The ‘merging’ of the flame from the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ with that at the National War Memorial on Friday, and the announcement by the PM that a statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose would be installed at India Gate, are a continuation of India reclaiming its heritage from colonial symbols. This has been one of the agendas pursued by the present NDA government. Unfortunately, the Congress, whose Nehru-Gandhi dynasty appropriated much of the ‘imperial’ aura of the British, has chosen to describe the move as ‘dousing of history’ and ‘an insult to Indira Gandhi’. It has offered similar objections to the construction of the new parliament building and Central Vista Project.
For as long as India does not rise to the level of establishing its national architecture instead of squatting on the leavings of British colonialists it cannot communicate a sense of nationhood to the coming generations. It is just as important to acknowledge at every level the contributions of freedom fighters other than just those ‘recognised’ by the Congress. One such exclusion of significant importance has been that of Subhash Chandra Bose. India’s freedom fighters acknowledged the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi because he articulated the movement in the nation’s highest philosophical terms. That did not mean, however, that there were not diverse streams of the freedom struggle based on varying ideologies and impulses, all for a common goal. Ever since Independence, history writing has progressively tended to exclude such movements as though those who bore arms did not ‘qualify’ for recognition. It is only now that leaders of tribal resistance, for instance, are being given their due as ‘national’ heroes, instead of being footnotes in books collecting dust in the archives.
When the Congress alleges that shifting the Amar Jawan Jyoti from its temporary accommodation is an insult to the heroes of the 1971 war, it should ask itself what fitting recognition was given to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw by its governments. In fact, over the years, there has been much effort into ensuring that credit for the 1971 victory goes exclusively to one person. It is such things that need to be corrected. If this is being done by Modi’s BJP for political benefit, its validity is not to be doubted. The nation has grown and prospered through the efforts of known and unknown heroes – they cannot be forgotten or erased from history because of its leaders’ negligence or hubris.