On the 125th birth anniversary of the great leader of India’s freedom struggle, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, an insightful talk on ‘Netaji at 125: Vision and Legacy’ was jointly organised by the Consulate General of India in Edinburgh and the Scottish Association of Bengali Arts and Sanskritik Heritage (SABASH) in Edinburgh.
Speaking from the Netaji Bhawan, the ancestral house of the Indian nationalist located in Calcutta, Sumantra Bose, professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and the grandnephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, traverses through handpicked milestones from Netaji’s life.
Eighty-one years later, we dive into India’s ultimate hero’s famous escape on the night of 16th January 1941 to the Gomoh railway junction in Bihar. This marked the beginning of the climactic phase of Bose’s and India’s freedom struggle.
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As the President of the Indian National Congress, Netaji often thought about the future of free India. He formed the National Planning Committee to steer India’s economic resurgence in 1939. “Tackling poverty and inequality”, among other priorities, is what Prof Bose believes gives us a goal to strive towards for the 75th year of independence for “nation-building is a collective task”.
Back in the 1920s, Netaji’s feminist vision was very woman-centric, where women were builders of independent India. He created a woman’s regiment named after the courageous Rani of Jhansi in the INA (Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj). During their first parade in Singapore in 1943, he addressed the new recruits dressed in sarees carrying their 303 Lee Enfield rifles.
Prof Bose quotes his grand uncle, “I am convinced that unless and until the women become equal participants in the national struggle, India cannot hope to be free.”
He notes, “India cannot be a land only of Hinduism or of Islam. It can be one united land of different religious communities inspired by the ideal of nationalism.”
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Tracing Netaji’s educational foundations, Prof Bose notes that he pursued his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the Scottish Church College in Calcutta in 1918, amidst the first overseas missionaries of the Church of Scotland to India.
Before Netaji could take leadership of the INA for India’s freedom on the islands of Sumatra in Indonesia, Prof Bose flashbacks: “In February 1943, Netaji gets on a German submarine and travels for 93 days, his submarine traversed the North Sea between Scotland and Iceland.”
The insightful evening was well organised at the CGI Edinburgh and beautifully concluded by the members of SABASH with patriotic songs and dance.