It was one of those Kamal Hassan’s movie during which my memory of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had resurfaced after those text book days. Shyam Benegal’s tribute, ‘Bose-The Forgotten Hero’ is a fitting example of how well we remember this Indian who was a fierce patriot, a visionary leader, a great orator, flamboyant revolutionary, all rolled into one. Such was Bose's aura and magnetism that even those who differed with his strong views and firebrand politics could not help but appreciate his undying love for the nation. However his legacy continues as a legendary figure. Bose was outspoken in his anti-British stance and was jailed 11 times between 1920 and 1941. He was admired for his great skills in organization development.
Subhash Chandra Bose was born on January 23 1897 in Cuttack, the ninth child among 14, of Janakinath Bose, an advocate, and Prabhavati Devi. Bose studied in an Anglo school, Cuttack until standard 6 which is now known as Stewart School and then shifted to Ravenshaw Collegiate School of Cuttack. A brilliant student, Bose topped the matriculation examination of Calcutta province in 1911 and passed his B.A. in 1918 in Philosophy from the Scottish Church College of the University of Calcutta. He was a devout Hindu and spent much time in meditation. Strongly influenced by Swami Vivekananda's teachings, he was known for his patriotic zeal as a student
Bose went to study in Fitz William Hall of the University of Cambridge, and his high score in civil service exams meant an almost automatic appointment. However following Amritsar massacre and the repressive Rowlatt legislation of 1919, he returned to India. Bose wrote for the newspaper Swaraj and took charge of publicity for the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee in 1924. In a roundup of nationalists in 1925, Bose was arrested and sent to prison in Mandalay.
"I AM AN EXTREMIST” – INFLUENCE IN INDIAN POLITICS
Bose advocated complete freedom for India at the earliest, whereas the Congress Committee wanted it in phases, through a Dominion status. Other younger leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru supported Bose and finally at the historic Lahore Congress convention, the Congress had to adopt Purna Swaraj (Total Independence) as its motto. Bhagat Singh's martyrdom and the inability of the Congress leaders to save his life infuriated Bose and he started a movement opposing the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. He was imprisoned and expelled from India. But defying the ban, he came back to India and was imprisoned again.
By 1938 Bose had become a leader of national stature and agreed to accept nomination as Congress president. He stood for unqualified Swaraj, including the use of force against the British. This meant a confrontation with Mohandas Gandhi, who in fact opposed Bose's presidency, splitting the Congress party. Bose attempted to maintain unity, but Gandhi advised Bose to form his own cabinet. Bose appeared at the 1939 Congress meeting on a stretcher. Though he was elected president again, over Gandhi's preferred candidate, this time the differences led to Bose resignation. Bose’ uncompromising stand finally cut him off from the mainstream of Indian nationalism. He then organized the Forward Bloc aimed at consolidating the political left.
The second World War broke out in September of 1939, and just as predicted by Bose, India was declared as a warring state (on behalf of the British) by the Governor General, without consulting Indian leaders. Subhas Chandra Bose now started a mass movement against utilizing Indian resources and men for the great war. To him, it made no sense to further bleed poor Indians for the sake of colonial and imperial nations. There was a tremendous response to his call and the British promptly imprisoned him. He took to a hunger-strike, and after his health deteriorated on the 11th day of fasting, he was freed and was placed under house arrest. The British were afraid of violent reactions in India, should something happen to Bose in prison.
INDIAN NATIONAL ARMY – "DELHI CHALO"
Bose suddenly disappeared in the beginning of 1941 and it was not until many days that authorities realized Bose was not inside the house they were guarding! He traveled by foot, car and train and resurfaced in Kabul, only to disappear once again. In November 1941, his broadcast from German radio sent shock waves among the British and electrified the Indian masses who realized that their leader was working on a master plan to free their motherland. It also gave fresh confidence to the revolutionaries in India who were challenging the British in many ways. It is told that he was last seen on land near Keil canal in Germany, in the beginning of 1943. A most hazardous journey was undertaken by him under water, covering thousands of miles, crossing enemy territories. He was in the Atlantic, the Middle East, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. Battles were being fought over land, in the air and there were mines in the sea. At one stage he traveled 400 miles in a rubber dinghy to reach a Japanese submarine, which took him to Tokyo. He was warmly received in Japan and was declared the head of the Indian army, which consisted of about 40,000 soldiers who were mostly Indian prisoners of war from Singapore and Indian civilians in Southeast Asia. Bose called it the Indian National Army (INA) and a government by the name "Azad Hind Government" was declared on the 21st of October 1943. INA freed the Andaman and Nicobar islands from the British, and were renamed as Swaraj and Shaheed islands. The Government started functioning.
Bose wanted to free India from the Eastern front. Army leadership, administration and communications were managed only by Indians. Subhash Brigade, Azad Brigade and Gandhi Brigade were formed. INA marched through Burma and occupied Coxtown on the Indian Border. A touching scene ensued when the solders entered their 'free' motherland. Some lay down and kissed, some placed pieces of mother earth on their heads, others wept. They were now inside of India and were determined to drive out the British! Delhi Chalo was the war cry.
Three officers of the INA were tried after the war in Delhi; the trial attracted so much popular sympathy that the British decision to withdraw from India followed. Bose indirectly and posthumously achieved his goal of Indian independence.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the history of mankind. Japan had to surrender. Bose was in Singapore at that time and decided to go to Tokyo for his next course of action. Unfortunately, Bose died in a plane crash over Taiwan, while flying to Tokyo on 18 August 1945. It is believed that the crash burnt him fatally. He was just 48. However, his body was never recovered, and many theories have been put forward concerning his possible survival. One such claim is that Bose actually died in Siberia, while in Soviet captivity. Several committees have been set up by the Government of India to probe into this matter. The Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to the Indian Government on November 8, 2005. The probe said in its report that as Bose did not die in the plane crash, and that the ashes at the Renkoji Temple (said to be of Bose's) are not his.
Bose was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award in 1992, but it 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.
Bose never liked the Nazis but when he failed to contact the Russians for help in Afghanistan he approached the Germans and Italians for help. His comment was that if he had to shake hands with the devil for India's independence he would do that. On the 5th April, 1944, the "Azad Hind Bank" was inaugurated at Rangoon. It was on this occasion that Netaji used a chair which can now be seen at Red Fort. The chair is now symbolic to the sovereignty of the Republic of India, as also to the Psychological upkeep of the Armed Forces of India. It rests in a glass case and is a symbol of pride as well as national heritage.
The Indian people were so much enamored of Bose's oratory and leadership qualities, fealressness and mysterious adventures, that he had become a legend. While Bose's approach to Indian freedom continues to generate heated debate in the Indian society today, there is no denying of his burning patriotism, his tireless efforts to free India from inside and outside and his reckless adventures in trying to reach his goals. His exploits later became a legend due to the many stories carried by the disbanded INA soldiers who came from every nook and corner of our great country. Had he lived, Subhas Chandra Bose could have given a new turn to Independent India's political history. But he lives on eternally in the Indian mind, more famous after his death.