Thursday, January 23, 2020

Remembering Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose - Gunami Baba !!


The Jharkhand government has declared January 23 as a public holiday – do you know the reasons ? – this morning as I walked in the Marina beach, Republic Day Parade rehearsals were on and this man on horse impressed – there is always another man, who too has a statue opposite to Marina grounds – who has inspired the Nation forever with his martyrdom !

A Nation must remember its martyrs who gave its freedom.  We became independent in 1947 and 72  years have rolled since.   There have been many unsung heroes – slowly we are losing generation which fought or witnessed the Freedom struggle ~ sometimes the news that we read in media about them are heart-rending. 

After their first defeat at the hands of British in 1757, there arose many instances  when Indian patriots formed groups and fought hard and bitter battles exhibiting selfless sacrifice.  Alongside hundreds of Velu Thampi, Peshwa Baji Rao, Sardar Shyam Sing, Rani Laximibhai, Tantia Tope, Maharaj of Dumraon, Nana Sahib, there are many hundreds hidden whose exploits, history did not record or were neglected by the British historians and later partisan historians. .. towering among them all would be ‘Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose’.  Ever since India attained freedom and PM addressed the Nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in August 1947 – there have been Congress politicians and most of the heroes never received the attention and mention they deserved.

Movie is only a form of entertainment, yet there are some films / some scenes that move us. Shankar directed ‘Indian’ [Bharatheeyudu] was a good film.  To many the hero was not the young Kamal but the older Indian Senapathy. The flashback in black & white was really moving taking us to older days, especially the footage of the great Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose.  The story shows Senapathi as a young valiant fighter joining  Bose’s army with the full support of his wife Amirthavalli. The handful of Nation’s soil to be smeared on forehead daily is poetic.  Senapathi gets captured,  survives the brutalities and comes to back in free India riddled with corruption, and he fights that !!

On Sept 16th, 1985, in a dilapidated house in Faizabad, formerly the capital of Oudh province in India, a reclusive holy man known as Bhagwanji or Gumnami Baba (‘the saint with no name’) breathed his last. Locals had long suspected that he was none other than Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945),  the greatest revolutionary  who raised an independent army against the British Empire seeking  total independence for India. The Second World War had enabled him to practise what he preached and his Indian National Army  fought with the Japanese in Burma attempting to drive the British out of the subcontinent.  Sadly, his death has remained mysterious.  Nethaji was reported killed in an air crash in August 1945, while trying to escape to the Soviet Union, many believed then and continue to believe now that, helped by his Japanese allies, he faked his death, reached Russia and returned to India many years later to lead the secret life of a hermit.

A tall great leader to the mystic life of a poor Sadhu – this man perhaps can spring any surprise ! – he did leave behind many trunks of possessions and in 1986, realising that these might solve the mystery once and for all, Bose’s niece Lalita obtained a high court order for an inventory to be made of their contents. Among the 2,673 items indexed, Lalita claimed she saw letters in her uncle’s handwriting and family photographs. Gumnami Baba’s belongings were re-packed in 23 boxes and sent to the District Treasury.  Years later in 2001, large crowd had gathered to watch the boxes being opened. The belongings included : a pair of German binoculars, a Corona typewriter, a pipe (taken away for DNA but without result), a Rolex watch – ‘Netaji’s watch,’ a pair of silver, round-rimmed spectacles. Clearly, Gumnami Baba had been an extraordinary man. It was his collection of books that was most thought-provoking. Bear in mind that Bose had received an English education (finishing at Cambridge University) and, in the eyes of the British, had committed war crimes against them possibly escaping to the Soviet Union; then appreciate, for example, Gulliver’s Travels, P.G. Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves, the scarcely available International Military Tribunal for the Far East, The History of the Freedom Movement in India, The Last Days of the Raj, Moscow’s Shadow Over West Bengal and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. This could not be the bedtime reading of a typical sadhu. Either he had been an obsessive collector of Bose memorabilia, or someone had added to his possessions posthumously as a hoax, or he really was Bose.  However, in his inquiry report, completed in 2006, Justice Mukherjee was categoric. He concluded: ‘Netaji Bose is dead [a safe bet as he would have been 109]. He did not die in the plane crash as alleged and the ashes in the Japanese temple in Tokyo [maintained by the Indian government since 1945] are not of Netaji.’ He was more narrowly legalistic about the Faizabad connection.

Thus the Great Man’s memory is still to be property documented ! ~ and what we did we do on our part to remember him ?  The history of freedom movement in India, often is  summarized in one pithy sentence: "Mahatma Gandhi gave us freedom through non-violence." For sure freedom was not that easy and there were so many sacrifices of persons with varied thought processes. The best and the bravest men and women of an enslaved nation hastened the demise of the mighty British empire by resisting them tooth and nail in the trenches of every part of the Nation.  They were brutally crushed by the Imperialist regime and have been relegated, not getting their due share in history.  

Give Me Blood! I Promise You Freedom!!   The British are engaged in a worldwide struggle and in the course of this struggle they have suffered defeat after defeat on so many fronts. The enemy having been thus considerably weakened, our fight for liberty has become very much easier than it was five years ago. Such a rare and God-given opportunity comes once in a century. That is why we have sworn to fully utilise this opportunity for liberating our motherland from the British yoke.  The first phase of our campaign is over. Our victorious troops, fighting side by side with Nipponese troops, have pushed back the enemy and are now fighting bravely on the sacred soil of our dear motherland. ~ excerpts of speech addressed at a rally of Indians in Burma, July 4, 1944 – the very famous words of one of the greatest sons of this soil - Subhas Chandra Bose,  very popularly known as Nethaji (lit. "Respected Leader").  From history books, we read that the great person Nethaji was born on 23rd Jan 1897 and lived till  18th Aug 1945 [this will remain disputed as the Nation yearns to know of the reality, the mystery shrouding his disappearance !] : 

Today marks the 123rd Birth anniversary of this great son of the Nation,  one of the most iconic Indian Nationalists the country ever produced. The dauntless freedom fighter served India as a brave patriot, who became the leader of the first Indian National Army (INA). His reputation as India’s luminary majorly comes from his patriotism, freedom calls and persistence to achieve the chosen goal.

History records that Subash Bose, whose success in Indian National Congress was not accepted by Mahatma Gandhi had their last face-to-face meeting and ‘long conversation’ in June 1940 before Subhas’s imprisonment and daring escape. Subhas made ‘a passionate appeal to Mahatma to come forward and launch his campaign of passive resistance’. Gandhi was ‘ non-committal’ because he felt ‘the country was not prepared for a fight’.

Interestingly, do you know that he was conferred with Bharat Ratna but the award was subsequently withdrawn. The award was established by the first President of India, Rajendra Prasad, on Jan 2, 1954. The original statutes did not make allowance for posthumous awards but later added in 1955 statute. Subsequently, there have been  posthumous awards, including the award to Subhash Chandra Bose in 1992, which was later withdrawn due to a legal technicality, the only case of an award being withdrawn. It was withdrawn in response to a Supreme Court of India directive following a Public Interest Litigation filed in the Court against the “posthumous” nature of the award. The Award Committee could not give conclusive evidence of Bose’s death and thus it invalidated the “posthumous” award.

Salute and remember the great martyr – the iconic Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
23rd Jan 2020.

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