A battle of arguments broke over between the political centre and the political right over the omission of Nehru and the inclusion of Savarkar in the list of freedom fighters.
As a part of the celebration of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, an initiative by the Indian Government to celebrate India’s freedom fighters, the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) shared an image of eight of India’s prominent freedom fighters with the Indian Tricolour and a map of India.
The image had photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, BR Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Madan Mohan Malviya, and Veer Savarkar. The Congress party leaders took on the ICHR for not including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
As Congress leaders took strong exception to the ICHR on Twitter, a controversial argument grew among party leaders and other Indian Twitter users. Multiple Congress leaders and Twitter users shared screenshots of the ICHR website.
Congress Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “It is not merely petty but absolutely ahistorical to celebrate Azadi by omitting the pre-eminent voice of Indian freedom, Jawaharlal Nehru. One more occasion for ICHR to disgrace itself. This is becoming a habit!”
Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo reacted to Tharoor’s tweet by quoting Nehru and tweeted, “If any people choose to think of me, then I should like them to say—this was the man who, with all his mind and heart, loved India and the Indian people. And they, in turn, were indulgent to him and gave their love most abundantly and extravagantly.”
Congress spokesperson and deputy leader Lok Sabha Indian National Congress, Gaurav Gogoi, tweeted, “Which other country would remove their first head of state from a website about the freedom struggle? ICHR’s removal of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad is petty and an injustice. India will not forget that the RSS chose to stay away from the Indian freedom movement.”
Congress MP from Karnataka, Jairam Ramesh, called the move “atrocious,” as he tweeted, “Not surprising from this regime and its toadies masquerading as scholars, but atrocious nevertheless.”
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera in a Hindi tweet said, “नेहरू जी की फ़ोटो हटाने से क्या खुद का क़द बढ़ जाएगा? बौना, बौना ही रहेगा,” Translating to English it reads, “Will removing Nehru’s photo increase one’s stature? A dwarf will remain a dwarf,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Rajya Sabha MP and Deputy Leader, Shiv Sena, Priyanka Chaturvedi took to the matter, tweeting, “You can never look big if you diminish the role of others in the creation of an Independent India. Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav can only be celebrated when it acknowledges the role of all. By omitting India’s first PM, ICHR reflects its own pettiness & insecurity.”
She faced a lot of objections by netizens for her take on the matter, despite her resignation from Congress long back and joining Shiv Sena.
After hours of criticism on Twitter, the ICHR issued a bold reply clarifying that “no one is trying to undermine his contribution”.
“We are not diminishing anybody’s role. We are making several pages like this. People whose contribution to the freedom struggle was downplayed should also be highlighted. Savarkar was in prison for ten years and but he is not remembered,” said Om Jee Upadhyay, Director (Research & Administration), ICHR, in an interview with Times Now News.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, took on Shashi Tharoor. “He should have listened to PM Narendra Modi’s speech when he mentioned Nehru’s efforts in the nation-building. Perhaps Congress leaders feel that a portrait in a publicity material is the only way of making those people remembered,” said the party in a statement.
‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ is a special, week-long celebration of India’s freedom fighters, Indian culture, and achievements. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, from 23rd to 29th of August, had planned various activities through various media units to celebrate the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’.