In a typically Indian political development in the lead-up to the West Bengal assembly election, the name of the British-made Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, built in the memory of Queen Victoria of England, may soon be changed. Sources said that a Prime Minister Narendra Modi-made committee meant for the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has suggested the name change and it may be renamed after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose or Azad Hind Fauj.
Notably, the committee formed for 125th birth anniversary commemoration of Netaji, headed by the prime minister, comprises Home Minister Amit Shah as well as Mamata Banerjee, apart from Netaji’s kin like BJP’s Chandra Kumar Bose. It has former prime ministers Dr Manmohan Singh and HD Deve Gowda as its members. According to sources, Modi will be in Bengal on 23 January to inaugurate a Netaji museum at Victoria Memorial and then address a gathering.
When speculations were earlier abuzz about the name change, with supporters of the Modi government cheering in anticipation, Sirf News‘ Editor-in-Chief Surajit Dasgupta had written on Facebook, “The tremendous support for the idea of changing the name of Victoria Memorial stems from, besides a herd mentality of going with anything that comes from the 6-year-old dispensation, the urge to address Indians’ guilty conscience…”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that Kolkata port would be renamed after Syama Prasad Mookerjee. “This port will now be known as Syama Prasad Mookerjee port,” the Prime Minister said adding “it was unfortunate for the country that after Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Babasaheb Ambedkar resigned from the government, their suggestions were not implemented as they should have been.”
He said, “Kolkata Port is the symbol of India’s industrial, spiritual and self-independence. When this port is entering in its 150th year, it is important to make it a symbol of the making of new India.”
Soon thereafter, senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had taken to Twitter and said that Victoria Memorial should be renamed after Rani Jhansi. “I welcome Namo’s statement in Kolkata that History, as we know, should be reviewed. He should implement that statement by re-naming Victoria Memorial as Rani Jhansi Smarak Mahal. Queen Victoria took over India after the betrayal of Rani Jhansi in 1857 and looted India for 90 years,” Swami tweeted.
The union government decided to observe Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary on 23 January every year as Parakram Diwas. It announced the move to pay tribute to the freedom fighter to inspire the youth of the nation to ‘act with fortitude in the face of adversity’. Ahead of Netaji’s 125th birth anniversary, the Ministry of Culture issued a circular announcing 23 January to be observed as Parakram Diwas every year from now on.
Soon after, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that the birth anniversary of Netaji would be celebrated as ‘Desh Nayak Diwas’ annually. A train has since been renamed to Netaji Express.
Amid old claims that successive Indian National Congress (INC) governments had since Independence attempted to marginalise Netaji and his efforts in India’s freedom struggle, the Modi government had in 2015 declassified 33 files relating to Bose, with digital copies of 100 files being released by the prime minister in January 2016.
Not to be outdone in titillating patriotic sentiments, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declassified files related to Netaji in the possession of the West Bengal government even before Modi.
Then, in December 2016, the Modi government declassified the Indian records related to Bose and Azad Hind Fauj and placed them in the National Archives of India.
However, Mission Netaji, the pressure group dedicated to unearthing Netaji’s suspected post-1945 whereabouts, is not fully impressed. Journalist-turned-activist Anuj Dhar, researcher Chandrachur Ghose, activist and television panellist Sreejith Panicker and others in the NGO say that the truth about the freedom fighter cannot be known until the Government of India pressures its counterparts in such countries where Netaji could have escaped to — so that they come out of their classified documents too.
Dhar and Ghose came up with the book Conundrum on Gumnami Baba, claiming the elusive ascetic was none other than Bose in disguise. The duo rejects, with strong arguments, the findings of all commissions of inquiry formed prior to the Manoj Mukherjee Commission.
In the meantime, every year on 18 August, ministers of the current government and functionaries of the BJP embarrass the dispensation by paying tributes to Netaji on his “death anniversary” — only to delete the tweets after being told that the death of the founder of the INA on that day of 1945 was never established beyond doubt.
The union government has transferred a total of 304 declassified records and files to National Archives of India for permanent retention. Out of the 304 flies, 303 files are already uploaded on the Netaji web portal.
The National Archives of India is the custodian of declassified files and records of the union government. Earlier, in 1997 the National Archives of India had received 990 declassified files pertaining to the Azad Hind Fauj from the Ministry of Defence.
In 2018, Modi visited Andaman and Nicobar Islands and joined the programme to mark 75th anniversary of hoisting Tricolour by Netaji Bose – renaming Ross Island as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep, Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep and the Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep. Recently, in January 2019, a Netaji museum was inaugurated by Modi at Red Fort, New Delhi. The Modi government had also inculcated 4 INA veterans in its Republic Day parade in 2019- marking a first.