Friday, October 23, 2009


It is curious that six decades after 1947 a debate on Jinnah can pack halls in Delhi and Mumbai but a discussion on Gandhi might not fill a front row. Is this because Jinnah offers the drama of a court trial, the speakers being advocates for defense or prosecution, and the audience a silent, but ultimately decisive, jury? Jinnah, one of the great barristers of his age, would have relished the metaphor.

Has Gandhi become, in our subconscious, an irritating nuisance, a mirror before our guilty conscience? Who wants to be measured by the yardstick of a saint who was so disconcertingly honest that he turned his autobiography into a confessional? Jinnah, on the other hand, was so private, and even secretive in life that, in death, he is vulnerable to endless post-mortem dissection. Gandhi has become as ephemeral as an ideal. We can disturb the memory of Jinnah. Gandhi’s memory disturbs us.

Where would Gandhi have been on his 140th birthday, October 2, 2009, if he were not safely dead? He would have been on a fast in Maharashtra. Why? The state police has slipped into the public space a statistic made even more astonishing by the indifference with which it has been received: there has been, on an average, a riot every 20 days in Maharashtra during the last five years. Print media consigned it to a couple of statutory paragraphs inside. Television, crowded with high-decibel celebrities, ignored this completely. It seems that our innumerable guardians of secularism need familiar villains for their rage. Faceless violence is not attractive enough.

Gandhi placed the facts of violence above the politics of conflict. He would have been an inconvenient presence for those who profess to live by his creed today. As for the heroes of modern India: they would not recognize him. There is no way to reinvent Gandhi as a happy symbol of a rising sensex, checking out the value of an investment portfolio at five every evening. It makes sense on every side to convert Gandhi into a token portrait on the wall of a government office.

Jinnah’s problem, conversely, has been that he has been appropriated, or misappropriated, by a range of vested interests, each determined to resurrect him in its own image, to serve its agenda. Pakistan’s political elite, forced to compromise with the culture of theocracy, has converted the natty, lean, handsome owner of 200-odd London-tailored suits into a shalwar-and-cap chameleon. If, instead of being clean-shaven, Jinnah had sported a slight, fashionable beard, they would have extended the beard by six inches in official portraits. Most Pakistanis would be shocked today to discover that Jinnah did not know Urdu, never fasted during Ramzan, had little interest in the rituals of religion, and that his concept of spiritual sustenance was very worldly indeed. Jinnah sent out invitations for a formal lunch-banquet in honour of the visiting Mountbattens for August 14, 1947, the day the new nation was born. The meal had to be cancelled when someone realized that they were in the middle of Ramzan. Jinnah had been oblivious of the fact that observant Muslims had been fasting for three weeks.

Indian politicians have restructured Jinnah more subtly. Contemporary Congressmen needed a cardboard Jinnah as the all-purpose villain who could soak up all the guilt of Partition. An obstinate, communal hate figure was planted into Indian schoolbook history. This was then morphed into something more insidious.

When Jinnah’s utility as the father of Pakistan receded, he was transformed, surreptitiously, into the symbol of the guilt of Indian Muslims, who became the whipping boys of Indian nationalism as practiced on all sides of the spectrum. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh, forerunner of the BJP, latched on to this projection with great glee, since it perpetuated the politics of isolation and accusation. Indian Muslims, in this construct, were genetically unpatriotic and therefore, deservedly condemned to the status of second-class citizens. When Jaswant Singh challenged this single-dimension mythology by lifting the record from the private domain of academic archives and flinging it into public discourse, he had to be expelled. He had spread the guilt to others, who were Hindus, and disturbed the equanimity of a half-truth.

The secular parties, whose expertise in the dynamics of electoral behaviour has always been more astute, quickly understood that fear is the easiest route to the Indian Muslim vote. Fear of the past, Partition, was compounded by fear of its future consequences. Muslims had to choose between the communal cage and the secular trap. One offered a diet of gruel, and the other a scrap of cheese. After six decades, Indian Muslims are beginning to bang on the door of both the cage and the trap.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


If they ever tell my story let them say that I walked with giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Bhagat Singh. Let them say I lived in the time of NETAJI BOSE.
.....(edited dialogues of TROY-the movie)

‘..It is our duty to pay for our liberty with our own blood. The freedom that we shall win through our sacrifice and exertions, we shall be able to preserve with our own strength.... Freedom is not given, it is taken.. One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the ideas and dreams of one nation are bequeathed to the next......' Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose'

'..We should have but one desire today- the desire to die so that India may live - the desire to face a martyr's death, so that the path to freedom may be paved with the martyr's blood. Friend's! my comrades in the War of Liberation! Today I demand of you one thing, above all. I demand of you blood. It is blood alone that can avenge the blood that the enemy has spilt. It is blood alone that can pay the price of freedom.' Give me blood! I promise you freedom!!

“'Blood is calling to blood. Arise! We have no time to loose. Take up your arms. There infront of you is the road our pioneers have built. We shall march along that road. We shall carve our way through the enemy's ranks, or, if God wills, we shall die a martyr's death. And in our last sleep we shall kiss the road which will bring our army to Delhi. The road to Delhi is the road to freedom. Chalo Delhi”
(No need to say these words are of Subhas Chandra Bose)

The story of Indian independence is well known. Even its heroes are firmly established – Mohandas Gandhi, the saintly demagogue, and Jawaharlal Nehru, his rationalist, Fabian acolyte. A national-liberation movement that relied not on guns and bullets but on non-violent love and inner strength; a method used to such effect that even as the conqueror struggled against it he came to admire it.
Lately, too, another hero has emerged to make the legend complete: Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, Admiral of the Fleet, Earl of Burma. He arrives in India as Viceroy in March 1947; he produces a plan for partition of India that politicians who have spent their lives opposing the very idea instantly accept. By August 1947 India is free; and when, two weeks after Independence Day, Nehru and Patel urgently summon him with the confession that they don't know enough about administration, he goes on to save the newly independent country.

In the face of such compelling myths, history must come a poor, unwanted second. Yet the history of India's struggle for freedom was not quite that simple. A frail old vegetarian, a Fabian socialist and a dashing young royal did not between themselves produce the India that emerged on 15 August 1947. The story is altogether more complicated, and even more romantic. There were other men and women, as well as deeper interactions of political, social and economic movements. Prominent among these men was one who opposed Gandhi, was a bitter rival of Nehru and waged war against Mountbatten. This is his story, and that of the alternative, violent, revolutionary struggle for Indian independence – one that often paralleled the non-violent one and occasionally threatened to overwhelm it.
The man, of course, was Subhas Chandra Bose. Today in India he is deified. His name is given to parks, roads, buildings, sports stadiums, artificial lakes; his statues stand in place of those of discarded British heroes and his photograph adorns thousands of calendars and millions of pan (betel-nut) shops. It is always the same picture – Bose in military uniform exhorting his countrymen forward to one last glorious struggle: the final answer to the British calumny that Indians could not fight.
I am not focussing upon what bose had achieved and what not? But what would have been INDIA’s fate if Bose wouldn’t have died or disappeared.

Had Bose returned to India after the war he might well have prevented the tragedy. He was not a tired politician ready to accept office under any terms. Although his uncompromising hostility to Jinnah and Pakistan might have led to a civil war, the cost of that could not have been greater than the senseless waste of partition.
Certainly Bose's often repeated warning that the Congress would pay dearly for the acceptance of 'office mentality' was historically acute. It came when in the late thirties the Congress was struggling to cope with the consequences of the 1935 Government of India Act, and the blandishments it offered. In the 1936 elections, the Congress reaped the rewards of nearly two decades of unceasing mass struggle against the British and totally vanquished the Muslim League.
But by 1945, after a decade of negotiations and some power-sharing with the British, the Congress was reduced to the level of the Muslim League; just another group, albeit powerful, seeking the rewards of office. And by placing such faith in the negotiating chamber the Congress had played into the hands of Jinnah, the master lawyer and negotiator. As Bose had foreseen, the Congress had thrown away the trump card of its power - mass struggle - for the dubious delights of the round table.
But could Indians have lived with Bose? An extreme man, he produced extreme reactions: total adulation or permanent rejection. Certainly the India of Bose would have been very different from the India of Nehru. Bose had often said that India needed at least twenty years of iron dictatorial rule, and he would most certainly have rejected the type of parliamentary democracy that has developed. This opens up the whole question of whether it is better for people to have food or to have freedom to change their political rulers every five years. The argument can never be resolved - though, given the recent adulation of the West for China, some of the oldest democracies in the world seem to think food is more important.
Surely Bose's rule would have degenerated into autocracy, like that of Mrs Gandhi between 1975 and 1977? Though the not quite accurate (Mrs Gandhi's rule degenerated long before the events of June 1975), for conclusive evidence Bose's critics point to his behaviour in Germany and with the Japanese during the war. In a climate that brooked no dissent and where the leader was always right, he too came to believe that he could do no wrong.
Part of the possible reason for this change of personality - if there was a change - may lie in the fact that at that stage, particularly in south-east Asia, he found himself a king without any worthwhile courtiers. The people who surrounded him there were political innocents, thrust into the wider world by events beyond their control: they could only applaud, never interject. Bose was, as the official Japanese history puts it, 'a bright morning star amidst them'. There is also evidence to suggest that Subhas Bose was not quite the dictator a simple reading of his speeches makes him out to be.
No doubt there was an authoritarian streak in him, but his actions often belied his dictatorial postures. in 1939, as Congress president, he behaved - against Gandhi's wishes - less like an autocrat and more like a negotiator who had won one round and expected to reap some benefit from it. Throughout his political career he was always loyal to colleagues even at the risk of damaging his own chances: hardly the mark of a man of iron.
Almost alone among Indian leaders, Bose offered solutions that were both visionary and practical. Nehru's socialism may have been more rounded; rigorously logical and free of Bose's celebrated eclecticism. But its strain of romanticism divorced it from the realities of India, and the Nehru years resulted, almost inevitably, in a country with the most progressive socialist legislation outside the Soviet bloc which happily allowed the most unbridled capitalism to grow and flourish on a feudal structure that had changed little, if at all, since the British days. The cynicism this produced has bitten so deep that every government since has had to struggle against it and no combination in Indian politics looks likely to counteract the years of wasted opportunities and lost hopes.
Bose had the capacity to inspire total love and dedication, and produce gold from dross. He was hated by many, but those he 'touched' loved him with an almost overpowering sense of completeness. And this, combined with his rigorous, matter-of-fact manner and an instinctive feel for ancient Indian loyalties, might well have produced the revolution that India needed - and still lacks.

Unfortunately Bose died in 1945(was he?).But only after living a life of warrior, a fighter.

It is 23 January 1981, and crowds all over India are celebrating the birthday of Subhas Bose. Politicians who have never known him, and many who fought him when he was alive, garland his statues, invoke his name and urge their audiences to follow his example. More than thirty years after his death Bose has become a myth: the alternative hero of the Indian struggle for freedom. And the banners at these meetings tell their own story. 'Subhas Bose 1897-1981'. Subhas Bose is not dead. One day he will return and rescue India.
The legends and the myths have been a long time in the making, and they express a deeper Indian unease: had he lived and returned to India after the war, he would have shaped a country far more successful than the one wrought by his rivals and successors: an India united, strong and fearless. Bose became a legend in his own lifetime, but his transformation into a myth fit to rank with ancient Hindu classics came after his death, through forces he had himself tried to harness for his cause

There are people who thought at one time that the Empire on which the sun did not set was an everlasting empire. No such thought ever troubled me. History had taught me that every empire has its inevitable decline and collapse. Moreover I had seen with my own eyes, cities and fortresses that were once the bulwarks but which became the graveyards of by-gone empires. Standing today on the graveyard of the British empire, even a child is convinced that the all mighty British empire is already a thing of the past.

I have said that today is the proudest day of my life. For an enslaved people, there can be no greater pride, no higher honour, than to be the first soldier in the army of liberation. But this honour carries with it a corresponding responsibility and I am deeply conscious of it. I assure you that I shall be with you in darkness and in sunshine, in sorrow and in joy, in suffering and in victory. For the present, I can offer you nothing except hunger, thirst, privation, forced marches and death. But if you follow me in life and in death, as I am confident you will, I shall lead you to victory and freedom. It does not matter who among us will live to see India free. It is enough that India shall be free and that we shall give our all to make her free. May God now bless our Army and grant us victory in the coming fight ! Inquilab Zindabad ! Azad Hind Zindabad !