The Indian National Army (INA) was the force which Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had raised when he was living in Singapore after escaping the British rule in India. The force was meant to be an armed hand of the people participating in the national struggle and drew people from all communities.
Netaji differed from Mahatma Gandhi’s approach of non-violent movement to oust the British. Netaji believed that non-violence could be an ideology but not a creed. The national movement should be free from violence but, if need be, people could resort to arms. Netaji recalled the Mahatma’s immediate stoppage of satyagraha at Chauri Choura in Uttar Pradesh where the mob killed the policemen who had fired on them till they exhausted the last bullet.
Subhash Chandra Bose died abroad in mysterious circumstances and did not return to the subjugated India. His papers probably reveal not only his differences with the Mahatma but also the cult of violence against the non-violence ideology.
The government of India had an ideal opportunity to release the papers relating to him when a person asked for them under the Right to Information Act (RTI) a few days ago. The people in India are disappointed that the papers, which the BJP promised during the election campaign to make public, has gone back on its words.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who gave the undertaking, has taken a U-turn on the issue and has refused to divulge the information in parliament. That the Home Minister has not kept his promise is unfortunate but more regrettable is the denial of authentic information on the differences between Netaji and Mahatma Gandhi. Apparently, it was more than the difference in the viewpoints.
All that the public knows was that the Mahatma supported with J.B. Kripalani, a leading Congress leader, against Netaji for the office of Congress presidency in the party election. In fact, it was a confrontation between the two ideologies, one non-violent and the other for the use of arms, if needed.
With the Mahatma jumping into the arena, the contest did not remain confined to non-violence and violence but a challenge to his authority. Netaji did not want the national movement to look divided and preferred to withdraw. But his stock did not suffer. The people began to revere him more. However, the Mahatma turned out to be right that violence could not match the strength of the British Empire and that non-violence, backed by the teeming millions, was the most effective weapon.
In fact, the Mahatma’s ideology had a moral and critical side to it: you can win through love even the most tyrants, not by the gun, which he can gather in great number, but through your behavior not to hit back even when kicked.
Jesus Christ’s philosophy was to offer the other cheek when slapped on one. His cult was propagated by the Mahatma through the evening prayer meetings he used to have daily. I recall that at prayer meetings all the three books—the Gita, the Bible and the Quran—were read. One day a Punjabi refugee from Pakistan said that he would not like to listen to the Quran because it was the book of the Muslims who had driven him and thousands like him from Pakistan.
The Mahatma dispersed the meeting with the statement that even a single objector in the gathering could veto the whole thinking because he was seeking the consensus. Many in the gathering asked the person concerned to withdraw his object but he did not. And the meeting was not continued.
A few days later, the same man approached the Mahatma and expressed his regret for imposing his remark on the whole gathering. The meeting was reconvened and the person told the people gathered there that he had realized his mistake of trying to impose his point of view on them. The prayer meetings were never disturbed after that.
No doubt, Netaji was popular and had a band of people, called the Forward Block, following him through thick and thin. But the mass appeal for the Mahatma had drowned their voice and a very few people cared for them. The matter would come to be reduced to his wish against a few whose base was limited.
Today’s India needs a force like the INA because the alternative, the Congress, is collapsing. The INA’s message of togetherness—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians gathering on the same platform—is important to keep the country’s attention focused on the much-needed development. True, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about it but when the development is spelled out it seems to be aimed at benefiting the upper half than the lower half.
In the six months’ rule of Narendra Modi, there is neither the lessening of the number of poor nor of their improvement. This is primarily because of the BJP, which has installed Modi, has no economic programme to uplift the poor. Comparisons are odious, but China has been able to get 20 million people out of poverty in which they had got stuck.
True, China’s is a totalitarian system but in democratic India some progress should have been visible. Apart from the speeches of political leaders on ameliorating the condition of the poor, there is little on the ground. Election after election, the nation is sold on the dream of development but it doesn’t fructify because both the main political parties have used power to collect money and have had no other plan for the people.
It is good to hark back on the days of national struggle when roti, kapada aur makan was promised. But we also have to think about today and tomorrow. People have little faith in the political parties but do they have any alternative?