Amid a controversy over the rejection of West Bengal’s tableau for the Republic Day parade themed on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army, his daughter Anita Bose-Pfaff said on Monday the legendary freedom fighter’s legacy has often been “partly exploited” for political reasons.
She minced no words while acknowledging the fanfare that marked the start of the 125th birth anniversary year celebrations of Bose in 2021 in Kolkata had something to do with the elections in West Bengal.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, voicing her “shock” at the rejection of the tableau, which also featured other Bengal icons like Rabindranath Tagore, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and others.
“I have heard about it. I don’t know under what circumstances it happened and why the tableau was not included. There might be some reasons. We can’t imagine that the Republic Day function in the year when my father would have turned 125 is being held and his tableau was not included, it seems very strange,” Bose-Pfaff told PTI in a telephonic interview from Germany, where she lives.
“And last year, the opening of the anniversary year (that) was celebrated in a bigger way, of all places in Kolkata, had something to do with election and election prospects in Bengal. The fact that nothing happened this year….certainly the issue is not as important as last year,” she said.
“Certainly and partly for political reasons,” she said while responding to a question about whether the legacy of the national hero was exploited for political purposes.
She, however, proceeded to add that she would not criticise it as politics is about coming across people and communicating. “So if an event like that touches many people, they would do it,” she said.
Banerjee, while urging the prime minister to reconsider the decision, said it will cause “pain” to the people of West Bengal. She said no reason was put forth for rejecting the tableau.
Bose-Pfaff, who lauded the BJP government for declassifying files related to Netaji, however, deplored that a high-level committee that was formed last year to plan a grand year-long programme to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of the freedom fighter never even contacted her.
“I am supposed to be a member of that committee, but I have never heard that it has called a meeting….or any written communication. As far as I know, there has been no meeting. For me, it’s a non-existent committee,” she said.
Bose, who Mahatma Gandhi once referred to as the ‘prince among the patriots’, was one of the foremost icons of Bengal, whose legacy the ruling TMC and challenger BJP had tried to appropriate in the run-up to the assembly elections last year.
Bose-Pfaff once again asked the Government of India to ensure DNA tests are done on the ashes kept at Renkoji temple in Japan that many claim belong to Bose to bring out the truth and resolve the mystery surrounding his end.
“I tried to get the remains to move to India…but there are a lot of barriers. Now there is a Covid situation. I certainly would like this to be resolved. I think a DNA test should be conducted. DNA tests would bring out the truth,” she said.
According to several accounts, Bose boarded a plane on August 18, 1945 from Taihoku Airport in Taiwan which crashed soon after take off, leading to his death. However, many believe he survived the crash and lived in hiding in India.
The controversy over the omission of West Bengal’s tableau erupted just a day after the Centre decided to start Republic Day celebrations every year from January 23, the birthday of Bose, with Banerjee’s remonstration.
The Modi government had last year decided to observe the fabled freedom fighter’s birth anniversary as ‘Parakram Diwas’ (The Day of Valour).