Hoisting the Tricolour at the Red Fort to mark the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the ‘Azad Hind Government’ by Subhas Chandra Bose, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that after Independence, India’s policies had been based on the British system. “Things were seen through British glasses,” he said in his address.
Calling Bose’s government the government of “Akhand Bharat (undivided India)” and Bose “the first prime minister of Azad Hind Sarkar”, he said India would have benefited if guidance had been taken of Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel instead.
In a veiled attack on the Nehru-Gandhi family, Modi said the contribution of leaders such as Bose, Patel and B R Ambedkar was downplayed, to keep “one family” above the rest. “In an effort to highlight the role of one family, efforts were made to deliberately ignore and forget contributions made by others in the Independence struggle, and later in creating a new India… But our government is changing all that.”
While Bose “focused on the East and Northeast India”, these two regions had not got their due either, Modi added, and it was his government that was working towards making the Northeast an “engine of growth”.
“Policies, including those related to education, had to suffer because of this (the British bias). Subhas babu always took pride in India’s history and our rich values. He taught us that not everything must be seen from a non-Indian prism.”
Modi also said in his speech that while India never eyes anyone’s territory, and would continue to use its military might “only for self-defence”, it would hit back with “double the force” if its sovereignty was challenged. He cited his government’s surgical strikes and said it was working towards providing the armed forces better technology and latest weapons, and its soldiers better facilities, including One Rank, One Pension and Seventh Pay Commission recommendations. “We are heading towards building an army which was once envisioned by Netaji.”
Modi cautioned people against forces “inside and outside” working against the country. “It is the duty of every Indian to fight and defeat such forces,” he said, adding that a feeling of nationalism and “Indianness” is must to counter such designs. “Netaji had promised an India where everyone has equal rights and equal opportunities. He had promised to uproot ‘divide and rule’. Even after so many years, those dreams remain unfulfilled,” Modi said.
Wearing the Indian National Army (INA) cap presented to him by INA veteran Lalti Ram, one of the last surviving members of the force, he said Red Fort was “the spot at which Bose visualised a victory parade 75 years ago”. A plaque unveiled by him on Sunday will be placed at Barrack No. 3 of the monument, where members of the Azad Hind Fauj faced trial by the British. A museum is now being set up by the Ministry of Culture at the barrack.
Referring to the all-women Rani Jhansi Regiment unit of the INA set up by Bose, “fighting opposition”, Modi noted that it would complete 75 years on Monday, and recalled his government’s recent decision to allow women to opt for permanent commission in the Army, and the all-women Indian Navy team that recently circumnavigated the globe. “Today, India has Nirmala Sitharaman as its first woman defence minister.”
The PM also announced an annual award in Bose’s name for those involved in disaster-response operations. Union ministers Mahesh Sharma, Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel, Indian armed forces veterans, followers of Bose and his grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose were among those present at the event.
In his opening remarks, Sharma asked why Bose was “not accorded the respect he deserves” even after seven decades of Independence. “There will be no obstacles now in the the realisation of Bose’s dreams,” he said.