Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Subhas Chandra Bose: A hero forgotten by the nation

Netaji and his INA played a crucial role in the British decision to
quit India, says Sujit Sankar Chattopadhyay...

It is well known that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose did not get a good
till recently from any of the important political parties in his time.
The Congress naturally disapproved of his open defiance of MK Gandhi
the Tripuri election; the Communists were hardly expected to praise
anyone who sought the aid of Axis powers for attaining India's freedom
through military operations. (They have since revised their opinion,
though.) There was a tendency even among the general readers of
to brush aside his military adventure as a romantic exercise in

The only piece of documentary evidence which seems to
highlight the importance of Bose's military operation with the help of
the Japanese Army comes from a letter written by PB Chuckraborty, the
then Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, who had met Clement
Attlee at a tea party in 1956 in Kolkata when the latter had visited
India and asked him about the role of Bose and his INA in the transfer
of power.

The following is an extract from his letter to a
friend dated March 30, 1976 (as reported in a blog, Friends of India,
on August 13, 2007):

"When I was acting as Governor of West
Bengal in 1956, Lord Clement Attlee who as the British Prime Minister
in post-War years was responsible for India's freedom, visited India
and stayed in Raj Bhavan, Calcutta, for two days and I put it straight
to him like this: 'The Quit India Movement of Gandhi practically died
out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at
that time, which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a
hurry. Why then did they do so?'

"In reply, Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which
were the INA activities of Netaji
Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British
Empire in India, and the RIN mutiny which made the British realise
the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the
British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to
quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's 1942 movement, Attlee's
lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, 'Minimal'."

For a long time this was the sole evidence of the most important
decision-maker in the transfer of power about the important role
by Bose. I want to draw the attention of the readers of The Pioneer
to circumstantial evidence in support of this document which was
furnished by the eminent historian, Prof Barun De, in an article
published in The Telegraph, Kolkata. I met Prof De on January
18 and again he confirmed the incident, although he could not recount
the exact date. The incident is as follows:

One morning, while studying at Oxford University, Prof De and his
friend Kamal Hasan had
gone for breakfast at Nuffield Hall where they chanced upon old Earl
Attlee. Prof De and his friend went up to him, introduced themselves
and put the question raised in the letter of PB Chuckraborty, about
crucial role of Bose and his INA in hastening the independence of
by completely shaking the confidence of the British Government in the
loyalty of Indian troops. Attlee confirmed the statement he had
purportedly made earlier and also his assessment of the relatively
unimportant role of Gandhi's movement on the transfer of power.

Prof De's brief article in The Telegraph is very important because
this is a confirmation in writing by a
leading historian of the Left about the assessment of the then British
Prime Minister on the role of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the
national hero whose birth anniversary is observed on January 23, in
hastening India's independence.

-- The writer is a former Secretary to the Government of India.

No comments: