Friday, January 23, 2009

on Birthday of Subhas Chandra Bose

Subhas Chandra Bose

was born January 23, 1897; presumed to have died August 18, 1945 although this is disputed), popularly known as Netaji (literally "Respected Leader"), is one of the most respected politicians of modern India.

Bose was elected president of the Indian National Congress for two consecutive terms but resigned from the post following ideological conflicts with Mahatma Gandhi. Bose believed that Mahatma Gandhi's tactics of non-violence would never be sufficient to secure India's independence, and advocated violent resistance. He established a separate political party, the All India Forward Bloc and continued to call for the full and immediate independence of India from British rule. He was imprisoned by the British authorities eleven times.

His stance did not change with the outbreak of the Second World War, which he saw as an opportunity to take advantage of British weakness. At the outset of the war, he fled from India and travelled to the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan, seeking an alliance with the aim of attacking the British in India. With Japanese assistance, he re-organised and later led the Indian National Army, formed from Indian prisoners-of-war and plantation workers from Malaya, Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, against British forces. With Japanese monetary, political, diplomatic and military assistance, he formed the Azad Hind Government in exile and regrouped and led the Indian National Army in battle against the allies at Imphal and in Burma.

His political views and the alliances he made with Nazi and other militarist regimes at war with Britain have been the cause of arguments among historians and politicians, with some accusing him of Fascist sympathies, while others in India have been more sympathetic towards the inculcation of realpolitik as a manifesto that guided his social and political choices. He is believed to have died on 18 August 1945 in a plane crash over Taiwan. However, contradictory evidence exists regarding his death in the accident.

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 Poorna Swaraj (complete freedom) 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 Peace Pact. He was imprisoned and expelled from India. But defying the ban, he came back to India and was imprisoned again.

Early Life

Subhash Chandra Bose was born on January 23rd 1897 in Cuttack as the ninth child among fourteen, of Janakinath Bose, an advocate, and Prabhavati Devi, a pious and God-fearing lady. A brilliant student, he attended a private school for European and Anglo-Indian boys run by the Baptist Mission and later a preparatory school. Bose topped the matriculation examination of Calcutta province and passed his B.A. in Philosophy from the Scottish Church College in Calcutta.

At college in Calcutta, Bose became politically and socially aware. British insults to Indians in public places hurt him deeply. He personally suffered in an incident involving an English professor who had manhandled some students, and as a result Bose left the college.

Bose went to study in Cambridge, and his high score on civil service exams meant an almost automatic appointment. He then took his first conscious step as a revolutionary and resigned the appointment on the premise that the "best way to end a government is to withdraw from it." At the time, Indian nationalists were shock and outraged because of the Amritsar massacre and the repressive Rowlatt legislation of 1919. Returning to India, Bose wrote for the newspaper Swaraj and took charge of publicity for the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee. His mentor was C. R. Das, spokesman for the aggressive nationalism in Bengal. Bose worked for Das when the latter was elected mayor of Calcutta in 1924. In a roundup of nationlists in 1925, Bose was arrested and sent to prison in Mandalay, where he contracted tuberculosis.[1]

He was a devout Hindu and spent much time in meditation.[2] He was strongly influenced by Swami Vivekananda's teachings and was known for his patriotic zeal as a student.

Bose in National Politics

Main article: Forward Bloc
Bose with Erwin Rommel in Europe.

Released from prison 2 years later, Bose became general secretary of the Congress party and worked with Jawaharlal Nehru for independence. Again Bose was arrested and jailed for civil disobedience; this time he emerged mayor of Calcutta. During the mid-1930s Bose traveled in Europe, visiting Indian students and European politicians, as well as Hitler in 1936. He observed party organization and saw communism and fascism in action.[3]

By 1938 Bose had become a leader of national stature and agreed to accept nomination as Congress president. He stood for unqualified Swaraj (independence), 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. The rift also divided Bose and Nehru. Bose appeared at the 1939 Congress meeting on a stretcher. Though he was elected president again, over Gandhi's preferred candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya, this time differences with Gandhi led to Bose's resignation. "I am an extremist, " Bose once said, and his uncompromising stand finally cut him off from the mainstream of Indian nationalism.[4] Bose then organized the Forward Bloc with the aim of consolidating the political left, but its main strength was in his home state, Bengal. He envisioned a strong state, a synthesis of Fascism and Communism.

When war erupted in Europe, Bose was again imprisoned for civil disobedience and put under house arrest to await trial. He escaped and made his way to Berlin by way of Peshawar and Afghanistan. In Europe, Bose sought help from Germany for the liberation of India. He got Nazi permission to organize the Indian Legion of prisoners of war from Africa, but the legion remained basically German in training. Bose felt the need for stronger steps, and he turned to the Japanese embassy in Berlin, which finally made arrangements for Bose to go to Asia. Bose's impressive appearance and charisma attracted women admirers, including his Austrian secretary, whom he secretly married and by whom he had a daughter. It was also in Germany that Bose acquired his popular name, "Netaji."

Indian National Army

Main article: Indian National Army
Military parade of the INA at the Padang on 5 July 1943.

Arriving in Tokyo in May 1943, Bose attracted the attention of the Japanese high command, including Hideki Tojo, Japan's premier. The Japanese agreed to cooperate in founding an Indian National Army (INA) in Southeast Asia. Bose was flown to Singapore and became commander of the INA and head of the Free India provisional government. The INA included both Indian prisoners of war from Singapore and Indian civilians in Southeast Asia. The strength of INA grew to 50, 000 and fought Allied forces in 1944 inside the borders of India at Imphal and in Burma. For Bose any means and any ally were acceptable in the struggle to liberate India. By the end of World War II none of Bose's Axis allies had helped, and Bose then turned to the Soviet Union. [5] Three officers of the INA were tried after the war in Delhi; the trial attracted so much popular sympathy (including statements by Nehru and Gandhi that the men were great patriots) that the British decision to withdraw from India followed. Bose indirectly and posthumously achieved his goal of Indian independence. [6]

Disappearance and Alleged Death

Renkoji temple (Japan)

Officially, Bose died in a plane crash over Taiwan, while flying to Tokyo on 18 August 1945. It is believed that he was en route to the Soviet Union in a Japanese plane when it crashed in Taiwan, burning him fatally. 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.

In May 1956, a four-man Indian team (known as the Shah Nawaz Committee) visited Japan to probe the circumstances of Bose's alleged death. The Indian government did not then request assistance from the government of Taiwan in the matter, citing their lack of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

However, the Inquiry Commission under Justice Mukherjee, which investigated the Bose disappearance mystery in the period 1999-2005, did approach the Taiwanese government, and obtained information from the Taiwan Government that no plane carrying Bose had ever crashed in Taipei.[7] The Mukherjee Commission also received a report originating from the US State Department, supporting the claim of the Taiwan Government that no such air crash took place during that time frame.[8]

The Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to the Indian Government on November 8, 2005. The report was tabled in Parliament on May 17, 2006. The probe said in its report that Bose did not die in the plane crash and the ashes at the Renkoji Temple are not his. However, the Indian Government rejected the findings of the Commission.

Mysterious Monk

Main article: Bhagwanji

Several people believed that the Hindu sanyasi named Bhagwanji, who lived in Faizabad, near Ayodhya and died in 1985, was Subhas Chandra Bose in exile. There had been at least four known occasions when Bhagwanji said he was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.[9] The belongings of the sanyasi were taken into custody after his death, following a court order in this regard. These were later subjected to the inspection by the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry. The commission refuted this belief, in the absence of any 'clinching evidence'.[10] The independent probe done by the Hindustan Times into this case had provided hints that the monk was Bose himself.[11] The life and works of Bhagwanji remain a mystery even today.

Political Views

Bose's earlier correspondence (prior to 1939) also reflects his deep disapproval of the racist practices of, and annulment of democratic institutions in Nazi Germany.[12] He also, however, expressed admiration for the authoritarian methods (though not the racial ideologies) which he saw in Italy and Germany during the 1930s, and thought they could be used in building an independent India.[13]

Bose had clearly expressed his belief that democracy was the best option for India.[14] The pro-Bose thinkers believe that his authoritarian control of the Azad Hind was based on political pragmatism and a post-colonial recovery doctrine rather than any anti-democratic belief.[citation needed] However, during the war (and possibly as early as the 1930s) Bose seems to have decided that no democratic system could be adequate to overcome India's poverty and social inequalities, and he wrote that an authoritarian state, similar to that of Soviet Russia (which he had also seen and admired) would be needed for the process of national re-building.[15] Accordingly some suggest that Bose's alliance with the Axis during the war was based on more than just pragmatism, and that Bose was a militant nationalist , though not a Nazi, nor a Fascist,for he supported empowerment of women, secularism and other democratic ideas; alternatively, others consider he might have been using populist methods of mobilisation common to many post-colonial leaders.[13]

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