Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Subhas Chandra Bose Museum at Red Fort on Wednesday to mark the legendary freedom fighter’s 122nd birth anniversary. Making a brief tour of the Netaji Museum, Modi said that he was hopeful that it would “deepen the between our glorious history and our youth as well as add to the patriotic among citizens”.
Amidst several dignitaries from the ruling party and Ram Nath Kovind, the PM inaugurated three other museums connected to Indian history and culture, including one dedicated to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and World War I. He also inaugurated a museum on 1857 — India’s first war of Independence —, and the Drishyakala Museum on Indian Art within the Red Fort complex.
This entire complex of will be known as Kranti Mandir as a tribute to “the revolutionary zeal and courage of our great freedom fighters”, PM Modi tweeted.
Museum for the forgotten hero
The museum is dedicated to Bose’s contributions to the Indian independence movement and the role played by his Indian National Army in the eventual British ouster.
It showcases different , including a wooden chair and sword used by the leader, medals, badges uniforms from his INA days, PTI reported. A documentary voiced by Abhishek Bachchan will reportedly help visitors understand Bose’s vision.
In December last year, Modi had announced that three islands in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago would be renamed as per Bose’s wishes, to mark the 75th anniversary of INA’s raising the Indian national flag for the first time during the freedom movement.
Behind this peculiar Netaji-bhakti
Many are deeply critical of BJP’s appropriation of a leader, who was too non-sectarian and left-wing even for Congress. Bose was a radical who opposed Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent measures including the Satyagraha and was later expelled from the party for vocally opposing such decisions. His aversion to the divisive communal politics of the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS is similarly well-documented.
The saffron party has, of late, poached several Congress leaders to forge the image of India’s glorious past. The legacy of Vallabhbhai Patel was commemorated in the Statue of Unity, the tallest in the world. Last year, the Centre announced it would erect statues of all former PMs in the Teen Murti Bhavan complex which houses the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), despite severe objection.
However, Netaji’s inclusion in BJP’s homage list is more incongruent and begs several questions in light of Modi’s slew of failed campaign strategies in Bengal, where he may even contest from according to some reports.
The museum could be aimed at appeasing the Bengali community which Bose as the forgotten hero and despair at his dismissal by the Congress back in the day. But by hitching their wagon to Bose’s enduring popularity and appeal, BJP comes dangerously close to falsely aligning its ideologies with his, or worse, repainting them in a more conservative light.
Far from this confusing homage, tucked away in Bhowanipore, Kolkata, Bose’s ancestral residence also functions as a bustling memorial and research dedicated to his illustrious life and freedom-fighting career. Netaji Bhawan situated off Elgin Road houses several key artefacts and memorabilia (including the black German Wanderer sedan he escaped in back in 1941), drawing tourists and enthusiasts to what has come to be widely regarded as a site of cultural and historical significance in the state.
Another site of interest for Bose enthusiasts stands in Cuttack, a mansion-turned-museum he was born in, on January 23, 1897.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius