‘This is the Time to Uphold Netaji’s Legacy of Equality and Unity’

The Wire India

In conversation with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grandnephew and biographer Sugata Bose.

In an interview to The Wire, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grandnephew and biographer has said Netaji would have been a sharp and outspoken critic of the Narendra Modi government’s treatment of Muslims. Professor Sugata Bose pointedly added, “If Netaji had been alive no one would have dared to issue calls for genocide.”

Bose, who is the Gardiner Professor of History at Harvard University and chairperson of the Netaji Research Bureau in Calcutta, said Netaji “deeply trusted members of the religious minorities”, adding that “Netaji gave disproportionate or weighted representation to religious minorities”.

According to Bose, who served as a Trinamool Lok Sabha MP from 2014 to 2019, Netaji in 1940, seven years before Mahatma Gandhi, met Muhammad Ali Jinnah and asked him to join the Congress, adding that if he did so, Jinnah would be the first prime minister of independent India. Gandhi made a similar suggestion to the last British Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, in 1947. Bose says Netaji has written about this in his book The Indian Struggle.

Speaking about the Christian hymn ‘Abide with Me’, which has been dropped from Saturday’s Beating Retreat after being one of the most memorable tunes played for 72 years, Bose said of Netaji: “Bose loved Abide with Me”. He recounted how “tears would flow down Netaji’s cheeks” when Dilip Kumar Roy sang ‘Abide with Me’ in Calcutta.

Bose made it clear that Netaji would not agree with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s view that the Sultanate and Mughal period of India’s history represent “barah sau saal ki ghulami (1,200 years of slavery)”. He said Netaji believed it was “a misnomer” to consider this as Muslim rule. Hindus and Muslims together ruled the country and Netaji had written in his book An Indian Pilgrim that “many of the prominent cabinet ministers and generals” were Hindu.

Netaji would never have distanced himself from or disrespected Urdu, Bose added. The motto he chose for his INA were three Urdu words – “ittehad, itmad aur qurbani”. Bose said Netaji deliberately chose Hindustani as the language of the INA “with lots of Urdu words”. He also deliberately chose the Roman script so that non-Hindi and non-Urdu speakers would find it easy to read.

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