Today, so many people in India have become “unthinking worshippers of state power” and forgotten to love their own country as taught by Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sugata Bose, grandnephew of the Bengali freedom fighter said, delivering a lecture on Friday.
The Harvard professor was at Sabarmati Ashram, delivering the lecture, ‘Mahatma and Netaji: Understanding A Special Relationship’, when he made the remarks about the current state of affairs in the nation.
“These (Gandhi and SC Bose) are great leaders who have taught us how to love our country, how to feel empathy for our fellow human beings. And that is the lesson we need to learn today,” Sugata Bose said. “Because so many people in India have forgotten how to love our own country. We are becoming unthinking worshippers of state power.”
Gandhi and SC Bose were prepared to respect cultural differences, and accordingly they could rise above their differences in order to forge an overarching unity in the country, the professor said, touching upon various aspects of the relationship between the two leaders who had parted ways politically in 1939 after SC Bose resigned as president of the Indian National Congress.
A professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University, United States, Sugata Bose is also the joint editor of the twelve-volume Collected Works of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. “It’s very important to recognise that many people in India, particularly in Bengal, hugely exaggerate the differences (between Gandhi and SC Bose) that took place in 1939. If there was a parting of ways, it was a temporary one. And if we study the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in its entirety, then we will find that it was one that was marked by deep mutual affection and respect,” he said.
In 1939, SC Bose was elected president of Indian National Congress, winning against a candidate nominated by Gandhi and posing a challenge to the authority of the latter in the party for the first time in two decades.
Sugata Bose narrated a number of instances on how the two leaders had mutual respect for each other while going about achieving the goal of India’s independence their separate ways. He said Gandhi made the biggest contribution by arousing the Indian masses against British rule, transforming the Indian National Congress from a club of elites to a country-wide organisation. At the same time, he added, SC Bose was able to destroy the loyalty of Indian soldiers to the Britishers and replaced it with a new loyalty – to the cause of India’s freedom struggle.
“In Young India, Gandhiji had written after (the) Jallianwala (massacre)…how Indian soldiers had been used by the Britishers as hired assassins…For 20 years, Subhas Chandra Bose worked under Gandhiji’s leadership in the non-violent movement and he saw how the civilian Indian masses had rallied to Mahatma Gandhi, but Indian soldiers were still loyal to the King and that is what he was trying to change by going abroad in 1941,” Sugata Bose said.
Speaking about the Azad Hind Fauj founded by SC Bose, the professor said that one of the objectives of the freedom fighter was to build cultural intimacy between the different communities in India, and that was his aim in forming the force. Gandhi appreciated SC Bose’s effort in this regard, said the professor. “He (Gandhi) really thought Netaji had achieved something wonderful in breaking down the barriers in the British India Army. The Hindu, Muslim, Sikh soldiers would sit down and dine together before they go and fight together…,” Sugata Bose said.
The professor also narrated how Gandhi was impressed by the courage and resourcefulness displayed by SC Bose in escaping from India in 1941. However, Gandhi may have lamented absence of Subhas Chandra Bose during the partition of India in 1947 during independence, Sugata Bose said. “Gandhiji stood as a tragic lonely figure during the communal holocaust that accompanied partition. The Saint (Gandhi) and the Warrior (SC Bose) acting in concert may have had the better chance of aborting the catastrophe that engulfed the subcontinent of 1947, but that was not to be,” he said.
Answering a question, Sugata Bose said that both Gandhi and SC Bose tried to take advantage of the international war crisis in the world in the 1940s during the freedom struggle. Cautioning people to avoid pitching Gandhi and Bose against each other, Sugata Bose said, “In today’s India, we desperately need the legacies of both Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. What they shared and what they had in common far outweigh their differences during 1939.”
Mentioning Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in his speech in the context of the Statute of Unity, Sugata Bose said it would have been better had the Gujarat government used the money in the field of agriculture or for rural development instead of building a huge statue of the first home minister of India. Sugata Bose is scheduled to deliver two more lectures – Rabindranath Tagore’s Colourful Cosmopolitanism and Rediscovering the Freedom Fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: His Ideals for a Modern India – on Saturday and Sunday in Ahmedabad at different venues.