Friday 18 September 2015

To Bengalis

Many Bengalis, perceiving me as anti-Bengali,  have made several abusive comments against me because of my views on Subhas Chandra Bose and Tagore. This has deeply hurt  me. So I am writing this post mainly for them.

 I am not, and I never was anti-Bengali. I am a great admirer of the really great men Bengal produced, and their outstanding contribution to our nation in literature, science, philosophy, social reforms, etc. But I refuse to recognize as great those phony people like Bose and Tagore whom many of you foolishly idolize.

 How many of you Bengalis have even heard of Debi Prosad Chattopadhyaya ( 1911- 1993 ) ? He was the greatest philosopher India has produced in modern times ( he is not to be confused with another Debi Prosad Chattopadhyaya, born in 1933, who was also a philosopher ). His books, particularly his ' What is living and what is dead in Indian  Philosophy '  and ' Lokayata ' were  seminal works and in my opinion the most outstanding books on Indian philosophy. On reading them I was wonderstruck by his clarity and profound erudition, and many things about Indian philosophy, which were earlier unclear to me, became clear.

  I am a great admirer of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who led the way to social reforms in India, despite facing tremendous opposition by die hard conservative people who wanted to continue the inhuman practices like suttee..

 In the field of literature I have the greatest admiration for Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyaya and Kazi Nazrul Islam.

I regard the best poetry in modern India to be Urdu poetry ( how many of you have any idea of it ? ), and the best prose to be Bengali prose. And in prose literature Sharad Chandra towers over everyone in India, like a Mount Everest. In fact I regard Sharad Chandra as the greatest novelist and story writer India has produced, and indeed one of the greatest in the world.

 Sharad Chandra launched a full blooded attack against the oppressive caste system, women's oppression, and other feudal inhuman customs and practices in India.  The first of his works which I read ( half a century ago ) was ' Shrikant '., his longest novel. After beginning this novel, which some say is autobiographical, I was so mesmerized that I could not leave it until I had read all its 1000 pages. Thereafter I read his Charitraheen, Shesh Prashna, Palli Samaj, Parineeta, Biraj Bahu, Devdas, Grihadah, Vipradas  etc. What a fantastic writer, what genuine compassion for the oppressed sections of society. !

 In my opinion no writer in the world could equal Sharad Chandra's women characterization. I have read great literature of the world in which women characters are central to the theme, e.g. Tolstoy's ' Anna Karenina ', Gustave Flaubert's ' Madam Bovary ', Emily Bronte's ' Wuthering Heights ', Margaret Mitchell's ' Gone With The wind ' etc but no one could match Sharad Chandra's women characters, e.g. Rajyalakshmi, Kamal, Kiranmayi, Chandramukhi,  Sumitra, Bharati, Savitri, Rama, Bindu, Parvati, Bijaya, Shorasi etc.

  Later when Sharad Chandra wrote his ' Pather Dabi ', the British got scared and they banned it. This novel was about a revolutionary organization wanting to end British rule. After its ban the price of one copy of the novel was said to have become the same as the price of a Mauser pistol.

 Since the British became scared of Sharad Chandra's popularity they built up Tagore through Yeats, and their aim was to divert literature from the revolutionary direction .Sharad Chandra was taking it towards a harmless channel. Tagore took Bengali literature towards spiritualism and mysticism, which is nonsense in a poor country like India,.e.g. his poems Gitanjali, Klanti, Agnibeena bajao tumi kemon kore, etc. His novel Gora is meaningless. Graham Greene said that apart from Yeats no one takes Tagore seriously, and in fact later even Yeats turned against Tagore, saying that he wrote sentimental rubbish.

  Some say that Tagore was patriotic as he refused Knighthood after the Jallianwala massacre. But why did the British offer Knighthood to him at all. Why not to Sharad Chandra, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Subramania Bharati, etc ? Obviously because these persons were not serving British interests. And as for the Nobel Prize, everybody knows that the Nobel Prize in literature, like the Nobel Prize in peace, is often a joke. Of the 113 Nobel prizes in literature given so far, no one even remembers the names of over 90 of them, as they were given to undeserving persons who were serving certain vested interests. Why was the Nobel Prize not given to Sharad Chandra, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Premchand, Subramania Bharati, Faiz, Manto, etc. ?

  There are broadly two theories of art and literature, art for art's sake, and art for social purpose ( see my article ' The Role of Art and Literature on my blog ). Those who belong to the first school believe that art and literature should only aim at producing beautiful and entertaining works, but if it seeks a social purpose it ceases to be art and becomes propaganda. On the other hand, the second school believes that art and literature should serve a social purpose, and help the people by attacking oppressive social customs and practices, and inspiring them to struggle for a better life.

 Sharad Chandra belongs to the second school, and many oppressive social customs and practices in Bengal were considerably weakened because of his writings.
    In his acceptance speech delivered on 15th Sep 1933 at a gathering organized at the Calcutta Town Hall to celebrate his 57th birthday, Sharat Chandra acknowledged his debt to the poor and depraved. He said :

" My literary debt is not limited to my predecessors only. I am forever indebted to the deprived, ordinary people who give this world everything they have and yet receive nothing in return, to the weak and oppressed people whose tears nobody bothers to notice and to the endlessly hassled, distressed (weighed down by life) and helpless people who don't even have a moment to think that: despite having everything, they have the right to nothing.

They made me start to speak. They inspired me to take up their case and plead for them. I have witnessed endless injustice to these people, unfair intolerable indiscriminate justice. It is true that springs do come to this world for some - full of beauty and wealth - with its sweet smelling breeze perfumed with newly bloomed flowers and spiced with cuckoo's song, but such good things remained well outside the sphere where my sight remained imprisoned. This poverty abounds in my writings."

  I am a great admirer of the genuinely great Bengali revolutionaries. Like Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla, Ram Prasad Bismil etc, the Bengalis produced countless heroes who gave their lives fighting for India's freedom, e.;g. Khudiram Bose..

 My greatest hero is Surya Sen ( Masterda ), the tiger of Bengal. After the Chittagong armoury raid when he was caught he was inhumanly tortured before he was executed.  Before he was hanged, the British executioners broke all his teeth with a hammer, and pulled out all his nails. They broke all his limbs and joints. He was dragged to the rope unconscious. His last letter was written to his friends and said: “Death is knocking at my door. My mind is flying away towards eternity ...At such a pleasant, at such a grave, at such a solemn moment, what shall I leave behind you? Only one thing, that is my dream, a golden dream---the dream of Free India "

The British cruelly destroyed his body, but could not destroy his spirit.

  These are the real heroes of Bengal, not that man Subhas Chandra Bose, who while no doubt a patriot in his youth, later, due to his vaulting ambition, like Faust, sold his soul to a Mephistopheles. In fact he sold it twice, first to the Nazis, whose collaborator he tried to become by proposing to set up an army of captured Indian soldiers to fight along with the Nazis, and later to the Japanese fascist imperialists.

 In science, Bengalis have made the foremost contribution in India. . Praful Chandra Ray is often regarded as the Father of modern Indian science, but there were a host of other great Bengali scientists--Jagadish Chandra Bose, S.N. Bose ( who with Einstein created the Bose-Einstein statistics ), Meghnad Saha, etc

   There are other fields too in which Bengalis made a great contribution, and which I admire. So how can I be anti-Bengali ?

  At the same time, I refuse to admire a person just because he was Bengali. I am not an appeaser of Bengalis. I am not in politics, and I do not want your votes. I have never sought publicity or popularity ( though many people have accused me of that ). In fact I have a low opinion of those who seek publicity or popularity.

 So while I admire the truly great Bengalis, please don't expect me to admire phonies like that Japanese puppet Subhas Chandra Bose or that British stooge Tagore.
.. .


  1. All the foreign aggressors had misplayed with the history and promoted only those Indians who served their purpose well. Common man could not understand it. The contributions made by the Bengalis other than those celebrated in the official media is far above. Your post is really appreciable to highlight the fact.

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  3. Mr. Katju, You must not remark without going into details of a man like Subhash ch. bose and Rabindranath Tagore. You spoke Gora is meaningless. Your deficiency to understand literature can not be passed to others. You have not been able to understand Tagore. No doubt He believed in spiritualism but his over all out look was against imperialism and fascism. Your posts appear to me based on logic of childish nature. You have advanced some logic not based on inductive in character but deductive. You have taken something guaranteed and then you have tried to prove it with tricky have not submitted any documents in support of your claims.

  4. P.K. Sahgal, once military secretary to Subhas Bose and later tried in the first Red Fort trials, explained the INA strategy to historian Peter Fay[44]— although the war itself hung in balance and nobody was sure if the Japanese would win, initiating a popular revolution with grass-root support within India would ensure that even if Japan ultimately lost the war, Britain would not be in a position to re-assert its colonial authority. It was planned that once Japanese forces break through British defences at Imphal, the INA would cross the hills of North-East India into the Gangetic plain, where would work as a guerrilla army.[45] It was expected to live off the land, garnering support, supplies, and personnel from amongst the local populace and captured British supplies, or "Churchill supply".[46]

  5. Well, now you are writing to Bengalis to praise other Bengali heroes as an appeasement. None of these heroes are going to be more dignified by your hypocritical words nor be undignified by your nasty words. Don't venture into the area of literature, military strategy or historical analysis because you already proved yourself to have lower than average intellect in these fields.You rather confine yourself to remarks out of your bookish knowledge of constitutions and law and everybody will be fine.

  6. Somebody raising doubt about Tagore's capability of poet, or novelist is laughable and similarly raising question about Subhash Chandra Bose's patriotism is distasteful. Now trying to justify those illogical comments by brinings names of few other great mean is even more horrible. Somebody may not like poet or novel...that is absolutely fine. Somebody may doubt the probability of Netaji's way of freedom fighting...absolutely fine. There were and are many who dont beleive in Gandhiji's ideology. But questioing the honesty of these great men...only a man with much less calibre can do that.

    A little digression but I would think relevant...a bunch of journalists, some of them might not have ever played school level cricket used to opine on a regular basis on when Tendulkar should retire :-)

    Mr. Katju, you are nowhere close to the contribution these two great men made. and hence please dont criticise them. Comparing Ram Mohan, Surya Sen and Netaji Subhash is so foolish!! And it's not about "Bengali", please check what per cent of India beleive what you have written!!

    Few correction: It is Sharat Chandra not Sharad Chandra (you dont even know the spelling)

    Bhagat Singh a bengali god!! It's a news to me!! (just to appease the bengali population, you have written some rubbish!!!)

    (Yashajit Saha,

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  8. Dear Mr. Katju,

    I bear you no ill-will; do not want to abuse you. I believe that no one is above criticism. Also, one does not have to be of an exalted stature to criticise; otherwise there would be little criticism or great men or deconstruction of myths.

    1. About Rabindranath -

    You have written a great deal about Sharat Chandra's writing - can you read Bengali? Did you read him in original? I ask because reading Tagore in translation (especially by himself: he was a horrible translator) does not even begin to do justice to him. All respect to Sharat Chandra, he is my favourite as well. But Tagore is of a different class altogether.

    I do not believe you have read Tagore in detail, if at all. You have based your opinion on Graham Greene (did he know Bengali?), Yeats (an Irishman, he was declaring loyalty to the British Crown while Irish Revolutionaries were dying fighting the British) et al.

    Tagore was by far the greatest bard in Bengali language. He was a philosopher far beyond the ambit of narrow parochialism or chauvinism. As for his songs ... well, forget about it. Beyond your raucous rant.

    Finally, Tagore wasn't conferred Nobel Prize by himself or the British. The British, embarrassed that they had not recognised his talents, gave him the knighthood 2 years AFTER he got the Nobel Prize. He renounced it 4 years later.

    2. Subhas Bose.

    Knowing the close links of your family to the Kashmiri Nehru (you are a Kashmiri Pandit too, and your forebears were Nehru's men), it is perhaps too much to expect a rational discussion instead of a foaming-in-the-mouth indictment.

    Nehru studied at Harrow and Trinity College (father's money, didn't earn a scholarship). He qualified at the Bar, came back to India, but was not interested in practice.

    Subhas Bose was an outstanding student, stood second in matriculation, studied at Presidency college where he slapped the racist Professor Oaten - came 4th in the ICS exam but never joined the service .... Nehru was obviously the effeminate armchair socialist while Bose was the firebrand.

    It is a travesty of truth to call him a Japanese stooge. Bose tried them out to garner help for defeating the dominant military superpower of the time who had colonised India.

    Bose did two things that no one else did.

    1. He got the support of both Hindus and Muslims, something that the strong Hindutva proponent MK Gandhi never managed, for obvious reasons.

    2. He went for a military uprising, something tried out the world over to dislodge tyrannical rulers. Something like that was impossible for fake socialist sissies like Nehru.

    Finally, look at the alacrity with which Nehru embraced Partition. And what the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has done to the country.

    The declassified files on Subhas Bose are clearly showing up why the Nehruvian model of meanness, cowardice has destroyed our country.

    1. P.S.
      I would let your comment of supremacy of Urdu poetry go.

      You have not read Bengali poetry in original, and let us leave discussions on comparative literature out of the ambit of "kupamandukas".

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  10. Dear Mr. Katju,

    People have written already a lot to blow you away... Still you keep writing, you must be the epitome of shamelessness! Here are a couple of more facts to you:
    1. The "Sarad Chandra" you referred to so many times in your post DID NOT ever exist in Bengali Literature. The writer of the pieces you quote is "SaraT Chandra". He is a very dear literary figure to Bengalis and thus please do not misquote his name... spare us of the pain.
    2. Khudiram Bose was hanged when he was just 18, after he finished his first mission in the fight for Independence. Even comparing him to any other freedom fighter whom you mention like MasterDa Surya Sen and Netaji show your ignorance of knowledge in this matter.

    I am ashamed that your name is associated with the epitome of justice in this country and strongly feel that you are one of those who should be the perfect examples of the kind of people to be admitted to the asylums.

    So, with all due DISRESPECT to your knowledge about Bengal Freedom Movement and Bengali Literature, you should be just be stripped of the "Justice" tag from your name immediately.

    One last request to you, GET LOST from the WORLD of BENGALIS...

    WITH IMMENSE HATRED and WISHING All the worst to you!!!

  11. Dear Sir,
    Quoting a translation of a song by Tagore, I would like to say to you, "This weariness, forgive me, O my Lord" (Pun intended). On a more serious note, Sir, you will obviously agree that there are many problems that India face today, least of them being farmers committing suicides. I assume that unlike Subhash Chandra Bose, a man whom you regard as someone who had nothing in him, you would have it in you to make mountains move to resolve such problems. I know of a doctor who spends his life treating poor patients in the jungles of Chattisgarh. May be thats time better spent than writing blogs. I wish you peace, recalling the last words of Jesus Christ. I am a Bengali, but I do not hate you, Rather, I would like to thank you for always providing amusement and entertainment to us in these stressful times (this weariness ... my Lord). I recall that once you had remarked that 90% of indians are fools. As a man is known by the company he keeps, I wonder why you choose to keep our company through your blog and other social outreach medias?