Deathless prince who is more than mortal kings - Hindustan Times

Deathless prince who is more than mortal kings

Jan 22, 2024 09:39 PM IST

If only Netaji had lived longer, he could have prevented the partition of Bengal, and even altered the course of events surrounding Gandhi’s assassination

January 23 is Netaji’s birth anniversary. Any Indian, not misled by shallow bias, would have this haunting thought: If only…”

January 23 is Netaji’s birth anniversary. PREMIUM
January 23 is Netaji’s birth anniversary.

I more than lament his loss before India’s freedom. I bemoan it. I grieve over it. Why?

Because he would have shown India a path different from what Gandhi laid out for us?


The man who referred to Gandhi as the “Father of the Nation” would have thrown out the suggestion with contempt, even anger. Because he would have been an alternative to Jawaharlal Nehru as India’s first prime minister (PM)?

No, again!

The man who looked upon Jawaharlal as a brother and shared with him a passionate adherence to the three S’s — secularism, socialism and science — would have dismissed the suggestion of peer superiority over Jawaharlal as a schismatic ploy deserving of worse than disgust.

I grieve the deprivation of the great man’s services to free India for the precise opposite of the two tendentious suggestions. If only fate had not decreed his pathway out of India in 1941, he would have, I believe, done the following to India’s golden fortune.

He would, as a dynamo in the Congress Working Committee, have been asked by the party president, at Gandhi’s behest, to move the Quit India Resolution in Bombay on August 9, 1942. Looking spectacular in his dhoti and khadi chest drape, he would have shamed the British Raj and sent a thrill of fervour across the nation with a speech so powerful that it would have resonated across centuries, eventually becoming a perennial on YouTube. And he would have been arrested within hours, andlodged with Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad and others in Ahmednagar Fort for the next three years.

Emerging with them, he would have been embraced by an ecstatic Bengal and an adoring India. And in the months that followed, he would have been Gandhi’s most valued, most powerful and an inseparable associate in resisting the Muslim League’s rising demand for Partition. East and West Bengal would have found in Netaji the most tectonic reversal of the move to break their integrity. Muslim League leaders AK Fazlul Haq and HS Suhrawardy could not have resisted Netaji’s voltage for unity and freedom. They would have been more than silenced by him. They would have become willy-nilly and, ultimately, his compatriots.

Would the infamous and hideous Calcutta killings of August 1946 have occurred with Netaji there? No way! Hindus and Muslims would have rallied to his call for harmony. To be sure, Gandhi, Netaji and the Congress may not have been able to avert Partition in India’s northwest. The dividers had gone far, with a ready and compliant British Raj, on the road to tragedy. But I believe Netaji would have prevented the division of Bengal into West Bengal and East Pakistan.

Would that have prevented riots in Noakhali and East Bengal? No. Bigots would have done their worst. But he would have walked with Gandhi, across villages and in Noakhali, to heal the lashings of sectarian violence. And he would have done the same in Bihar, where the victims and assailants had their roles switched.

Implored to head the new provincial government of Bengal, Netaji would have asked Bapu for advice. And Bapu, according to my own imagination, would have told Netaji: “Subhas, you belong to all of India. You should serve the government-in-making in Delhi.”

So, would he have joined the interim cabinet to which Jawaharlal would have no doubt invited him? I doubt it. He was not playing for office.

But after Independence, Jawaharlal would have again asked him to join. Netaji would have again conferred with Bapu, who would have again told him to join. He would have suggested that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Netaji should both be deputy prime ministers. And he would also have suggested that Netaji should become Congress president.

On August 15, 1947, as Congress president and deputy PM, Netaji would have unfurled the national flag on the Maidan in Calcutta, and Sardar Patel would have done the same in Bombay.

With Sardar Patel as deputy PM and Union home minister, Netaji would have been deputy PM and Union defence minister. And even as Sardar Patel integrated the princely states into India and united it, Netaji as deputy PM and defence minister would have stopped the invaders of Kashmir from Pakistan on their tracks, pushed them back, lock, stock and barrel, and kept India whole.

And he would have, in close concert with Sardar Patel, deployed his forces to stop riots wherever and whenever they occurred. Like Jawaharlal, he too would have personally jumped into crowds that were being belligerent and stilled their ire. He would have told both the PM and the home minister that Bapu’s security is the government’s, not Bapu’s, prerogative. “Bapu may say, ‘I do not want guards’, but it is our responsibility to guard him”, he would have said and seen to it that security was tight at the prayer grounds where Gandhi came evening after evening amidst thronging crowds. He would have seen to it that no one in any garb, Hindu, Muslim or other, would have dared to approach the Father of the Nation with the intent of assassination.

Let me round this off with a final flight of imagination: On January 30, 1948, if Netaji had been right beside Bapu, whom he devotedly called the “Father of the Indian Nation”, Netaji would have done what any dutiful son would have done. I need not elaborate.

The foregoing imaginings are why I warmed to Netaji’s statue under the great canopy on Raj Path in New Delhi. Each time I see it, I tell myself, “This is the hero of heroes who would have saved Kashmir from being invaded, saved thousands of innocents from rape and murder at the hands of brutes, and would have saved Bapu himself from being murdered. This is the deathless prince who was and will ever be more than mortal kings.”

Jai Netaji, Jai Hind, Netaji!

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a former administrator, and diplomat, is a student of modern Indian history. The views expressed are personal

Get World Cup ready with Crick-it! From live scores to match stats, catch all the action here. Explore now!

See more

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, June 21, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On