Crusade with arms

ANOTHER birth anniversary of nationalist revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose, Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army, was celebrated on January 23 last. Within a short span of his charismatic life, he created a big impact on ``We the People of India''. He was born in 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa. His parents, Janaki Nath Bose and Prabhabati Devi, migrated from Calcutta to Cuttack. Janaki Nath became Chairman of Cuttack Municipality, a Member of the Bengal Legislative Council and was also conferred the title, Rai Bahadur. He gave up the title in 1930 protesting against the oppressive policies of the British Government.

Bose passed the Indian Civil Service examination winning the fourth position but resigned in April 1921. He was the first Indian to resign from the Indian Civil Service. The Under Secretary of State for India sent for him. Bose told him, ``I do not think one can be loyal to the British Raj and yet serve India honestly, heart and soul.''

Bose returned to India on July 16, 1921, and met Gandhiji on the same day in Bombay. He wrote, ``I remember clearly the scene on that afternoon... Facing the door sat the Mahatma, surrounded by some of his closest followers. All were wearing home-made Khadi. As I entered I felt somewhat out of place in my foreign costume. But the Mahatma received me with his typical hearty smile and soon put me at ease and the conversation started at once. I wanted to know about his plan which would finally lead to overthrowing foreign rule. And so I heaped question upon question and the Mahatma replied with patience.''

Bose, however, left disappointed because he thought that it was impossible to change things through non-violence. He reached Calcutta to work under C. R. Das, who, as the first Mayor of Calcutta Corporation appointed Bose its Chief Executive Officer. C. R. Das died in 1925. Bose was elected Mayor of Calcutta Corporation and proved himself an efficient administrator.

Bose relentlessly fought for democracy within the Congress. Gandhiji had suspended the civil disobedience movement. Vithalbhai Patel and Bose did not like it. Both issued a joint statement on May 9, 1933, saying that, ``The events of the last thirteen years have demonstrated that a political warfare based on the principle of maximum suffering for ourselves and minimum suffering for our opponents cannot possibly lead to success. It is futile to expect that we can ever bring a change of heart in our rulers merely through our sufferings or by trying to love them. And the latest action of Mahatma Gandhi in suspending the Civil Disobedience Movement is a confession of failure as far as the present method of the Congress is concerned. We are clearly of opinion that as a political leader Mahatma Gandhi has failed.'' In 1932, Bose had gone to Vienna for treatment for suspected case of tuberculosis of his lungs. There he met Vithalbhai Patel who willed all his money to Bosee to carry on the anti-British campaign.

Mahatma Gandhi loved Bose and the latter respected him. Gandhiji called him the ``dare-all leader''. It is said that the affix Netaji was given by Gandhiji to Subhas. At a mass rally held on July 9, 1943, in Singapore, the title was conferred on Subhas. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas had one thing in common i.e. their chief concern was to transform ideas into facts. Gandhiji believed in the doctrine of nonviolence to attain freedom but Bose believed in revolutionary means. Bose defeated Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramaiyaa in the election for Congress Presidentship at Haripura in 1939. Mahatma Gandhi issued a statement saying that the defeat of Dr. Pattabhi was his own defeat. After a few months of his election, Bose resigned from presidentship on May 9, 1939. He gave a speech on May 16, 1939 at Hazra Park, Calcutta, explaining the reasons for his resignation and concluded, ``As I have repeatedly declared, my resignation was decided upon in an entirely helpful spirit and, in my view, will prove to be in the best interest of the Country. Self-respect, honour and duty towards my country demanded that I should resign, after having made all possible attempts to reach an honourable compromise and to avert a crisis within the Congress.''

He was dedicated to the cause of Indian Independence. His only goal was the liberation of the motherland. It was in the early hours of January 17, 1941, that Subhas Chandra Bose escaped from his Elgin Road House, Calcutta, and left India in disguise as a Muslim religious teacher, Maulvi Ziauddin. For about a year nothing was heard of him. There was also a news flash towards the close of 1941 that Bose had died in an air crash. Gandhiji was deeply moved and sent a condolence message to his mother in which he spoke in glowing terms about him and his services to India. Later it was found that the report was false. Stafford Cripps complained to Maulana Azad that he had not expected Gandhiji to speak in such glowing terms about Bose.

On March 25, 1942, all doubts about Bose were set at rest when he made a broadcast on Berlin Radio. He spoke, ``This is Subhas Chandra Bose, who is still alive, speaking to you over the Azad Hind Radio. British news agencies have spread all over the world that I died in an aeroplane crash on my way to Tokyo to attend an important conference there. Ever since I left India last year, British propaganda agencies have from time to time given contradictory reports about my whereabouts, while newspapers in England have not hesitated to use uncomplimentary language about me. The latest report about my death is perhaps an instance of wishful thinking. I can imagine that the British Government would, at this critical hour in India's history, like to see me dead since they are now trying their best to win India over to their side for the purpose of their imperialistic war.''

In August 1942, Gandhiji gave a call for the British to ``Quit India'' and for Indians to ``Do or Die''. Bose gave his full support to this call through his radio broadcast from Germany on August 31, 1942, in which he said, ``The Indian people should carry on the struggle till the last British is expelled from India...Before dawn comes the darkest hour. Be brave and continue the struggle for freedom is at hand. Let your slogans be `Now or Never', `Victory or Death', `Inquilab Zindabad'.''

It was on July 4, 1943, at a conference attended by the Indian representatives held at Cathey Cinema, Shonan (Singapore) in which the great Indian Revolutionary, Rash Behari Bose, conferred on Subhas Chandra Bose the supreme honour of the President of the Indian Independent League. Rash Behari spoke thus, ``Friends and Comrades in Arms, I, in your presence today resign my office and appoint Deshsevak Subhas Chandra Bose as President of the Indian Independent League. India's best is represented in him.'' Subhas Chandra Bose described Rash Behari Bose as ``The Father of India's Independent Movement in East Asia.''

In a speech at a military review of the INA on July 5, 1941, Bose gave a call to the soldiers of the INA and said, ``Let your battle-cry be - `To Delhi, To Delhi'. How many of us will individually survive this war of Freedom, I do not know. But I do know this, that we shall ultimately win and our task will not end until our surviving heroes hold the victory parade on another graveyard of the British Empire - the Lal Quila or Red Fortress of ancient Delhi. For the present, I can offer you nothing except hunger, thirst, privation, forced marches and death. But if you follow me in life and in death, as I am confident you will, I shall lead you to victory and Freedom. It is enough that India shall be free and that we shall give our all to make her free. May God now bless our Army and grant us victory in the coming fight. Inquilab Zindabad! Azad Hind Zindabad!''

In a broadcast from Bangkok on October 2, 1943, on the occasion of the 75th birth anniversary of Gandhiji, Bose described him as the greatest leader of the Indians and services rendered to the cause of India's freedom as unique and unparalleled and added that his name would be written in letters of gold in the annals of history. After the demise of Kasturba in prison, in a message to Gandhiji in a statement issued on February 22, 1944, Bose described her, ``as a great lady who was a mother to the Indian people, an ideal of Indian womanhood - strong, patient, silent, self-sufficient, she was a source of inspiration to the millions of India's daughters.''

Rabindranath Tagore was among the first few who called Gandhiji ``Mahatma''. Bose was the first to address him as the Father of the Nation. In a Broadcast on Azad Hind Radio on July 6, 1944, he said, ``India's last war of Independence has begun. Troops of the Azad Hind Fauz are now fighting bravely on the soil of India, and in spite of all difficulty and hardship they are pushing forward slowly but steadily. This armed struggle will go on until the last British is thrown out of India and until our Tricolour proudly flutters over the Viceroy's House in New Delhi. Father of our Nation! In this holy war of India's liberation, we ask for your blessings and good wishes.''

The deeds of INA are heroic and a saga of supreme sacrifice. On February 4, 1946, Govind Malaviya moved a resolution in the Central Legislative Assembly calling upon the Governor General in Council to give up the trial of INA officers under detention. On February 18, 1947, another resolution was moved by Khan Abdul Ghani Khan for the release of INA prisoners. It is a national tragedy that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 3, 1949, interrupting the debate, opposed the resolution on grounds of discipline in the army and said, ``Normally speaking every one in this House will agree that in an army the most absolute discipline should prevail. Otherwise, it ceases to be an army. It goes to pieces and if there is lack of discipline, it has to be dealt with.'' It is shocking that Netaji continues to be a war criminal in the records of the Government. Nothing can be a matter of greater shame than this.

It was on August 22, 1945, that Tokyo Radio announced that Subhas Chandra Bose died in an air-crash in Formosa on August 18, en route to Japan. He was then 48 years only. No Indian believed the shocking news.

Today we must remember the following tribute by Gandhiji to Netaji: ``The greatest and the lasting act of Netaji was that he abolished all distinctions of caste and class. He was Indian first and last. What more, he fired all under him with the same zeal so that they forget in his presence all distinctions and acted as one man. The greatest lesson that we can draw from Netaji's life is the way in which he infused the spirit of unity into his men, so that they could rise above all religious and provincial barriers and shed together their blood for the common cause.''


Former Union Minister

Recommended for you