“Why do we abuse our national icons?” I was wondering while sipping tea in the evening today. I was reading a report carrying the stricture passed by the Supreme Court of India last week in connection with a Marathi poem published in 1984 involving Mahatma Gandhi.

The story was old, thanks to the leisurely judicial system we have: the poet had put abusive words in the mouth of Gandhiji in his creative adventure. Myself, a shameless tea drinker, got my lazy brain lightened up as I took my attention away from my cup oozing familiar yet rich flavour. But then I was slow; thought the old outdated story should be treated better with tea and sympathy; and we have grown mature as a nation and as its citizens after three decades.

Then I came across another report of public abuses of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru in regard to the death-mystery of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the alleged snooping on his family members later by the Indian government.

“Can we better our history or boost our national character by abusing our national icons, particularly within the realm of democracy?”

National history is a stack of cards arranged in a neat fashion by articulated historians. They depict some aspects in great detail and with certain orientation without fail. But then, echoes of past incidents do get heard later. With continually percolating information, we get wider scope to examine each past incident and each past actor better, and refine or alter existing interpretations. Some of these satisfy us, some create further doubts, some create flutters in established beliefs while other may even antagonise a section. Nothing can be spelt as absolute; it’s an interminable and evolutionary process of deliberation and conforms to the democratic practice that we have adopted.

Can we not deliberate with different viewpoints and with information available; blaming is not bad either if it is based on information. Abuse is no answer.

Netaji is regarded as a national hero since our independence. His contribution to India and Indian people during freedom struggle has been treated quite well and also celebrated by most historians in spite of his association with the much hated Nazis of Germany and Japanese regime during World War II. His legacy has been safeguarded against prevailing post-war world affairs and biases; and we, as Indians, must be grateful to Pundit Nehru as he was leading the government during this period.

Now so many decades have gone by; and global power balance and anchors of global diplomacy have shifted. The Indian government should plan for a complete disclosure of Netaji’s files, even if it springs surprises and upsets erstwhile Allied Powers. These classified files are purely not against Pundit Nehru, else the present government would have already done. But then for larger understanding about the circumstances and happenings surrounding the period after Netaji’s disappearance, the government should consider.

And, right wing fanatics should stop hurling abuses at the first Prime Minister, and in the same spirit, against any other historical figures. Bring out more information to the public, write more history books, and discuss it out. But no abuse please.

My cup is empty now; and the aroma has diffused far. Next week again.



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