Mamata Banerjee and The Netaji Files: Populism and good politics

Like most of her actions, Mamata’s decision to release such voluminous documents, about one of India’s most popular icons in history, is unilateral.

Written by Subrata Nagchowdhury | Kolkata | Updated: October 7, 2016 5:04 pm
The Netaji files stacked at Writers’ Buildings. (Express Photo by: Subham Dutta) The Netaji files stacked at Writers’ Buildings. (Express Photo by: Subham Dutta)

The sudden decision of the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to declassify 64 ‘secret’ files in possession of the West Bengal Police and place them in the public domain from September 18, has surprised many. Come Friday, these files and documents, after being digitized, will be kept for public viewing at the Kolkata police museum. Obviously, it will take time before all the documents running into thousands of pages are fully digitized and put on display.

The surprise element is that Bose’s grand nephew Dr Sugato Bose – the Harvard professor of History and now a Trinamool Congress MP — his mother, also a former Trinamool Congress MP for three terms from 1996 to 2004, and other Bose family relatives in Kolkata and abroad, have pleaded total ignorance of the move.

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Like most of her actions, Mamata’s decision to release such voluminous documents, about one of India’s most popular icons in history, is unilateral. Didi has a penchant for springing surprises and here was one that would only reinforce the populism built into her psyche and system.

Did she take the step for populism alone? Mamata Banerjee herself gave an explanation while announcing the decision to release the files last week. She said there was a longstanding demand for Netaji’s secret papers to be released not only from the family members but from the public at large and she was responding to it. She also said that she believed in transparency. Hence, the Netaji secret files are being put in the public domain.

It would be naive to assume that the mere urge for transparency drove the Bengal chief minister to part with the secret files. Netaji, continues to be fodder for politics, capable of igniting mass interest. A fair amount of politics still revolves round this national hero with at least one political party – All India Forward Bloc — deriving its sustenance from Netaji. Even Netaji’s family members acknowledge in private that Mamata Banerjee has been very strategic in releasing the papers and files. No one can grudge a move that can throw lights on an enigma called Netaji. She will be hailed and blessed by many Netaji fans, it is believed.

Many read this as a shrewd move that will put pressure on the Narendra Modi’s government to gather the courage to declassify 135-odd secret files that are in possession of the central government. The Modi government had initially agreed to make the files public but later went back on its words and is now dithering about the decisive move. Mamata Banerjee’s action may prod him to think again and unravel the mystery.

However, the Kolkata files are not considered to have much sensitive material. A vast majority of the documents and papers could be related to shadowing of Netaji by the intelligence branch police, family and official correspondence. Netaji researchers and family members would be making a distinction between the files – those belonging to the pre-independence era and the ones belonging to the post independence period. This would definitely be an interesting dimension to watch, they feel.

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  1. B
    bholanath bhattacharya
    Sep 17, 2015 at 7:15 pm
    Whatever it may be Mamata Banerjee has done the right thing. Communists and Nehruvians will be unmasked. It is the fear that has been haunting since the announcement. Will the communists say why they were not allowed to enter the Soviet Russia after the second world war till the death of Joseph Stalin?
    1. C
      Sep 17, 2015 at 8:38 am
      happy independence day to my friends, followers, well wishers & off course enemy[ if any] Please every one try to understand the meaning and pronounce it perfectly don't behave like our politicians .... word by word meaning... jana= people gana= group mana= mind adhinayaka = leader jaya he= victory be Bharata= India bhagya=Destiny vidhata=Disposer Panjaba=Punjab Sindhu=Indus Gujarata=Gujarat Maratha=Maharashtra Dravida=the south Utkala=Orissa Banga=Bengal Vindhya=vindhyas Himacala= Himalayas Yamuna=yamuna Ganga=ganges Ucchala=moving jaladhi=ocean taranga=waves Tava=your subha=auious name= name jage=awaken, Tava=your subha=auious asisa=blessings mage= ask, Gahe=sing tava=your jaya=victory gatha=song jana= people gana= group mangala=good fortune dayaka=giver jaya he=victory be Bharata= India bhagya= Destiny vidhata=dispenser Jaya he, jaya he, jaya he, Jaya jaya jaya jaya he.= victory,victory,victory,victory for ever.
      1. G
        Sep 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm
        Focus seems to be on politics of declification rather than the declification and Netaji himself.