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Road to Freedom~II

Subhas Chandra Bose was the lone crusader against the mainstream. His was a relentless anti-colonial struggle that aimed at socialist reconstruction after Independence. The socialism he envisaged was to be rooted in Indian soil. He never wanted to imitate Bolshevik experiments.

NANDALAL CHAKRABARTI | New Delhi |

Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged on 23 March 1931. It had an electrifying effect on the entire nation. Tendulkar wrote, “the cry ‘Bhagat Singh zindabad’ resounded throughout India’’.

People worshiped them as icons of revolt. Nevertheless, their activities, mainly underground, did not evoke a nation-wide consensus on their method of resistance. They could not put up a united front of armed struggle throughout the nation. Despite their heroic sacrifice they could not do away with the Gandhian formula of compromise and negotiated settlement with the colonial masters. We found the path of our revolutionary heroes too dangerous.

We rather welcomed the cult of Charkha as an exemplary act of patriotism. The Communist Party of India [CPI] seemed to have an alternative to the mainstream in its campaigns against British rule and tirades against bourgeois leadership of Indian National Congress. Propagation of the goal of proletarian revolution made the party popular among workers.

But the moment it moved away from the struggle for national liberation, it lost the plot. Soon, the Communists were alienated from the people.

Primarily, it was due to their decision to support Britain in slavish adherence to foreign mentors. Pursuant to the instructions of British Communists, Harry Pollitt, Rajani Palme Dutt and Ben Bradley, CPI plunged into a collaborationist drive leaving the anti-British confrontationist line.

There was also the story of a message Achchar Singh Cheena of Kirti Kishan Party brought from Russia, which allegedly asked Indian communists to support Britain.

Although the message was never found, Intelligence Departments of the British Indian government released him so that he could circulate the story among his comrades. The Communist Party of India finally decided to defend the British government’s war efforts following their British comrades’ changed attitude towards Britain after her alliance with Russia against Hitler’s Germany. The imperialist war was now “People’s War’’. CPI leaders in their party letter said, “our new line on war ~ British Comrades correct us’’.

Later, when CPI leaders found themselves marginalised for their opposition to the ‘Quit India Movement’ and support to the British Indian government, they tried to placate Gandhi and Congress. After Gandhi’s release from Aga Khan Palace, one of the editorials of “People’s War’’ addressed him as “the beloved leader of the greatest patriotic organisation of our people, the mighty National Congress’’. CPI’s general secretary, P.C. Joshi, in his ‘Congress and Communists’, wrote, “to us the Congress is our parent organisation, its leaders our political fathers…’’ This hypocritical policy-shift eroded their credibility.

Brazen political opportunism shaped their policy on the Pakistan question also. They vacillated from support for Pakistan to its condemnation. In September 1942, the enlarged plenum of the CPI Central Committee resolved that the guarantee of “the right of autonomous state existence and secession’’ to “nationalities having Muslim faith should form the basis for unity between the National Congress and the League’’.

Thus, at this stage the Communist Party of India was ready to accept religion as an important criterion of nationality. This was a prelude to support for Pakistan when the CPI leaders sought to win the Muslim League’s trust to retrieve their foothold in Indian politics. However, in June 1947, realising Pakistan’s imminent emergence, the Central Committee of CPI conveniently, unleashed a scathing attack on the would-be ruling classes of Pakistan. If one argues that CPI’s support was in tune with its ideological stand on right of self-determination, then one would like to ask a simple question: Did they support the two-nation theory? In this scenario Subhas Chandra Bose was the lone crusader against the mainstream.

His was a relentless anti-colonial struggle that aimed at socialist reconstruction after Independence.

The socialism he envisaged was to be rooted in Indian soil. He never wanted to imitate Bolshevik experiments. He had clarified it in his speech at Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Karachi in 1931. Certainly, his comments like “synthesis between Communism and Fascism’’ triggered confusion.

But it is regrettable that the statement he made on this issue in an interview with Rajani Palme Dutt is never highlighted. About his comment on Synthesis in his ‘The Indian Struggle’, he said that when he was writing the book Fascism had not started on its imperialist expedition and it appeared to him, at the time, merely an aggressive form of nationalism.

Explaining his views further, he said, ‘’what I really meant was that we in India wanted our national freedom and having won it, we wanted to move in the direction of Socialism…’’ His idea of Left consolidation did not succeed as challenging the Gandhian bandwagon was not seen as politically correct by many including Nehru.

On the other hand, for his no holdsbarred campaigns against the Raj, the British Indian government did not let him carry out his task freely. Exasperated by constant imprisonment and surveillance, he sought time and space outside. He had to go to Germany for assistance, via Moscow, because there was lukewarm response from the Soviet Union and there was an on-going work of sabotage undertaken by Germany and Italy in the North-west Frontier of India.

But he never hesitated to condemn the German attack on Russia. Knowing fully well the devastating personal danger he could face, he told the German Undersecretary of State Woermann that in this conflict between Germany and Russia, Germany was the imperialist aggressor.

The man was misunderstood, treated as a pariah by the people on the left, right and the middle as a fascist. So much so, that we took an absolute falsehood about him as the gospel truth. For decades it has been propagated that Netaji suggested 20 years’ ruthless dictatorship for India after Independence.

How did it enter public perception? Hugh Toye, a British Intelligence officer, wrote in his Springing Tiger, on the basis of a newspaper report published in 1946, that when someone asked Bose in Kabul about his plan for independent India, Bose talked about temporary dictatorship. Who was that ‘someone’? Was ‘someone asked Bose’ found authentic just because a British officer relied on such hearsay? Neither in the Kabul thesis, nor anywhere else did Netaji ever use the expression “20 years’ ruthless dictatorship’’. In August 1942, Bose explained his views on the nature of Indian state after independence, in “Free India and her problems’’. It was first published in German in a journal ‘Wille und Macht’ ( Will and Power) and later, reprinted in Azad Hind.

The suggestions he put forward, inter alia, were: a strong central government and disciplined all India party for maintaining national unity and, most significantly, decentralization of power with provincial government having more responsibilities after the state machinery began to function smoothly.

Is this a blueprint for dictatorship? Scant attention is paid to the fact that we as a nation earned our self-respect through his battle. His INA campaigns showed that we were capable of challenging British forces on the battlefield.

His fierce passion for independence could have been our mainstream. It did not happen. We chose the path of least resistance. (Concluded)