Kolkata: The 123rd birth anniversary of nationalist leader and freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was celebrated Thursday in West Bengal. But celebrations were definitely marred where parties cutting across political lines fought over his legacy.
Since Thursday morning, programmes like mass prayers and processions were organised in the state and the city, from where he hailed, to mark the occasion.
Paying her homage to Bose, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is away in Darjeeling, said he had fought for a secular and united India and opposed the ‘divisive politics’ of Hindu Mahasabha, an apparent reference to the BJP and its leaders.
The country needs leaders like Netaji who can take everybody along, Banerjee said and demanded that his birthday be declared a national holiday.
“Netaji advocated secularism. He was a true leader, who had the ability to lead the country. Only those who have the qualities of secularism can take everybody along, can lead the nation,” Banerjee said in an apparent dig at the BJP-led government at the Centre.
“Netaji had opposed the Hindu Mahasabha’s divisive politics … He had clearly said that this divisive politics is just for the sake of creating a vote bank. He had fought for a secular India. Now efforts are on to oust those who follow secularism,” Banerjee added.
The Hindu Mahasabha (officially Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha) is a Hindu nationalist political party formed in 1915 to protect the rights of the community in British India after the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 and the then British India government’s creation of separate Muslim electorate in 1909.
West Bengal Pradesh Congress President president Somen Mitra, who took part in a programme organised by the party to mark the day, used the occasion to lash out at the BJP government at the Centre over CAA and the proposed NRC.
“The BJP government at the Centre is unable to understand the principles and ideology of Netaji. So it should stop pretending about respecting Netaji and his struggle. Only those (political parties) who don’t understand Netaji talk about about NRC and CAA, driving out Muslims and create communal divide in the country,” Mitra told reporters.
BJP state vice-president and Netaji’s grandnephew, Chandra Bose said the moral fabric of the nation is at stake and there is still time to follow his inclusive ideology, ideas of equality and economic and social freedom for all.
“Paying my respects to a man on his 123rd birth anniversary who fought for #PurnaSwaraj& #Undivided India. Never compromised on his principles! A leader who stood apart from the rest – as he refused to use religious symbols for political purposes. Jai Hind!” Bose said in a tweet.
Reacting to the dig by political parties at the saffron camp on Netaji’s birthday, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said Congress should stop lecturing on Netaji.
“We all know the kind of treatment that Netaji was meted out by Congress leaders before Independence and the systemic method that was undertaken to wipe out his name from the history of India. It is the BJP government that has declassified the files relating to him after so many years,” Sinha said.
Banerjee had released September 2015 all the 64 classified files related to Netaji, which were in the possession of Kolkata Police and West Bengal Police.
The Narendra Modi government had released 100 files regarding the nationalist leader on Netaji’s birth anniversary in 2016.
The All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), which was founded by Netaji himself in 1939 after he quit Congress, took out processions in various parts of the state to commemorate his birthday.