In a shocker, a prominent UK daily, ‘The Telegraph’, has delivered a massive insult to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose while reporting on the Indian government's move to rename three islands in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in his honour. The article, which is factually fatal, has gone to great lengths to sound as inflammatory as is feasible towards the revered freedom fighter, demonstrating once again the Britishers' inability to get over the Indian leader who played a historic role in bringing down the Empire.
The article, published on January 1, 2019, makes clear how even 75 years after Bose established the Azad Hind government, the colonizers’ bile, ridden with spreading canards, still erupts viciously against him.
In a report headlined "Indian PM strips islands of British colonial names - and renames them after freedom fighter", London-based 'The Telegraph' has taken no small amount of spinning fictions to buttress its account of the islands' renaming with what sounds like a theory wound to parrot an imaginative decades-long Hindutva conspiracy.
“Mr Bose, who was a radical Hindu nationalist, had raised a rebel army of Indian soldiers during WWII with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, to fight the British. His rag-tag Free India Army was defeated alongside the Japanese army advancing from Burma (Myanmar) into north eastern India and soon after Mr Bose died under mysterious circumstances, two years before Indian independence in 1947”, the article in the UK publication reads.
Standing as a lost colonially-minded antiquated editorial piece which is at best half-baked on facts, is bound to spark outrage across millions that revere Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
The article seems almost relentless to craft a particular narrative on Bose and almost incapable of coming to terms with the successful, surging, secular British-free India. In the article, the word Hindu appears eight times -- on three occasions it is followed by the word nationalist -- and the combined term 'Hindu nationalist' is used as the primary descriptor not just for the Narendra Modi-led government but also, glaringly, for Subhas Chandra Bose. Netaji Bose has been called a "radical Hindu nationalist", while his Azad Hind Fauj has been called "his rag-tag Free India Army".
In the article, the renaming of Indian islands from colonial symbols certainly has irked the British portal. “India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rechristened three of the country’s island territories named after colonial officials, as part of a campaign by his Hindu nationalist government to disassociate itself from two centuries of British rule”, it states.
What’s more, there's almost a celebration of the crushing of the 1857 mutiny which translates embarrassingly into a celebration of the trampling of the first soaring voice of a colonized people who came together to uprise against the tyrant imperialistic colonizer. By celebrating the 1857 mutiny as a crushing of the Indian people, the article seems to try and nullify the struggle, the passion, zest and patriotism that had bubbled and has always been celebrated within India as the first sign of breaking from the shackles of British rule.
“Adjoining Havelock Island, that honoured a former British army general who crushed the 1857 mutiny by Indian soldiers against British rule, has been renamed Swaraj or Independent Island.” the article reads.
While Bose is best known for his resolve to win freedom for India at any cost and led the Azad Hind Fauj that chose “Jai Hind” (Victory to India) as its slogan, his politics and political ideology too have always risen above the taint of communal colour. The UK portal The Telegraph and the author of the article must remind themselves of historical fact and there are plenty through the books and portals that record history.
They must remind themselves of the pillar of pledge of the Indian National Army which breathed the essence Indian secularism and took pride in India’s intricate diversities.
They must remind themselves that Netaji’s call for freedom had nothing to do with Hindu nationalism but in his own words “The struggle for independence had as its aim, the removal of the triple bondage of political, economic and social oppression.”
They must remind themselves that Netaji is the man who spoke resoundingly for progressive ideals and declared “Fanaticism is the greatest thorn in the path of cultural intimacy, and there is no better remedy for fanaticism than secular and scientific education”.
They must remind themselves that there are myriad published speeches and editorials in which Bose makes his disdain for religio-political organisations abundantly clear.
They must remind themselves that it was Bose who had repeatedly called out the Hindu Mahasabha for "deploying sanyasis and sanyasins with tridents in their hands to beg for votes". They must remind themselves that after calling for all Hindus to condemn this, Bose issued a call to "Banish these traitors from national life. Don't listen to them" at a public meeting in West Bengal in 1940.
What's more, it's not just in words that Bose has proven that he's as far from being a 'radicalised Hindu nationalist' that it's possible to be, he did so with his actions as well.
As CEO of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation in the 1920s he provided reservation for Muslims in jobs, and as president of the Congress he banned members of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League from also holding dual membership of the Congress elective committee.
They must remind themselves that, most tellingly, both the Azad Hind Fauj and the Azad Hind Government were secular almost by design.
The 1945-46 Red Fort trial of the Azad Hind Fauj's lieutenants -- Prem Kumar Sahgal (a Hindu), Shah Nawaz Khan (a Muslim) and Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (a Sikh) -- resulted in the coining of the slogan "Lal kile se aayee awaz, Sahgal-Dhillon-Shah Nawaz, teenon ki ho umar daraz". Meanwhile, his Azad Hind Government was the one that adapted Rabindranath Tagore's Bengali version of Jan Gan Man into Hindi and enshrined it as its national anthem, with a free and secular Government of India following suit years later.
Conclusive acknowledgement for Netaji's effectiveness in bringing people together irrespective of their caste, creed and race also comes from no less than Mahatma Gandhi himself, who said on record, "Even if INA failed in its immediate objective, it achieved a lot. The greatest among these was to gather together, under one banner, men from all religions and races of India and to infuse into them the spirit of solidarity and oneness to the utter exclusion of all communal or parochial sentiment. It is an example we should all emulate."
While the entire article has undertones of a kind of British colonial entitlement and antiquated onlooking of the India that shines secularly and robustly as one today, the words 'divine right' may also apply given the extent to which the author has gone to make it sound like religion was the key driver for the freedom movement-- an airbrushing convenient only to the colonizer (and their support club) that justified their wrongs.
Try as it may, however, the article manages to make no case for why the islands named after Britishers should not be renamed in an independent India. Why should there be an expectation for India to glorify their colonisers? As it states, the three erstwhile island names -- Ross (now Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep), Neil (now Shaheed Dweep) and Havelock (now Swaraj Dweep) -- represented a Colonial marine surveyor, a British Military officer of the East India Company, and the general who "crushed the 1857 mutiny by Indian soldiers against British Rule" respectively.
Mayhaps 'The Telegraph' is better off asking for these three undoubtedly eminent persons, in their own view, to be honoured at a location closer to their own country of origin, where they can be better appreciated. In the interim, there must be an apology to every Indian.