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‘Gandhi didn’t take any effort to rescue Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries’: Principal Economic Adviser

"If Gandhiji was willing to recruit Indian soldiers for the British army for World War I, why did he have an objection to Bhagat Singh doing the same?" Principal Economic Adviser to the government of India, Sanjeev Sanyal said.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
Updated: February 13, 2020 3:20:56 pm
Mahatma Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi  bhagat singh, Mahatma Gandhi independence, sanjeev sanyal on Mahatma Gandhi  Principal Economic Adviser to the government of India, Sanjeev Sanyal

Alleging that Mahatma Gandhi did not put in enough efforts to rescue Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries, Principal Economic Adviser to the government of India, Sanjeev Sanyal, on Wednesday said that it was a “deliberate subversion of story of revolutionaries to suppress this alternative history of India’s freedom”. Read in Malayalam

Delivering a lecture, ‘The Revolutionaries: A Retelling of India’s History’ at Gujarat University on Wednesday, Sanyal said this story was “inconvenient” to both the political establishment of India and also to the British after independence. He also stressed that this narrative (of revolutionaries) should be introduced in curriculum.

“It is difficult to say whether Mahatma Gandhi would have been successful to save Bhagat Singh or any other revolutionary from the gallows because the facts do not exist… he did not make much of an effort…,” the Principal Economic Adviser told an audience of students and faculty.

Elaborating on the point, he said, “He (Gandhi) was happy enough to condone violence. After all, he did recruit Indian soldiers for the British army. If he was willing to recruit Indian soldiers for the British army for World War I, why did he have an objection to Bhagat Singh doing the same? Gandhiji tried to downplay the violence of Malabar Rebellion following the Khilafat movement, which in a way, is another movement that Gandhiji himself led. Given that background, revolutionaries did hold against Gandhiji that he did not put in enough of efforts and tried to rescue Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries…,” he said.

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Replying to a question if revolutionaries would have got freedom, the future of political system would have been fascistic in nature, Sanyal said, “No particular reason that Indian revolutionaries would necessarily have ended up in fascism. Many of them were very well read like Rash Bihari Bose, Sri Aurobindo and so on. This is a propaganda… I think it is very unfair, in fact, deliberate subversion of this story (revolutionaries) to try and suppress this alternative history of India’s freedom.”

He cited the example of the Irish Republic that was a democratic republic where armed revolt led to freedom but did not become fascist in nature. “So there is not a particular reason India should have gone down that path after independence. Unfortunately most of the senior leaders of the revolutionaries were killed. Rash Bihari Bose died during World War I, Sachindra Nath Sanyal died during World War II, while Bismil, Bhagat Singh and Chandreshekhar Azad were killed. Only two senior leaders of the revolutionary movement survived till independence and both of them were original founders of the movement — Sri Aurobindo and Savarkar,” he said.

After independence, the revolutionary movement got scattered across the ideological spectrum and some of these revolutionaries joined the Congress, while some remained with Hindu Mahasabha and later the RSS, he said. “They completely dispersed through the system… So we know all of these names but we never think of them as a united movement and this story was inconvenient to both the political establishment of India as well as the British… All those who wrote the story after independence essentially suppressed this narrative… my idea is to come and present this to students so that they have some sense of what this story is about.”

He also stressed that ‘this narrative’ should be introduced in the curriculum and books. “It is important that this narrative is re-introduced to our curriculum… The good news is that the popular culture is moving ahead so you have seen very recently the story of INA brought in its own way in Amazon prime series, Forgotten Army. You also have Netaji’s story being told. Last year, for the first time, INA soldiers were given the respect they deserved by inviting veterans for the Republic Day parade. It took 71 years after independence for this to happen… In January, PM Narendra Modi announced a new museum in Kolkata called ‘Biplobi Bharat’ dedicated to the independence struggle from revolutionary perspective…,” Sanyal added.

Calling it a “very different story of how India became free, a story of resistance, persistence and ultimately of a strategy that was tried repeatedly” Sanyal said that the British finally realised that they cannot control India. “This is the point when India became free…,” he said.

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