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Subhas Chandra Bose, and the idea of India

Visionary of independent and modern India, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

The start of the year-long celebration of the 125th birth anniversary from today, the Parakram Diwas, ought to go beyond the prosaic and verbose speeches, book and stamp launches, statue unveiling and seminars. The need of the hour, is to connect this legendary man of the masses with people of today, especially the youth and millennials. This is possible only by disseminating how this charismatic leader wasn’t merely a magician of words but one who had a vision for India, and the ability to translate it into reality. He showed his genius as a socio-economic-political thinker, delving on varied aspects of nation building, be it industrialisation, social reforms, education, women emancipation, among others, and very importantly organising the Indian National Army.

Bose under the guidance and influence of his parents had developed a deeply spiritual and religious conscious. He loved Hindu scriptures and even in the thick of battles, carried a copy of the Bhagavat Gita in the breast pocket of his uniform. Impressed by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda, he would meditate and pray with a rosary. Yet, rooted in Hinduism, he was clear that free India would be impartial and free of bias towards all religions, while allowing complete freedom to individuals to profess their faith. Devoid of appeasement, he viewed religion as a private affair which could not be made an affair of the State.

Believing that economic issues cut across communal divide and barriers, Bose pointed out that illiteracy, disease, unemployment, poverty, indebtedness, affected all, including Hindus and Muslims. He saw the cure all these ills in a democratic set-up “where people participated directly and had the indirect right to criticise”. Going beyond rhetoric, Netaji proved this when his Azad Hind Fauj had soldiers cutting across faith while some of his close confidantes were not Hindus.

Bose had a grand vision of India where people would be free of hunger and privation. Way back at the 51st session of the Indian National Congress at Haripura, he spelt out that “the very first thing which our future National Government will have to do, would be to set up a Commission for drawing up a comprehensive plan of reconstruction." This included rapid industrialisation of heavy, medium and cottage industries, in order to cater to different needs of the economy and society. Such was his forethought, that anticipating foreign aggression and territorial ambitions of India’s neighbouring countries, he wanted the country to be equipped for that. “The moment India is free the most important problem will be the organising of our national defence in order to safeguard our freedom in the future. For that we shall have to build up modern war industries; so that, we may produce the arms that we shall need for self-defence. This will mean a very big programme of industrialisation.” Evidently believing in self-sufficiency and independence in defence rather than foreign help, he laid emphasis on “Make India”.

While more than seven decades have passed since Independence, India is still come to terms with gender disparity what with reservation for women in Parliament still in cold storage, and the induction of women in armed forces in the nascent stage. Believing in female emancipation, he desired them to be free of all chains, economic, political and social. He believed that women should not only serve as nurses in hospitals but also take up arms against enemies. Thus came into being the Rani Jhansi Regiment in INA and appointment of a woman Cabinet Minister in the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, Dr. (Capt.) Lakshmi Sahgal. The regiment named after the heroic queen of the India’s First War of Independence of 1857 had members mostly drawn from Tamil families who worked in Malaya rubber plantations. In those days of orthodoxy, he supported widow remarriage, abolition of purdah and education for girls.

As a true leader, Bose believed that God is in the detail. Perceiving the power of information, he guided the setting up of the Azad Hind Radio, to exhort the country to join the Independence movement. The station would broadcast news and programmes in seven Indian languages, namely Hindustani, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Telugu, Pushto, Persian besides English, all to avoid the feeling of alienation among the countrymen. Aware of the language barrier in a vast country like he directed the use of Hindustani as the national lingua franca in Roman script.

In order to inculcate the feeling of oneness, he selected Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s Jana Gana Mana and officially inaugurated the 55-second song on September 11, 1942, as the anthem, at the German-Indian Society at Hamburg. Since the anthem was in Bengali, he got it translated to simple Hindustani and the result was Sabh Sukh Chain Ki Barkha. Known as Quami Tarana, its music was set by Captain Ram Singh Thakur. Wishing for a common form of salutation, he gave his approval for “Jai Hindustan Ki”, later edited to “Jai Hind”, used widely by everyone.