A Letter to a fiery leader of India’s freedom struggle

Day Nine: WordPress Writing 101, September 17, 2015

NB: This is a letter that is prompted by the recent declassification of files related to one of the bravest and most prominent, yet controversial freedom fighters of India who mysteriously died in a plane crash in 1945,  a plane crash that now apparently is being confirmed never happened. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose remains India’s most beloved and heroic figures despite the media blackout prompted by a govt. that was in power for long decades and has been ousted now in the recent elections of 2014. Among his many famous quotes is this one: “One individual may die for an idea, but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives”.

A letter to my hero, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Dearest leader, dearly beloved of the children of free India,

We used to read in history books at school about you, but then not all that much. Your story unfailingly sent shivers down my spine — how you defied the British, how you mobilised an army of brave fighters to drive them away and when they arrested you finally, how you cleverly and dramatically escaped  and left the country to take the fight for independence to foreign shores. You created that famed army of freedom fighters called INA, Indian National Army that is the precursor to the great army we have in India, one of the best in the world. Yet, why is it that history books did not talk all that much about you ? Well now we know why. You had enemies and unfortunately your enemies were not just the British who hated your guts, but your own countrymen, fellow leaders of the freedom struggle, your contemporaries. And the root cause for this boycott was jealousy, jealousy that your people loved you and were ready to even sacrifice their lives listening to your clarion call, “Give me blood and I will give you freedom”.

Netaji, today we reap the benefits of the untold sacrifices of our people who fought for freedom from the yoke of colonialism and inspired many other nations to do so. People everywhere speak of Gandhi and Nehru and yes, their contribution was remarkable. But very few know that it was you who first addressed Gandhi as ‘the father of the nation’ and  this great slogan ‘JaI Hind’ (Victory to India), in honour of our motherland. Very few acknowledge the fact that Nehru found you to be the greatest threat to his assuming power within the Indian National Congress and in post independent India. Well, he did not have the fiery charisma that you had. Oh he was charismatic, no doubt, volumes have been written on that and many institutions founded on that, but you see you, Netaji, was a force to be reckoned with. You were like the mighty Ganges irresistibly flowing and taking the masses along with you. Nehru always needed the prop that was Gandhi.

Where Gandhi advocated a non- violent struggle to achieve freedom from the British ruse that had already looted, pillaged and destroyed this once wealthy land, your dynamism called forth for an armed struffle and you did not just rest on empty rhetoric, you went ahead boldly and created an army in the most stringent of circumstances. You mobilised and freed the prisoners of war caught by the Axis powers and gave them honour, freedom and an inspiration to live and fight. Why were our men fighting on the side of the British, in faraway lands for a cause that did nothing good for India or her destiny? (While India reeled under famine and millions died, foodstuff and grains were diverted by Churchill to feed British troops abroad). Yes, this was your logic and this was what prompted you to seek the help of the Japanese. After all, an enemy’s enemy is my friend. But then history is written by victors, the Allied forces won and suddenly you became a person non grata in your own country.

And then you ‘died’. Death was reportedly in a plane crash that now turns out never happened. Actually, Netaji, many in your beloved Mother India never believed that you had died. We kept hoping you were alive and we kept wishing for news of you, especially in your home state of West Bengal. Yes, your beloved Bengal was partitioned off to form a new nation in keeping with the British policy of ‘divide and rule’.  what could ordinary people do when  ‘the powers that be’ had no intentions of revealing what they knew of your fate. That you were alive and now from facts gleaned from relentless pursuit of the truth by some dedicated researchers, you were actually incarcerated in a labour camp in the USSR. Wow! Nehru, socialism, Russia, the great friend of India where another Prime Minister mysteriously died at Tashkent when he was attending an important treaty signing event. The things ‘friends’ do or ‘friends of friends’. Who was it that actually wanted that you be hidden away ?

We are waiting, still waiting for everything to be ‘declassified’, for truth to be freed from the clutches of pragmatism between nations, where individuals are the casualty. We will keep up the vigil, though,however long it takes. Truth has away of revealing itself finally.

Wherever you might be, great and beloved leader, the history of the freedom struggle will be re-written. That India did not win her freedom because of ‘passive non-resistance’ alone, but because the Indian army that was the tool the British used to subjugate the Indian people, were finally set to rebel. Enthused by the stories of your courage, valour and sacrifice narrated by the thousands of men who fought in the INA, their compatriots here no longer considered the British as their masters. Loyalty now was unalloyed towards the nation and not towards her foreign rulers. And this the British knew was the last nail in their coffin of dominating India. So then began the process for bestowing freedom and well, the rest is history.

I salute you Netaji, and millions of my fellow Indians will join me I know as I say two simple words, long overdue, ‘Thank You’.

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

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