A Study in Indian 'Nationalism
Bidyut Chakrabarty, Subhas Chandra Bose and Middle Class Radicalism: A Study in Indian Nationalism, 1928-1940, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1990, pp. 240, Rs. 300.
Subhas Bose seems to have attracted very limited scholarly attention. In this sense, Bidyut Chakrabarty's book is a welcome addition, relating to the life and times of a person who had not only played a vital role in India's freedom struggle, but also inspired many to join it.
The introduction spells out the broad contours of Chakrabarty's methodology. These can be summed up as: (i) an emphasis given to the middle class, its origins, visions and politics; (ii) the links between this and the 'unorganised1, 'autonomous' world of politics; and (iii) the evolution of Bose's political career against this canvas (i.e. i and ii). This implies a methodological acceptance of the interaction and linkages between the world of the middle class, and the so-called 'autonomous* world. Consequently, the latter did not remain as autonomous as the author makes it out to be. And, finally, the author's method seems to locate Muslims either as 'separatist' or as 'nationalists'.
The first chapter ('Constraint and Tension in Middle-class Leadership') focuses on Bose's childhood—the ideological influences and his early exposures to the Indian reality. Here two interesting points are mentioned: Bose was refused food while travelling in India on grounds of caste, and while at England, Bose responded to racism by having a British servant to polish his shoes. As the author points out, Bose failed to distinguish between the British ruling class and the people who were oppressed by them as their Indian counterparts.
Bose got selected to the ICS but eventually gave it up being swept by the high tide of the Indian nationalist movement. Bose's entry into Indian politics began in November 1921—in the course of a hartal against the Prince of Wales' visit to Calcutta. By 1928 he got elected as the President of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee (BPCC). However, the author's point regarding Bose's bid to capture the BPCC's presidency is not substantiated by any evidence.
Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 9-10, October-November, 1991