Criticality and patriotism
Ish MishraFreedom of thought and expression is the core of democracy and essential ingredient of creatively healthy development of individual personality and the character of the society. There is nothing like JNUite freedom to express – lineage”, owing to the legacies of its democratic academic culture that was possible to build in the first decade of its inception, due to its very small size and intellectually enlightened composition, JNU provides conducive atmosphere to critically comprehend the importance of debates; discussions - freedom of expression. I shall fight for your freedom to express, even if I detest your ideas.
I am a teacher. In my first class, I begin with telling my students, who become my friends (JNU syndrome), that key to any knowledge is questioning; questioning anything and everything, including your own mind set. But it involves the risk of turning into an atheist. In fact, during our growing up and training, we acquire many senses of moralities including uncriticality in general and uncritical patriotism with jingoistic tendencies independent of our will or conscious effort. This uncritical mind-set does not allow us to critically asses the historical celebrities and hence your sarcastic reaction on my stating the historical fact that Subhash Bose was an ally of Hitler during the 2nd World War.
I advise my student-friends to question the acquired moralities, beginning with the standing up in the class on the arrival of the teacher, reject them if irrational and replace them with rational moralities. “It has been like that for ages” is an untenable answer as our ancestors may not have been wiser than us. Every next generation is always smarter, is the proven law of the dynamics of human history, as every generation builds upon the contributions of previous generations. And history never repeats itself. History does not repeat, only echoes. Due to our ignorance unaffected by Ph.D. degree or success in UPSC or becoming a professor after being rejected in all such examinations with the help of some God fathers eager to adopt God sons.
We mistake echoes for the real sound. Karl Marx has rightly said that the traditions weigh on our heads like the corpses of the dead generations. One must be unburden oneself at the earliest. The engine of the history does not have reverse gear. It may go zigzags but will move ahead. There is no final knowledge that has already been invented by our ancestors, as some people say about our semi-nomadic-pastoral Rig Vedic ancestors. If one reaches the "cliff" of the knowledge and keeps looking down the slope with self-obsession one stops to grow and stagnates. Knowledge is on-going, continuous process. The educational institutions do not seek to impart knowledge but to equip the children and the youth with information and skills required for the status-quo. No wonder all the builders and property dealers are becoming patrons of the educational institutions for a lucrative price. Students too do not join prestigious institutions for the knowledge but to enhance their market value. To acquire knowledge based on critical rationality one has to make independent efforts and JNU culture provided conducive, conditions for that. Addebajees on the Dhabas were the primary forums for such independent efforts aided by debates and discussions on various other forums.
Now coming back to the issue of Subhash Bose, who till becoming the President of Congress twice was a Bengal based leader in the shadows of Chitaranjan Das, one of the advocates of Council entry against the boycott call by Gandhi. If Bose was so popular in the Congress and in the masses that he became congress President twice, once against the declared wishes of Gandhi, and if he was a visionary as is generally projected by uncritical patriotism, why could he not fight out within the various streams of national movement his conflict with Gandhi, if he was not opportunistically but ideologically opposed to him? He was a fence sitter between Left and right wings of the Congress. He could win the elections against the Gandhi’s wishes, not for his national popularity but due to active support and protracted campaign by the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) that included the members of the banned Communist Party. Acharya Narendra Dev was it founding President; JP as General Secretary and Namboodaripad as Joint Secretary. Subhash who was unanimously elected in 1938 Haripura Congress and against Gandhi’s candidate at Tripuri Congress in 1939 but became ineffective due to passage of the notorious Pant resolution, as the CSP members abstained. By the time Subhash decided to take shelter with Hitler and began his regular broadcast of exchanging blood with Azadi, from Hitler’s radio station in Berlin, Hitler’s fascist and expansionist character was clear to any bearer of common sense. Bose was highly meritorious to clear ICS examination and therefore, may be under desperation, chose to be subservient ally of Hitler putting the lives of patriotic rebels of British Royal Army under the supreme command of the axis forces.
Just imagine, had the results of the world war been opposite that seemed imminent before Hitler committed the Napoleonic blunder, India would have slipped under extra-constitutional fascist imperialism from the clutches of constitutional bourgeois imperialism. May be the freedom struggle would have prolonged and post-colonial India would have been more wrecked. I conclude by referring to Morarji’s interview on TV by MJ Akbar sometime around 1992-3. Akbar: “Do you think Subhash Chandra Bose if alive would have been better prime minister than Nehru?” Morarji: “who says so? Nehru was a thorough democrat. May be Bose would have been a worst kind of fascist!”
In order to comprehend the history, one needs to be critical and self-critical. It is not to undermine the sacrifices of INA soldiers who under false consciousness of patriotism fought on the side of fascists.