The Nehru-Netaji Splitsville


In fact, in the current discourse over the declassification of Netaji’s files, it is imperative to understand that the shared vision of the Bose brothers featuring prominently in the freedom movement of India was against Nehru. Madhuri traces this political difference in her book stating that while both Sarat and Nehru espoused Leftist principles as young men, Gandhi’s return to India had motivated the two to become active members of the then resurgent Congress party. Thus, the burgeoning non-cooperation movement led by Gandhi saw active participation from the Bose brothers along with Nehru. In short, the 1920s was a decade marked by harmony. But as the 1930s unfolded, a gradual political estrangement between Nehru and the Bose brothers became clearer.

“The split between the two was always there. It got sharpened after Subhas’s victory in the Haripura session as Congress President and his second victory in the Tripuri session of Congress,” says Kapil Kumar, Director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Freedom Struggle Studies. “The Nehrus had always been very cautious about their own political status and as back as 1919, Motilal Nehru had warned Jawaharlal about the proximity of some leaders to Gandhiji being harmful for their politics. Though Nehru always projected himself as a socialist, he always sided with Gandhi. This is reflected in the Calcutta session of the Congress where both Bose and Nehru were against self government and dominion status to complete independence but when Gandhi sought dominion status, Nehru had immediately voted in favour.” The clash between policy and tactics led to Netaji’s resignation from the Congress Working Committee and his taking charge of the Azad Hind Fauj or the Indian National Army (INA).

As someone who bluntly criticised Netaji’s INA soldiers as ‘misguided patriots’, Nehru’s participation in their trials during the period 1945-46, should not be misconstrued as the revival of a long lost love for Subhas. “Nehru’s support to Red Fort trials being conducted by the British was an opportunistic political move particularly at a time when the country had communal tensions going on,” says Kumar. “The British were no fools. By putting a Hindu Colonel Sehgal, a Sikh Dhillon and a Muslim Shah Nawaz Khan, they were again testing the unity of the people. Both Gandhi and Nehru missed the opportunity to unite and instead launched a struggle against Partition. Moreover, all the INA soldiers who had revolted in the British army and joined the INA were given no place by Nehru in the independent Indian Army in 1947.”

Samrat-RishiChampa-Basistha“A gentleman who gently crushed the contribution of the man who gave away his blood for our freedom”

Samrat Rishi | Restaurant manager, Delhi

“Since childhood, I have been hearing about Jawaharlal Nehru and his greed for power, so much so that he sidelined Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose — a great patriot and dedicated freedom fighter. Subsequently, Netaji had to virtually disappear from the Indian political scene”

Champa Basistha | Head Mistress, Salkia Hindu School for Girls, West Bengal

Speeding away in a car with a dream in his eyes and a master strategy ticking in his mind, Subhas, with a meticulous plan of escape drawn up by Mejda (brother) Sarat and his ardent followers, crossed over from Calcutta to Germany. “He had given an idea of his plan of action to Gandhi who perhaps did not realise its potential,” says Chitra Ghosh. The sentiment was to take advantage of World War II, which had forced Gandhi to launch his Quit India movement, and throw the British out. But all that India has chosen to remember, even 68 years after its independence, is Germany’s Goebbel’s radio announcement in April 1941 which had stated how India’s most popular leader, Netaji, has arrived in Berlin to ask for Hitler’s help in delivering India from British rule.


“I am surprised when Netaji is included in the category of fascists,” says Kumar. “For him, the idea of Indian independence was supreme and we have an intelligence report in the National Archives dating back to 1929 wherein it is recorded that ‘he is the man to be watched, he can go for armed assistance from foreign powers for India’s independence’.


“Furthermore, when the Indian soil was liberated by INA in Manipur, it was the Indian flag which unfurled there and not that of Germany, Japan or Italy. In my view, that is the day that should be celebrated as independence, not August 15. In August, it was merely a transfer of power for a truncated India for which Bose and many others never stood.”

Sadly, the popular Indian perception has etched Netaji as a fixation of the emotional Bengali and Nehru as the true nationalist. And for the international community, Netaji continues to remain a war criminal in UN records while Nehru’s defiance of UN resolutions over Kashmir is conveniently forgotten.