Netaji pioneered the concept of overseas citizenship: Historian

Kolkata: Long before India embraced the concept of overseas citizenship, it was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who thought of it by providing the Indian diaspora in Southeast Asia an idea of “future citizenship”, an expert said Friday.

Delivering a lecture on “Bay of Bengal and its Cultural Connections” here at an event to mark the 118th birth anniversary of Netaji, Harvard University professor Sunil Amrith dubbed Netaji’s effort to recognise the Indian diaspora as “a bold experiment in citizenship”.

“The migrants had all moved in an imperial system in the 1920s and 1930s and they did not have any sense of citizenship or rights as such. One of the things which Netaji did, which I think was unprecedented, was to treat these Indians overseas as citizens of a nation of the future,” Amrith said.

It was the efforts of Netaji as the head of the ‘Provisional Government of Free India’ that around two lakh Indian migrants had taken the oath of allegiance for the government that was set up in Singapore in 1943, said Amrith, the author of “Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants”.

The book tells the story of centuries of trade and migration that have linked the various countries situated along the Bay of Bengal.

Commenting on the issue, historian and Netaji’s grand nephew Sugata Bose pointed out to the pioneering concept of “extra-territorial citizenship” which the world embraced a lot later.

“India embraced the concept of overseas citizenship only in the 21st century, so it is a testimony to Netaji’s farsightedness. While the territory of the Provisional Government was confined, the fact that two lakh people had taken the oath of allegiance meant they were kind of given extraterritorial citizenship,” said Sugata Bose, also a Trinamool Congress parliamentarian.