Tug of war over Netaji’s birth anniversary between Centre and Bengal
Both try to appropriate legacy of national icon.
The 125th birth anniversary celebration of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on Saturday turned a tug of war contest between the Centre and State government, with each trying to appropriate the legacy of the national icon. With only a few months to go for Assembly elections in West Bengal, attempts to appropriate cultural icons like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore are being made both by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Union Ministry of Culture had earlier this week announced that “in order to honour and remember Netaji’s indomitable spirit and selflessness to the nation, Government of India has decided to celebrate his birthday on the 23rd day of January every year as Parakram Dibas”. While the Centre had announced the day to be observed as ‘Parakram Dibas’ (day of courage), Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee observed the day as ‘Desh Nayak Dibas’ (day of hero of nation).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in three events in the city, including a visit to Netaji’s ancestral house on Elgin Road, which serves as the Netaji Research Bureau. He later visited the National Library, where an art exhibition and international symposium on Netaji was inaugurated. The PM later participated in an event at the Victoria Memorial and said that the Centre would celebrate Netaji’s birthday as Parakram Diwas every year.
Earlier in the day, the Chief Minister visited the Netaji Research Bureau and participated in a road show from the Netaji statue at Shyambazar crossing to another statue of the national icon on Red Road. “I do not understand Parakram, whether it is Hindi word or Bengali word or an English word, but we understand that Netaji was the greatest Desh Nayak. Therefore, we are observing the day as Desh Nayak Dibas,” Ms. Banerjee said. She said that the term ‘Desh Nayak’ was given to Netaji by Rabindranath Tagore.
The Chief Minister went on say that she was in touch with Netaji’s family “for 365 days not just before the election”. Before visiting the Netaji Research Bureau, the CM announced on social media that a monument named after the Azad Hind Fauj would be built at Rajarhat. “A university named after Netaji is also being set up which shall be funded entirely by the State and will have tie-ups with foreign universities. #DeshNayakDibas,” Ms. Banerjee said. She added that the Centre must also declare January 23 as a national holiday.
“Attempts are being made by the TMC to show that the BJP is alien to the culture of West Bengal. That is why the State’s ruling party goes into a hyper drive when the Prime Minister visits the city on the anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose or Union Home Minister Amit Shah goes to Santiniketan,” political observer and professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University Biswanath Chakraborty told The Hindu.
The Prime Minister will preside over the inaugural function of ‘Parakram Divas’ celebrations at the Victoria Memorial here. “A permanent exhibition and a show on Netaji will be inaugurated on the occasion. A commemorative coin and postage stamp will also be released by the Prime Minister. A cultural programme ‘Amra Nuton Jouboneri Doot’, based on the theme of Netaji, will also be held,” a statement from the Press Information Bureau said.