The Third Eye of Freedom

Around this time of the year, reams of newsprint are dedicated to recounting the greatness of Gandhi and much column space devoted to Nehru, and as an extension, his dynasty (however dubious their contributions or integrity remain). It would be remiss of me to not talk about a third “forgotten hero”, considering I probably owe my own patriotism to him in large measure.

History is written by the winners. Which is perhaps why only a page or two in the history books encapsulate Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s role in India’s freedom movement. Born two generations later in the same family, I cannot claim to know Netaji much better than most other people. In many ways, he remains an enigma even for us.

While growing up, despite stories of his leadership, courage and sacrifice recounted by my grandfather (Sarat Bose’s son), Netaji was little more than a shadowy shape in my mind. Midnight escapes, imprisonment, exile, rousing army calls — my ancestors’ past was a land of unfathomable intrigue and heroism, but it felt more like fable than history. It didn’t help that the stories I heard at home were always slightly at odds with the ones I heard in school. Not in the facts so much, but in the essence. In the ways that the important people were spoken about. In the weight given to different aspects. There was nothing overt — parents are careful not shake a child’s faith in school — but once in a while, my mother pursed her lips and looked impatient. And on occasion, my father who was less reticent about his views snorted, “Nehru? That sycophant..”.

As I grew up, the veneer of civility was stripped away to reveal something like bitterness. And with good reason. Instead of getting into different versions of family history, I’ll just point you to the Hindustan Times special report on the “enigma of Subhash Chandra Bose”, which gives an inkling:

Strange as it may seem, Indian governments never really supported any probe to establish what really happened to Subhas Bose. The latest government attempt to stymie the probe is reflected in Home Secretary Kamal Pande’s refusal to share Subhas Bose files with the Mukherjee Commission.

He says the disclosure of the files will harm public interest, evoke widespread reactions, lower the image of Bose and adversely affect diplomatic ties with friendly countries.

In 1956, the Ministry of External Affairs told the Shah Nawaz Committee that “…any attempt to visit Formosa (the site of the crash) may well turn out to be embarrassing all round and lead to frustrating complications….

The Nehru Government was never in a mood to institute a probe. It was only when the Calcutta-based Netaji Smarak Samiti decided on October 6, 1955 to institute a non-official enquiry that the Shah Nawaz Committee was instituted

You can also take a look at this site. So the way Netaji’s death was handled (dismissed?) and the unanswered questions in its wake still rankle some of us, because of what the lack of interest implies more than anything else. The other issue is, of course, the fact that because he chose a different path from the Mahatma, he was sidelined in history. In a country that seems to think in black and white, there can be only true path, one voice for freedom, one clever politician achieving sainthood.

I admire Gandhi. He was a hugely charismatic leader who tapped into the collective consciousness of the people. He had his finger on the pulse of the masses. He gave them ways to get involved that were easier than giving blood. Like wearing khadi, fasting, going on marches. However, I’m highly skeptical of our freedom being attributed solely to his turn-the-other-cheek philosophy. A concerted effort on many fronts weakened an empire already fatigued by war. I tend to think that a non-violent approach may not be wholly sufficient when it comes to battles of dominance and accession as Swaminathan Aiyer says in this column.

As a child, I wondered about all the fuss surrounding Netaji’s death. (My reasoning was that he couldn’t still be alive — and even if he was, he’d be very old.) I was also ever so faintly bored with the retelling of his life and his struggle. It took me years to realize that stories must be retold so that they may stay alive. And to recognize the insidious ways in which he had affected my family, and therefore, me: deep-rooted patriotism, a tendency to find dissonance with common perceptions of our history, and the belief that yes, armies must exist and sometimes, blood must be shed.

How politically incorrect in this age of Munnabhai to say such things aloud. But let me be very clear. In the event of us being invaded by one of our friendly neighbours, I would not want our government to stage mass dharnas. I’d want them to get the army out there really fast.

And yes, as another year of freedom rolled by, I thought of all those who shed blood for it. All those who did not turn the other cheek. And a man who “desired to die so that India may live”.


Filed under Culture, Personal

13 responses to “The Third Eye of Freedom

  1. iz

    Beautifully written as always Ghosh, but I disagree with you on one point: The easiest reaction at times of stres is to fight. Because then there’s no waiting involved. It must have been hard to resist that and continue only on faith of one man’s words.

  2. @Iz: I would agree under most circumstances, that it is easier to fight. But most people will fight only for the small petty things. Very few people have the courage to stand up and fight about the things that really matter. And that is where we need people like Bose to force us to fight for what is right; not just what is easiest.

  3. Anonymous

    well written and true!

  4. Joe

    Anindita, While I admire the man Netaji was, I believe that a lot of nonsense is being written about his death. There were many occasions when communists had a stranglehold on the Union ministry. It would be very easy for them to force disclosure of any document of any relevance since most of the Politburo are fiercely proud Bengali babus. Nothing of this nature has happened. I doubt there is anything of value in these documents except an indictment of the earlier political establishments(s). May have proved embarrassing to Nehru and his descendents that no step was made to bring this leaders ashes back to India.

  5. Bose has always been an enigma to me. Much of his private life isn’t explored, or rather not given enough attention in books, magazines, newspapers and TV.
    PS: I won the first prize in college playing Bose in a fancy dress competition where i come on stage and recite a very famous speech he made at a public gathering.

  6. Christina

    Well, that made for interesting reading… I find myself thinking about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

  7. wow – did not know you were part of that family… i am sure you are as proud of him as the rest of the country is. and yes – there is a section of us who still believe in the way he did things and resent the way this end is clouded and the fact that the chapter has been shut and no one seems to be doing anything about it.

  8. Renu A.Joseph

    Your point about Gandhi not being entirely responsible for India’s freedom is true.The Empire was declining,he acted as an accelerant to the process by his novel methods.
    But there is one thing we have to give the Mahatma credit : he was able to unite India into believing we could rule ourselves and charter our future, albeit for a short period in time (partition happened then ).No one after him,no party ,no individual has been ever or will ever be able to do it.We are a nation of a billion shreds of glass pieces.The concept of “nation” is foreign to us.We have always owed allegiance to our local kings and never to one head of State.This disunity has been understood and exploited by all those who conquered the land and its people.
    The beauty of Gandhi was that he had perfect timing :knew what to say ,when and how!

    Gandhiism though a integral part of our moral fibre ( we would like to think) is undergoing a test of relevance in today’s globalized world,where the path to accession and dominance is through stable and growing economies, with strong fundamentals. And not through wars, mutinies or revolts.GW Bush must be realizing this over the war in Iraq.
    The dominance of the U.S over the years is due to this.Whether we like it or not ,Uncle Sam and his policies run a lot of things ,often polarizing nations and continents.One would like to think that the impact of the U.S has lessened with the rise of the powerful Euro and European unification.But with the world markets crashing in the past few weeks in anticipation of a U.S recession ,that thought has been put on hold .The only market that did not shiver was China.
    I take this as sign of things to come.China has spread its economic tentacles worldwide, crushing small manufactures all over with its mantra of cheap mass production.While nations divide themselves on party politics, religious strifes and land disputes, the Dragon is taking over.
    Are we going to wait and watch and let the opportunity for a share in the global pie pass by ?Or will we be able to rise above petty politicis,past heroes and conflicts and undertake a “carpe diem”????

  9. Pingback: Resistance is futile «

  10. Hi i’m Jessy and well i don’t think you will believe me but i have a third eye i feel special ,but i know it’s not for those who are special i was reading and one story said that those who have it have the third eye because of someone in the family who behaved badly or something like that i didn’t think any one could have something like this until i was old enough to know that i had it it’s kinda scary but real cool .The way i found out that i had it is because there were messages through t.v an such that related too me and it seemed so true and there were messages telling me about my future and when i met a guy well my inner vision also known as the third eye told me he was my soulmate and i will be marrying him .But i’m going to be moving i have a random question to ask i was wondering if you could answer it for me if you have one soulmate but your moving away far do you think that there is more than one soulmate out there for people because really sure love is good but i would like my soulmate to be with me for eternity i’m rather really sad that im going to have to move .But that is not why i sent this e-mail i sent this e-mail to ask you if there are any more stories and pictures about the third eye ?.I have went on and typed in third eye n ive read alot about it but i would like to see more cool pictures and know more about it ,do you know any websites i could check out ???
    I know for a fact i have inner vision and its soo cool to know that it makes things easier on me .But could you get back to me on this.
    Thanks bye

  11. Hi its Jessey again i dont think i was on the right website and i think i asked the wrong person about this but if you know anything about soulmate thing lol and the other thing let me know .
    Bye 🙂

  12. hi….i am sehkar. i am great fan of subhash chandra bose all the time.I wanna to write something about him.Known as Netaji (leader), Mr. Bose was a fierce and popular leader in the political scene in pre-independence India . He was the president of the Indian National Congress in 1937 and 1939, and founded a nationalist force called the Indian National Army. He was acclaimed as a semigod, akin to the many mythological heroes like Rama or Krishna, and continues as a legend in Indian mindSubhas Chandra was born on January 23rd 1897 in Cuttack (in present day

  13. dikgaj

    Communists from Bengal were staunch opponents of Subhasji, because of their then “mass-line” as dictated by the Comintern. In the time of Subhasji’s major conflicts with Gandhiji and Sardar, Moscow had already shifted to the line of not embarrassing colonial regimes like the British who were also involved in fighting Hitler. Saving the “socialist homeland” was the key slogan, and in fact even though overground communists had initially supported the 1942 struggle, most communists in jail miraculously switched over to “supporting the war effort”. This earned them early release so that they could really support outside.

    Subhash chandra Bose is still mostly considered a “fascist” and therefore a possible “enemy of the people” or more accurately, enemy of the “vanguard of the proletariat==party”. So Babu or else, the ideological hatred cannot be foregone. Moreover, acknowledging Subhashji would also put up alternative strands of the freedom struggle where communists played a dubious role, and it has been much more beneficial to peddle the soft-alliance line post Independence with Jawaharlal Nehru.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s