Appropriating an Icon: RSS Celebrates Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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On this 23rd January BJP-RSS organized various programs to honor Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. In one of these programs, a clash took place leading to a curfew in Kendra pada, Orissa. In different meeting organized by BJP-RSS attempt was made to draw parallels between Bose and Savarkar, Bose and RSS. Propaganda is on to show that it was on Savarkar’s suggestion that Bose undertook to tie up with axis powers (Germany and Japan). Parallels are being drawn between RSS and INA (Azad Hind Fauz). Now all attempts are on to show that Bose’s nationalism was close to that of Savarkar-RSS.

Ram Puniyani

RSS combine
is trying to praise Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as the one who gave legitimacy
to struggle for Independence against British. When did this combine realize the
contributions of this great freedom fighter? Or for that matter the question
comes did RSS combine ever want to struggle against British rule? It is last
few years that these attempts to identify with national icons are going on.
While in case of Sardar Patel the propaganda is that had he been the first
Prime Minster of India we would not have had Kashmir problem, we would has
progressed more. The truth in this matter is that Patel and Nehru were two
solid pillars of Indian Cabinet who gave foundations to Indian republic. The
differences among them were of minor nature and Patel was the most trusted
Cabinet colleague for Nehru,

As far as
Subhash Chandra Bose, Netaji, is concerned we know that he is one of the major freedom
fighters of India
. He was part of Indian National Congress most of his
life and was its President of Tripura session in 1939. Within Congress he was
part of the Socialist group. He and Nehru had matching ideas on issues of
socialism, secularism among others. He did fallout from Congress on the issue
of method of getting freedom. While Gandhi led Congress wanted to adopt the
path of non-violence, Netaji did not see eye to eye on this issue. For getting
freedom for India, Congress launched ‘Quit India’ movement to build the anti-British
pressure and this gave boost to the freedom struggle. During Second World War
Netaji’s approach was to launch armed military action against British by
collaborating with axis powers (Japan and Germany), that’s how he set up INA.
He also formed free India’s provisional Government in Singapore on 21st October
1943. He has been a charismatic leader who was thoroughly anti British. 

Congress was firm in the path of non-violence. It launched the
Quit India movement which was led by Mahatma Gandhi. Bose did develop some
differences on the matter of fighting against British. He resorted to tying up
with the Fascist Germany and its ally Japan. What were RSS and Hindu
nationalists doing at this point of time? Hindutva ideologue Savarkar, the
progenitor of Hindutva and Hindu nation ideology, propagated at that time that
Hindu nationalists should help British in their war efforts against Japan and
Germany. RSS Sarsanghchalak M. S. Golwalkar also went on to instruct all its
branches not to do anything which will annoy British and kept aloof from the anti-British
struggles. So, while Congress was putting pressure on British through Quit
India movement, Netaji was fighting British through INA, Savarkar was
proactively helping British by helping them in recruitment for armed forces. In
a way RSS did nothing which went against British rule. So here with a forked
tongue Hindu nationalist on one hand were supporting the British in their war
efforts (Savarkar) or keeping aloof (Golwalkar-RSS), on the other now they are
eulogizing Netaji for his anti-British INA! 

Socialism : a mere electoral Jumla of BJP

While Netaji
was Socialist, close to ideas held by Nehru, Golwalkar went on to write that
Communists are internal threat to the Hindu nation. While BJP at the time of
its formation used the word Gandhian Socialism, it was a mere electoral Jumla
(gimmick). The ideology and actions of Netaji and Hindu nationalists-RSS were
poles apart. So why are they projecting him today? Why are they trying show
similarities which are not there? Essentially as RSS did not participate in
freedom movement, it does not have any national icon. RSS’s Atal Bihari
Vajpayee at that time was a young college student who during Quit India
movement was jailed by mistake; he apologized and got himself released.
Savarkar since he was Anti British before being imprisoned in Andaman
jail has been glorified as the brave warrior by prefixing Veer (Brave) to his
name. He also had apologized to the British and got released from the
jail.   Mostly the communal nationalists,
Muslim League-Hindu Mahasabha-RSS never took anti British stance. This should
be the defining point for Indian nationalism. Congress and Bose were anti
British to the core, so their nationalism in a way has similar wave length
despite some differences.

When INA of
Bose was being tried by British for their anti-War actions against British, it
was the likes of Nehru who defended the INA, none from Hindu Nationalist camp
came forward to defend Bose and his colleagues during the trial by British. It
is only for electoral reasons that now RSS-BJP need to identify with the likes
of Patel and Bose. They are actively trying to dig up some points here and
there to get a ride on the back of legends like Patel and Bose. So far Sardar
Patel has been projected and now it’s Netaji’s turn! Their central opposition
is to Indian nationalism. They vilify Jawaharlal Nehru who stood rock solid in
defense of secularism and democracy. Since RSS wants to oppose the Nehru
legacy, Congress on electoral ground, RSS keeps propping up icons like these.
While these icons had some differences with Nehru, they essentially were on
similar wave length as far as secular democratic values are concerned. These
projections of Patel and Netaji are mere electoral ploys to garner more power!

(You may
read Hindi version of this article on


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