Monday, August 29, 2005

Ghost of Netaji

A good post by Atanu on Netaji, India's forgotten hero. It links to a very interesting article by N.S.Rajaram. I came across another interesting article on the same topic.

While growing up in West Bengal in 80s and 90s, one thing that bothered me quite a bit was politically how virulently anti-India and anti-center most Bengalis were. It was almost like another country inside India. The more I read about Indian and Bengali history in mainstream history books, less sense it made to me. Luminaries like Rammohan Roy, Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra, Rabindranath, Vivekananda, Sarat Chandra, Aurobindo, Bipin Pal, Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, Ashutosh Mukherjee, Chittaranjan Das, Surendranath Banerjeee, Jagadish Bose, Subhas Bose always thought of themselves as Indians. They were national leaders first and Bengalis second. They were at the forefront of Indian nationalism.

It was a huge contrast to the communist-ruled West Bengal I was born and brought up in. Nirad C Chaudhuri's writing for the first time gave me some insight into how and when that transition had happened and what the root causes of the deep insecurity, distrust and hatred harbored by most Bengalis are. It goes back to Gandhi-Nehru's takeover of Indian National Congress, marginalization of Bengalis and indirect support of partition. Bengalis never quite recovered from that. Niradbabu was working as a secretary of Sarat Bose, Subhas Bose's elder brother, during those crucial years of Indian history. He had a front row view of how Gandhi-Nehru cabal destroyed the political careers of Bose brothers. That eventually ensured Fajlul Haque's meteoric ascent among Bengali Muslim farmers, Muslim League's exploitation of that, flawed plebescite of 1946, partition of 1947, West Bengal's endless downward spiral since then and creation of two failed states - Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Sir Niradbabu's autobiographies are must-reads for anyone interested in that transition.
The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
Thy Hand, Great Anarch ! India 1921-1952

Leonard Gordon's recent biography of Subhas and Sarat Bose, Brothers against the Raj , is another excellent source.

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