Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Orissa, Cuttack on 23rd January, 1897 to Janakinath Bose, and advocate and Prabhavati Devi. He was born to a Bengali family and was the ninth child of the total of fourteen children. His parent’s ancestral home was at Kodalia village near Baruipur. This place is presently known as Subhashgram, South 24 Parganas in West Bengal.
Subhas Chandra Bose spent almost three years in Berlin in Germany from the year 1941 to 1943 during which he married Emilie Schenkl. The couple had a daughter born in the year 1942.
Subhas Chandra Bose left India for England in the year 1919 promising to his father that he would appear in the Indian Civil Services Examination. He subsequently appeared in the examination and was successful in the first attempt. However, he did not wanted to work under an alien rule and so he resigned from the civil service job and returned to India. He went to study later in the Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge and matriculated on 19th November 1919. After studying the newspaper Swaraj he took charge of the publicity for the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee. Chittaranjan Das who was a spokesman for aggressive nationalism in Bengal was his mentor. In the year 1923, Subhas Chandra Bose was elected the president of the All India Youth Congress and also the secretary of the Bengal State Congress. The newspaper ‘Forward’ which was founded by Deshbandhu was edited by him. Bose also worked as the CEO of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation for Chittaranjan Das when the latter was elected major of Calcutta in the year 1924. In a round up of nationalists in the year 1925, Subhas Chandra Bose was arrested and sent to prison in Mandalay, where he contracted tuberculosis.
Netaji and National Politics
In the year 1927, after being released from prison, Subhas Chandra Bose became the general secretary of the Congress party and worked with Jawaharlal Nehru for Indian independence. He was however, again arrested and jailed for civil disobedience and this time he emerged to become the mayor of Calcutta in the year 1930. During the mid 1930s, he traveled to Europe and visited Indian students and European politicians. There he observed party organization and saw communism and fascism in action. By the year 1933, Subhas Chandra Bose emerged as a leader of national stature and agreed to accept nomination as the Congress president.
Subhas Chandra Bose stood up for unqualified Swaraj including the use of force against the British. Mahatma Gandhi who opposed Bose’s presidency and this led to a confrontation between the two. This split up the Indian National Congress party. Later however, even though Subhas Chandra Bose attempted to maintain unity, Mahatma Gandhi advised him to form his own cabinet. This rift divided Bose from both Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Subhas Chandra Bose later appeared in the 1939 Congress meeting on a stretcher. He was again elected president over Gandhiji’s preferred candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Bose received majority of votes from south India due to the support by U. Muthurama. However, due to the plotting of the Gandhi-led clique in the Congress Working Committee, Subhas Chandra Bose found himself forced to resign from the Congress presidency post. His uncompromising stand finally cut him off from mainstream Indian nationalism. He then organized the Forward Bloc on 22nd June which was aimed at consolidating the political left. U. Muthuramalingam Thevar was then joined the Forward Bloc in support for Bose and when the latter visited Madurai on 6th September, Thevar organized a massive rally in his reception.
According to Subhas Chandra Bose, the political instability of the war time Britain should be taken advantage of rather than waiting for the British to grant independence at the end of the war. Bose’s correspondence reveals that in spite of his clear dislike for the British subjugation, he was deeply impressed by their methodical and systematic approach and their disciplinary outlook towards life. He believed that a free India needed socialist authoritarianism for at least two decades. He held this view on the lines of Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk, whom he wanted to meet but was refused permission by the British authorities for political reasons. During his stay in England, it was only the Labour Party and the Liberal authorities who agreed to meet with Bose when he tried to schedule appointments. The Conservative party officials refused to meet Bose when he tried as he was a politician coming from a colony.
India got independence during the Labour Party government of 1945-1951 with Attlee was the Prime Minister. On the outbreak of the war, Subhas Chandra Bose advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest against the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow’s decision to declare war on India’s behalf without consulting the Congress party leadership. As he failed to persuade Gandhiji, Subhas Chandra Bose conducted mass protests in Calcutta calling for ‘Holwell Monument’ commemorating the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ which then stood at the corner of the Dalhousie Square to be removed. He was subsequently jailed by the British but was released after a seven day hunger strike. His house was kept under surveillance by the CID. During that time, Bose felt that he would not be allowed to leave the country. As such, he decided to escape from British India.
Escape from British India and Japan
A few days before he escaped, Subhas Chandra Bose sought solitude and on the pretext, he avoided meeting British guards and grew a beard. He dressed like a Pathan ,on the night of his escape so that he could not be identified. He escaped from the British surveillance at his house in Calcutta and on 9th January 1941, he escaped with his nephew in a car. The car is still being displayed at his Calcutta home.
Subhas Chandra Bose than reached Peshawar with the help of the Abwehr where he met Akbar Shah, Mohammed Shah and Bhagat Ram Talwar. On 26th January 1941, he began his journey to reach Russia through India’s northwest frontier with Afghanistan. For this reason, he took the help of Akbar Shah, then a Forward Bloc member in the North West Frontier Province. To avoid being attacked by the Pashto speakers working for the British, Subhas Chandra Bose acted deaf and dumb and also grew his beard long. He was helped by supporters of Aga Khan III to cross the border to Afghanistan where he traveled furthermore with the help of the people to the border with Soviet Russia.
After assuming the disguise of the Pashtun insurance agent to reach Afghanistan, he changed his guise and traveled to Moscow on an Italian passport. He then reached Rome and from there he traveled to Germany. Once he reached Russia, he was transported to Moscow by the NKVD where he hoped the Russia’s traditional enmity with British would result in support for his plans for a popular rising in India. However, he didn’t get a favorable response in Soviet Russia and was rapidly passed onto the German Ambassador in Moscow who had Bose flew to Berlin where he was to receive a hearing from the foreign ministry.
In Germany, he instituted the Special Bureau for India and broadcasted on the German sponsored Azad Hind Radio. He also founded the Free India Center in Berlin and also created the Indian Legion out of Indian prisoners of war. In all 3000 Indian prisoners were signed up for the Indian Legion. He met Hitler in May 1942 and found out the Nazi leader was more interested in using Bose’s men to win propaganda victories than military ones. He knew Hitler would not be of any help. As such, in February 1943, Subhas Chandra Bose turned his back on his legionaries and slipped secretly away aboard a submarine bound for Japan. This left the Indian Legion recruited leaderless and demoralized in Germany.
Azad Hind Fauj and Later Events
The Indian National Army was originally founded in Singapore by Capt Mohan Singh and headed by nationalist leader Rash Behari Bose. The first INA was disbanded on December 1942 after the disagreements between the officials who believed that the Japanese High Command was using the INA as a propaganda tool. However, with the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose, this army was grouped and function again under his leadership. He was able to recognize the fledgling army and organize massive support among the India population in the South East Asia who lent support by men and financial help. During that time, the army consisted about 85,000 regular troops including a separate women’s unit called the Rani of Jhansi Regiment headed by Capt Lakshmi Swaminathan. Bose was able to maintain support for the Azad Hind movement.
The INA’s first commitment was in the Japanese thrust towards the Eastern Indian frontiers of Manipur. During the diversionary attacks in Arakan INA’s Special Forces, the Bahadur Group, were extensively involved in operations behind enemy lines, as well as the Japanese thrust towards Imphal and Kohima along with Burmese National Army. Bose’s government ceased to be an effective political entity, after the Japanese surrendered. A large portion of the INA troops also surrendered during the fall of Rangoon. Japanese surrender led to the surrender of the INA, when the troops of British Indian army were repatriated to India and tried for some reason.
Earlier in a speech broadcast by the Azad Hind Radio from Singapore on 6th July, 1944, Subhas Chandra Bose addressed Mahatma Gandhi as the ‘Father of the Nation’ and asked for his blessings and good wishes for the war that he was fighting. This was the first time that Gandhiji was referred to by this appellation.
Spoken as a part of a motivational speech for the Indian National Army at a rally of Indians in Burma on 4thJuly, 1944, Subhas Chandra Bose’s famous quote was ‘Give me blood, and I shall give you freedom’. His other famous quote was ‘Dilli Chalo’ meaning ‘On to Delhi’. This was the call he used to give the INA troops to motivate them. ‘Jai Hind’ was also another slogan used by him and later adopted by the Indian Government and the Indian Armed Forces. Other slogan coined by him was Ittefaq, Etemad and Qurbani. The INA also used the slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ which was coined by Maulana Hasrat Mohani.
Disappearance and Death
Subhas Chandra Bose is alleged to have died in a plane crash in Taihoku in Taiwan on 18th August 1945 while he was on the way to Tokyo and possibly to Soviet Union. The plane he was traveling is supposed to have engine trouble and when it crashed Bose was badly burnt. He dies in a local hospital hours later and was cremated and a Buddhist memorial service was held in Nishi Honganji temple in Taihoku. His ashes were then taken to Japan and interred in Renkoji temple in Tokyo. This version of Bose’s death was supported by the testimonies of a Captain and a British spy.
However, the absence of his body has led to many theories being put forward by different people. One such claim is that Bose actually died in Siberia while in Soviet captivity. In May 1956, a four man team from India known as Shah Nawaz Committee visited Japan to probe on the circumstances leading to Bose’s death. However, the Indian government did not then request assistance from the Taiwan Government in the matter, citing their lack of diplomatic relations.
However, the inquiry commission which investigated the Bose’s disappearance mystery later approached the Taiwanese Government and received information that no plan carrying Subhas Chandra Bose have ever crashed in Taipei. This Justice Mukherjee Commission submitted its report to the Indian Government on 8th November 2005 and the report was tabled in Parliament on 17th May 2006 though the findings were rejected by the Indian Government for reasons unknown. As a result, over the years, Bose’s death was not confirmed and was presumed as ‘death in absentia’.
Subhas Chandra Bose was posthumously awarded the India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, in the year 1992, but was later withdrawn in response to a Supreme Court directive following a public interest litigation filed in the court against the ‘posthumous’ nature of the award. As the award committee could not give any conclusive evidence on Bose’s death, the ‘posthumous’ was invalidated. There is a portrait of Bose which hangs in the Indian Parliament and a statue of him which was erected in the front of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly.
On 23rd August 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Subhash Chandra Bose memorial hall in Kolkata and expressed his inspiration from Bose’s commitment and strong ideologies. ‘Netaji’ as he was popularly known was a much respected name in Japan. However, in India many believe including Infosys Technologies founder chairman NR Narayan Murthy that Netaji was not given the due respect he deserved. According to him, India would have prospered as the second largest economy in the world by now had Subhas Chandra Bose be a part of the post independence nation building. Bose’s chair is also kept in glass case with words inscribed in the Red fort and is a symbol of national heritage.
Subhas Chandra Bose believed that the Bhagavad-Gita was a great source of inspiration for the struggle against the British. He was also inspired by Swami Vivekananda teachings and Indian ancient scriptures in his young days. Subhas Chandra Bose used to call himself a socialist and believed that socialism in India owed its origins to Swami Vivekananda. According to him, democracy was the best option of India.
Portrayal of Netaji in Indian Cinema and Literature
Subhas Chandra Bose’s character was portrayed in a number of films and theatres. Bose is a minor character in the successful 1950 Hindi film ‘Samadhi’ which is set in colonial Singapore on the backdrop of the second INA rising. In the year 1956, ‘Subhash Chandra’ was a Bengali film portraying his life. He was also portrayed by Keneth Desai in the film ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ directed by Rajkumar Santoshi. Sachin Khedekar stars as Bose in Shyam Benegal’s biopic ‘Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero’ which deals with the last five years of Bose’s leadership as well as some aspects of his personal life. He was also portrayed in ‘Subhash Chandra Bose’, a Telegu action film, which deals with an Indian warrior figure during the time of the INA who worships Netaji and even adopts his name for the purpose of his image.
In a satirical novel ‘The great Indian’ by Shashi Tharoor, the character of Pandu is simultaneously based on Subhas Chandra Bose as well as the mythological character Pandu.
The Entire Nation
(FAN OF Netaji SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE)
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