Fundamental Differences Between MK Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose. A War Criminal.

The foundation for the numerous differences in opinion between Gandhi and Bose was their fundamentally different ideologies and corresponding visions for the future of an independent India. Bose deemed himself a socialist and expressed his views on his vision for the future of India with consistency from an early stage in his political career. In a 1928 speech, he outlined his ideas for an “independent Federal Republic” that he hoped would soon become a reality. Its constitution, he declared, would include a Zakakria, inside covers to 100 Glorious Years. 1 declaration of rights that would guarantee civil liberties and provide for “a system of joint electorate” wherein there would be no communal divisions by religion, class, or caste. He advocated a push towards a more egalitarian society regardless of religion or class and specifically mentioned an effort to boost the involvement of women in “public affairs.” As a socialist, he tied all of this together with class-based rhetoric, arguing: The dawn of economic consciousness spells the death of fanaticism. There is much more in common between a Hindu peasant and a Muslim peasant than between a Muslim peasant and a Muslim zamindar.  The masses have only got to be educated wherein their economic interests be, and once they understand it, they will no longer consent to be pawns in communal feuds.8 Bose was hopeful that a shift away from traditional society could be accomplished, bringing with it social equality and a unified Indian identity across religious groups. Bose continued to hold similar views about his ideal for India throughout the next decade, as evidenced by his pronouncements in his opening speech as Congress Party president during his first term in 1938. In his address, Bose explicitly called for “revolutionary reconstruction” that would overcome India’s “chief national problems relating to the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and disease and to scientific production and distribution…along socialistic lines.” He provided more specificity as to his reconstruction plan, arguing for a federal system that would placate minority communities by allowing them some autonomy, which constituted a practical governing approach to fostering national unity in the face of communal divisions. His additional plan to boost unity across India was the proposed use of a hybrid official language that would combine Hindi with Urdu and use a Roman script. Beyond these cultural proposals, Bose’s economic ideas were most clearly socialistic. The key points of his Subhas Chandra Bose, “Presidential Address at the Maharashtra Provincial Conference,” in The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, ed. Sisir K. Bose and Sugata Bose (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997), long-term plan were to implement “A comprehensive scheme of industrial development under state-ownerships and state-control” and to “eradicate poverty” through “a radical reform of our land system, including the abolition of land-lordism.” It is clear from this speech that Bose was quite open about his desire for significant reworking of the social, political, and economic order in the country, all of which he hoped would alleviate social ills and promote national unity in post-independence India. In the course of his presidential term following his address at Haripura, Bose took concrete steps to organize the implementation of a socialistic reconstruction of the country. He formed a planning committee within the Party leadership to draw up ideas on this front and rather than heading it up himself, he set up Nehru as the chair. Nehru was a socialist as well, and therefore bought into the type of economic planning touted by Bose, but was generally more moderate and willing to compromise with the Right Wing of the Party. It seems likely that Bose hoped to deflect Right Wing criticism of this move with Nehru’s appointment and maintain the Party norm of reducing open internal dissension to a minimum in the face of the continuing challenges involved in ejecting the British from India. Bose was soon to breach this protocol with his divisive re-election bid, but for the time being he was in power and content to moderate his demands to retain party unity. Although Gandhi shared Bose’s aim of ending British rule in India, he held a sharply contrasting vision for how an independent India should operate. He was decidedly not a socialist and put greater emphasis on maintaining traditional ways of Indian life. This was evident in his approaches to combating British rule, where his 9 Bose, “Haripura Address,” in Essential Writings. Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers against the Raj: a Biography of Sarat & Subhas Chandra Bose rejection of British control also included a rejection of Western ways of life, including such aspects as modern medicine, industry and technology that stood at the heart of Bose’s socialist plan for India’s revitalization.11 On a personal level, Gandhi renounced European clothes while living in South Africa in 1912 and gave up his profession as a lawyer, for which he had studied in England, in order to take up resistance to the British through means beyond the legal system that they had imposed upon their colonies.12 The term for Gandhi’s preferred form of non-violent resistance combined the Sanskrit words for truth and struggle, satya and agraha, into the new word satyagraha.  His political resistance operated outside of the conventional legal and political channels constructed by the British, which further emphasized Gandhi’s efforts to separate himself from Britain and return to Indian ways of life.  By doing so, he defined his approach in an Indian context, rejecting the possibility of using the English language to define his anti-British tactics. Perhaps the most clear contrast between Gandhi’s ideology and that of Bose is Gandhi’s ideal of a return to self-sufficient village life. In Gandhi’s doctrine of “trusteeship,” the existing social hierarchies would be preserved, with those at the top safeguarding the welfare of the rest. For him, this model of village life held the key to avoiding the modern class system, an assertion that Bose would surely have rejected, given his characterizations of peasants as a class that should band together to secure its own economic well being. Therefore, while Bose was pushing for economic reforms under a centralized socialist state, Gandhi was advocating a return to village life Arnold, Gandhi and a rejection of industrialization and other aspects of modern society. This squares with Gandhi’s focus on improving the lives of “untouchables” within the framework of the Hindu caste system rather than, like Bose, advocating for the entire system to be dismantled.15 Gandhi’s affinity for traditional society may have had its roots in his rural upbringing, which contrasted with that of Bose, where his father, grandfather, and uncle were all advisors to local princely rulers. Whether or not Gandhi’s traditionalism began at a young age, it continued to shape his values later in his life, as demonstrated by his well-known decision to spin the thread for his own clothes and serve as an example for self-sufficiency rather than buy imported cloth.

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