The RSS and BJP’s relentless attack on the Nehru-Gandhi family is quite understandable. After all, the grand old family is the last stumbling block in their historical project – the building of a “Hindu Rashtra”.


Sunday, 20 October, was yet another day when Modi launched a verbal attack on the Nehru-Gandhi family. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the Azad Hind Sarkar, Modi declared, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, “In an effort to highlight the role of one family, efforts were made to deliberately ignore and forget contributions made by others in the independence struggle and later in creating a new India.”


While it is true that the Nehru-Gandhi family has enjoyed much of the spotlight since independence as they were largely in power, but to claim that, in highlighting this family, the role of others in India’s freedom struggle has been ignored or diminished, is untruthful and misleading.


Modi loves to portray that his government has been trying to “correct” history; giving due regard to all national heroes.


In his 20 October speech, Subhash Chandra Bose’s name took centre stage. Modi, like the RSS and BJP, tried to appropriate Bose, to the extent that he donned the cap popularized by Bose’s Indian National Army (INA). But irony just shot itself in the face.


It is a well-known fact that Netaji was a secular leftist and vehemently opposed communal parties like the Hindu Mahasabha. Bose was so fundamentally against communal politics that he even decried his own party, the Congress’s right-wing. Modi and the right-wing elements of the day’s appropriation of him is thus, an oxymoron.


The problem with the RSS and their ideological mentors is that they have literally played no role in India’s freedom struggle, and do not have leaders in their ranks to match those who won India freedom. To thus compensate, the RSS begs, borrows and ‘steals’ (external) heroes, and makes it seem as though the Congress has been ignoring these freedom fighters or not giving them their due respect. In this endeavour to appropriate, the RSS has ‘robbed’ Sardar Patel, Bose and even Ambedkar.


Despite the fact that Ambedkar decried caste, Brahminism and adopted Buddhism with five lakh followers in 1956 at Nagpur, the RSS, since 2014, has continually sought to portray him as a Hindu nationalist.


On 30 December 2014, the then join secretary of the RSS, Krishna Gopal, at a memorial lecture titled ‘Ambedkar and his multi-dimensional personality and thoughts’, Indian Institute of Public Administration, Delhi, had claimed, that apart from championing the cause of the “untouchables”, Ambedkar was a nationalist, a staunch anti-Communist, and had deep conviction in Hinduism.


According to a 2014 Business Standard report, a 52-page pamphlet in Hindi titled ‘Rashtra Purush Babasaheb Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar’, authored by Krishna Gopal, was circulated at that memorial lecture. The pamphlet highlighted the “deep friendship” of Ambedkar with RSS founder K B Hedgewar, and the former’s ‘belief in Akhand Bharat’ (a united India).


Netaji & Nehru Never Lost Sight of Common Goal


As far RSS and BJP’s appropriation of Bose goes, they have revelled in the fact that Bose and Nehru were not the best of friends. However, what they conveniently forget is that despite their rivalry, both Bose and Nehru had a common cause in their hearts: India’s independence from British rule. If it is said that Nehru felt threatened by Bose’s brilliance and oratory, then it can also be said that Bose could never accept Nehru as his leader.


This being said, Nehru should not be solely blamed for Bose’s so-called exclusion from prominence. Gandhi too had serious differences with Bose, especially over the nature of the freedom struggle.


Bose, despite being in Congress and accepting the leadership of Gandhi, believed in resorting to violent means to attain freedom, as he famously said, “Give me blood and I will give you freedom”. Bose was young and bright, but also fascinated with Fascism. For Gandhi, non-violence was his ethos, and violence was anathema to his thinking. But then again, Like Bose, even Nehru had differences with Gandhi. In fact, the differences were so acute that in reply to Nehru’s letter in January 1928, Gandhi had written, “I see quite clearly that you must carry on an open warfare against me and my views… the difference between you and me are so vast and radical that there seems to be no meeting ground between us.”


Nuance of Relationships Lost on RSS & BJP


Gandhi’s letter however, shook Nehru. Nehru’s reply to Gandhi is testimony to the spiritual relationship between the two, which was not the case between Gandhi and Bose. Nehru had written, “But I have no particular banner to unfurl nor had I thought of the possibility of any warfare between you and me… is any assurance from me necessary that nothing that can ever happen can alter or lessen my deep regard and affection for you?”


The problem with Modi and the RSS is that, in their proclaimed masculinity, they cannot comprehend the beauty of nuance in human relationships.


No doubt, Bose was an odd man out, but that did not mean Bose, Gandhi and Nehru were enemies. They had three different approaches to their shared goal of India’s independence.


Why are the RSS and the BJP selectively quoting history? History should be used as a learning lesson, not as a tool to seek revenge. The hard truth is that, when Bose was raising the INA, the RSS’s first chief Hedgewar was asking his cadres to not take part in India’s freedom movement. This was the time when Gandhi had initiated the Quit India movement. At the time, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, as the deputy chief minister of Bengal, was writing a letter to the English Governor to crush the Quit India movement in the state.


Where Was RSS During Freedom Struggle?


Further, the ideological mentor of RSS and the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, V D Savarkar, asked his followers to join the British Army to fight for Britain during World War II. Savarkar, while addressing the Hindu Mahasabha in Bhagalpur in 1941 said, “The war which has now reached our shores directly constitutes at once a danger… every branch of Hindu Mahasabha in every town and village must actively engage itself in rousing the Hindu people to join the army, navy and aerial forces and the different war craft manufactories.”


Now, the same RSS, which had gone against the spirit of our freedom, is talking about Bose – one of our best remembered freedom fighters – and wants to appropriate him. Oh! The irony.


The writer is an author, journalist and former spokesperson of AAP.

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