Narendra Modi gets a lesson from a Harvard history prof: “To truly honour Netaji Bose, include the minorities; speak out against religious hatred; uphold equal citizenship; respect Tipu and Gandhi”

Modern politics is mostly a 2.20 minute video wrapped in a 280-character tweet of a hollow “I’m-so-honoured-to-be-here” speech that can be delivered in any one of India’s 640 districts to the same canned applause of bhakts, bots, trolls and pliable journalists.

Sometimes, it is also about putting on the headgear from the region you are visiting in a concession to “local sentiment”.

On the penultimate day of his worst year (so far) in electoral politics, Narendra Modi went to the Andaman, put on the INA cap, hoisted the tricolour, renamed an island after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, and exhorted his audience to switch on the torch on their cellphones and shout ‘Netaji Zindabad‘ because, well, it’s all about a photo-op wrapped in a PIB press release for an ANI video feed.

In today’s Sunday Express, Netaji’s great-nephew Prof Sugata Bose, an acclaimed professor of history at Harvard University and a superb Member of Parliament representing Mamata Banerjee‘s Trinamool Congress, has a searing piece on how bogus the BJP’s appropriation of Bose is.

Writes Prof Bose:

“On October 21, 1943, in Singapore, Netaji proclaimed the formation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, which guaranteed religious liberty, as well as equal rights and equal opportunities to its citizens…. What was notable about the composition of the cabinet was the strong representation given to members of religious minorities and the diversity of regional backgrounds….

“When priests of the main Chettiar temple in Singapore had come to invite Netaji to a religious ceremony earlier in October, they had been turned away because of their inegalitarian practices. He acceded to their request only after they agreed to host a national meeting open to all castes and communities. He went to that temple gathering flanked by his Muslim comrades — Abid Hasan and Mohammad Zaman Kiani….

“The Azad Hind government inculcated this spirit of unity with a subtle sense of purpose. A simple Hindustani translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s song Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jaya Hai became the national anthem. A springing tiger, evoking Tipu Sultan of Mysore’s gallant resistance against the British, featured as the emblem on the Tricolour shoulder-pieces on uniforms. Gandhi’s charkha continued to adorn the centre of the Tricolour flags that INA soldiers were to carry on their march towards Delhi….

“To truly honour Netaji, the Prime Minister must take an unambiguous stand against his followers who are spreading the poison of religious hatred. If his symbolic gesture of donning the INA cap is to have any meaning, he must uphold the Azad Hind Government’s unswerving commitment to equal citizenship. The Citizenship Amendment Bill that the Modi government is trying to railroad through Parliament negates the fundamental principles on which Netaji’s Azad Hind movement was based.”

emphasis added

Read the full article: What it takes for the INA cap to fit