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Sardar Patel To Netaji: Of The People, By The People, For The People, In New India

From Sardar Patel to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and to countless others, including unsung heroes, the democratization process can only be explained as a journey “of the people, by the people, for the people” in New India, in the truest sense.

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The installation of Netaji Subhas Chandra’s Bose statue at India Gate, in the heart of the National Capital, is a milestone in Independent India’s evolution. A nation which forgets its heroes will always be doomed. When a grateful Nation remembers, and is inspired, by its stalwarts, of all hues, it only shows that democracy thrives in truest sense and that finest principles of democratic governance inform State’s priorities and policies.

Indeed, from Sardar Patel to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, from countless unsung heroes of the Freedom Struggle to icons from various tribal communities, from towering figures in farthest corners of the land to those who spent lifetimes working for our civilizational renewal, India has got enriched as there has been a belated -- but much welcome -- celebration of its heroes and icons in the last seven-eight years.

On the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji, while unveiling his hologram statue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “This statue is a tribute of a grateful nation to the great hero, Netaji Subhas (Bose). This statue of Netaji Subhas will give a sense of national obligation to our democratic institutions and our generations and will continue to inspire the present and future generations”.

If the “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” stresses on rediscovering our forgotten heroes, if there is a yearning to see such heroes and their accounts in History books, if statues of such heroes – local to regional to national – inspire one and all, it only shows that a nation is rediscovering its lost moorings. It only shows that while a self-confident Nation bows to its heroes in gratitude, it will also go on to write newer stories of success and glory on the world stage.

Any objective observer, or any student of India, can do a simple exercise to convince themselves on how the phenomenon of rediscovering of our Heroes, and hence the deepening of Democracy, has been actively encouraged in the last seven-eight years. A simple exercise would entail preparing a check-list of national icons and heroes who might have been invoked by top government functionaries in the last eight years. And then a comparison of a similar list from the previous regime, the UPA years.  

If this is too cumbersome an exercise, a reading of Independence Day Speeches of the post-2004 era provides deep insights on deepening of democracy in the Narendra Modi years, when icons and heroes invoked in the speeches have been much in contrast with leaders from a closed group in the UPA years.

Indeed, the Netaji statue in the heart of the National Capital will be a shining symbol of New India.

While there has been a roaring yes, across-the-board, for the Netaji statue move, some have other insights to offer. Congress leader and columnist Shashi Sharoor has been quoted as saying that “there are 164 institutions in India named after Netaji, all of this before 2014”.

Dr Tharoor, and others like him, would do well to ponder on this.

One, many years ago, senior journalist who went on to become Prasar Bharati Chairperson, A Surya Prakash, did some research over a six-month period and discovered that as many as “450  government schemes, projects, institutions, fellowships, stadia, airports were names after just three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family”. So, is it not a fact that the Congress system, and the UPA years, sought to reduce India to a country run by a Family and a closed Club?

Two, after Sardar Patel, one of the tallest, got his due in New India, there has been a belated realization in Congress about Patel’s contributions, too. But is it not a fact that even today, its powerful State units are not sure if to acknowledge Patel’s contributions at all (a recent controversy involving its Karnataka unit caused the party much embarrassment).

Three, is it not a fact that others from the Congress family, including former Prime Ministers, like P V Narasimha Rao, find a place in “Mann ki Baat”, but top Congress leaders find it difficult to acknowledge their contributions?

Social scientists like Ramachandra Guha, in media interactions, have said that Aurobindo Ghosh will be “appropriated next”. But the fact is that Sri Aurobindo, along with Swami Vivekananda, remains one of the biggest influences and inspirations for the government, and has often been invoked, like in Independence-Day speeches, in the last few years!

An objective student of India will see the larger phenomenon around Sardar Patel to Netaji, Suheldev to Avantibai Lodhi, tribal heroes to linguistic icons, a process of deep democratization. In fact, such has been the impact of the phenomenon that former Chief Ministers, who also erected their own statues, have said that they would not indulge in such exercises, in some of the poll-bound states.

Political leaders from the Opposition camp are duty-bound to oppose any move of the government. A section of writers and columnists will only write critical pieces, such is their antipathy for the present government.

But can there be a consensus on facts which stand out, and which have shaped the National Character, in the last seven-eight years?

From Sardar Patel to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and to countless others, including unsung heroes, the democratization process can only be explained as a journey “of the people, by the people, for the people” in New India, in the truest sense.

(The writer, a JNU alumnus, is a political analyst. Views are personal)

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