lose and there is no privation to undergo. It calls for no courage. ” ( Source speech delivered at the 101st Birth Anniversary celebrations of Ranade at the Gokhale memorial Hall, Pune 1943 ). I wish to point out to the readers that the tamasha called the non-violent movement suited the British so well that in later years the movement leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, etc., used to be detained at the AGA Khan Palace — yes palace”

Mutiny

It was the threat of a Mutiny from the British Indian Army soldiers, Navy, and Air Force that finally convinced the Labour Govt. of Clement Atlee to quit India. A repeat of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 in 1946 may have ended in the probable slaughter of 30, 000 British soldiers then resident in India by more than 2, 500, 000 well – trained Indian soldiers who had been discharged (demobbed) and returned to India.

The credit given to Gandhi for liberating India has now collapsed. There was no push factor in his campaign. When Clement Atlee, former British Prime Minister, on a visit to India in 1956, was asked by the acting Governor General of Bengal, Chakraborty, whether Gandhi and his non – violent movement had an impact on the British Govt. decision to quit India, Atlee replied by saying ‘ M I N I M A L ‘.

The rest of Asia fought. Japan in particular had a battle plan to liberate India. (‘Japan’s Master Plan for Victory: What could have been’ by Moteki Hiromichi – Tokyo: 2018). Western colonialism in Asia was ultimately defeated by force of arms on the part of the people of Asia. The Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesians, Burmese, Indians, Philippines, have all successfully fought the West, resisted foreign occupation, and finally won.   The exit of the West from the East after nearly 500 years of military adventurism and hegemonic rule is one of the defining landmarks of the 20th century.

It must be admitted however that Netaji received help from both Germany and Japan to wage war against the British then in occupation of India.  

An interesting question is:

 If Adolf Hitler did not supply a German Submarine to carry Netaji Subash Chandra Bose out of Germany and to rendezvous with a Japanese Submarine I 29 off the shores of Madagascar, which would then, in turn, carry him to Penang and later Japan, how would his life story have unfolded then? The level of support rendered by both Germany and Japan to Netaji to raise the Indian Legion in Germany, and the Indian National Army in Singapore, was quintessential to enable Netaji to play the role that he did eventually. Trying to be politically correct should not lead to sidelining or suppressing important facts from the narrative.

Sri Lanka’s Independence

Sri Lanka’s independence was tied to India gaining independence. If India did not gain independence on August 15, 1947, neither Burma nor Ceylon would have been granted independence on January 04, 1948, or February 04, 1948, respectively. When Britain lost the jewel in its Crown i.e., India, it decided to vacate South Asia altogether.

We need to revise the narrative on how Sri Lanka achieved independence. We got independence on a platter without a single fight or blood letting because much of the fighting and blood sacrifices were made by freedom fighters of other Asian countries led by Japan in the second world war (WW2).

 Furthermore, Britain was heavily weakened economically and militarily by the war against Germany and was in no mood to fight more wars.

Senaka Weeraratna

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