One of the most prominent leaders of Indian freedom struggle Subhash Chandra Bose was born in 1897 in Cuttak, Orissa. A brilliant student, he topped the matriculation exam and got a first class in graduation in Philosophy.
He stood fourth in the Indian Civil Services Exam held in England in 1920 and stood fourth. He could have progressed as a bureaucrat but deeply disturbed by the Jallianwala bagh incident, he left civil service apprenticeship and came back to India in 1921. He was the Congress president in 1938/39 and could have capitalized on his position in the party. However, foremost of his considerations was Indian independence. Hence, seeing an opportunity in the Second World War he established Azad Hind Fauj in 1943, to oust the British out of India.
While in India and influenced by Mahatama Gandhi, he joined the Indian National Congress. Soon he showed his leadership mettle and gained his way up in the Congress’ hierarchy. Subhash Chandra Bose was jailed during Civil Disobedience movement in 1930.
Clouds of World War II were on the horizon and he brought a resolution to give the British six months to hand India over to the Indians, failing which there would be a revolt. There was much opposition to his rigid stand, and he resigned from the post of president and formed a progressive group known as the Forward Block.
Subhash Chandra Bose now started a mass movement against utilizing Indian resources and men for the great war. There was a tremendous response to his call and he was put under house arrest in Calcutta. In January 1941, he disappeared from his home in Calcutta and reached Germany via Afghanistan. Working on the maxim that “an enemy’s enemy is a friend”, he sought cooperation of Germany and Japan against British Empire. In January 1942, he began his regular broadcasts from Radio Berlin, which aroused tremendous enthusiasm in India. A 3,000-strong Free India Legion, comprising Indians captured by Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps, was also formed to aid in a possible future German land invasion of India.
In July 1943, he arrived in Singapore from Germany where he took over the reins of the Indian independence movement in East Asia from Rash Behari Bose and organized the INA (Indian National Army) a.k.a Azad Hind Fauj, mainly of Indian prisoners of war. He was hailed as Netaji by the Army as well as by the Indian civilian population in East Asia. INA proceeded towards India to liberate it from British rule. En route it liberated Andeman and Nicobar Islands. The INA head quarter was later shifted to Rangoon in January 1944. The INA then crossed the Burma border, and stood on Indian soil on March 18, 1944.
Bose had great drive and charisma—creating popular Indian slogans, such as “Jai Hind,”—and the INA under Bose was a model of diversity by region, ethnicity, religion, and even gender. However, Bose turned out to be militarily unskilled.
In early 1945 the British Indian Army first halted and then devastatingly reversed the Japanese attack on India. Almost half the Japanese forces and half the participating INA contingent were killed. The INA was driven down the Malay Peninsula, and surrendered with the recapture of Singapore. Bose had earlier chosen not to surrender with his forces or with the Japanese, but rather to escape to Manchuria with a view to seeking a future in the Soviet Union which he believed to be turning anti-British. He died from third degree burns received when his plane crashed in Taiwan.
We can differ with the approach of a freedom fighter who sided with the fascists to achieve his objective, yet his commitment and sincerity with the cause of Indian independence can never be underestimated.
On August 23, 2007, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe visited the Subhas Chandra Bose memorial hall in Kolkata. Abe said to Bose’s family:
The Japanese are deeply moved by Bose’s strong will to have led the Indian independence movement from British rule. Netaji is a much respected name in Japan.