When we talk about the freedom fighters of India, Netaji isn’t the first in our history lessons. This year his birthday was quite a silent day, given that it was the brave hero’s 120th birth anniversary. PM Modi marked the day with a gesture a bit more grand, when he declassified the papers related to Subhas Bose and made it available for public perusal.
But, in general, there is very little familiarity that most Indians have with the work of Netaji. Beyond his native, Bengal, his birth anniversary is celebrated little, marginally more is his role in India’s independence. In many ways, Netaji reminds me of the fictional Dark Knight of Gotham City!
Let’s First Talk About The White Knight
Much of Indian modern history is dedicated to the legacy of India’s white knight, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi propagated ‘Ramrajya’ – the sovereignty of the people, based on pure moral authority. This constituted the essence of brand Gandhi – a brand that was created with as much political mastery, as with nationalism.
Gandhi is often associated with the idea of non-violence. Gandhi adopted non-violence as a political measure, as against the better understood ‘armed nationalism’ of the day. He used it as a maneuver to augur goodwill, creating a populist impression, in India and the world. His Satyagraha politics was a master-stroke for Indian Independence movement and is often cited as the key reason for British withdrawal from the country.
Despite popular belief, Gandhi was hardly the sole force behind India’s freedom. The Second World War and Japan wrecked havoc on colonialism in India. And, that is where Netaji’s controversial efforts come in.
The Hero We Deserved But Didn’t Need
Netaji held a much more direct, martial stance towards India’s Independence movement. He was aggressive in his methods and his associations, drawing ire from the Gandhian faction. Gandhi forced the leader out of the Indian National Congress, despite the fact that Netaji was chosen President by popular voting. When the Brits declared war on India’s behalf, without consultation with INC, Netaji sought Gandhi’s support to lead a protest. Gandhi continued to disappoint the leader and turned him down.
What Bose did next, had not been tried by any nationalist in India till such date. He escaped house arrest in Calcutta and traveled to meet with enemies of the Brits, the Germans and eventually, the Japanese. In consultation with Japan, Bose set up the Indian National Army – a force that shook the foundation of the British in India. He marched on Delhi with a troop, that had the aegis of a provisional government. It was the fear of this invasion fueled by Japan, coupled with Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement, that forced the hands of the British government and led to their hasty (and poorly executed retreat) from the country.
Netaji led a difficult life in the shadows. He was hunted all his life, for he could take it. He hit at the Empire till it couldn’t take it anymore, without the blessing of the biggest political force in India. Even his demise is shrouded in mystery. The man literally disappeared into the night! Unfortunately, thanks to the rejection by the all-powerful Gandhi, his Herculean achievements get a little recognition. He is ‘not our hero; He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a Dark Knight!’
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