A special discussion in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Wednesday on the 75th anniversary of the launch of the Quit India Movement turned into a debate on ‘your icons vs my icons’ and ‘my party’s legacy in the freedom struggle vs your party’s legacy’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking in Lok Sabha, made no mention of the Congress — the Quit India movement was the result of a resolution passed at the Bombay session of the AICC on August 8, 1942 — or Jawaharlal Nehru. In Rajya Sabha, Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is the Leader of the House, did the same but while speaking on terror, he mentioned that a Prime Minister and a former Prime Minister were its victims. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who spoke in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, repeatedly recalled the role of the Congress, inviting criticism from socialists and communists.
During his 30-minute speech in Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister recalled the roles of leaders at different stages of the freedom struggle. He mentioned Subhash Chandra Bose, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.
“Mahatma Gandhi and the other leaders had gone to jail and it was the time that a new leadership was born — Lal Bahadur Shastri, Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan and a number of young leaders filled that vacuum and took ahead the freedom struggle… we should always try and remember how such incidents have given a new hope, a new commitment and new wisdom to the people,” Modi said.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the Quit India resolution was moved on August 8, 1942 evening at a meeting at Bombay’s Gowalia Tank Maidan. The resolution was passed unanimously that same night. She did not mention that the resolution was passed at the AICC session. In her introductory remarks, Mahajan remembered Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Veer Savarkar.
Sonia Gandhi, on the other hand, recalled that Quit India movement followed a resolution moved at the AICC session in Bombay on August 8, 1942. She said the resolution, moved by Nehru and backed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, had asked the British to quit India. “We should not forget that there were people and organisations which had opposed the Quit India movement and had played no in role in getting our country’s freedom,” she said.
In Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav said Ghulam Nabi Azad had given the impression that the 1942 movement was that of the Congress alone. “It was not like that. It was a movement of everyone.” Referring to Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, E M S Namboodiripad and A K Gopalan, he said “if their names are not mentioned… and if you want to forget history, then who will our future generations idolise.”
Concurring with Yadav, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav said the freedom struggle may have been waged under the leadership of the Congress, but the Congress Socialist Party was within the Congress.
Not to be left behind, BSP’s Veer Singh said it was unfortunate that both Jaitley and Azad did not mention B R Ambedkar.
CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said the Communists had played a big role in the freedom movement. “The Communists were all there in the AICC,” he said, adding that the resolution for complete Independence was moved for the first time at the Ahmedabad session of the AICC on behalf of the Communist Party of India. “A K Gopalan hoisted the national flag in Vellore Jail in Tamil Nadu on August 15, 1947,” he said. Nana Patil, leader of the Satara independent government, was a member of the Communist Part of India, he said.
Talking about the National Herald daily, Ghulam Nabi Azad said Nehru used to write for the paper which he said was the mouthpiece of the freedom movement along with Young India and Harijan. “It is another matter that today we have to wage a battle for space for these papers,” he said.
Trinamool Congress’s Sukhendu Shekhar Roy said there were some “betrayers” like Mir Jafar (who betrayed Siraj ud-Daulah at the Battle of Plassey to become the next Nawab of Bengal) even then. “Even today, there are traitors like Mir Jafar in our country and that is why our brotherhood, our unity is in danger. Therefore, our leader Mamata Banerjee has today… will give a call and raise the slogan ‘BJP Quit India’. The BJP has adopted the divide and rule policy which the British followed,” he said.
His remarks were questioned by the treasury benches and Deputy Chairman P J Kurien intervened, saying “this is not the time for politics”.
Reflecting the divergence of views and ideas, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha adopted differently worded resolutions. Opposition leaders in Rajya Sabha said they had modified the draft of the resolution given to them. The final resolutions read differently. The resolution adopted by the Rajya Sabha had the word “secular” as one of the ideals to cherish.