Modern ideological warfare, it appears, is often fought not on the battlefield, but on Twitter. And just as in the case of real battles, there is collateral damage here too.
A recent ‘war’ between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), an activist who serves as a Representative for New York's 14th Congressional District and Trump supporters spilt over with the Indian icon Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose being called a neo-Nazi by Nathan Wurtzel in a tweet. At its centre lay AOC's Chief of Staff Saikat Chakrabarti, who wore a T- shirt imprinted with the face of Netaji.
Naturally the Twitterati, especially of Indian origin, was up in arms at the description, with the reaction on the ground not being very different.
Author Anuj Dhar, who has written several books around the death of Subhas Chandra Bose and propounded the theory about his living as Gumnaami Baba in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, says, “While Netaji is seen as someone who Bengalis identify with the most, in private, they are the ones who call him neo-Nazi. None of the newspapers in Bengal have picked up this story. The Central Government is yet to react. Had it been Mahatma Gandhi, there would have been an uproar and an immediate reaction would have been forthcoming from the Foreign Office.”
Subhashini Ali, daughter of Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, who headed the Rani Jhansi Regiment of Bose's Indian National Army, says, “We should condemn it not only because this is anti-Netaji but also because it is anti-historical, anti-fact and anti-democratic.”
Elaborating on her reasons, Ali says, “His speeches were committed to eradicating bias and prejudice. Netaji was the first Congress President who came out for eradicating caste in his very first meeting and encouraged inter-caste marriages. How can he be in consonance with the idea of racial superiority? He was secular to the core.”
She adds, “Under him, Congress changed its Constitution to say that no member could be a part of the Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League. He hated prejudice and racism.”
Bhuvan Lall, author of The Man India Missed the Most: Subhas Chandra Bose, points out, “Calling him neo-Nazi is a continuation of the propaganda unleashed by the British who used the photograph with Hitler and his visit to Germany as a proof of that. After his escape from prison, the Imperial Government hired assassins to kill him. There were very few countries that he could have gone to. Not just Hitler, he also met Mussolini and Tojo, the three people who were fighting the British, not because he was interested in what they were doing, but because he was interested in the help that they could extend to the cause of an independent India.”
Lall also points out that Bose was a follower of Vivekananda, who in his Chicago Address had elaborated on how the Jews had found a natural home in India. “By what stretch of imagination can you call him a neo-Nazi?” he questions.
Dhar also argues on the same lines when he points out, “What commonality does America have when it cosies up with dictators of different hues? National interests and security hold primacy for them and ít’s true for Bose too. He reached out to them to achieve Independence.”
Talking about the meeting between the two, Ali explains that its minutes are public. “He was brave enough to call out Hitler on his treatment of the Jews and he did it sitting in his office and in his country,” she says.
Delving further into history, Dhar gives the example of a Jewish couple that Bose befriended in Germany apart from the fact that he urged Jews to leave the country. But he does not mince his words while talking about the other European countries as being anti-Semitic too. Germany was not the only nation, he asserts.
Meanwhile, Lall disputes calling Bose a neo-Nazi on another count too. “While there was discrimination, there was no information about the horrors of the gas chambers or concentration camps till the War actually got over. So to say that he was shaking hands with an anti-Semite is uncalled for,” he adds.
Dhar believes that India needs to take a strong stand and register its protest against the incident, something that has not been forthcoming. “Bose is largely an ignored hero because it suits everyone,” he rues....