His life, activities and ideas
- Family Profile
- Spiritual development
Friends and momento
Following excerpts have been taken from Netaji’s unfinished autobiography entitled, “An Indian Pilgrim”. This was written by him at Badgastein, Austria, in December, 1937.
It is a part of “Netaji Collected Works” Volume 1, published by the Netaji Research Bureau, Netaji Bhawan, 38/2 Lala Lajpatrai Sarani, Calcutta-700020, in 1980.
My father, Janakinath Bose, had migrated to Orissa in the eighties of the last century and had settled down as a lawyer at Cuttack, where I was born on 23 January, 1897, .a Saturday. My father was descended from the Boses of Mahinagar, while my mother, Prabhabati, belonged to the family of the Dutts of Hatkhola.
The Boses are Kayastha by caste. The founder of the Dakshin-Rarhi clan of the Boses was one Dasartha Bose, who had two sons, Krishna and Parama. While Krishna lived in West Bengal, Parama went over to East Bengal and settled down there. One of the great-great-grandsons of Dasartha was Mukti Bose, who resided at Mahinagar, a village about fourteen miles to the south of Calcutta, whence the family is now known as the Boses of Mahinagar. Eleventh in descent from Dasartha was Mahipati, a man of outstanding ability and intelligence. He attracted the attention of the then king of Bengal, who appointed him a minister for finance and war. In appreciation of his services, the king, who was Muslim by religion, conferred on him the title of “Subuddhi Khan.” As was the prevailing custom, Mahipati was also given a jagir (landed property) as a mark of royal favour and the village of Subuddhipur, not far from Mahinagar, was probably his jagir. Of Mahipati ‘s ten sons, Ishan Khan, who was the fourth, rose to eminence and maintained his father’s position at the royal court. He had three sons, all of whom
received titles from the king. The second son, Gopinath Bose, possessed extraordinary ability and prowess and was appointed finance minister and naval commander by the then king. Sultan Hussain Shah (1493-1519). He was rewarded with the title of Purandar Khan and a jagir, now known as Purandarpur, not far from his native village of Mahinagar. In Purandarpur there is a tank called ”Khan Pukur” (or Khan’s Tank) which is a relic of a one-mile long tank excavated by Purandar Khan. The village of Malncha near Mahinpur has grown on the site of Purandar’s garden.
In those days the Hooghly flowed in the vicinity of Mahinagar and it is said that Purandar used to travel by boat to and from Gaud, the then capital of Bengal. He built up a powerful navy which defended the kingdom from external attack and was its commander.
Purandar also made his mark as a social reformer. Before his time, according to the prevailing Ballali custom, the two wings of the Kayasthas-Kulin (who were the elite, viz., the Boses, the Ghoses, and the Mitras) and Moulik (the Dutts, the Deys, the Rays etc.)-did not, as a rule, intermarry. Purandar laid down a new custom to the effect that only the eldest issue of a Kulin need marry into a Kulin family, while the others could marry Mouliks. This custom, which has been generally followed till the present day, saved the Kayasthas from impending disaster-the results of excessive inbreeding.
Purandar was also a man of letters. His name figures among the composers of Padabali, the devotional songs of the Vaishnavas.
Evidence is afforded by several Bengali poems, like Kavirama’s “Raymangal,” that as late as two hundred years ago, the Hooghly (called in Bengali-Ganga) flowed by Mahinagar and the neighbouring villages. The shifting of the river bed struck a death blow at the health and prosperity of these villages. Disturbance of the drainage of the countryside was followed by epidemics, which in turn forced a large section of the population to migrate to other places. One branch of the Bose family-the direct descendants of Purandar Khan-moved to the adjoining village of Kodalia. The Boses who migrated to Kodalia must have been living there for at least ten generations, for their genealogical tree is available.My father was the thirteenth in descent from Purandar Khan and twenty-sixth from Dasaratha Bose.
My grandfather Haranath had four sons, Jadunath, Kedarnath, Devendarnath and Janaknath, my father. My father was born on 28 May 1860. After passing the matriculation examination from Albert School, Calcutta, he studied for some time at St. Xavier’s College and the General Assembly’s Institution (now called Scottish Church College). He then went to Cuttack and graduated from Ravenshaw College. He returned to Calcutta to take his law degree and during this period came into close contact with the prominent personalities of the Brahmo Samaj,Brahmanand Keshav Chandra Sen, his brother Krishna Vihari Sen, and Umesh Chandra Dutt, principal of City College. He worked for a time as lecturer in Albert College of which Krishna Vihari Sen was the rector. The year 1901 saw him as the last non-official elected chairman of the Cuttack municipality. By 1905 he became a government pleader and public prosecutor.
In 1912 my father became a member of the Bengal Legislative Council and received the title of Rai Bahadur in 1917, following some differences with the district magistrate, he resigned the post of government pleader and public prosecutor and thirteen years later, in 1930, he gave up the title of Rai Bahadur as a protest against the repressive policy of the government.
Besides being connected with public bodies like the municipality and district board, he took an active part in educational and social institutions like Victoria School and the Cuttack Union Club. He had extensive charities, and poor students came in for a regular share of them. Though the major portion of his charities went to Orissa, he did not forget his ancestral village, where he founded a charitable dispensary and library, named after his mother and father respectively. He was a regular visitor at the annual session of the Indian National Congress but he did not actively participate in politics, though he was a consistent supporter of Swadeshi. After the commencement of the non-cooperation movement in 1921, he interested himself in the constructive activities of the Congress, khadi and national education. He was all along of a religious bent of mind and received initiation twice, his first guru being a Shakta and the second a Vaishnava. For years he was the president of the local Theosophical Lodge. He always had a soft spot for the poorest of the poor and before his death he made provisions for his old servants and other dependants.
My mother belonged to the family of the Dutts of Hatkhola, a northern quarter of Calcutta. In the early days of British rule, the Dutts were one of those families in Calcutta who attained a great deal of prominence by virtue of their wealth and their ability to adapt themselves to the new political order. As a consequence, they played a role among the neo-aristocracy of the day. My mother’s grandfather, Kashi Nath Dutt, broke away from the family and moved to Baranagore, a small town about six miles to the north of Calcutta, built a palatial house for himself and settled down there. He was a very well-educated man, a voracious reader and a friend of the students. He held a high administrative post in the firm of Messrs Jardine,Skinner and Co., a British firm doing business in Calcutta.
It is said of my maternal grandfather, Ganganarayan Dutt, that before he agreed to give my mother in marriage to my father, he put the latter through an examination and satisfied himself as to his intellectual ability. My mother was the eldest daughter.
Father’s environment and
Though there was a profound moral awakening among the people during the formative period of my father’s life, I am inclined to think that politically the country was still dead. It is significant that his heroes-Keshav Chandra and Iswar Chandra-though they were men of the highest moral stature, were by no means anti-government or anti-British. The former used to state openly that he regarded the advent of the British as a divine dispensation. And the latter did not shun contact with the government or with Britishers as a “non-cooperator” today would, though the keynote of his character was an acute sense of independence and self-respect. My father, likewise, though he had a high standard of morality, and influenced his family to that end, was not anti-government. That was why he could accept the position of government pleader and public prosecutor, as well as a title from the government.
birth – Cuttack (Orissa)
Though a comparatively small town with a population in the neighbourhood of twenty thousand, Cuttack, owing to a variety of factors, had an importance of its own. It had an unknown tradition since the days of the early Hindu kings of Kalinga.. It was the de facto capital of Orissa which could boost of such a famous place of pilgrimage as Jagannath Puri and such glorious art relics as those of Konarak, Bhuvaneswar, and Udaigiri. It was the headquarters not only for the British administration in Orissa, but also for the numerous ruling chiefs in that province. Altogether, Cuttack afforded a healthy environment for a growing child, and it had some of the virtues of both city and country life.
Ours was what might be regarded as a well-to-do middle-class family. Naturally, I had no personal experience of what want and poverty meant and I had no occasion to develop those traits of selfishness, greed, and the rest which are sometimes the unwelcome heritage of indigent circumstances in one’s life. At the same time, there was not that luxury and lavishness in our home which has been the ruin of so many promising but pampered young souls or has helped to foster a supercilious, high-brow mentality in them. In fact, considering their worldly means, my parents always erred-and, I daresay, rightly too – on the side of simplicity in the upbringing of their children.
recollection I have of myself is that I used to feel like a thoroughly
insignificant being. My parents awed me to a degree. My father usually had a cloak of reserve round him and he
kept his children at a distance. Owing to his professional work and his public
duties, he did not have much time left for his family. And the time he could
spare was naturally divided amongst his numerous sons and daughters. The
youngest child did, of course, come in for an extra dose of fondling, but an
addition to the family would soon rob it of its title of special favour. For the
grown-ups it was difficult to discern whom
father loved more.
He appeared to be strictly
impartial no matter what his inner feelings might have been.
Though my mother was more humane and it was not impossible at times to detect her bias, she was also held in awe by most other children. She ruled the roost and, where family affairs were concerned, hers was usually the last word. She had a strong will and when one added to that a keen sense of reality and sound common sense, it is easy to understand how she could dominate the domestic scene.
Living in a large family.
From infancy I was accustomed to living not merely in the midst of a large number of sisters and brothers, but also with uncles and cousins. The denotation of the word “family” was, therefore, automatically enlarged. What is more, our house always had an open door for distant relatives hailing from our ancestral village. In accordance with a long-standing Indian custom, any visitors to the town of Cuttack who bore the stamp of respectability could-with or without an introduction-drive to our house and expect to be put up there. This is because where the system of hotels is not so much in vogue and decent hotels are lacking, society has somehow to provide for a social need.
The largeness of our household was due not merely to the size of the family, but also to the number of dependants and servants as well-and to the representatives of the animal world-cows, horses, goats, sheep, deer, peacock, birds, mongoose, etc. The servants were an institution by themselves and formed an integral part of the household. Most of them had been in service long before I was born and some of them (e.g. the oldest maid-servant) were held in respect by all of us. Commercialism had not then permeated and distorted human relationships, so there was considerable attachment between our servants and ourselves. This early experience shaped my subsequent mental attitude towards servants as a class.
The quarters in which we lived was a predominantly Muslim one and our neighbours were mostly Muslims. They all looked up to father as ordinary villagers do to a patriarch. We took part in their festivals, like the Moharrum for instance, and enjoyed their akhara. Among our servants were Muslims who were as devoted to us as the others. At school I had Muslim teachers and Muslim classmates with whom my relations-as also the relations of other students-were perfectly cordial. In fact , I cannot ever remember looking upon Muslims as being different from us in any way, except that they go to pray in a mosque. And friction or conflict between Hindus and Muslims was unknown in my early days.
Though the family environment helped to broaden my mind, it could not, nevertheless, rid me of that shy reserve which was to haunt me for years later.
The sixth son and ninth child of my parents, I would be sent to school,. I was delighted. To see your elder brothers and sisters dress and go to school day after day and be left behind at home simply because you are not big enough-not old enough-is a galling experience.
It was to be a red-letter day for me. At long last I was going to join the grown-up respectable folks who did not stay at home except on holidays.
Ours was the Protestant European School run by the Baptist Mission meant primarily for European and Anglo-Indian boys and girls with a limited number of seats (about fifteen per cent) for Indians. All our brothers and sisters had joined this school, and so I did. I do not know why our parents had selected this school, but I presume it was because we would master the English language better and sooner there than elsewhere, and knowledge of English had a premium in those days. When I went to school I had just learnt the English alphabet and no more. How I managed to get along without being able to speak a word of English beats me now.
Though the majority of the teachers and pupils were Anglo-Indians, the school was based on the English model and run on English lines, as far as Indian conditions would permit. There were certain things we did learn there which we would have missed in an Indian school. There was not that unhealthy emphasis on studies which obtains in Indian schools. More attention was given to deportment, neatness and punctuality than is done in an Indian school. The students received more individual attention at the hands of their teachers and the daily work was done more regularly and systematically than is possible in an Indian school. The result was that practically no preparation was needed when an examination had to be faced. Moreover, the standard of English taught was much higher than in Indian schools. Though there was order and system in the education that was imparted, the education itself was hardly adapted to the needs of Indian students. Too much importance was attached to the teaching of the Bible, and the method of teaching it was as unscientific as it was uninteresting. We had to learn our Bible lessons by heart. Though we were taught the Bible day in and day out, for seven long years, I came to like the Bible for the first time several years later-when I was in college.
There is no doubt that the curriculum was so framed as to make us as English in our mental make-up as possible. We learnt much about the geography and history of Great Britain but proportionally little about India-and when we had to negotiate Indian names, we did so as if we were foreigners.
With the school authorities our stock was high, because the members of our family were generally at the top in whichever class they happened to be.
And I must say that there was never any attempt to unduly influence our social and religious ideas. Things went on smoothly for some years and we seemed to have fitted into our milieu splendidly, but gradually there appeared a rift within the lute. Something happened which tended to differentiate us from our environment.
To some extent this differentiation was inevitable, but what was not inevitable was the conduct that arose out of it. We had been living in two distinct worlds and as our consciousness developed we began to realize slowly that these two worlds did not always match. There was, on the one hand, the influence of family and society which was India. There was, on the other, another world, another atmosphere, where we spent most of our working days, which was not England, of course, but a near approach to it. We were told that, because we were Indians, we could not sit for scholarship examinations, like the primary school and middle school examinations, though in our annual examinations many of us were topping the class. Anglo-Indian boys could join the volunteer corps and shoulder a rifle, but we could not. Small incidents like these began to open our eyes to the fact that as Indians we were a class apart, though we belonged to the same institution.
So far as studies were concerned I was usually at the top. . I did badly in sports and did not play any part in the bouts that took place, and as studies did not have the importance which they have usually in an Indian school, I came to cherish a poor opinion of myself.
When I was about ten, our teacher asked us to write an essay on what we would like to be when we were grown-up, My elder brother was in the habit of giving us talks on the respective virtues of a judge, magistrate, commissioner, barrister, doctor, engineer, and so forth, and I had picked up odd things from what I had heard him say. And wound up by saying that I would be a magistrate. I only remember hearing in talks within the family circle that the highest position one could get to was the Indian Civil Service. In those days it was nicknamed the heaven-born service.
It would be
wrong to infer from the above that I was
in revolt against my school environment. I was there for seven years, and
was to all intents and purposes satisfied with my surroundings.
The disturbing factors referred to above were passing incidents which did
not affect the even tenor or our life. Only towards the end did I have a vague
feeling of unhappiness, of mal-adaptation to my environment and a strong desire
to join an Indian school where, so I thought, I would feel more at home. And
strangely enough, when in January 1909, I shook hands with our headmaster and
said goodbye to the school, the teachers and the students, I did so without any
regret, without a momentary pang.
When I joined Ravenshaw Collegiate School, Cuttack, in January 1909 a sudden change came over me. Among European and Anglo-Indian boys my parentage had counted for nothing, but among our own people it was different. Further, my knowledge of English was above the ordinary level and that gave me an added estimation in the eyes of my new classmates. Even the teachers treated me with undue consideration because they expected me to stand first, and in an Indian school studies, and not sports, brought credit and reward. At the first quarterly examination I did justify the hopes placed in me. The new atmosphere in which I lived and moved forced me to think better of myself-that I was worth something and was not an insignificant creature. It was not a feeling of pride that crept into me but of self-confidence, which till then had been lacking and which is the sine qua non of all success in life.
I did not take kindly to sports, and only the drill lessons interested me. It was customary for the boys to run home after school hours, have a light tiffin, and then go out for games. My parents did not like us to do that. Either they thought that sports would interfere with our studies or they did not regard the atmosphere of the playground as congenial to our mental health. If we wanted to go out for games, we had to do it on the sly. Moreover, I was then of a goody-goody nature and was busy devouring ethical verses in Sanskrit. Some of these verses taught that the highest virtue consisted in obeying one’s father-that when one’s father was satisfied all the gods were satisfied-that one’s mother was even greater than one’s father, etc. I therefore thought it better not to do what would displease any parents. So I would take to gardening along with those who did not go out for games. Gardening I found absorbingly interesting. It served, among other things, to open my eyes to the beauties of nature. I feel inclined to think that I should not have neglected sports. By doing so, I probably developed precocity and accentuated my introvert tendencies. To ripen too early is not good, either for a tree or for a human being and one has to pay for it in the long run. There is nothing to beat nature’s law of gradual development, and however much prodigies may interest us at first they generally fail to fulfil their early promise.
It was at this time entering on one of the stormest periods in my psychical life which was to last for five or six years. It was a period of acute mental conflict causing untold suffering and agony, which could not be shared by any friends and was not visible to any outsider. I had in some respects a touch of the abnormal in my mental make-up . Not only was I too much of an introvert, but I was in some respects precocious. The result was that at an age when I should have been tiring myself out on the football field. I was brooding over problems which should rather have been left to a more mature age. The mental conflict, as I view it from this distance, was a two-fold one. Firstly, there was the natural attraction of a worldly life and of worldly pursuits in general, against which my higher self was beginning to revolt. Secondly, there was the growth of sex-consciousness quite natural at that age, but which I considered unnatural and immoral and which I was struggling to suppress or transcend.
No realization without renunciation-I told myself again. It slowly dawned on me that for spiritual development social service was necessary. The idea came probably from Vivekananda, for, as I have indicated above, he had preached the ideal of the service of humanity, which included the service of one’s country. He had further enjoined on everyone to serve the poor. For, according to him, God often comes to us in the form of the poor and to serve the poor is to worship God. I became very liberal with beggars, fakirs and sadhus, and whenever any of them appeared before our house, I helped them with whatever came within my reach. I derived a peculiar satisfaction from the act of giving.
Though in other matters I was inclined to be precocious it would be correct to say that, as long as I was at school, I did not mature politically. This was due partly to my innate proclivity which pointed in a different direction, partly to the fact that Orissa was a political backwater, and partly to lack of inspiration within the family circle.
The individual has to go through the experience of his race within the brief span of his own life, and I remember quite clearly that I too passed through the stage of what I may call nonpolitical morality, when I thought that moral development was possible while steering clear of politics-while complacently giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Looking back on my school-days I have no doubt that I must have appeared to others as wayward, eccentric, and obstinate. I was expected to do well at the matriculation examination, and raise the prestige of the school. Great must have been the disappointment of my teachers when they found me neglecting my studies and running after ash-laden sadhus. What my parents must have thought and felt over a promising boy going off his head can best be imagined. But nothing mattered to me, except my inner dreams, and the more resistance I met, the more obstinate I became. My parents then thought that a change of environment would perhaps do me good and that in the realistic atmosphere of Calcutta I would shed my eccentricities and take to a normal life like the rest of my tribe.
I sat for the matriculation examination in March 1913 and came out second in the whole university. My parents were delighted and I was packed off to Calcutta. Little did they know what Calcutta had in store for me. Separated from a small group of eccentric schoolboys whom I had gathered round myself in Cuttack, I found crowds of them in Calcutta . No wonder I soon became the despair of my people.
I was barely sixteen and a half years old when I walked into the precincts of Presidency College, then regarded as the premier college of the Calcutta University,. Though it was a government institution, the students as a rule were anything but loyalist. This was due to the fact that the best students were admitted into the college without any additional recommendation and regardless of their parentage. In the councils of the CID, Presidency College students had a bad name or so ran the rumour. The main hostel of the college, known as the Eden Hindu hostel, was looked upon as a hot-bed of sedition, rendezvous of revolutionaries, and was frequently searched by the police.
Vivekananda’s teachings had been neglected by his own followers-even by the Ramakrishna Mission which he had founded. We were going to give effect to them. We could, therefore, be called the neo-Vivekananda group, and our main object was to bring about a synthesis between religion and nationalism, not merely in the theoretical sphere, but in practical life as well. For the emphasis on nationalism was inevitable in the political atmosphere of Calcutta of those days.
The Oaten Incident and expulsion from the College.
After two years’ hectic life my studies were in a hopeless condition. Though I was placed in the first division (which by the way, was an easy affair), in the intermediate examination in 1915 I was low down on the list. I had a momentary feeling of remorse, and then resolved to make good at the degree examination.
degree, I took the honours course in philosophy-a long cherished desire.
I threw myself heart and soul into this work.
For the first time in my college career I found an interest in studies.
But what I gained from this was quite different from what I had expected
in my boyhood. At school I had expected that a study of philosophy would give me
wisdom and knowledge about the fundamental questions of life and the world. I
had possibly looked upon the study of philosophy as some sort of yogic exercise,
and I was bound to be disappointed. I
actually acquired not wisdom but intellectual discipline and a critical frame of
mind, Western philosophy begins
with doubt (some say it also ends with doubt). It regards everything with a
critical eye, takes nothing on trust, and teaches us to argue logically and to
detect fallacies. In other words, it emancipates the mind from preconceived
notions. My first reaction to this was to question the truth of the Vedanta on
which I had taken my stand for so long. I
began to write essays in defence of materialism, purely as an intellectual
exercise. I soon came into conflict with the atmosphere of our group. It struck
me for the first time that they were dogmatic in their views, taking certain
things for granted, whereas a truly emancipated man should accept nothing
without evidence and argument.
“Oaten incident“ and expulsion from the College.
One morning in January 1916, when I was in the college library, I heard that a certain English professor had manhandled some students belonging to our class. On enquiry it appeared that some of our classmates were walking along the corridor adjoining Mr. O’s lecture room, when Mr. O feeling annoyed at the disturbance, rushed out of the room and violently pushed back a number of students who were in the front row.
We had a system of class-representatives whom the principal consulted on general matters and I was the representative of my class. I immediately took the matter p with the principal and suggested, among other things, that Mr. O. should apologise to the students whom he had insulted. The principal said that since Mr. O. was a member of the Indian Educational Service, he could not coerce him into doing that. He said further that Mr.O. had not manhandled any student or used force against them-but had simply “taken them by the arm” which did not amount to an insult. We were naturally not satisfied and the next day there was a general strike of all the students. The principal resorted to all sorts of coercive and diplomatic measures in order to break the strike, but to no avail. Even the Maulvi Sahib’s efforts to wean away the Muslim students ended in failure. Likewise the appeals of popular professors like Sir P.C.Ray and Dr. D.N.Mullick fell flat. Among other disciplinary measures, the principal levied a general fine on all the absentee students.
A successful strike in Presidency College was source of great excitement throughout the city. The strike contagion began to spread , and the authorities began to get nervous. One of my professors who was rather fond of me was afraid that I would land myself in trouble being one of the strike leaders. He took me aside and quietly asked me if I realized what I was in for. I said that I was; whereupon he said that he would say
nothing more. However, at the end of the second day’s strike, pressure was brought to bear on Mr. O. He sent for the student’s representatives and settled the dispute amicably with them, a formula honourable to both parties having been devised in the meantime.
The next day the lectures were held and the students assembled in an atmosphere of “forgive and forget.” It was naturally expected that after the settlement the principal would withdraw the penal measures he adopted during the strike, but they were disappointed. He would not budge an inch-the fine would have to be paid unless a student pleaded poverty. All appeals made by the students as well as by the professors proved to be unavailing. The fine rankled in the minds of the students, but nothing could be done.
About a month later a similar incident came like a bolt from the blue. The report went out that Mr. O. had again manhandled a student-but this time it was a student of the first year. What were the students to do? Constitutional protests like strikes would simply provoke disciplinary measures and appeal to the principal would be futile. Some students therefore decided to take the law into their own hands. The result was that Mr. O. was subjected to the argument of force and in the process was beaten black and blue. From the newspaper office to Government House, everywhere there was wild commotion.
Immediately after this the Government of Bengal issued a communique ordering the college to be closed and appointing a committee of enquiry to go into the continued disturbances in that institution. The temper of the government was naturally very high and it was freely rumoured that the government would not hesitate to close down the college for good. The government undoubtedly would have given the fullest support to the staff as against the students. But as ill-luck would have it, the principal fell out with the government over the official communique. As the government orders were issued over his head, he felt that his amour-propre had been hurt, and his prestige damaged. He called on the honourable member in charge of education and made a scene at his place. The next day, another official communique was issued, saying that the principal was under suspension for “gross personal insult” to the honourable member. But the principal acted before power could slip out of his hands, He sent for all those students who were on his blacklist including myself. To me he said-or rather snarled-in unforgettable words, “Bose, you are the most troublesome man in the college. I suspend you “I said “Thank you.” And went home.. Shankracharya’s Maya lay dead as a door nail.
Soon afterwards the governing body met and confirmed the principal’s order.. I was expelled from Presidency College. I appealed to the university for permission to study in some other college. That was refused. I was thus virtually rusticated from the university.
Lying on the bunk in the train
at night I reviewed the events of the last few months. My educational career was
at an end, and my future was dark and uncertain. But I was not sorry. There was
not a trace of regret in my mind for what I had done.
I had rather a feeling of supreme satisfaction, of joy that I had done
the right thing, that I had stood up for our honour and self-respect and had
sacrificed myself for a noble cause. After
all, what is life without renunciation, I told myself.
And I went to sleep.
Inner significance of the
Little did I then realize the inner significance of the tragic events of 1916. My principal had expelled me, but he had made my future career. I had established a precedent for myself from which I could not easily depart in future. I had stood up with courage and composure in a crisis and fulfilled my duty. I had developed self-confidence as well as initiative, which was to stand me in good stead in future. I had a foretaste of leadership-though in a very restricted sphere-and of the martyrdom that it involves. In short, I acquired character and could face the future with equanimity.
Scottish Church College.
In order to try my luck with the university authorities once again, I returned to Calcutta after a year’s absence. It was a difficult job, but the key to the situation was with Sir Asutosh Mukherji, the virtual dictator of the university. If he willed it, the penal order could be withdrawn.
At this stage, I was informed that the university authorities would probably be amenable, but that I would have to find a college where I could be admitted if the university had no objection. Bangabasi College offered to take me in, but there was no provision here for the honours course of philosophy. I,therefore,decided to approach Scottish Church College. One fine morning, without any introduction whatsoever, I went straight to Dr. Urquhart, the principal of the college and told him that I was an expelled student, that the university was going to lift the ban, and that I wanted to study for the honours course in philosophy in his college. He was evidently impressed, for he agreed to admit me, provided the principal of Presidency College gave a note to the effect that he had no objection to my admission into Scottish Church College. That was not an easy task for me. My second brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, who was my guardian in Calcutta, however, offered to do this for me and he interviewed Mr. W. the new principal. This Mr. W. he told me, was quite tractable on his point, but he wanted me to call on him. I went to him and was put through a searching cross-examination about the events of the previous year. At the end of wound up by saying that he was concerned more with the future than the past, and would not object to my going to some other institution. That was all that I wanted for I had no desire to go back to Presidency College. Once admitted, I took to my studies with zeal and devotion . I had lost two years.
When I joined
the third year class again in July 1917, my classmates had taken their BA and
were studying for their MA degree. There
was no possibility of any friction with the authorities with such a tactful
and considerate man as Dr Urquhart as principal. He was himself a
philosophy man and lectured on that subject, besides giving Bible lessons.
His Bible lessons were very interesting. It was such a welcome change
from the Bible lessons in the P.E.School. Except for the fact that I took part
in the activities of the college societies, especially the Philosophical
Society, I led a quiet life although I soon found something
to add some spice to
my daily life,
A taste of military
The government had agreed to start a university unit in the Indian defence force-India’s territorial army.. Recruiting was going on for this unit, a double company. The physical tests would not be so stiff as in the regular army tests, especially in the matter of vision. There was thus a chance of my getting in. .
We did not see any active service. Nor did we have any real adventure. Nevertheless, we were enthusiastic over our camp life. Though we had never experienced anything like military life before, it engendered real esprit de corps. Besides our parade we had recreation of all sorts-official and un-official-and sports as well. Towards the end of our training we had a mock fight in the dark. These were interesting and exciting to a degree. The company had its comic figures and many were the jokes we would have at their expense. At an early stage they were put in a separate squad, called the “Awakward Squad.” But as they improved, they were drafted into the regular platoons.
I wonder how much I must have changed from those days when I could find pleasure in soldiering. Not only was there no sign of mal-adaptation to my new environment, but I found a positive pleasure in it. This training gave me something which I needed, or which I lacked. The feeling of strength and of self-confidence grew still further.
The third year in college was given to soldiering and the excitement connected therewith. Only in my fourth year did I commence my studies in right earnest. At the BA examination in 1919 I did well, but not up to my expectations. I got first-class honours in philosophy, but was placed second in order of merit. For my MA course I did not want to continue philosophy for I was to some extent disillusioned with philosophy. While it developed the critical faculty, provoked scepticism, and fostered intellectual discipline, it did not solve any of the fundamental problems for me. My problems could be solved only by myself. Besides, there was another factor at work. Having changed considerably during the last three years, I decided to study experimental psychology for my MA examination. It was a comparatively new science. I found it absorbing, but, I was not destined to continue it for more than a few months.
Offer to go to England
to study for the ICS
When my father was in Calcutta one evening he suddenly sent for me. I found him closeted with my second brother, Sarat. He asked me if I would like to go to England to study for the Indian Civil Service. If I agreed I should start as soon as possible. I was given twenty-four hours to make up my mind. It was an utter surprise to me. I took counsel with myself and within a few hours, made up my mind to go. All my plans about research in psychology were put aside.
I was not so sorry to part company with psychology, but what about about joining the Indian Civil Service and accepting a job under the British government? I had not thought of that even in my dreams. I persuaded myself, however, that I could never pass the ICS examination at such short notice for, by the time I reached England and settled down to study, barely eight months would be left and in view of my age I had but one chance. If, however, I managed to get through there would be plenty of time to consider what I should do.
I visited the provincial advisor for studies in England himself a product of Cambridge and a professor of Presidency College. He knew me by sight, and naturally did not have a high opinion of an expelled student. As soon as he heard that I intended to sit for the ICS examination the next year, he summoned up all his powers of discussion. I had no chance whatsoever against the “tip-toppers” from Oxford and Cambridge. That was the burden of his homily. Why was I going to throw away ten thousand rupees?
Then seeing that he would do nothing to help me secure admission to Cambridge, I left him.
Relying entirely on my own resources, and determined to try my luck in England, I set sail on 15 September 1919.
I called at the office of the advisor to Indian students of Cromwell Road in London. He was very nice to me, gave me plenty of advice, but added that, so far as admission to Cambridge was concerned, there was nothing doing. However, by chance there I met some Indian students from Cambridge. One of them strongly advised me to proceed straight to Cambridge and try my luck there, instead of wasting my time at Cromwell Road. I agreed and the next day I was at Cambridge. Some students from Orissa, whom I had known slightly, lent me a helping hand. One of them, who belonged to Fitzwilliam Hall, took me to Mr. Reddaway. He was exceedingly kind and sympathetic, gave me a patient hearing, and at the end wound up by saying that he should admit me straightaway.
I had an unusually large number of lectures to attend-part of them for the mental and moral sciences tripos and the rest for the Civil Service examination. Outside my lecture hours, I had to study as hard as I could. I was to appear under the old Civil Service regulations which necessitated my taking up eight or nine different subjects, some of which I had to study for the first time. The work for the mental and moral sciences tripos was more interesting, but I could not devote much time to it, beyond attending the lectures.
What greatly impressed an outsider like myself was the measure of freedom allowed to the students, and the general esteem in which they were held by all and sundry. This undoubtedly had a very wholesome effect on their character. What a change, I thought, from a police-ridden city like Calcutta where every student was looked upon as a potential revolutionary and suspect! And living in the atmosphere of Cambridge, it was difficult to imagine the incidents in the Calcutta Presidency College-professors maltreating students-for here it was the professor who ran the risk of being maltreated by the undergraduates. In fact, unpopular dons were occasionally ragged by the undergraduates and their rooms raided by the latter though in a friendly way., for later on they were compensated for any damage done. Even when a ragging was going on in the streets of Cambridge, causing damage to public property, the police would behave with remarkable restraint, a thing quite impossible in India.
Apart from the measure of freedom enjoyed by students, which would naturally appeal more to me than to British students born and brought up in a free atmosphere, the consideration and esteem with which they were treated everywhere was very striking. Even a fresher coming up for the first time would at once get the impression that a high standard of character and behavior was expected of him, and he would be bound to react favorably. This consideration shown towards the undergraduates was not confined to Cambridge but existed to some extent all over the country. In the trains also if one was questioned and replied that he was at Cambridge (or Oxford), the attitude of the questioner would change at once. He would become friendly-or shall I say more respectful? This was my personal experience. If there is an element of snobbishness in those who go up to Cambridge or Oxford, I certainly do not hold a brief for it. But having been brought up in a police-ridden atmosphere, it is my firm conviction that there is a lot to be said in favour of allowing students and young men more freedom and treating them with consideration as if they were responsible citizens.
There is another thing which drew my admiration-the debates at the Union Society’s meetings. The whole atmosphere was exhilarating. There was perfect freedom to say what you liked or attack whomsoever you wished. Prominent members of parliament and sometimes members of the cabinet took part in these debates in a spirit of perfect equality and would, of course, come in for slashing criticism not unmixed with invective at times.
During the six terms that I had in Cambridge the relations between British and Indian students were on the whole quite cordial. Only in a few cases did they ripen into real friendship.
I sat for the Civil Service examination, with nine subjects on my shoulders. Not all of them have been useful to me in later life, but I must say that the study of political science, economics, English history, and modern European history proved to be beneficial. This was specially the case with modern European history. Before I studied this subject, I did not have a clear idea of the politics of Continental Europe.
Early in July, 1920 , the Civil Service open competitive examination began in London. It dragged on for a month and the agony was a prolonged one. On the whole, I had worked hard, but my preparation was far below my expectations. I could not, therefore, feel hopeful. So many brilliant students had come down in the list in spite of years of preparation that it would require some conceit to feel anything but diffident. My diffidence was heightened when I foolishly threw away about 150 sure marks in my Sanskrit paper. It was the English to Sanskrit translation paper and I had done it well. I prepared a rough copy of the translation first with the intention of making a fair copy in the answer-book. But so oblivious was I of the time that, when the bell went, I had transcribed only a portion of the text I had prepared in rough. But there was no help. The answer-book had to be surrendered. I could only bite my fingers.
I informed my people that I had not done well and could not hope to find a place among the selected candidates. I now planned to continue my work for the Tripos. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I got a telegram one night when I was in London from a friend of mine which ran thus-“CONGRATULATIONS SEE MORNING POST.’ I wondered what it meant. Next morning when I got a copy of the Morning Post, I found that I had come out fourth. I was glad and a cable went off to India at once.
Of the teachers there was one who left a permanent impression on my youthful mind. That was our headmaster of Ravenshaw Collegiate School, Babu Beni Madhav Das. The very first day I saw him taking his rounds-and I was then just over twelve-I felt that I should now call an irresistible moral appeal in his personality. Up-till then I had never experienced what it was to respect a man. But for me, to see Beni Madhav Das was to adore him. I was not old enough then to realize what it was that I adored. I could only feel that there was a man who was not an ordinary teacher, who stood apart from, and above, the rest of his tribe. I sincerely said to myself that if I wanted an ideal for my life, it should be to emulate him.
The headmaster did not usually give any regular lessons till the boys reached the second class. So I began to long for the day when I would reach the second class and be entitled to listen to his lectures. That day did arrive. I was then fourteen. But my good fortune did not last long. After a few months orders for his transfer came. However, before he left us he had succeeded in rousing in me a vague perception of moral values-an inchoate feeling that in human life moral values should count more than anything else.
I remember vividly the parting scene-when the headmaster took leave of his devoted and admiring pupils. He entered the classroom visibly moved and, in a voice ringing with emotion, said “I have nothing more to say but invoke the blessings of God on you.“ I could not listen any more. Tears rushed to my eyes and I cried out within myself. But a hundred eyes were on the alert and I managed to restrain myself. Our eyes met. The tears which I had managed to restrain within the classroom now began to flow. He saw them and was also moved. I stood paralysed for a moment and he came up to say that we would meet again. This was, I believe, the first time in my life that I had to weep at the time of parting and the first time I realized that only when we are forced to part do we discover how much we love.
I started a correspondence with Beni Madhav which went on for some years. One thing I now learnt from him-how to love nature and be inspired by her, not merely aesthetically, but ethically as well. “Surrender yourself completely to nature” he would write, “and let nature speak to you through her Protean mask.” This sort of contemplation had given him peace of mind, joy, and strength of will. Following his instructions, I took to what, in the absence of anything better, might be described as a species of nature worship. I would choose a beauty spot on the river bank or on a hill or in a lonely meadow in the midst of an enchanting sunset glow, and practise contemplation.
This opened my eyes to the hidden and neglected beauties of nature and also helped me to concentrate my mind. In the garden, among flowers, sprouting leaves and growing plants, I would find an indescribable joy and I would love to ramble, alone or in the company of friends, amid the wild beauties of nature with which the country side was so plentifully supplied. I could realize the truth of what the poet had said:
A primrose by the river’s brim,
A yellow primrose is to him,
And it is something more.
poems now had an added significance for me and I would simply revel in
the description of natural scenery in Kalidas’s poetry and in the Mahabharata
which, thanks to my pundit, I could enjoy
in the original Sanskrit.
The Need for a central
Nature worship was elevating and therefore helpful to a certain point, but it was not enough. What I required-and what I was unconsciously groping after-was a central principle, which I could use as a peg to hang my whole life on, and a firm resolve to have no other distractions in life. It was no easy job to discover the principle or idea and then consecrate my life to it. The difficulty was not about the determination of my life’s goal so much as about concentrating my entire will to that single goal. Even after I had decided what was the most desirable object in life, it took me a long time to establish peace and harmony within myself by bringing under control contrary or rebellious tendencies, for though the spirit was willing the flesh was weak. A stronger will than mine would undoubtedly have managed things more easily.
A relative of mine, who was a new comer to the town, was living next door, and I had to visit him.. Glancing over his books, I came across the works of Swami Vivekananda. I had hardly turned over a few pages when I realized that here was something which I had been longing for. I borrowed the books from him, brought them home, and devoured them. I was thrilled to the marrow of my bones. My headmaster had roused my aesthetic and moral sense-had given a new impetus to my life-but he had not given me an ideal to which I could give my whole being. That Vivekananda gave me.
task of freeing my mind of superstitions,
Vivekananda was of great help to
me. The religion that he preached -including his conception
of yoga-was based on a rational philosophy, on the Vedanta, and his conception
of the Vedanta was antagonistic to,
but was based on, scientific principles.
One of his missions in life was to bring about a reconciliation between science and religion, and this, he
held, was possible through the Vedanta.
From this study, I emerged with a vivid idea of the essence on his teachings. “Atmano Mokshartham Jagaddhitaya”-that is for your own salvation and for the service of humanity-was to be life’s goal. Neither the selfish monasticism of the middle ages, nor the modern utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill, could be a perfect ideal. And the service of humanity included, of course, the service of one’s country-for, as his biographer and his chief disciple, Sister Nivedita, pointed out, “The Swami himself,in one of his passionate utterances, had said, “Say, brothers, at the top of your voice-the naked Indian, the illiterate Indian, the Brahmin Indian, the Pariah Indian is my brother.” Talking to the future, he had remarked that the Brahmin, the Kshstriya and the Vaishya each had had their day and now had come the turn of the Sudras, the down-trodden masses.
I was barely fifteen when Vivekananda entered my life. There followed a revolution within, and everything was turned upside down. It was, of course, a long time before I could appreciate the full significance of his teachings, or the greatness of his personality, but certain impressions were stamped indelibly on my mind from the outset. Both from his portraits as well as from his teachings, Vivekananda appeared before me as a full-blown personality. Many of the questions which had vaguely stirred my mind, and of which I was to become conscious later on, found in him a satisfactory solution. My headmaster’s personality ceased to be high enough to serve as my ideal. I had previously thought of studying philosophy as he had done and of emulating him. Now, I thought of the path which Vivekananda had indicated.
I was soon able to get together a group of friends who became interested in Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Whenever we had a chance at school and outside, we would talk of nothing else but this topic. Gradually, we took long walks and excursions which would give us greater opportunities for meeting and discussion.
parents noticed before long that I was going out frequently in the company of
other boys. I was questioned, warned in a friendly manner, and ultimately
rebuked. But all this was to no
purpose. I was rapidly changing,
and was no longer the goody-goody boy afraid of displeasing his parents. I had a
new ideal before me now-an ideal which had inflamed my soul-to effect my own
salvation, and to serve humanity by abandoning all worldly desires and breaking
away from all undue restraints. I no longer recited Sanskrit verses inculcating obedience to
one’s parents. On the contrary, I took to verses which
Vivekananda’s ideal brought me into conflict with the existing family and social order. I was weak, the fight was long-drawn one, in which success was not easy to obtain. Hence, tension and unhappiness with occasional fits of depression.
The more my parents endeavored to restrain me, the more rebellious I became. When all other attempts failed, my mother took to tears. Even that had no effect on me. Though all the time I was feeling inwardly unhappy, I was becoming callous, perhaps eccentric, and more determined to go my own way. To defy my parents in this way was contrary to my nature, and to cause them pain was disagreeable; but I was swept onwards as by an irresistible current. There was very little appreciation, or understanding, at home of what I was dreaming at the time and that added to my misery. The only solace was to be found in the company of friends, and I began to feel more at home when away from home.
There were books on Brahmacharya or sex control, which were readily made use of. Then there were books on meditation which were greedily devoured. Books on yoga, and especially hatha-yoga were eagerly hunted after and utilized. And over and above this, all kinds of experiments were made. A faithful narration of all that I went through would suffice to make a first-class entertainment. Small wonder that some thought that I was on the verge of lunacy.
Vivekananda’s teachings had been neglected by his own followers-even by the Ramakrishna Mission which he had founded. We were going to give effect to them. We could, therefore, be called the neo-Vivekananda group, and our main object was to bring about a synthesis between religion and nationalism, not merely in the theoretical sphere, but in practical life as well. For the emphasis on nationalism was inevitable in the political atmosphere of Calcutta of those days.
Influence of Sri Aurobindo
Aurobindo Ghose was then easily the most popular leader in Bengal, despite his voluntary exile and absence since 1909. He had sacrificed a lucrative career in order to devote himself to politics.
As a college student it was not the mysticism surrounding Aurobindo’s name which attracted me, but his writings and also his letters. Aurobindo was then editing a monthly journal called ‘Arya’ in which he expounded his philosophy.
I was impressed by his deeper philosophy. Shankara’s doctrine of Maya was like a thorn in my flesh. I could not accommodate my life to it, nor could I easily get rid of it. I required another philosophy to take its place. The reconciliation between the one and the many, between God and creation, which Ramakrishna and Vivekananda had preached, had indeed impressed me, but had not till then succeeded in liberating me from the cobwebs of Maya. In this task of emancipation, Aurobindo came as an additional help. He worked out a reconciliation between spirit and matter, between God and creation, on the metaphysical side supplemented it with a synthesis of the methods of attaining the truth-a synthesis of yoga, as he called it.
He tried to show how by a proper use of different yogas one could rise step by step to the highest truth. It was so refreshing, so inspiring, to read Aurobindo’s writings as a contrast to the denunciation of knowledge and action by the latter-day Bengal Vaishnavas. All that was needed in my eyes to make Aurobindo an ideal guru for mankind was his return to active life.
I sometimes wonder how at a particular psychological moment a small incident can exert a far-reaching influence on our lives,. In front of our house in Calcutta, an old, decrepit beggar woman used to sit every day and beg for alms. Every time I went out or came in, I could not help seeing her. Her sorrowful countenance and her tattered clothes pained me whenever I looked at her or even thought of her. By contrast, I appeared to be so well-off and comfortable, that I used to feel like a criminal. What right had I-I used to think-to be so fortunate to live in a three-storied house when this miserable beggar
woman had hardly a roof over her head and practically
no food or clothing? What was the
value of yoga, if so much misery was to continue in the world? Thoughts like
these made me rebel against the existing social system.
But what could I do? A
social system could not be demolished or transformed in a day. Something had to
be done for this beggar woman in the meantime, and that too, unobtrusively.
I used to get money from home for going to and returning from college by
tramcar. This I resolved to save
and spend in charity. I would often walk back from college-a distance of over
three miles-and sometimes even walk to it when there was sufficient time.
This lightened my guilty conscience to some extent.
Mentors and Friends
A mentor is, according to dictionary definition, “a trusted adviser”. Sarat Chandra Bose, an elder brother of Subhas, could be described as one of Subhas’s mentors. Sarat took deep interest in his extraordinary younger brother when he was in his teens and also in his later years.
When Sarat went away to England in 1912 to study for Bar-at-law and when also Subhas himself went to England in 1919 for studying at the Cambridge University and also to appear in the Indian Civil Service examinations, many letters were exchanged between 1912 to 1921, which revealed many of their thoughts and ideas.
In a letter written to Sarat from Cuttack on the 17th September, 1912, when Subhas was 15 years and 8 months old, he was very keen to know about “foreign experiences” of Sarat. He wrote:
In writing this, I have but one object-to make one request-that you will delight and instruct me by the descriptions of the various things you see on your journey to England and you will let me have a share of your mind regarding how you feel among strange and foreign associations.
On Rabindranath Tagore (who had just received the Noble Prize for literature)
You will there perhaps hear and read a good deal about the Bengali poet and venerable sage, Rabindra Nath Tagore. We feel so proud to read of him and the high honour shown to him by an alien people that for the time we become optimistic about the future of Bengal and of India. I am almost stung with self-reproach when I think how indifferent Bengal has been in showering laurels upon him and has suffered his genius, super-human though it is, to lie in the shade of neglect, whereas a foreign people, speaking an alien tongue and cherishing ideas and sentiments diametrically opposed to ours in some cases, have lifted him up from this shade to sunshine and have extolled him as the greatest poet the world has produced. What a strange people we are! We have so little of reverence in us. So the poet has sung:
‘Let knowledge grow from more to more
But more of reverence in us dwell’.
hope a time will come when I shall be able to appreciate the poems of Rabi
do not like to stay in Calcutta for more than a month at a stretch, for I long
to feast my eyes on the fresh beauty and the smiling appearances of nature.
Without nature to soothe one’s soul and to inspire him in his moments of
weakness, man, I think, cannot lead a happy life. Without nature as one’s
companion and instructor, life is no better than banishment in a
desert-life loses all its freshness and activity and the sunny side of life
India and expression of religious fervour
When I survey my last year’s work I cannot help reflecting on the goal of life. Tennyson, I think, is a staunch optimist and strongly believes that the world is progressing day by day. Is it really so? Are we really nearing our longed for goal? Is our dear country, India, on the high-road to progress? I cannot think so. May be, good may come out of evil-may be India is wading through sin and corruption towards peace and progress. But as far as the eye of prudence, prophecy or foresightedness can behold, all is darkness-dense darkness with here and there a faint ray of hope to cheer up the earnest worker or the high-souled patriot. Sometimes the rays seem to brighten up-sometimes the gloom seems to darken. The future history of India is like the condition of the gloomy sky, during a storm. England and of course the whole of Europe may be progressing. The star of religion is rising in the sky of Europe but it is steadily declining in the sky of India. What was India and what is she now? What a terrible change! Where are those saints, those sages, those philosophers-our forefathers who had explored the farthest limits of the realm of knowledge? Where is their fiery personality ? Where is their strict Brahmacharya? Where is their realization of God? Where is their unification with the supreme soul, of which we now simply talk of. All is gone! Hushed is their Vedic strain! No more are the songs of the Sama Veda to be heard resounding on the banks of the sacred Ganges! But there is hope yet-I think there is hope yet-the angel of hope has appeared in our midst to put fire in our souls and to shake off our dull sloth. It is the saintly Vivekananda. There stands he, with his angelic appearance, his large and piercing eyes and his sacred dress to preach to the whole world, the sacred truths lying embedded in Hinduism! The evening star is up-the moon of course must come. A brighter future is India’s destiny. God is ever good. Through sin, irreligiousness, corruption and every other vice, he is leading us towards our only goal. He is the magnet round which all things revolve and to which all creation inevitably moves. We must move-the road may be dangerous and stony-the journey may be a laboured one, but we must march. We must ultimately lose ourselves in Him. The day may be far off-but it must come. That is the only hope I now cherish-otherwise everything is disappointing and disheartening to me.
Do not we feel that He is pulling us towards Him with magnetic force-I think we do. Has He not spread nature’s charms around us only to remind us of His existence? Has he not hidden the stars to speak for Him and the infinite sky to teach man that He is infinite? Has He not instilled love in our hearts, to remind us of the love He bears towards us? Alas! He is so good-and we, so naughty. Date 8.1.13
Perhaps the most intimate friend of Subhas in his younger days was Hemanta Kumar Sarkar, with whom he exchanged many letters. Thirty one of these letters have been preserved. In some of his letters he expressed his ideas, feelings quite frankly. These were written largely in Bengali and were translated into English.
In the following letter he describes what happened after he returned home after disappearing from home for nearly two months, while searching for a guru.
Mother was informed. Half way up I met her. I made pranams to her-she could not help weeping on seeing me. Later, she only said, ‘It seems you have come into this world to kill me. I would not have waited so long before drowning myself in the Ganges; only for the sake of my daughters have I not done so.’ I smiled within myself. Then I met father. After I had made my pranams, he embraced me and led me to his room. On the way he broke down and in the room he wept for quite sometime holding on to me.
Discussion with father on
I had long talks with father again in the afternoon. They related to various views of life, meeting Sanyasis and about my wanderings. I told him I did not like anybody. I also told him immediately what my ideal was. What he wanted to drive at during the discussion was: (1) Whether it was possible to practise Dharma while leading a worldly life; (2) That renunciation needs preparation; (3)Whether it was right to shirk one’s duty. I said in reply - (1) Everybody cannot have the same medicine because everybody has not got the same disease and the same capacity-(2) Whether or not renunciation is possible depends on how much cleansing one needs-all may not require much in the way of polishing up- (3) Duty is relative-higher call may completely supersede lower calls when Knowledge comes, action becomes redundant.
He asked me if indivisibility of the Divine Spirit, that is to say that the ‘Spirit alone is true, the world is all false’, was not a mere theory. I said that so long as it was a mere platitude it was a theory, but it becomes true when it is realised and that such realisation was possible. Those who said so realised its truth and have also said that we could realise it. He asked, “Who were able to do it and what is the proof?’ I answered that the Rishis achieved it and then quoted the Sloka beginning with ‘Vedahamiti.’ He then said that once upon a time Maharshi Devendra Nath, Keshab Chandra and Paramhansa were in Calcutta-and people were able to achieve what they were capable of. I said that Vivekananda’s ideal was my ideal.
He said at the end, ‘When your higher call comes, we shall see.’ I have so far not opposed father actively-passively I have won the victory. Now he is unable to force anything upon me. And, when I go away next time, he will probably give up the idea and the effort to get me back.
However, I now see that I have done well in coming back.
Mother is a
fanatic and says that next time I go, she will also leave with me and not return
home again. I think I will not be
able to understand her. I find
father very reasonable.
Continuing on the same theme, he expressed his attitude towards his father and mother.
I had a talk with father today. He gave me three pieces of advice and said that when I regained my sanity, he would discuss other things with me. He is trying to make me adopt the worldly way of life. I did not say anything today-I maintained passive silence implying non-submission. Later on I might, if I feel so inclined, talk to him more frankly. It is not possible to reason with mother-she is displeased with me-she thinks I do not care for her in the least. Date 21.6.14
On Maternal love
People generally take maternal love to be the deepest and the most selfless and say that a mother’s love is immeasurable. But, my dear friend, I do not rate maternal love so highly. Beni Babu has probably not experienced any other love in his life and that explains his view. Is a mother’s love really completely selfless? I do not know; nevertheless, so long as a mother cannot accept any other boy from the street equally as her own son, can her love be called selfless? Her attachment is born of having reared her child herself.
But compared to the love I have tasted in this life, the ocean of love I find myself in, mother’s love is like a puddle. In this self-centred world, man’s only refuge is mother’s love and that is why they raise it so high. For one you have brought up yourself you may well develop affection-is there much credit in that? But, somebody who can give a man from the street the highest place in his heart-how big is the heart-how sublime is his love! People will refuse to understand this.
Do I have it all wrong? Date 21.6.14
After college examinations were over, he wrote what he would like to study, which reflects his intellectual interests.
While there I shall occupy myself with extensive study. My studies will be in four parts:
(1) Study of man and his history.
(2) General study of the Sciences-first principles.
(3) The problem of Truth-the goal of human progress, that is, philosophy.
(4) The greatness of the world.
Besides these, I propose to go through all my college books once. I feel very enthusiastic about studies now. I find things are now completely reversed. The examinations are over and my interest in studies grows! I now feel like devouring all the books. Date 27.3.15
Philosophical reflections are expressed in a letter dated 18.7.15.
Well, is it possible for man to realise Absolute Truth? Everybody takes one relative truth to be the absolute in his life and then uses that as the yardstick to judge good and evil, happiness and sorrow of this life. Nobody has really the right to interfere in anybody else’s individual philosophy of life or to speak against it, but the fact remains that the basis of that philosophy has got to be sincere and true, as Spencer’s theory is-‘he is free to think and act so long as he does not infringe the equal freedom of any other individual’.
Intellectual preparation is necessary in the first instance. Then, thinking and work will go on simultaneously. Ultimately one has to lose himself completely in work. Initially, one must have some make-shift activities so as not to lose the capacity to work.
Look. There are two sides to a life-intellect and character. It is not enough to offer only character to your country-you must be able to produce an intellectual ideal.
will not do to know something of everything but to organise them into a
systematic whole-and to know everything of something. Simple assimilation will
not do-but creative genius is necessary.
Service to India and
On personal accomplishments and service to India and mankind, he wrote:
I am realising more and more as time passes that I have a definite mission to fulfil in life and for which I have been born, and I am not to drift in the current of popular opinion. It is the law or this work and people will criticise but my sublime self-consciousness will enable me not to be influenced by them. If the treatment I receive in this world brings about a change in my attitude, that is, makes me unhappy and despondent, I have to assume that it is all due to my own weakness. But, as one who is aiming to reach out to the skies is oblivious of hills or wells on the way, so also is one whose mind is directed towards his mission to the exclusion of everything else, completely unconcerned by other things. I must move about with the proud self-consciousness of one imbued with an idea.
Well, I now understand that to be a man in the real sense there are three prerequisites:
(1) Embodiment of the past
(2) Product of the present
(3) Prophet of the future
(1) I must assimilate the past history, in fact, all the past civilisations of the world.
(2) I must study myself-study the world around me-both India and abroad and for this foreign travels are necessary.
(3) I must be the prophet of the future. I must discover the laws of progress-the tendency of both the civilisations and therefrom settle the future goal and progress of mankind. The philosophy of life will alone help me in this.
(4) This ideal must be realised through a nation-begin with India.
Is not this a grand idea? Date 31.8.15
Why study philosophy?
Many people ask; when philosophy cannot lead you to any conclusion and is ever-growing-one man lays down certain theories, another comes and goes beyond his predecessor and puts forward bigger ideas; when such is the way of philosophy, why go in for philosophy and the philosophic way of life? When Hegel’s philosophy was first preached in this world, all people thought as if this was the last word-as if that was the final conclusion. But the world is unfortunate. The march of philosophy has now left Hegel behind. Nevertheless, if you have to live, you must face such questions. Just as fragrance is the inevitable accompaniment of a blooming flower (there is nothing to question about it) so also are such searching questions inevitable in life.
What is the good of studying philosophy? It is this-that you come to know your own questions, your own doubts. You come to know how so many others have thought about them. You may then organise and properly direct your line of thinking….
By all means build up a philosophy in order to harmonise all your present activities in life. Then proceed in accordance with that philosophy. On the other hand, in the inner recesses of your mind, destroy and reconstruct it every moment of your life. Life progresses through continuous construction and destruction. Construct something, then destroy it, build something else and destroy it again and so on.
Something cannot come out of nothing. Man proceeds from Truth to higher Truth. We must pass through inconsistencies. They fulfill life.
If emotions get the better of you, you lose reason, critical power, analytic and synthetic power. Because, only in cool moments can one make proper use of these qualities. Date 16.9.15
Attractions of the West
see the great laboratories of the West, their scientific way of life, their
wonderful inventions, discoveries and knowledge. Then I feel like going over to
their continent and spending ten or twelve years there in a single minded
pursuit of knowledge; after all, only one who has earned something is in a
position to give. I have the desire also to take a plunge for once into their
life of activity and then see if, instead of being merely carried along by the
current, I can direct it myself.
India has lost almost
India has lost almost everything-she has even lost her soul, but still, we must not worry, we must not lose hope; as the poet has said, ‘You must regain your manhood’. Yes, we must be men again. The beautiful land of India is now haunted by creatures who are but the embodiments of ghosts of the dead past. All over the place, there is lack of hope-and death, luxury, disease, limitless sorrow-‘Dark clouds of misfortune have overcast the entire horizon of India.’ But, regardless of all this hopelessness, stillness, poverty and squalor and starvation, and drowning the wailings of half-starved beings on the one hand, and the pompous noise made by those wallowing in riches and luxury, we must once again sing the national song of India. And, that is-Arise, Awake!
About appearing for the ICS
am facing a most serious problem. Yesterday the family made an offer to send me
to England. I have to sail for England immediately. There is no chance of
getting into any good University in England
just at present. It is their wish that I should study for a few months
and appear at the Civil Service examination. It is my considered view that there
is no hope of my passing the Civil Service examination. The rest
are of the view that in case I fail the examination I might get into
London or Cambridge University in October next..
My primary desire is to obtain a university degree in England, otherwise
I cannot make headway in the educational line. If I now refuse to study for the
Civil Service, the offer to send me to England will be put into cold storage for
the time being (and for all time). Whether
it will ever materialise in future I do not know. Under the circumstances,
should I miss this opportunity? On the other hand, a great danger will arise if
I manage to pass the Civil Service examination. That will mean giving up my goal in life. Date 26.8.19
About the British people
(written from Cambridge)
The ‘natives’ of this country have certain qualities which have made them so great. First, they can work strictly to time with clock-work precision, secondly, they have a robust optimism-we think more of the sorrows of life, they think more of the happy and bright things of life. Then, they have a strong commonsense-they appreciate their national interest very well. Now to sum up, there is something wrong with the air we breathe-we must bring about a change in that. Date 19.1.20
On education, the Labour
Movement and Russia
Another of his good friends was Charu Chandra Ganguly. Subhas wrote to him from Cambridge .
After coming here and observing people here and their methods of work, I have been feeling that in our country two things are especially needed-(1) spread of education among the common people-(2) Labour Movement.
Swami Vivekananda used to say that India’s progress will be achieved only by the peasant, the washerman, the cobbler and the sweeper. These words are very true. The Western World has demonstrated what the ‘power of the people’ can accomplish. The brightest example of this is,-the first socialist republic in the world, that is, Russia. If India will ever rise again-that will come through that power of the people.
In all the countries of the modern world which have made progress, the same ‘power of the people’ has come into its own.
Swami Vivekananda has said in his ‘Bartaman Bharat’ that the dominance of the three castes, Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaishya is a thing of the past. Among the Western peoples, the Vaishya caste is made up of-Capitalists and Industrialists-their days are numbered. The Sudras or the untouchable caste of India constitute the Labour Party. So long these people have only suffered. Their strength and their sacrifice wi ll bring about India’s progress. That is why we now need mass education and labour organisation.
The Struggle Begins -
from the Indian Civil Service
to take Subhas away from his path of “waywardness” and “eccentricities”
which he had manifested from his school days and to bring him into the beaten
track of middle class “respectability”, his father, Janakinath, supported by
his elder brother and “mentor” Sarat,
made an offer to him to go to England in 1919 to appear in the Indian Civil
The ICS was, at that time, considered to be a “heaven-born service” which was the dream of some of the most brilliant Indian students whose families could afford to send their children to the U.K. to study.
Subhas wrote in his autobiography:
One evening, when my father was in Calcutta, he suddenly sent for me. I found him closeted with my second brother, Sarat. He asked me if I would like to go to England to study for the Indian Civil Service. If I agreed I should start as soon as possible. I was given twenty-four hours to make up my mind.
It was an utter surprise to me. I took counsel with myself and, within a few hours, made up my mind to go. All my plans about researches in psychology were put aside. How often, I wondered, were my carefully laid plans going to be shattered by the superior force of circumstances. I was not so sorry to part company with psychology, but what about joining the Indian Civil Service and accepting a job under the British Government? I had not thought of that even in my dreams. I persuaded myself, however, that I could never pass the I.C.S. examination at such short notice, for by the time I reached England and settled down to study, barely eight months would be left and I had but one chance, in view of my age. If, however, I managed to get through, there would be plenty of time to consider what I should do. I had to leave at a week’s notice.
When Subhas visited the Provincial Adviser for Studies in England, himself a product Cambridge and a Professor of the Presidency College, the latter said that Subhas had no chance whatsoever against the ‘tip-toppers’ from Cambridge and Oxford and advised against “throwing away ten thousand rupees“.
However, he left for England on the 15th September, 1919 and reached London on the 25th October. He settled down at Cambridge in the first week of November.
For the Civil Service examination he had nine subjects, some of which he had to study for the first time. The subjects were: English Composition, Sanskrit, Philosophy, English Law, Political Science, Modern European History, Economics, English History, Geography. In addition, he had to do surveying and map-making (Cartography) for the Geography paper and had to learn French in connection with the Modern History paper. He had only eight months to complete the whole course.
Early in July 1920 the Civil Service open competitive examination began in London. It dragged on for a month. He wrote that although he had worked hard, his preparations were far below his expectations. So he was not hopeful about the results. He informed his family that he had not done well and did not hope to be successful.
The examination results were declared in the middle of September 1920 and he came out fourth in the list and first in English Composition. Now he was caught in a dilemma.
What should I do with the job? Was I going to give the go-by to all my dreams and aspirations, and settle down to a comfortable life? There was nothing new in that. So many had done it before-so many had talked big when they were young and had acted differently when grown up. I knew of a young man from Calcutta who had Ramakrishna and Vivekananda at the tip of his tongue in his college days, but later on married into a rich family and was now safely landed in the Indian Civil Service. Then there was the case of a friend from Bombay who had promised in the presence of the late Lokamanya Tilak that, if he happened to pass the I.C.S. Examination, he would resign and devote himself to national work. But I had resolved early in life not to follow the beaten track and, further, I had certain ideals which I wanted to live up to. It was therefore quite impossible for me to go into the Service unless I could make a clean sweep of my past life.
There were two important considerations which I had to weigh before I could think of resigning. Firstly, what would my people think? Secondly, if I resigned now in a fit of excitement, would I have any occasion in future to regret my action? Was I absolutely sure that I was doing the right thing?
It took me seven long months to make up my mind. In the meantime, I started a correspondence with my second brother, Sarat. Fortunately the letters I wrote have been preserved by him. The ones I received have all been lost in the storm and stress of a hectic political life. My letters are interesting inasmuch as they show the working of my mind in 1920.
In a letter written to Sarat on the 22nd September 1920, Subhas wrote:
I have been getting heaps of congratulations on my standing fourth in the competitive examination. But I cannot say that I am delighted at the prospect of entering the ranks of the I.C.S. If I have to join this service I shall do so with as much reluctance as I started my study for the I.C.S. Examination with. A nice fat income with a good pension in after-life – I shall surely get. Perhaps I may become a Commissioner if I stoop to make myself servile enough. Given talents, with a servile spirit one may even aspire to be the Chief Secretary to a provincial Government. But after all is Service to be the be-all and end-all of my life? The Civil Service can bring one all kinds of wordly comfort, but are not these acquisitions made at the expense of one’s soul? I think it is hypocrisy to maintain that the highest ideals of one’s life are compatible with subordination to the conditions of service which an I.C.S. man has got to accept.
You will readily understand my mental condition as I stand on the thresh-hold of what the man-in-the-street would call a promising career. There is much to be said in favour of such a service. It solves once for all what is the paramount problem for each of us-the problem of bread and butter. One has not to go to face life with risk or any uncertainty as to success or failure. But for a man of my temperament who has been feeding on ideas which might be called eccentric-the line of least resistance is not the best line to follow. Life loses half its interest if there is no struggle-if there are no risks to be taken. The uncertainties of life are not appalling to one who has not, at heart, worldly ambitions. Moreover, it is not possible to serve one’s country in the best and fullest manner if one is chained to the Civil Service. In short, national and spiritual aspirations are not compatible with obedience to Civil Service conditions.
I realise that it is needless to talk in this fashion as my will is not my own. Though I am sure that the C. Service has no glamour for you, father is sure to be hostile to the idea of my not joining. He would like to see me settled down in life as soon as possible. Hence I find that owing to sentimental and economic reasons, my will can hardly be called my own. But I may say without hesitation that if I were given the option-I would be the last man to join the Indian Civil Service.
You may rightly say that, instead of avoiding the service, one should enter its ranks and fight its evils. But even if I do so, my position any day may become so intolerable as to compel me to resign. If such a crisis takes place 5 or 10 years hence, I shall not be in a favourable position to chalk out a new line for myself-whereas today there is yet time for me to qualify for another career.
If one is cynical enough one may say that all this “spirit” will evaporate as soon as I am safe in the arms of the service. But I am determined not to submit to that sickening influence. I am not going to marry-hence considerations of worldly prudence will not deter me from taking a particular line of action, if I believe that to be intrinsically right.
Constituted as I am, I have sincere doubts as to whether I am a fit man for the Civil Service and I rather think that what little capacity I possess can be better utilised in other directions for my own welfare as well as for the welfare of my country.
I should like to know your opinion about this. I have not written to father on this point-I really do not know why I wish I could get his opinion too.
In another letter written on the 26th January, 1921, he wrote to Sarat:
You may say that instead of shunning this wicked system we should enter it and fight with it till the last. But such a fight one has got to carry on single-handed in spite of censure from above, transfer to unhealthy places, and stoppage of promotion. The amount of good that one can do while in the services is infinitesimal when compared with what one can do when outside it. Mr. R.C.Dutt no doubt did a lot of work in spite of his service but I am sure he could have done much more work if he had not been a member of the bureaucracy. Besides the question here involved is one of principle. On principle I cannot accept the idea of being a part of the machinery which has outlived the days of its usefulness, and stands at present for all that is connected with conservatism, selfish power, heartlessness, and red-tapism.
I am now at the cross-ways and no compromise is possible. I must either chuck this rotten service and dedicate myself whole-heartedly to the country’s cause-or I must bid adieu to all my ideals and aspirations and enter the service. I am sure many of our relatives will howl when they hear of such a rash and dangerous proposal. But I do not care for their opinions, their cheers or their taunts. But I have faith in your idealism and that is why I am appealing to you. About this time 5 years ago I had your moral support in an endeavour which was fraught with disastrous consequences to myself. For a year my future was dark and blank, but I bore the consequences bravely. I never complained to myself, and today I am proud that I had the strength to make that sacrifice. The memory of that event strengthens my belief that if any demands for sacrifice are made upon me in the future I shall respond with equal fortitude, courage and calmness. And in this new endeavour can I not expect the same moral support which you so willingly and so nobly lent me, five years ago?
I am writing to father separately this time and appealing to him to give his consent. I hope that if you agree with my point of view you will try to persuade father to that effect. I am sure your opinion in this matter will carry great weight.
He dealt with the same subject in a letter of 16th February, 1921, saying what he could do after resigning from the ICS. He wrote:
If C.R.Das at his age can give up everything and face the uncertainties of life-I am sure a young man like myself, who has no worldly cares to trouble him, is much more capable of doing so. If I give up the service, I shall not be in want of work to keep my hands full. Teaching, social service, cooperative credit work, journalism, village organization work, these are so many things to keep thousands of energetic young men busy. Personally, I should like to take up teaching and journalism at present. The National College and the newspaper “Swaraj” will afford plenty of scope for my activity. A life of sacrifice to start with, plain living and high thinking, whole-hearted devotion to the country’s cause-all these are highly enchanting to my imagination and inclination. Further, the very principle of serving under an alien bureaucracy is intensely repugnant to me. The path of Arabindo Ghosh is to me more noble, more inspiring, more lofty, more unselfish, though more thorny.
I have written to father and to mother to permit me to take the vow of poverty and service. They may be frightened at the thought that that path might lead to suffering in the future. Personally I am not afraid of suffering-in fact, I would rather welcome it than shrink from it.
In February 1921 he had received his father’s letter disapproving of his plan to resign but by then he had definitely made up his mind to resign. By this time the Non-Cooperation Movement had been launched in India under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and, therefore, a new political challenge had been thrown to the British rulers. He wrote on the 6th April 1921:
Father thinks that the life of a self respecting Indian Civil Servant will not be intolerable under the new regime and that Home Rule will come to us within ten years. But to me the question is not whether my life will be tolerable under the new regime .In fact, I believe that, even if I am in the service, I can do some useful work. The main question involved is one of principle. Should we under the present circumstances owe allegiance to a foreign bureaucracy and sell ourselves for a mess of pottage? Those who are already in the service or who cannot help accepting service may do so. But should I being favourably situated in many respects, owe allegiance so readily? The day I sign the covenant I shall cease to be a free man. I believe we shall get Home Rule within ten years and certainly earlier if we are ready to pay the price. The price consists of sacrifice and suffering. Only on the soil of sacrifice and suffering can we raise our national edifice. If we all stick to our jobs and look after our own interests, I do not think we shall get Home Rule even in 50 years. Each family-if not each individual- should now bring forward its offering to the feet of the mother. Father wants to save me from this sacrifice. I am not so callous as not to appreciate the love and affection which impels him to save me from this sacrifice, in my own interests. He is naturally apprehensive that I am perhaps hasty in my judgement or overzealous in my youthful enthusiasm. But I am perfectly convinced that the sacrifice has got to be made-by somebody at least.
If anybody else had come forward, I might have had cause to withdraw or wait. Unfortunately, nobody is coming yet and the precious moments are flying away. In spite of all the agitation going on there, it still remains true that not a single Civil Servant has had the courage to throw away his job and join the people’s movement. This challenge has been thrown at India and has not been answered yet. I may go further and say that in the whole history of British India, not one Indian has voluntarily given up the Civil Service with a patriotic motive. It is time that members of the highest service in India should set an example to members of the other services. If the members of the services withdraw their allegiance or even show a desire to do so-then only will the bureaucratic machine collapse.
I therefore do not see how I can save myself from this sacrifice. I know what this sacrifice means. It means poverty, suffering, hard work, and possibly other hardships to which I need not expressly refer, but which you can very well understand. But the sacrifice has got to be made-consciously and deliberately. Your proposal that I should resign after returning is eminently reasonable but there are one or two points to be urged against it. In the first place it will be a galling thing for me to sign the covenant which is an emblem of servitude. In the second place if I accept service for the present I shall not be able to return home before December or January, as the usual custom stands. If I resign now, I may return by July. In six months’ time much water will have flowed through the Ganges. In the absence of adequate response at the right moment, the whole movement might tend to flag, and if response comes too late it may not have any effect. I believe it will take years to initiate another such movement and hence I think that the tide in the present movement must be availed of. If I have to resign, it does not make any difference to me or to any one of us whether I resign tomorrow or after a year, but delay in resigning may on the other hand have some untoward effect on the movement. I know fully well that I can do but little to help the movement-but it will be a great thing if I have the satisfaction of having done my bit. If for any reason I happen to change my decision regarding resignation, I shall send a cable to father as that will relieve his anxiety.
He further justified his decision to resign in a letter dated the 23rd April, 1921. He wrote:
My greatest objection to joining the service was based on the fact that I would have to sign the covenant and thereby own the allegiance of a foreign bureaucracy which I feel rightly or wrongly has no moral right to be there. Once I signed the covenant, it would not matter from the point of view of principle whether I served for three days or three years. I have come to believe that compromise is a bad thing-it degrades the man and injures his cause. The reason why Surendra Nath Bannerji is going to end his life with a knighthood and a ministership is that he is a worshipper of the philosophy of expediency, which Edmund Burke preached. We have not come to that stage where we can accept a philosophy of expediency which Edmund Burke preached. We have not come to that stage where we can accept a philosophy of expediency. We have got to make a nation and a nation can be made only by the uncompromising idealism of Hampden and Cromwell. I have come to believe that it is time for us to wash our hands clean of any connection with the British Government. Every Government servant, whether he be a petty chaprasi or a provincial Governor, only helps to contribute to the stability of the British Government in India. The best way to end a Government is to withdraw from it. I say this not because that was Tolstoy's doctrine nor because Gandhi preaches it-but because I have come to believe in it. I sent in my resignation a few days ago. I have not yet been informed that it has been accepted.
has written, in reply to a letter of mine, about the work that is already being
done. He complains that there is a dearth of sincere workers at present. There
will consequently be plenty of congenial work for me when I return home. I have
nothing more to say. The die is cast and I earnestly hope that nothing but good
will come out of it.
Sir William Duke, the then Permanent Under Secretary of State for India, who while he was the Commissioner in Orissa knew the Bose family, contacted Subhas’s eldest brother Satish, who was then qualifying for the Bar in London, to dissuade Subhas from resignation. The Secretary of the Civil Service Board, Mr.Roberts did the same. Subhas was also approached by some lecturers in Cambridge who asked him to reconsider his decision.
However, on the 22nd April, 1921, he sent his letter of resignation to E,.S,.Montagu, M.P., Secretary of State for India. Following is the text of the letter:
16, Herbert Street,
The Right Hon.E.S.Montagu, M.P.
Secretary of State for
I desire to have my name removed from the list of probationers in the Indian Civil Service.
I may state in this connection that I was selected as a result of an open competitive examination held in August, 1920.
have received an allowance of 100 pounds
up till now. I shall remit the amount to the India Office as soon as my
resignation is accepted.
I have the honour to be
Your most obedient servant
Subhas Chandra Bose
Two days earlier on the 20th April, 1921, Subhas wrote to Sarat about the possible impact of his resignation. He wrote:
The fact that I am definitely going to resign has leaked out here only within the last few days. Unfortunately it seems to have created a sensation among the Indian Community. I am afraid, therefore, that some of the people here will send word to India and some people there will try to make a sensation over it. I am anxious to avoid creating a sensation for several reasons., In the first place, I dislike both sensation and popular applause. Secondly, if there is no sensation there is not likely to be any difficulty about my getting home as soon as possible. Thirdly, I would like to hide the fact of my resignation from father’s knowledge, in view of Mejdidi’s present state of health. I have not written to father anything about my resignation since I heard of Mejdidi’s illness. But I am afraid it is impossible to keep it a secret. Still, I shall try my best.
I know how many hearts I have grieved-how many superiors of mine I have disobeyed. But on the eve of this hazardous undertaking my only prayer is-may it be for the good of our dear country.
The day after he sent his resignation, on the 23rd April, he wrote to Sarat:
The obligation I own to father and mother is not to displease them to the best of my ability. They are inspired by a desire to look after my own interests and they are naturally afraid that if I resign the Civil Service I shall be courting financial ruin and poverty for myself in the future. I have not been able to persuade them that the course I intend to follow will bring me the greatest amount of happiness-that real happiness cannot be measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence and that if I stick to the service I shall always feel that I am a criminal who has not got the courage of his convictions. Their view follows naturally upon a materialistic interpretation of life but I quite realize that out of their affection for me they are anxious to see me getting on well in life instead of being plunged once more into a sea of uncertainties.
My position therefore is that in entering upon a new career I am acting against the express wishes of father and mother and against your advice though you have sent me your “warmest felicitation in whatever course I choose”.
In the same letter he provided political and moral justification for his resignation:
The best way to end a government is to withdraw from it. I say this not because that was Tolstoy’s doctrine nor because Gandhi preaches it-but because I have come to believe in it.
I have come to believe, further, that the national liberty which we want cannot be attained without paying for it dearly in the way of sacrifice and suffering. Those of us who have the heart to feel and the opportunity to suffer should come forward with their offering. I do not expect that those who have been long in the service and have financial responsibilities to shoulder can do this. Nevertheless each family in this wide land of ours must come forward with its own humble tribute and as long as we do not do our duty, we have no right to complain that the leaders are selfish.
I feel that we have not yet contributed our share and therefore I should make the sacrifice. Sacrifice and suffering are not in themselves very attractive things but I cannot avoid them as I have been convinced that without them our national aspirations can never be fulfilled. It is purely an accident that I should be coming forward for the work and not somebody else. If we would approve of the sacrifice in the case of a third person there is no reason why we should not approve of it in our own case.
Besides, I find that fortunately I am fitted for this task by my temperament and previous training.
Subhas’s desire to wage struggle against British imperialism did not emerge out of just racial pride or nationalistic feelings. It was born out of a deep urge to rebuild free India on the basis of justice and equality. While planning to resign from the ICS, he was simultaneously thinking about what he could do after returning to India. He wrote to Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, the Congress leader in Bengal, whom he described as “the high priest of the festival of national service in Bengal”. offering his services.
In a letter dated the 16th February, 1921 he wrote to Das that he would like to “plunge into national work with resolute determination” and offered to teach at the National College, write and publish books and newspapers, organise village societies, spread education among the common people.
He made a suggestion regarding how the Congress should function and what issues it should take up. He wrote:
I have quite a few ideas in my mind regarding the Congress. I think there must be a permanent meeting place for the Congress. We must have a house for this purpose. There will be a group of research students there who will be carrying on research on various national problems. As far as I am aware, our Congress has no definite policy relating to Indian currency and exchange. And then, it has probably not been decided what sort of attitude the Congress should adopt towards the Native States. It is perhaps not known what the stand of the Congress is in regard to franchise ( for men and women). And further, the Congress has not probably made up its mind as to what we should do about the Depressed Classes. Because of lack of effort in this regard (that is, about the Depressed Classes), all non-Brahmins of Madras have become pro-Government and anti-nationalist.
My personal view is that the Congress has to maintain a permanent staff. They will do research on individual problems. Each one will collect up-to-date facts and figures, and after all such facts and figures have been collected, the Congress Committee will formulate a policy vis-a-vis every individual problem. Today the Congress has no definite policy with regard to many national problems. That is why I think the Congress must have permanent quarters and a permanent staff of research students.
Besides, the Congress should open an Intelligence Department. It has to be so arranged that all up-to-date news and facts and figures about our country are available in the Intelligence Department. Booklets will be published in every provincial language by the Propaganda Department and will be distributed free among the general public. Apart from that, a book will be published by the Propaganda Department on each and every question in our national life. In such a book the policy of the Congress will be explained and the grounds on which such a policy has been formulated will also be given.
In another letter written on the 2nd March, 1921 to Das he elaborated some of his ideas:
Our Congress has no distinctive policy regarding Currency and Exchange, neither has the Congress a clear-cut policy about Labour and factory legislation. Then, our Congress has no definite policy about Vagrancy and Poor Relief and again, the Congress has probably no determined policy as to the type of the Constitution we are going to have after the attainment of Swaraj. In my view the Congress-League scheme is entirely out-of-date. We must now frame the Constitution of India on the basis of Swaraj.
You may well say that the Congress is now engaged in pulling down the existing order, so until this work of demolition has been completed it is not possible to start constructive activity, but I am of the view that right from now when the work of destruction is going on, we must begin to create. To be able to formulate a policy in respect of any problem of our national life will require thinking and research over a long period of time. So research should start right from now. If the Congress can draw up a complete programme, we shall not have to worry about our policy in respect of any question when we have achieved Swaraj.
Many of Subhas’s early letters to his mother and to friends echo the vision and teachings of Vivekananda who decried the fallen state of India, praised her essential religiosity and propounded the need for selfless service to the Motherland. Subhas wrote in 1913 to his mother:
“What was India and what is she now? Where are those saints, those sages, those philosophers, our forefathers who had explored the farthest limit of the realm of knowledge? Where is their fiery personality? What is their strict Brahmacharya ? All is gone! But there is hope yet-I think there is hope yet-the angel of hope has appeared in our amidst to put fire in our souls and to shake off our dull sloth. It is the saintly Vivekananda. There stands he, with his angelic appearance, his large and piercing eyes and his sacred dress to preach to the whole world, the sacred truths like embedded Hinduism!”
Through his mid-teems, Subhas Bose was engrossed in a search for a goal or goals in life and for the best path for himself and his mother served as one of his sounding boards while Swami Vivekananda was one of the main guides. Letters remain to document his search and his reaching out to his mother. In one, undated, but in the 1912 to 13 period he wrote to her:
“Will the condition of our country continue to go from bad to worse-will not any son of Mother India in distress, in total disregard of his selfish interest, dedicate his whole life to the cause of the Mother? A life in the service of others is the only one worth living. Mother, do you know why I am writing all this to you? To whom else can
I talk? Who will listen to me? Who else will take it seriously? Those whose lives are motivated only by self considerations, cannot afford to think on such lines- will not think on such lines-lest their self interest be impaired. I pray I may remain all my life in the service of others”
Subhas chose philosophy as his major subject of study and applied himself to its questions, on and off, through the following seven years at different institutions. He wanted to solve, he said, ‘the fundamental problems of life’, and his readings of systematic philosophy included Kant, Hegel, Bergson and other Western thinkers. Some reading in Indian philosophy began here.
Writing in his autobiography, Subhas commented:-
“In my graduate days Aurobindo Ghosh was easily the most popular leader in Bengal. Despite his voluntary exile and absence since 1909 he had sacrificed a lucrative career in order to devote himself to politics. On the Congress platform he had stood up as a champion of left-wing thought and a fearless advocate of independence. His close association with Lokamanaya B. G. Tilak had given him an All-India popularity.
I was impressed by his deeper philosophy. He worked out a reconciliation between Spirit and Matter, between God and Creation on the metaphysical side and supplemented it with synthesis of the methods of attaining the truth-synthesis Yoga as he called it.
He had developed a powerful identification with his Indian
homeland-especially seen as impoverished and wretched Mother India-but his
commitment was to be fulfilled throwing social service.
When he found the opportunity, he helped to nurse the poor.
He wrote (Later):-
“Once when my parents were out of town, I was invited to join a party of friends who were going into the interior on a nursing expedition in the locality which was stricken with cholera. There was no medical man in the party. We had only a half doctor. We were to be the nurses in the party. I readily agreed and took leave of my uncle, who was then doing duty for my father. He did not object, not knowing at the time that I was going out to nurse cholera patients. In those days cholera was regarded as a fatal disease and it was not easy to get people to attend cholera patients. Our party was absolutely fearless in that respect. A week’s experience opened new world before my eyes and unfolded picture of real India, the India of the villages-where poverty stalks over the land, men die like flies and illiteracy is the prevailing order.
Subhas later described their tour:
“The desire to find Guru grew stronger and stronger within me and, in
the summer vacation of 1914 I
quietly left on a pilgrimage. Of
course I did not inform any body at home. We
visited some of the well known places of pilgrimage in upper India – Lachhman
Jhula, Rishikesh, Hardwar,
Mathura, Brindaban, Banaras and Gaya.
At all these places we looked up as many Sadhus as we could and visited
several Ashrams as well as educational institutions like Gurukal and Rishikul . This tour which lasted nearly two months brought us in touch
not only with number of holy men but also with some of the patent shortcomings
of Hindu society, and I returned home a wiser man, having lost much of my
admiration for ascetics and anchorites.”
Subhas entered into honors course in Philosophy. He wrote in a letter to Hemanta at that time:
“What is good of studying Philosophy? It is this – that you come to know your own questions, or own doubts. You come to know how so many others have thought about them. You may then organize and properly direct your line of thinking.”
In the waning days of the first World War, the Government of India started university unit of the Indian Defence Force. Subhas and other students eagerly joined.
Subhas was one of the most zealous recruits and described in an article for the college magazine and then in his autobiography how a rabble of students was transformed into a well-trained and smartly turned-out company by its British officers. They spent four months at a summer camp which Subhas enjoyed immensely. He said:
“This training gave me something which I needed or which I lacked. The feeling of strength and of self-confidence grew still further. As soldiers we had certain rights which as Indians we did not possess. First day we marched into Fort William We experienced a queer feeling of satisfaction, as if we were taking possession of something to which we had an inherent right but of which we had been unjustly deprived”.
Subhas sought out military training because of some elemental pleasure he found in it, but also for its national value. At this point he probably was not sure what its use would be, but it is clear that he wanted to be equal to Europeans and overcome his sense of inferiority and lack of confidence in the physical military prowess of himself and all Indians.
“We Indians are taught to regard Europe as a magnified edition of Great Britain. Consequently we have a tendency to look at the Continent through the eyes of England.
This is, of course, a gross mistake, but not having been to the Continent, I did not realize it till I studied Modern European History and some of its original sources like Bismarck’s Autobiography, Mettemich’s Memoirs, Cavour’s Letters, etc. These original sources, more than anything else I studied at the Cambridge, helped to rouse my political sense and to foster my understanding of the inner currents of international politics”.
Of all the candidates for the Indian Civil Service (ICS), Subhas finished fourth and tied with another Indian for highest marks in English composition.
Subhas did well in English composition, history, psychology and logic, moral and metaphysical philosophy and political economy and economical history.
His proud father wanted him to join the ICS and on the surface, it appears that his mother and brothers, Sarat and Satish also wanted him to accept. In a letter to Sarat Bose written in late September 1920 from Leigh-on-Sea, Subhas put forth his dilemma:
“I have been getting heaps of congratulations on my standing fourth in the competitive examination. But I cannot say that I am delighted at the prospects of entering the ranks of the ICS. Nice fat income with a good pension in after-life I shall surely get. The civil service can bring one all kinds of worldly comfort but are not these acquisitions made at the expense of one’s soul?”
“But for a man of my temperament who has been feeding on ideas which might be eccentric, the line of least resistance is not the best line to follow. Life loses half its interest if there is no struggle -if there are no risks to be taken. The uncertainties of life are not appealing to one who has not, at heart, worldly ambitions. Moreover it is not possible to serve one’s country in best and fullest manner if one is chained on to the civil service. In short, national and spiritual aspirations are not compatible with obedience of civil service conditions.
“We, who have grown up under the influence of Swami Vivekananda on the one side and Arabindo Ghosh on the other have, fortunately or unfortunately, developed a mentality which does not accept a compromise between points of view so diametrically opposed. It is quite possible that I have been nurtured on a wrong philosophy. But it is the characteristic of youthful mind to have more faith in themselves than in others.
“My only desire then was to secure that amount of freedom which was necessary for developing a character after my own ideals and for shaping my destiny after my own inclination.”
So on April 22, 1921 he wrote to the Right Hon. E.S.Montagu, Secretary of State for India:
“I have a desire to have my name removed from the list of probationers in the Indian Civil Service. “
But while writing to Sarat he made it much more explicit that he felt he
was making a sacrifice for the sake of the nation.
He thought that each Indian voluntarily should make a sacrifice, i.e.
should contribute one member to true service for the nation, regardless of
economy and personal costs.
This was the third of Subhas youthful rebellions, the first, running away from home in search of a Guru, the second, the attack on Professor Oaten and its consequences. In the first he overthrew the day-to-day authority of his parents and searched for a religious guide which they could not or did not provide. In the second, he attacked the authority of a professor and of the educational hierarchy of the Raj in Bengal. Here he was rejecting a position for the elite service of the Raj against best advice and hopes of his father. But there was some ambivalence in all these. He wanted the authorities, including the British officials, to recognize his accomplishments, but he also wanted to put their prizes aside and follow his own inner voice.
The following excerpts have been taken from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s book, “The Indian Struggle 1920-1942” published by Netaji Research Bureau, Calcutta in 1981.
On Mahatma Gandhi.
Though Hindu society has never had an established church like Europe, the mass of the people have been profoundly susceptible to the influence of Avatars. Priests and ‘gurus’. The spiritual man has always wielded the largest influence in India and he is called a ‘Saint’ or ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Sadhu’. For various reasons, Gandhiji came to be looked upon by the mass of the people as a Mahatma before he became the undisputed political leader of India. At the Nagpur Congress in December 1920, Mr. M.A.Jinnah, who was till then a Nationalist leader, addressed him as ‘Mr. Gandhi’, and he was shouted down by thousands of people who insisted that he should address him as ‘Mahatma Gandhi’. The asceticism of Gandhiji, his simple life, his vegetarian diet, his adherence to truth and his consequent fearlessness-all combined to give him a halo of saintliness. His loin-cloth was reminiscent of Christ, while his sitting posture at the time of lecturing was reminiscent of Buddha. Now all this was a tremendous asset to the Mahatma in compelling the attention and obedience of his countrymen. As we have already seen, a large and influential section of the intelligentsia was against him, but this opposition was gradually worn down through the enthusiastic support given by the masses. Consciously or unconsciously, the Mahatma fully exploited the mass psychology of the people, just as Lenin did the same thing in Russia, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany. But in doing so, the Mahatma was using a weapon which was sure to recoil on his head. He was exploiting many of the weak traits in the character of his countrymen which had accounted for India’s downfall to a large extent. After all, what has brought about India’s downfall in the material and political sphere? It is her inordinate belief in fate and in the supernatural, her indifference to modern scientific development, her backwardness in the science of modern warfare, the peaceful contentment engendered by her latter-day philosophy and adherence to Ahimsa (non-violence) carried to the most absurd length. In 1920, when the Congress began to preach the political doctrine of non-co-operation, a large number of Congressmen, who had accepted the Mahatma not merely as a political leader but also as a religious preceptor, began to preach the cult of the new Messiah. As a consequence, many people gave up eating fish and meat, took the same dress as the Mahatma, adopted his daily habits like morning and evening prayer and began to talk more of spiritual freedom than of political Swaraj. In some parts of the country the Mahatma began to be worshipped as an Avatar. Such was the madness that seized the country at the time that in April 1923 in a politically-minded province like Bengal, a resolution moved at the Jessore Provincial Conference to the effect that the goal of the Congress was not spiritual Swaraj but political Swaraj was defeated at the end of a heated debate.
The role which a man plays in history depends partly on his physical and mental equipment, and partly on the environment and the needs of times in which he is born. There is something in Mahatma Gandhi, which appeals to the mass of the Indian people. Born in another country he might have been a complete misfit. What, for instance, would he have done in a country like Russia or Germany or Italy? His doctrine of non-violence would have led him to the cross or to the mental hospital. In India it is different. His simple life, his vegetarian diet, his goat’s milk, his day of silence every week, his habit of squatting on the floor instead of sitting on a chair, his loin-cloth,in fact, everything connected with him has marked him out as one of the eccentric Mahatmas of old and has brought him nearer to his people. Wherever he may go, even the poorest of the poor feels that he is a product of the Indian soil-bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. When the Mahatma speaks, he does so in a language that they comprehend, not in the language Sir Surendra Nath Banerji would have done, but in that of the Bhagavad-Gita and the Ramayana. When he talks to them about Swaraj, he does not dilate on the virtues of provincial autonomy or federation, he reminds them of the glories of Ramarajya (the kingdom of King Rama of old) and they understand. And when he talks of conquering through love and ahimsa (non-violence), they are reminded of Buddha and Mahavira and they accept him.
But the conformity of the Mahatma’s physical and mental equipment in the traditions and temperament of the Indian people is but one factor accounting for the former’s success. If he had been born in another epoch in Indian history, he might not have been able to distinguish himself so well. For instance, what would he have done at the time of the Revolution of 1857 when the people had arms and were able to fight and wanted a leader who could lead them in battle? The success of the Mahatma has been due to the failure of constitutionalism on the one side and armed revolution on the other. Since the eighties of the last century, the best political brains among the Indian people were engaged in a constitutional fight, in which the qualities most essential were skill in debate and eloquence in speech. In such an environment it is unlikely that the Mahatma would have attained much eminence. With the dawn of the present century people began to lose faith in constitutional methods. New weapons like Swadeshi (revival of national industry) and Boycott appeared, and simultaneously the revolutionary movement was born. As the years rolled by, the revolutionary movement began to gain ground (especially in Upper India) and during the Great War there was an attempt at a revolution. The failure of this attempt at a time when Britain had her hands full and the tragic events of 1919 convinced the Indian people that it was no use trying to resort to the method of physical force. The superior equipment of Britain would easily smash any such attempt and in its wake there would come indescribable misery and humiliation.
In 1920 India stood at the cross-road. Constitutionalism was dead, armed revolution was sheer madness. But silent acquiescence was impossible. The country was groping for a new method and looking for a new leader. Then there sprang up India’s man of destiny-Mahatma Gandhi-who had been bidding his time all these years and quietly preparing himself for the great task ahead of him. He knew himself, he knew his country’s needs and he knew also that during the next phase of India’s struggle, the crown of leadership would be on his head. No false sense of modesty troubled him, he spoke with a firm voice and the people obeyed.
The Indian National Congress of today is largely his creation. The Congress Constitution is his handiwork. From a talking body he has converted the Congress into a living and fighting organization. It has its ramification in every town and village in India, and the entire nation has been trained to listen to one voice. Nobility of character and capacity to suffer have been made the essential tests of leadership, and the Congress is today the largest and the most representative political organization in the country.
But how could he achieve so much within this short period? By his single-hearted devotion, his relentless will and his indefatigable labour. Moreover, the time was auspicious and his policy prudent. Though he appeared as a dynamic force, he was not too revolutionary for the majority of his countrymen. If he had been so, he would have frightened them, instead of inspiring them; repelled them, instead of drawing them. His policy was one of unification. He wanted to unite Hindu and Moslem; the high caste and the low caste; the capitalist and the labourer; the landlord and the peasant. By this humanitarian outlook and his freedom from hatred, he was able to rouse sympathy even in his enemy’s camp.
But Swaraj is still a distant dream. Instead of one, the people have waited for fourteen long years. And they will have to wait many more. With such purity of character and with such an unprecedented following, why has the Mahatma failed to liberate India?
He has failed because the strength of a leader depends not on the largeness,but on the character of one’s following. With a much smaller following, other leaders have been able to liberate their country, while the Mahatma with a much larger following has not. He has failed, because while he has understood the character of his own people, he has not understood the character of his opponents. The logic of the Mahatma is not the logic which appeals to John Bull. He has failed because his policy of putting all his cards on the table will not do. We have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and in a political fight, the art of diplomacy cannot be dispensed with. He has failed, because he has not made use of the international weapon. If we desire to win our freedom through non-violence, diplomacy and international propaganda are essential. He has failed, because the false unity of interests, that are inherently opposed, is not a source of strength but a source of weakness in political warfare. The future of India rests exclusively with those radical and militant forces that will be able to undergo the sacrifice and suffering necessary for winning freedom. Last but not least, the Mahatma has failed, because he had to play a dual role in one person-the role of the leader of an enslaved people and that of a world-teacher, who has a new doctrine to preach. It is this duality which has made him at one the irreconcilable foe of the Englishman, according to Mr. Winston Churchill, and the best policeman of the Englishman, according to Miss Ellen Willkinson.
In spite of the unparalleled popularity and reputation which the Mahatma has among his countrymen and will continue to have regardless of his future political career, there is no doubt that the unique position of the Mahatma is due to his political leadership. The Mahatma himself distinguishes between his mass popularity and his political following and he is never content with having merely the former. Whether he will be able to retain that political following in the years to come in the event of the British attitude being as unbending as it is today, will depend on his ability to evolve a more radical policy. Will he be able to give up the attempt to unite all the elements in the country and boldly identify himself with the more radical forces? In that case nobody can possibly supplant him. The hero of the present phase of the Indian struggle will then be the hero of the next phase as well. But what does the balance of probability indicate?
The Patna meeting of the All India Congress Committee in May 1934, affords an interesting study in this connection. The Mahatma averted the Swarajist revolt by advocating Council-entry himself. But the Swarajists of 1934, are not the dynamic Swarajists of 1922-23. Therefore, while he was able to win them over, he could not avoid alienating the Left Wingers, many of whom have now combined to form the Congress Socialist Party. This is the first time that a Socialist Party has been started openly within the Indian National Congress, and it is extremely probable that economic issues will henceforth be brought to the fore. With the clarification of economic issues, parties will be more scientifically organized within the Congress and also among the people in general.
The Congress Socialists appear at the moment to be under the influence of Fabian Socialism and some of their ideas and shibboleths were the fashion several decades ago. Nevertheless, the Congress Socialists do represent a radical force within the Congress and in the country. Many of those who could have helped them actively are not available at present. When their assistance will be forthcoming, the Party will be able to make more headway.
One definite prediction can be made at this stage, namely, that the future parties within the Congress will be based on economic issues. It is not improbable that in the event of the Left Wingers capturing the Congress machinery, there will be a further secession from the Right and the setting up of a new organization of the Right Wingers like the Indian Liberal Federation of today. It will of course take some years to clarify the economic issues in the public mind, so that parties may be organized on the basis of a clear programme and ideology, Till the issues are clarified, Mahatma Gandhi’s political supremacy will remain unchallenged, even if there is a temporary retirement as in 1924. But once the clarification takes place, his political following will be greatly affected. As has been already indicated, the Mahatma has endeavoured in the past to hold together all the warring elements-landlord and peasant, capitalist and labour, rich and poor. That has been the secret of his success, as surely as it will be the ultimate cause of his failure. If all the warring elements resolve to carry on the struggle for political freedom, the internal social struggle will be postponed for a long time and men holding the position of the Mahatma will continue to dominate the public life of the country. But that will not be the case. The vested interests, the ‘haves’, will in future fight shy of the ‘have-nots’ in the political fight and will gradually incline towards the British Government. The logic of history will, therefore, follow its inevitable course. The political struggle and the social struggle will have to be conducted simultaneously. The Party that will win political freedom for India will also be the Party that will win social and economic freedom for the masses. Mahatma Gandhi has rendered and will continue to render phenomenal services to his country. But India’s salvation will not be achieved under his leadership.
On Deshabandhu Chittaranjan
For a people so prone to mysticism and supernaturalism, the only hope of political salvation lies in the growth of a sane rationalism and in the modernization of the material aspect of life. It was therefore distressing to many sober Nationalists to find that through the conscious influence of the Mahatma, some of the above weak traits in the Indian character were again becoming prominent. Thus there arose a rationalist revolt against the Mahatma and his philosophy. As the Swaraj Party headed this revolt, elements from the Right and from the Left that were tired of the irrationalism of the Mahatma-were those who preferred constitutional action to civil disobedience and the Deshabandhu C.R.Das by virtue of his social position and his vocation as an advocate, was able to command their confidence. Among the Left elements was the younger generation of Congressmen who did not find the ideology and method of the Mahatma to be sufficiently radical for the modern world and who looked upon the Deshabandhu as a more radical (or revolutionary) force in Indian politics. It was the unique personality of Deshabandhu C.R.Das that was able to combine into one party such dissimilar elements, to wrest the Congress machinery from the hands of the orthodox ‘No-Changers’ and to carry on a fight against the bureaucracy on many fronts. But in his absence, there was no one competent enough to continue his many-sided activities or to keep together the diverse elements that composed the Swaraj Party. The result was that the Swaraj Party remained in power only so long as the Mahatma did not emerge from his voluntary retirement. When he did emerge in 1929, the Swarajist leader, Pandit Motilal Nehru, surrendered without even the show of a fight.
The death of Deshabandhu
C.R.Das may be regarded as the beginning of a period of all-round depression in
the country. If Mahatma Gandhi had
come out of his retirement exactly at this juncture, things might have taken a
different course, but unfortunately for India, he did not do so.
The Deshabandhu’s personality was, among other things, a powerful
cementing factor within the Swaraj Party and also in the domain of Hindu-Muslem
relations. It served, moreover, to
tone up the attitude of the Party to an extremist pitch.
In his absence, dissensions began to appear within the Party.
On Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
Another factor which lent significance to the proceedings of the Madras Congress was the return of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru from Europe and his participation in the Congress deliberations. Pandit J.L.Nehru had had a most interesting career. After completing his studies at Cambridge he had been called to the Bar. But when in 1920 the non-co-operation movement was launched, he threw up his professional work and joined the Mahatma. According to popular gossip, he was largely responsible for persuading his father, Pandit Motilal Nehru, to do the same. He did not agree with the Swarajists on the question of working inside the Legislatures and since they came into power, he had voluntarily occupied a back seat in the councils of the Congress. Latterly he had been to Europe with his sick wife and during his stay there he studied some of the latest developments in Europe and especially in Soviet Russia. Since his return to India he gave expression to a new ideology and declared himself to be a Socialist, which was extremely welcome to the Left Wing in the Congress and to the youth organization in the country. The new phase in his public career was first given expression to the Madras Congress.
In August, a special meeting of the All-India Congress Committee was
called to decide who should preside over the ensuing Congress. In accordance with the Congress Constitution, the vast
majority of the Provincial Congress Committee had nominated Mahatma Gandhi, but
he declined to accept the nomination. The
general feeling in Congress circles was that the honour should go to Sardar
Vallabhbhai Patel. But the Mahatma
decided to back the candidature of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
For the Mahatma the choice was a prudent one, but for the Congress Left
Wing it proved to be unfortunate, because that event marked the beginning of a
political rapprochement between the Mahatma and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and a
consequent alienation between the latter and the Congress Left Wing. Since
1920, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had been a close adherent of the policy advocated
by the Mahatma and his personal relations with the latter had been always
friendly. Nevertheless, since his
return from Europe in December 1927, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru began to call
himself a Socialist and give expression to views hostile towards Mahatma Gandhi
and the older leaders and to ally himself in his public activities with the Left
Wing opposition within the Congress. But
for his strenuous advocacy, it would not have been possible for the Independence
League to attain the importance that it did.
Therefore, for the Mahatma it was essential that he should win over
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru if he wanted to beat down the Left Wing opposition and
regain his former undisputed supremacy over the Congress.
The Left Wingers did not like the idea that one of their most outstanding
spokesmen should accept the Presidentship of the Lahore Congress, because it was
clear that the Congress would be dominated by the Mahatma and the President
would be a mere dummy. They were of
opinion that a Left Wing leader should accept the Presidentship only when he was
in a position to have his programme adopted by the Congress.
But the Mahatma took a clever step in supporting the candidature of
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his election as President opened a new chapter in
his public career. Since then,
Pandit J. L. Nehru has been a consistent and unfailing supporter of the Mahatma.
Following excerpts have been taken from “Subhas Chandra Bose – Netaji’s Passage to Immortality” by Subodh Markandeya, Arnold Associates, New Delhi, Paperback edition, 1997.
When Netaji landed at Sabang, a Japanese naval base, on May 6, 1943, he was greeted at the pier by his old friend, Colonel Satoshi Yamamoto Bin, former Military Attache at the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, who had been assigned the role of the Head
of Hikari Kikan, the liaison group which was to assist the Indian National Army (I.N.A.) in an advisory capacity.
Netaji was advised to take rest before his departure for Tokyo. Netaji protested that he was not tired at all, and that he was ready to leave for Tokyo straightaway. But because of the acute shortage of aeroplanes, he could leave for Tokyo only five days after his arrival in Subang. On May 11, 1943, a short-range torpedo bomber was sent by the Imperial Headquarters to fly Netaji to Tokyo. The combat plane in which they travelled had to take a circuitous route and had to land for refueling at Penang, Saigon, Manila, Taipei and Hamamatsu en route to Tokyo. They reached Tokyo on May 16, 1943.
At Tokyo, arrangements were made for Netaji’s stay at the Imperial Hotel, which was in the vicinity of the Emperor’s Palace and the Prime Minister’s office. For reasons of security, the identity of Netaji and his A.D.C. Abid Hasan was kept secret and Netaji was given the assumed name of Matsuda (a Japanese V.I.P.). Immediately on reaching Tokyo, Netaji had a series of meetings with the Chiefs of Staff of Japanese Army and Navy and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Navy in quick succession. These meetings were more or less in the nature of courtesy calls and no serious matter was discussed thereat.
A Japanese official, deputed to arrange the meeting between Netaji and Rash Bihar Bose, was unsure about the veteran revolutionary’s reaction. He was pleasantly surprised when Rash Bihari readily agreed to meet Netaji, adding:
“He is a born leader. I will be glad to turn the leadership over to Subhas Chandra Bose. Our ultimate goal is to win our independence. Since I had done my bit, I would like Mr. Chandra Bose to take over. He is young and bouncy.”
As Yamamoto introduced them, they shook hands and embraced each other. In the words of Yamamoto:
“The dramatic meeting apparently made their hearts rise up in their throats. They were so deeply moved that they could not talk. After a while, they began to talk like old friends.”
The Japanese Premier, General Hideki Tojo, could not meet Netaji for twenty days. This was partly due to pressure of work and partly due to Tojo being uneasy as to what he should discuss with Netaji. General Tojo was a much harried man on account of the adverse war situation. The German and Italian collapses on the African front had stunned him, just as the German withdrawal from Stalingrad six months earlier had given him a jolt. Tojo was a German-educated officer and he had overestimated the German strength. The Japanese public was restless and disappointed with the poor performance of its German and Italian allies.
On account of the constant prodding of Yamatoto, the Chief of Staff and the Foreign Minister, Tojo finally decided to meet Netaji on June 10, 1943, notwithstanding his reservations. Netaji had utilized the long wait in doing his homework thoroughly. He had familiarized himself with the delicate political situation in Japan and had also closely studied General Tojo’s background and personality. A few days prior to his meeting with Tojo, Rash Bihari Bose had cheerfully transferred the leadership of the Indian Independence League to Netaji and had also given him detailed briefing about Tojo and the functioning of the Japanese military machine.
The meeting of Netaji with Tojo was a success: Netaji conducted himself with extreme dignity using carefully chosen words and studying Tojo’s reaction. Once Tojo met Netaji, his prejudice and reservations dissolved. When it was Netaji’s turn to speak, he patiently projected his cause and his determination to liberate India. He roused Tojo’s interest in the proposed military campaign for India’s freedom. By the time the meeting was over, Tojo had already been mesmerized by the stately Indian leader. Tojo was deeply impressed by Netaji’s personality, sincerity and intelligence. As Lt. Gen. Fujiwara Iwaichi observed, “Japan’s policy towards India, which had remained ambivalent, became articulated with the emergence of Bose”.
At the first meeting, the two leaders did not dwell upon any specific problem, but Tojo himself proposed to meet Netaji after four days. The second meeting, held on June 14, 1943, at Tojo’s request, was equally fruitful for Netaji. Tojo outlined the basic concept of Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere and his policy of encouraging India to become independent.
After the meeting Tojo turned to his Foreign Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu. And said: “He is a great Indian, fully qualified to command the I.N.A.”. Shigemitsu replied: “Yes Sir, I fully agree with your appraisal”.
On June 16, 1943 Tojo invited Netaji to visit the Diet (Japanese Parliament), an honour normally reserved only for visiting Heads of leading powers. At the Diet meeting, Netaji was given a great ovation. At that eighty second Extraordinary Session of the Japanese Diet, Tojo, in the presence of the Japanese Emperor and Netaji, and in the course of a long speech, declared:
“We are indignant about the fact that India is still under the relentless suppression of Britain and are in full sympathy with the desperate struggle for independence. We are determined to extend every possible assistance to the cause of India’s independence. It is our belief that the day is not far off when India will enjoy freedom and prosperity after winning independence.”
Netaji’s feat during his very first visit to Japan was unparalleled. The fact that Netaji won over a person of Tojo’s background was something unique. Unlike Hitler and Mussolini who rose from the ranks, Tojo was a career military officer. He proved to be very efficient in commanding the military police, and his rise to power was largely due to accident and good fortune. Throughout his long career he had never commanded a division, but, when made the War Minister in 1941, he had successfully reorganized the Army, and in the process, retired every person who was a potential rival. In 1942 he became the Prime Minister.
At that time Tojo being under great strain seemed to have been won over without much effort by the charismatic Netaji.
Once Netaji attended the session of Japanese Parliament all stratagems to hide his identity were dropped. Domei, the Japanese news agency, in a dispatch of June 19, 1943 reported:
“Subhas Chandra Bose, second only to Mahatma Gandhi as leader of
Independence Movement, has arrived in Nippon.
Bose met Premier General Hideki Tojo on June 14, following which he
conferred with Galmu Daigin (Foreign Minister) Mamoru Shigemitsu.
On June 19, 1943 Netaji himself held a Press Conference attended by about 60 Japanese and foreign journalists. Addressing them, he said:
“For many long years, British jails in India and Burma had been my
But the fact that today I am standing before you in the capital of Nippon
instead of the British
prison in India is symbolic of the new movement that is now sweeping over my
country. British Imperialism meant
for India degradation, cultural ruin, economic impoverishment and political
enslavement. Is it any wonder that
the Indians have at last solemnly resolved to end the British yoke?
The Tripartite Powers have made the greatest contribution to India’s
struggle by waging war against our sworn enemy and have won our lasting
gratitude by offering us not only sympathy but active support and assistance.
Nevertheless, it is our duty to pay for our liberation with our own
blood. The freedom that we shall
win through our sacrifice and
exertion, we shall be able to preserve with our
own strength. We, therefore, feel strongly that we should actively
participate in the war against the common foe. The enemy that has drawn the sword must be fought with the
sword. The civil disobedience must
develop into armed struggle and only when the Indian people receive the baptism
in fire on a large scale will they qualify for their freedom.”
Soon the news about Netaji’s arrival in Tokyo spread like a wild fire, in its dispatch from Syonan (Singapore) Domei reported:
“Excitement rose to feverish pitch in Syonan as news broke out here of the arrival of the great Indian leader, Subhas Chandra Bose. His arrival was hailed as a mile-stone in India’s freedom struggle.”
In an interview, A. Yellappa, a prominent lawyer and Chairman of the Syonan (Japanese name for Singapore) Branch of the Indian Independence League, expressed the boundless joy of the Indian community and added:
“Subhas Chandra Bose’s knowledge of India is unrivalled and his influence and leadership unexcelled and this would be of immense use to the Indian movement here.”
Reports of mass rallies, public meetings and rejoicings of the Indian communities to hail Netaji’s arrival in Tokyo were given by “Syonan Shinhum” and “Young India” (Singapore newspapers) and Radio Tokyo. Editorials hailed Netaji’s arrival in the Far East and stressed his great importance to the Indian Independence Movement.
The British were nervous at the arrival of Netaji in the East. A contemporary report of the Office of the Strategic Services of the United States of America warned:
“The appearance of Subhas Bose on the scene gave a great impetus to the movement. A former Congress President with a large following in India, an able leader, widely considered to be a sincere patriot, he would have little difficulty in persuading the hesitant that an opportunity was at hand to drive the British from India.”
On June 19, Netaji gave a statement to the press, followed by a Press Conference. On June 23, 1943, he broadcast a message to his countrymen in India over the Tokyo radio. He told them that in spite of the great military disasters, “British Imperialism remained inexorable – no Indian should ever cherish the illusion that one day England will be induced to recognize India’s independence”. It was imperative, he said, to “carry on the fight for liberty, inside India and outside India with all our strength and vigour”. He, therefore, exhorted:
“In this struggle there is no going back, and there can be no faltering. We must march onward till victory is achieved and freedom won.”
On June 23, 1943 addressing the Imperial Consultative Political Council, Netaji expressed his firm conviction that:
“ Mother India can only be freed by resisting the British tyranny with armed might, and that the Indians cannot liberate without shedding their blood. Freedom gained without shedding our blood will not be real freedom. We are determined to fight against Britain, our enemy, with all our strength.”
In his radio broadcast to the Indian people on June 24, 1943 he paid a moving tribute to the patriots suffering imprisonment.
“Through their sufferings, they have declared to the whole world that enslaved India is at war with Britain. Not a day passes without our paying humble homage to their noble martyrdom. Their sufferings will not be in vain. India shall be free and before long.”
The foreign leaders also took notice of the presence of Netaji in East Asia. On June 23, 1943, Netaji received a telegram from Dr. Ba Maw, Chief of State-designate of Burma, congratulating him on his return to the East and adding that he was deeply impressed by Netaji’s first statement issued in Tokyo, which must have given to the Indian people courage and hope. He reiterated the Burmese resolve to fight by the side of the Indians in the struggle for national honour and independence. Netaji was greatly moved by the message from a fellow freedom fighter. He was happy to learn that Burma was shortly to declare its independence with Dr. Ba Maw as its Chief of State and keenly looked forward to joining his Burmese comrade on the great occasion.
All the newspapers in the countries under Axis Powers expected a great deal from his forthcoming activities. On June 28, 1943 he again broadcast over the Tokyo Radio, addressing the Japanese nation:
“Brothers and sisters of Japan! I have no other introduction except that I am coming from a country which had a glorious past and that throughout my life I have been fighting against the enemy who deprived my country of her freedom. I am standing before you as a symbol of an ideal. By welcoming me you are only
welcoming those millions of my countrymen who are fighting for freedom in the midst of unprecedented oppression and misery. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to you for love and sympathy which you are extending to us in one of the darkest hours of our history.”
On the last day of his stay in Japan, Netaji unfolded his long cherished plan to establish a Provisional Government of Free India to the Japanese leaders. The Japanese side did not respond to the idea, and Netaji did not press for a reply.
Netaji landed at Singpore accompanied by Rash Bihari Bose on July 2, 1943. Thousands thronged to give Netaji a tumultous welcome. Shahnawaz Khan in his book “The I.N.A. and its Netaji” gives a vivid description of that day:
“At about mid-day a twin engined Japanese plane arrived and landed at the airport and halted where we were all waiting for him.. After a few seconds which seemed like long hours, the door of the plane was opened and Netaji stepped down, followed his Secretary, Abid Hasan. I was spellbound; it was for the first time in my life that I had seen him. The news of his arrival had spread like wild fire and every man, woman and child turned out to welcome him. It was a breath-taking display of admiration. I saw they jostled and got themselves crushed for a look at a revolutionary with his tall hearing and erect carriage and head held high proudly unbending. We felt that here was the leader who could be trusted to take up our cause and our goal.”
Netaji he goes on to say:
“I have been asked by several friends to give them a true picture of
Netaji as I saw
him. The attempt I am making
would probably be unworthy of the glory of my great leader.
I must very frankly confess that the moment I came into personal
contact with him, he exercised his strong influence over me. Even now I do not know, for what proportion the man, the
soldier and the statesman in him was blended.
At home the man in him occurred to dominate.
At the front and in the midst of his troops the soldier in him shone
greatly and in councils and conferences
and at his desk as the Head of the State of the Provisional Government of Azad
Hind his breath-taking statesmanship made a profound
impression on one and all of us.”
For the next two weeks Syonan (Singapore) wore a festive look. Even Hugh Toye, a British military officer, in his work, “The Springing Tiger”, wrote:
“His personal charm, his vitality, his authority and his world view won
him the real
allegiance of Indian people in Asia. He
swept people off their feet, there
were few who could stand back and consider whether he was taking them in
the direction and by means which their leaders in India would have approved.
Nor was that any longer an issue, He
proclaimed his authority and they acclaimed it.
On July 4, 1943, the General Assembly of the Indian Independence League,
attended by 2000 delegates representing Indians from all over Greater East Asia,
held its meeting at the Cathay Theatre building in Singapore.
It opened with the choral singing of India’s National Anthem, Jana Gana
Mana. A bevy of seven young girls
presented to Rash Bihari Bose as well as Netaji bouquets of flowers amidst
thunderous applause of the enthusiastic audience.
An Indian songstress, Saraswati, rose and sang a song called ‘Subhasji
Subhasji’, specially composed for the occasion. The aged, ailing revolutionary Rash Bihari Bose then rose and
went to the podium and announced his resignation as the President of the India
Independence League and also proposed Netaji as his successor.
The whole audience stood up and seconded the proposal with cheers.
Addressing the gathering, the elder Bose said:
“This is one of the happiest moments of my life. I have brought you one of the most outstanding personalities of our great motherland to participate in our campaign. In your presence today, I resign my office as President of the Indian Independence League in East Asia. From now on, Subhas Chandra Bose is your President, your leader in the fight for India’s independence, and I am confident that under his leadership you will march on to battle and to victory.”
The new President of the League responded:
“Friends! The time has come for freedom loving Indians to act. In a war, crisis demands, above all, military discipline as well as unflinching loyalty to the cause. I, therefore, call upon all my countrymen in the East Asia to line up as one solid phalanx, under one leadership and prepare for grim fight that is ahead of us. In the history of Indian struggle, August 1942 will remain an unforgettable landmark, indicating the psychological transition from passive to active resistance. The time has come to pass on to the next phase of our campaign. The aim and purpose of this organization would be to take up arms against British Imperialism.”
Immediately, on his arrival in East Asia, at the very first meeting of the India Independence League on July 4, 1943, Netaji expressed his wish to form a Provisional Government of Free India.
“In order to mobilize our forces effectively I intend to organize a Provisional Government of Free India. It will be the task of this Provisional Government to
lead the Indian revolution to a successful conclusion. When the revolution succeeds and the Anglo-American Imperialism is expelled from India the task of the Provisional Government will be over. It will then make way for a permanent Government to he set up inside India in accordance with the will of the Indian People.”
He was emphatic that the sacrifice must be made by the Indians and that no one else could fight for India’s Independence. He said:
“We have a grim fight ahead of us, for the enemy is powerful, unscrupulous and ruthless. In the final march to freedom you will have to face hunger and thirst, privation, forced marches and death. Only when you pass this test will freedom be yours. I am confident that you will do this and thereby bring freedom and prosperity to your enslaved and impoverished land.”
The audience was completely captivated by Netaji’s eloquence and sincerity. The next day Netaji took over the command of the Indian National Army and announced its formation to the whole world. He reviewed a Guard of Honour of 13,000
officers and men lined up under the scorching tropical sun in the City Square of Singapore. In a historic speech delivered on the occasion Netaji spelt out the task before him:
“Soldiers of India’s Army of Liberation! Today is the proudest day of my life. Today it has pleased Providence to give me a unique privilege and honour of announcing to the whole world that India’s Army of Liberation has come into being. This army has now been drawn up for military formation on the battlefield of Singapore which was once the bulwark of British Empire. This is not only the army that will emancipate India from the British yoke; it is also the army that will hereafter create the future national army of Free India. Every Indian must feel proud that this army-his own army-organised entirely under the Indian Leadership and that when the historic moment arrives under the Indian Leadership, it will go to battle.”
Tojo accepted Netaji’s invitation to review the Indian National Army and his request for substantial supply of arms. On July 9, 1943, 60,000 Indian residents of Singapore, including 25,000 women, gathered at a rally in order to demonstrate their solidarity with the visiting Prime Minister of Japan. Many had come traversing distances of 40 to 48 kilometers. At this rally, in pouring rain, Netaji made a moving speech asking for total mobilization for “we have been told repeatedly even by our enemies that this is a total war”.
Netaji lost no time in reorganizing the Indian Independence League and the I.N.A. He created several new departments and reorganized the others. On July 12, 1943 the women’s section of Indian Independence League was set up, which was a predecessor of the famous ‘Rani of Jhansi Regiment’. Netaji took the salute at the Guard of Honour presented by the rifle-wielding girls, clad in blue-bordered white saris. The idea of constituting even a women’s auxiliary force was surprising to the Japanese who regarded fighting wars as only men’s business. There was nothing in their tradition about women fighting wars and they considered the resources spent on women to be wasteful. Netaji,however, prevailed upon them and the ‘Rani of Jhansi Regiment’,therefore, became part of the I.N.A. legend. Women in military uniform was a new phenomenon there. The alacrity, courage, endurance and zeal shown by the Ranis (as the members of the Regiment were called) in the next two years won unreserved admiration not only of the Indians but also of the Burmese, Chinese, Malayans and Thais as well.
India had not experienced a famine more horrible than the “Bengal famine” of 1943 which affected Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It was officially admitted that one and a half million people died in this famine, although the investigation of Calcutta University estimated the toll at 3.4 millions. Hundreds of thousand of people left the countryside to seek food and help in Calcutta only to perish there on the streets and pavements with hunger and epidemics, their decomposed corpses lying there for days together.
On August 15, 1943, Netaji offered to send one lakh tons of rice as a gift to alleviate the suffering of the famine-stricken people of Eastern provinces. In his speech on October 21, 1943 he,therefore, said:
“The political unrest in India has been greatly accentuated by the famine conditions prevailing in several parts of India and particularly in Bengal. There can be no doubt that these famine conditions have been largely due to the policy of the ruthless exploitation of India’s food and other resources for Britain’s war purposes over a period of nearly four years. I made a free and unconditional offer of a hundred thousand tonnes of rice for our starving countrymen at home as a first instalment. Not only was this offer not accepted by the British authorities in India but we were abused in return. It was not surprising that Netaji’s offer confounded and embarrassed New Delhi. Sir George Tottenham, Additional Secretary, Government of India, on September 1, 1943 had to concede:
“This is undoubtedly a clever move and the attitude to be adopted towards it is clearly a question of high policy.”
Two days later, Sir Reginald Maxwell, Home Member of Viceroy’s Executive Council commented:
“It is a piece of most insidious propaganda which at a time, like this goes to the heart of the people.”
Netaji flew into Saigon on the 9th of August and met Field Marshal Terauchi and convinced him about the need for the I.N.A. to participate the impending Imphal and Kohima campaigns.
He told Terauchi:
“The first drop of blood shed on Indian soil must be that of a soldier of the I.N.A.”
Netaji was back in Singapore on the 14th of August after a whirlwind two week tour.
On August 25, Netaji formally assumed the direct command of the Indian National Army. He issued the following Special Order of the Day:
“In the interest of the Indian Independence Movement and of the Azad Hind Fauj, I have taken over the direct command of our army from today. This is for me a matter of joy and pride. For an Indian there can be no greater honour than to be Commander of India’s Army of Liberation. I regard myself as the servant of 38 crores of my countrymen. I am determined to discharge my duties in such a manner that the interest of these 38 crores may be safe and that every single Indian will have reason to put complete trust in me. It is only on the basis of undiluted nationalism and of perfect justice and impartiality that India’s army of Liberation can be built up.
"Our work has already begun. With the slogan ‘Onwards to Delhi’ on our lips, let us continue to labour and fight till our National Flag flies over the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi and the Azsad Hind Fauj holds its victory parade in the ancient Red Fortress of India’s metropolis.”
Ever since his arrival in East Asia, Netaji had worked tirelessly day and night and with boundless enthusiasm and vigour, knowing no rest or sleep. He created amongst the Indians an unusual awareness about their duty towards the winning of independence for India. Netaji’s magnetic personality and eloquence galvanized his countrymen. Contributions for the ‘total mobilization’ to the Azad Hind Fund started pouring in and young Indians started enrolling themselves in the I.N.A. The Indian Independence League as well as the I.N.A., which were till then faction-ridden with sagging morale, became imbued with unusual patriotic fervour and fighting spirit, in the words of S.A.Ayer:
“One would see with half an eye that a thrill ran through the ranks of guards of honour at being addressed by such a great man as’ Sathion aur Doston’. The title
of Supreme Commander, if it truly fitted any commander on the battle fields of Europe or Asia, it fitted Netaji most superbly. He looked supreme, every inch of him.”
The British naturally grew apprehensive about his activities. In a secret despatch, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in India told the Secretary of State for India that Bose ‘cannot be dismissed as a mere loquacious tool of the Japanese’, as his influence on the Indians both in India and abroad was a factor to reckon with. He added that Bose ‘had a personality capable of infecting others with his own enthusiasm’. The unofficial British estimate of Netaji was even more forthright. In his book, “Monsoon Morning”, Ian Stephens, former editor of The Statesman, relates that in 1943, the British were apprehensive that “if Bose was to be parachuted on to Calcutta’s Maidan 90% of the City’s inhabitants would rush out to join him”.
Netaji specially went to Rangoon on September 23, 1943 to pay tribute to the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah, at his mausoleum in Rangoon. In his speech on the occasion, before the mortal remains of the last Mughal, who fought for India’s freedom, Netaji expressed unshakable determination to overthrow British imperialism.
Netaji directed that the seventy-fifth birth-day of Mahatma Gandhi, on October 2, 1943 should be celebrated all over East Asia. Addressing the Memorial Meeting of the Indians at Ferrer Park in Singapore, he said:
“Mahatma Gandhi’s service to the cause of India’s freedom is unique and unparalleled. No single man could have achieved more in a single lifetime under similar circumstances. Since 1920 Indian people have learnt two things from Mahatma Gandhi which are indispensable preconditions for the attainment of independence. They have first of all learnt national self-respect and self-confidence. As a result of this, revolutionary fervour is now blazing in their hearts. Secondly, they have now got a country-wide organization which reaches the remotest village of India.”
A historic conference of the India Independence League was convened on October 21, 1943. The conference was held at Cathay Theatre building. After an address by Rash Bihari Bose welcoming the gathering and the Secretariat Report by Colonel Chatterjee, Netaji came to the rostrum and gave a thrilling speech. The vast audience numbering thousands of people heard in pouring rain his speech in Hindustani.
He explained the significance of the establishment of the Provisional
Government of Azad Hind. His speech
was translated into Tamil by Chidambaram, a well-known lawyer of Singapore.
Loud and prolonged applause reverberated in the vast hall as Netaji took
the oath of allegiance to India. At
one stage he was so moved with emotion that minutes passed before he could
regain his voice. Each word of the oath had deeply affected him and he was
conscious of the sanctity of the occasion.
But once he regained his voice, he swore in a loud but firm voice:
“In the name of God, I take this sacred oath that to liberate India and 38 crores of my countrymen, I, Subhas Chandra Bose, will continue this sacred war of freedom till the last breath of my life.”
Netaji read out the Proclamation, which, in its concluding part, said:
“Now that the dawn of freedom is at hand, it is the duty of the Indian people to set up a Provisional Government of their own and launch the last struggle under the banner of that Government. The Provisional Government is entitled to and hereby claims the allegiance of every Indian. It guarantees religious liberty as well as equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens. It declares its firm resolves to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts cherishing all the children of the nation equally and transcending all the differences, cunningly fostered by an alien Government in the past. In the name of God, in the name of bygone generations who have welded the Indian people into one nation and in the name of dead heroes who have bequeathed to us the tradition of heroism and self sacrifice, we call upon the Indian people to launch the final struggle against the British and their allies in India, and to prosecute that struggle with valour and perseverance and full faith in the final victory-until the enemy is expelled from the Indian soil and the Indian people are once again a Free Nation.”
Immediately upon its formation, the Provisional Government declared war on the British and the U.S.A. At a huge rally of over 50,000 Indian civilians and members of the Azad Hind Fauj, assembled in front of the Municipal Building at Singapore,, Netaji read out the Declaration of War. As soon as the declaration was made, slogans rent the sky and a phalanx of raised hands greeted the news. For a full quarter of
an hour the vast audience of over 50,000 was delirious with joy. It broke the cordon in several places to reach the platform when Netaji asked them to stand where they were and raise their hands in order to express their approval. A forest of hands went up. The I.N.A. soldiers then lifted their rifles and placed them on their shoulders signifying their consent. It was an unforgettable scene. Some of the Ranis fainted due to sheer enthusiasm. They lay unconscious on the ground with clenched fists but soon recovered to repeat the battle cry: “Chalo Delhi, Chalo Delhi”.
Soon, Japan accorded recognition to the Provisional Government “in its firm belief that it is a great forward step towards the realization of an independent India for which the Indian people have long aspired”, and declared “its intention to extend every possible cooperation and support in Provisional Government’s efforts to attain its object”.
The Japanese Premier, General Tojo, sent personal felicitations to Netaji, pledging every possible cooperation of the Nippon Government in Netaji’s effort “to expel the British influence to attain everlasting prosperity of India”.
Soon after, the other States-Burma, China, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Manchukuo, Phillipines and Thailand also recognised the Provisional Government of Free India. The President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera, sent a personal message of congratulations to Netaji. President Laurel of Phillipines, in an inspiring message, said:
The Phillipine Government-sincerely hopes to see established a new free and independent India as befitting the race that has made one of the greatest contributions to human civilization.
As noted in the Transfer of Power, strict censorship was clamped in India so that the people could not know the real state of affairs about the Provisional Government of Free India and its I.N.A.
Netaji was specially invited to attend the Greater East Asia Conference. On October 26, 1943. He arrived in Tokyo along with Major General Bhonsle, A.M.Sahai, Col. Abid Hasan, Col D.S.Raju and other aides.
Netaji met the Japanese Prime Minister, General Tojo, in Tokyo on the 1st of November. To Tojo he spoke confidently as to an equal. Netaji proposed that the Indian National Army should be in the vanguard on the Imphal Front and it should raise two more divisions. They also discussed the claim of the Provisional Government to the Indian property abandoned after the outbreak of war and transfer of all the territories which were liberated from the British rule for administration by the Provisional Government. The Japanese Chief of the Staff, Sujiyama, agreed that the I.N.A. would participate in the Imphal Campaign as a coequal army.
The Greater South Asia Conference commenced under the Chairmanship of the Japanese Prime Minister, General Tojo, on November 5, 1943. Besides General Tojo of Japan, Dr. Ba Maw of Burma, Dr. Jose of Phillipines, Dr. Wan Ching-Wei of Nanking-China, Chang Ching-Hui of Manchukuo and Prince Van Vaidyakorn of Thailand participated in it as delegagtes. Netaji joined the Conference only as an Observer. He made it clear to Japan that till India was liberated, the Provisional Government of Free India would not enter into any international agreement with Japan. The deliberations of the Conference turned out to be a “Subhas Bose Show”. He emerged from this Conference as the most towering figure amongst the leaders of the East Asian nations, which, according to Johannes Voigt, was due “not only to his oratorial talent” but also to the “sincerity of his concern, the prestige of the Indian Independence movement, the oldest in Asia, and his missionary zeal”.
During the course of his speech, Netaji said:
“This is not a Conference for dividing the spoils amongst the conquerors. This is not a Conference for hatching a conspiracy to victimize the weak and the poor, nor is it the Conference for trying to defraud a weak neighbour. This is an assembly of liberated nations, an assembly that has set out to create a new order in this part of the world, justice, national sovereignty, reciprocation in international relations and mutual aid and assistance.”
“We must not forget that all these dreams of a new world, of a new Asia, of a new and prosperous Greater East Asia depend entirely on our ability to achieve victory in this war.
We the Indian people, having waited all our lives, for an international
crisis of this
sort, are determined to make the fullest use of this opportunity of
final emancipation of our country.”
Netaji’s speech also spurred Prime Minister Tojo in his valedictory speech at the Conference to declare:
“Japan stands ready to offer every possible assistance to India to realize its long cherished dreams of freedom. In view of the fact that the Provisional Government of Free India has now been firmly established and Indians closed their ranks and rallied round the Provisional Government of Free India thereby strengthening its
position, I would like to announce here and now that Japan is ready to transfer the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government of Free India in the near future.
The Emperor of Japan received Netaji at the Imperial Palace on Novembner 7, 1943 and presented him with a Sword of Honour.
A month later, the decision to transfer Andaman and Nicobar Islands was implemented, thereby giving the Provisional Government of Free India, sovereignty over these Islands. Netaji immediately renamed Andamans ‘Shaheed’ and Nocobar ‘Swaraj’ Islands. At a press conference at Tokyo on the 14th of November he said:
“The liberation of Andamans has symbolic significance because the Andamans was always used by the British as a prison for the political prisoners – like the Bastille in France which was liberated first in the French Revolution setting free political prisoners. The Andamans, where our patriots suffered, is first to be liberated in India’s fight for Independence. Part by part Indian territory will be liberated, but it is almost the first piece of territory that has the most significance. We have named Andamans Shaheed in the memory of the martyrs and Nicobar Swaraj.”
Netaji flew to Nanking on November 17, 1943 on an invitation extended by President Wang Ching-wei. Netaji’s four-day schedule in Nanking was packed with engagements. On reaching Nanking, Netaji worshipped at the Chungahan Mausoleum where the ashes of the Father of Modern China, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, were kept. He performed the customary ceremony of three ceremonial bows of respect. On his arrival at Manila, Netaji was greeted by President Jose P. Laurel. When he called on the Phillipines President, Netaji congratulated him on the birth of the new Republic.
In the evening the Phillipine’s President hosted a dinner in Netaji’s honour. Replying to the toast proposed by President Laurel Netaji said:
“The world must choose between the perpetuation of this imperialism and establishment of a new world order based on justice and equality-to compromise with British imperialism is to compromise with slavery.”
Netaji again left Singapore on December 10, 1943 for a whirlwind tour of Indonesia. In spite of all the handicaps and difficulties of wartime, Netaji toured practically the whole of East Asia in a matter of six months and won the hearts of three million Indians living in the region.
The achievements of Netaji in 1943 were best summed up by Gerald Corr who said:
“For Netaji it had been a remarkable year, one in which he lifted the spirit and morale of the independence movement to new heights. He had formed the F.I.P.G, reorganized and trained the I.N.A., and put the Indian-Japanese
relationship on an improved footing by winning the respect of Tojo. And now he was ready for the biggest step of all-the march on Delhi.”
One of the outstanding achievements of Netaji in East Asia was the establishment of the National Bank of Azad Hind.
The National Bank of Azad Hind was inaugurated on April 5, 1944. S.A.Ayer was the first Chairman of the Board of Directors and Mrs. Hem Raj Batal, Matcha, Dinanath and Dr. Alagappan as its Directors. In the course of time, rupees 15 crores were raised from Burma itself and five crores from Malaya as well as from other places. When Netaji was weighed in gold in January 1945, all the gold equivalent to 11/2 times the weight was handed over to the Azad Hind Bank towards its assets.
Netaji insisted on equal salute between the officers of the I.N.A. and those of the Japanese Imperial Army. As for the right of command, it was decided that each case must be decided on the merits of the prevalent military situation. Netaji did not allow the Japanese Military Police to exercise any authority over the officers and soldiers of the I.N.A., and the people of Indian origin.
Since the Provisional Government did not have its own arrangements for training young cadet officers, Netaji arranged for the training of 45 young Indians in their teens at the Imperial Military Academy in Tokyo. He personally selected the youngsters and their training started in 1944. It was a two-year course. His affection for these boys was so great that he wrote personal letters in his own hand to the cadets from time to time. Out of 45 cadets, 10 were earmarked for the Air Force and the remaining for the Army and the Navy. These cadets were still under training when the Japanese were defeated and surrendered to the Allied Forces.
On the first anniversary of his taking over the direct command, Netaji, on July 6, 1944 reviewed the gains of the movement during the past twelve months, and outlined the tasks ahead and declared:
“We should have but one desire today, the desire to die so that India may live, the desire to face a martyr’s death so that the path to Freedom may be paved with the martyrs’ blood.”
Back home in India, Mahatma Gandhi had been released from jail on the ground of ill-health on May 6. After recuperating at the beach-side suburban home of the industrialist Shantikumar Morarjee, the Mahatma resumed his political activities. According to the reports reaching Netaji, Mahatma Gandhi had discounted the chances of Japanese success in the war and, therefore, wanted to come to terms with the British, if a National Government was set up in India. He also started correspondence with M.A.Jinnah.
In an effort to dissuade Mahatma Gandhi from coming to terms with the British, Netaji broadcast his famous “Message to Mahatma Gandhi” over the Azad Hind Radio on July 4, 1944. In that Message Netaji lauded the Mahatma as “the creator of the present awakening in our country”, and dwelt upon the reasons that compelled him to organize the I.N.A. He sought to dispel any misgivings that Congress leaders might entertain about the aims of the Provisional Government of Free India, set up by Netaji, saying:
“The Provisional Government has as its one objective the liberation of India from the British yoke through an armed struggle. Once our enemies are expelled from India, and peace and order is established, the mission of the Provisional Government will be over. The only reward that we desire for our sacrifice is the freedom of our motherland. There are many among us who would like to retire from the political field, once India is free.”
Finally, addressing Mahatma Gandhi as “Father of the Nation”-a title that the Mahatma owes to Netaji-he asked for the Mahatma’s ‘blessings and good wishes on this holy war of India’s liberation’.
On July 18, General Tojo resigned as Japanese Premier. General Kuniaki Koiso, Governor of Korea, became the new Japanese Premier. On October 9, 1944 Koiso invited Netaji for consultations.
Netaji’s third visit to Tokyo commenced on November 1, 1944. He was accompanied by Major Generals M.Z.Kiani and Chatterjee and Col. Habib-ur-Rehman. His proposal to Premier Koiso to exchange ambassadors between the two governments was accepted. Koiso also reiterated that in helping the Provisional Government of Free India Japan had no economic or political motive to subserve. Koiso also ordered the release of war materials required by the I.N.A., including wireless equipment and medicines.
Koiso, however, could not help Netaqji in contacting the Soviet Government, although Japan and the Soviet Union were not till then at war. In view of the deteriorating Soviet-Japanese relations Koiso was very careful.
The Japanese wanted to confer their highest decoration, the ‘First Order of Rising Sun’, on Netaji, but he declined it adding that he would not accept the award till India was free.
In his speech at the Tokyo University, Netaji spoke of the policies to solve the vast problems facing India and defined his attitude in regard to these problems.
Another achievement of his during the visit, which was of considerable importance, was the conclusion of an Indo-Japanese Loan Agreement. Netaji insisted throughout the negotiations on obtaining only loans and that too without any strings attached to them and assuring repayment.
Japanese agreement on the exchange of Ambassadors was announced on November 26, 1944. The Japanese Government nominated Teruo Hachiya as its Ambassador towards the end of December, 1944.
Netaji was so meticulous about diplomatic niceties that when Ambassador Hachiya reached Rangoon in March 1945, without his Credentials, Netaji refused to receive him until the Credentials were produced.
The Japanese usually gave way to Netaji’s wishes, as pointed out by Gerard H. Corr:
The Japanese usually did give way because Bose, despite being difficult, demanding and prickly - his relationship with the Japanese has been compared to that of General De Gaulle with the Allies, - was extremely valuable.
In the evaluation of Netaji, Dr. Girija Mookherjee, a long-time admirer and co-worker with Netaji in Germany, observed:
“Subhas’s dynamism was always leavened with a fine sense of diplomacy
that is why his success was so conspicuous.
Very few Indians before him had the
opportunity of conducting discussions with foreign chanceries at the
highest levels. Subhas met some of the shrewdest professional diplomats on their
own grounds and came out with flying colours.
The circumstances under which he was placed in Germany and Japan were not
very happy, to say the least; yet, by sheer superiority and his native
intelligence he dominated the situation and got what he wanted for his country
without either compromising his honour or the interests of India.”
Epic Struggle in East Asia
On June 29, 1943 Netaji issued a message, broadcast to all the units of the Indian National Army (I.N.A.) in which he emphasized that the task of liberating India was for Indians and Indians alone. Aware of the importance of a strong civilian base for his military campaigns, Netaji reorganized, with patience and skill, the popular, political arm of the movement-the Indian Independence League (I.I.L) on a war footing. While strengthening the existing departments, viz., General, Finance, Publicity and Propaganda, Intelligence, Recruitment and Training, Netaji added seven new ones, viz., (1) Health and Social Welfare, (2) Women’s Affairs, (3) National Education and Culture (4) Reconstruction, (5) Supply, (6) Overseas, and (7) Housing and Transport. It held two conferences at Syonan (Singapore) on July 4, 1943 and October 21, 1943 expressing its total and unreserved confidence in Netaji’s leadership. His whirlwind tours of South East Asia helped mobilize the community as evidenced by the fact that 18 lakhs of Indians out of a total population of 20 lakhs joined the I.I.L. in the ”fight to finish” struggle with the British Power in India. The tireless efforts of Netaji resulted in the achievement of “total” solidarity not only of the Indian Community but also of the Governments of Thailand and Burma, whose unreserved commitment was necessary for the success of the struggle. Contributions to the Azad Hind started pouring in. After Netaji took over the Supreme Command, there was a spurt in the enlistment, especially from amongst the civilians. The Second I.N.A. Division consisted of only two thousand P.O.Ws and the rest were drawn from the civilian stock. So overwhelming was the response from the civilians that at the recruiting offices (there were 13 in Syonan alone) the capacity of existing Training Camps of I.N.A. was exceeded leaving out hundreds of medically fit volunteers who had to wait for their turn.
The performance of civilian recruits-most of them drawn from
“non-martial” South Indian communities-gave a lie to the notion encouraged
by the British about the unsuitability of the “non-martial” South Indians
for military service. As a matter
of fact these civilian recruits, including women, gave as good an account of
themselves in grit, intelligence, unflinching loyalty and combating spirit as
the P.O.Ws, as testified to by John Thivy in his Struggle
for India’s Independence.
Those civilians who joined the colours were a great asset to the Army, because of their freshness, and eagerness to go into action. They were not seasoned soldiers yet they vied with their more capable brothers-in-arms in standing upto the rigours of a campaign always conducted under very adverse circumstances.
On taking over as the Supreme Commander of the I.N.A. on July 5, 1943 Netaji reorganized its command structure. He met the senior officers of the I.N.A. individually and personally assessed their worth. Netaji abolished the Directorate of Military Bureau, eliminated all distinctions based on caste, class, creed or religion and organized the I.N.A. on truly national lines. He insisted on inculcating a strong anti-British spirit in every one, from the Commander down to the soldier. He introduced Hindustani written in Roman script as the medium of instruction to overcome the linguistic differences and create a bond of affinity between the officers and men giving them an inspiring slogan, viz. Chalo Dilli (On to Delhi) and telling them that “There cannot be anything more honourable, anything to be more proud of, for an enslaved nation than to be the soldier of its army of liberation”.
Finding the Indian women keen on participating in the struggle Netaji decided to raise a Regiment named after the Rani of Jhansi, the legendary heroine of the 1857 War of India’s Independence. Opening the Women’s Training Camp on October 22, 1943, Netaji called it “an important landmark in the progress of our movement in East Asia” and added: “We are engaged in the great task of regenerating our nation. And it is only in the fitness of things that there should be a stir of new life among our women folk”. The shining example set by women in carrying arms had a tremendous impact on the morale of the I.N.A. and sent the spirits of Indians throughout South East Asia soaring.
Significantly, the Commander-in-Chief of British Indian Army Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck called it the “Amazon Force”.
In order to boost up the morale of his jawans he would frequently make unannounced and impromptu visits to their messes and share their meals. The officers of the I.N.A. were recipients of his uninhibited affection and hospitality. Strong personal bonds of camaraderie developed between Netaji and his officers and men. Through total devotion, boundless energy and zeal, untiring efforts and indomitable courage, he set a personal example to inspire them to perform seemingly impossible feats of endurance and bravery.
The I.N.A. had to content itself with mostly old captured British arms, antiquated machine guns and rifles besides only nominal artillery with absolutely no telecommunications, air cover or naval support. Even transport and medical facilities were inadequate. Addressing the second batch of the I.N.A. Cadets at their graduation ceremony on October 27, 1943 Netaji said: “We have no modern armaments, artillery, aeroplanes, etc. Moreover we are small in numbers”. As these factors made it, difficult for the First Division to function as a regular division, it was decided to train its three regiments as guerrilla regiments. Netaji took a keen personal interest in every aspect of the training and reviewed it at every stage. He treated the officers and jawans of the I.N.A. as equals and comrades in the task of liberating India; and underlined the great significance of the objective of their struggle. Netaji’s immediate plan of expansion envisaged the raising of a force of 50,000 comprising thirty thousand regular and twenty thousand civilian volunteers. In 1945 the I.N.A. had a strength of about forty five thousand.
Shortly after Netaji’s arrival in Singapore, the head of the rich Chettiar Community invited Netaji to their temple. Though he had absolutely no hesitation in visiting a temple, as the Head of a secular government he refused to go to any religious place without his Christian and Muslim followers. Therefore, he sent word that he would come but would be accompanied by his Muslim, Christian followers and those of other religious denominations. As the condition laid down by Netaji was not acceptable to the orthodox Chettiars, Netaji declined the invitation, declaring: “We are all equals, we are all brothers. We are all Indians. I would not enter a place where my followers have no right to enter”. Ultimately the head of the Chettiars had to relent and accept Netaji’s condition. It was for the first time that the portals of such a staunchly orthodox Hindu temple were thrown open to non-Hindus and the Archakas put tilaks on the foreheads of all, irrespective of religion. Major General Chatterjee in “India’s Struggle for Freedom” records:
They were not only allowed into a temple where previously non-Hindus were not allowed to enter, they even went close to the door of the sanctum sanctorum where only Brahmins could set their foot. This was an even more remarkable event in the annals of the temple.
For operating behind the enemy lines and carrying out espionage, sabotage and subversion of British Indian troops the “Bahadur Group” was organized. The “Intelligence Group” was set up to perform similar functions in the battle area. “Reinforcement Group” was formed to collect British Indian Army prisoners, indoctrinate them and pass them on to the I.N.A. Netaji was keen on setting up an intelligence network within India with direct wireless contact with him. N. G. Swami who had been trained in intelligence techniques in Germany made a close inspection of the Schools run by the Japanese at Penang and Rangoon and found them disappointing, especially as regards technical training.
Netaji’s European experience during 1941-43 had taught him that the interest of the Great Powers-Allied as well as Axis-in Indian Independence was only marginal, engaged as they were in their own struggle for survival. He, therefore, had no high expectations about the support of the Japanese. But he did insist on the I.N.A. functioning independently and not as part of the Japanese war machine. On the question of freedom Netaji was uncompromising as testified to by Major General Chatterji.
He warned his soldiers that where the question of the independence of the country was concerned they were to trust no one, not even our allies the Japanese, and that the surest guarantee against betrayal was their own armed might.
He said, ‘If ever you find the Japanese trying to establish any type of control over India, turn round and fight them as vigorously, as you will fight the British’.
Bose’s tough stance made cooperation with the Japanese, a difficult problem which became further accentuated because while the armies of Burma, China, Manchuria, the Phillipines and Thailand had all agreed to be subject to the Japanese Military Law, Netaji boldly informed the Japanese Commander-in-chief that the Japanese need not worry about applying the Japanese Military Law to the I.N.A., since a separate Military Law had been formulated for the I.N.A., which upset the Japanese Military authorities. The matter was referred to the Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo, which endorsed Netaji’s stand.
On the eve of the Imphal campaign the Japanese Army and the I.N.A.
concluded a Liaison Agreement. Declaring
in its preamble that both the armies were co-equal and allied forces, it
pointed, that (1) the two armies would work on a common strategy; (2) the
officers and men of the I.N.A. would be under their own military law (the I.N.A.
Act) and not under the Japanese Military Law and Military police; (3) definite
independent sectors would be allotted to the I.N.A.; (4) liberated territories
would be handed over to the I.N.A.; (5)
the only flag to fly over the Indian soil would be the Indian National Tricolour;
(6) Calcutta would not be subjected to any indiscriminate bombing; and (7) any
Japanese or Indian soldier found looting or raping any woman would be shot at
As for the civilian aspect, it was decided that (i) the Japanese civilians and institutions like Banks and firms moving into the liberated areas would be subject to the control of the Governor appointed by the Azad Hind Government and would use only the Azad Hind currency notes; (ii) the Japanese banks and firms in the liberated areas would operate only under the control and direction of the National Bank of Azad Hind and (iii) an Indo-Japanese War Cooperation Council would be constituted. The question of its Chairmanship was negotiated by Netaji with Lt. Generals Isoda, Saburo and Senda; Major General Yamamoto and Col. Kargoa. In the words of S. A. Ayer:
“He told them in plain language that Japanese Chairman for the Indo-Japanese War Cooperation Council on Indian soil was absolutely out of question and he was not going to budge an inch on the issue.”
Having thus fully revamped the I.N.A. as well as the I. I. L. and secured the consent and cooperation of the Burmese and Thai Governments. Netaji took the next momentous step namely, formation of the Provisional Government of Free India. The beneficial effects of the formation of the Provisional Government were that (i) the Indian community in South East Asia got a tremendous boost to its morale, (ii) it became a formal framework as well as a revolutionary rallying point, and (iii) the Japanese and other Governments could be dealt with on a footing of equality. In the course of time the Provisional Government acquired all the trappings of statehood-recognition by other governments, territory, army, civilian Government, National Bank, citizens owing allegiance to the Provisional Government, and accredited diplomats of foreign powers.
In order to be close to the area of military operation Netaji on arrival in Rangoon on January 4, 1944, established the forward headquarters of the Provisional Government, the I.N.A. and the Indian Independence League. The rear headquarters continued to be at Singapore.
Soon the Rani of Jhansi Brigade arrived in Rangoon. It generated considerable curiosity as well as respect amongst the Burmese people. Dr. Ba Maw, the Burmese Head of the State, and his wife feted the Commander of the Regiment Col. Lakshmi Swaminathan, who was also a Minister in Netaji’s Government. At about that time, the Free India Police Corps was also founded. The contingents of the I.N.A. started arriving on the front of Indo-Burma border from early January 1944, traversing a total distance of 2275 miles (4400 kilometers) by train, ship, truck and on foot.
I.N.A.’s 1st Division had three Brigades-Subhas, under Col. Shah Nawaz, Gandhi under Col. I.J.Kiani and Azad under Col. Gulzara Singh. Subhas Brigade was sent to Tiddim, Haka Falem and Bishunpur front, Gandhi Brigade to Imphal front and Azad Brigade to Myintha front. The I..N.A.’s Guerilla Regiment under Col. M.Z.Kiani was directed to assist the 15th and the 33rd Japanese Divisions. Netaji used to spend his time with his troops, reviewing their training, exercises, performance and boosting up their morale. The day of their departure for the front arrived. Bidding them farewell on the 4th of February, 1944, Netaji said:
“There, there in the distance-beyond the rivers, beyond those hills, lies the Promised Land, the soil from which we sprang-the land to which we shall now return.
“Hark, India is calling, India’s metropolis is calling, three hundred and eighty million of our countrymen are calling. Blood is calling blood.
Get up, we have no time to lose. Take up your arms. There, in front of you, is the road that our pioneers have built. We shall march along that road. We shall march our way through the enemy’s ranks or if God wills, we shall die a martyr’s death. And in our last sleep we shall kiss the road that will bring our Army to Delhi. The road to Delhi is the road to Freedom-Chalo Dilli!”
On the 17th of February, 1944 he broadcast from Azad Hind Radio, Saigon a “Call to Revolt” to the British Indian Army. He informed them of the launching of the final struggle by the I.N.A. and exhorted them “to desert the British Indian Army and to join us with your arms and equipment”. On the Arakan Sector, the campaign started on February 4, 1944 and in the Imphal-Kohima Sector on March 15, 1944.
The Japanese planned a two pronged attack with two objectives, viz. capture of Imphal and Kohima and a limited offensive in Arakan Hills to disrupt supplies to the British forces while the main attack was going on in Imphal and Kohima sectors.
Majors L.S.Misra and Mehar Das of the I.N.A. commanded the intelligence and reconnaissance groups in Arakan. Major Misra’s group gave a brilliant performance as a result of which the “Gwalior Lancers” of the British Indian Army defected over to I.N.A.
Lt. Hari Singh was awarded Sadar-e-Hind, I.N.A.’s highest award for
gallantry, for killing single-handed seven British soldiers.
These successes were enthusiastically welcomed.
Netaji in a Special Order of the Day dated February 9, 1944 lauded the
“glorious and brilliant actions of the brave forces of the Azad Hind Fauj.
The appearance of the I.N.A. on the battlefront had created fresh
problems for the British. “Syonan
Shinhum” reported on 19th February, 1944 that ‘the British High
Command has removed the Indian soldiers in the front line for fear of contact
with the I.N.A.” because, “since the beginning of the drive, Indian soldiers
had been surrendering in groups of 50
and 100 almost regularly.
Netaji was fully alive to the I.N.A.’s not having enough equipment as well as the numerical superiority of the British Indian Army. He sought to overcome all these deficiencies by evolving a grand strategy, which in his own words was that “the very appearance of the I.N.A. on the frontiers of India will be a clarion call to the people of India and to the Indian Army”. Netaji reasoned that once the enemy fortifications on the Indo-Burma frontier were stormed and captured by the I.N.A., “it would reach the plains of the Assam and Bengal and when the fate of Chittagong and Imphal is sealed, there will be no war in the Bengal Province and our advance to Calcutta will be only a routine march”.
However, Netaji’s plan to storm Chittagong and convert it into a springboard for a military attack on India did not fit into the Japanese military strategy. The Japanese military top brass reasoned that Chittagong being a port, the Japanese and the I.N.A. troops would lay exposed to naval and air attack. In spite of their opposition, Chittagong campaign was made part of the Operation ‘U’, though it was not carried out.
In April 1944, Netaji in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the I.N.A. and Head of the State issued two proclamations on the occasion of entry of the I.N.A. into India. The first Proclamation set out the aim to the I.N.A., viz, “liberating India” from the shackles of the despotic British rule and driving away the Anglo-American menace. It exhorted the Indian people to rally round the Tricolour to win complete freedom. It then enumerated punishable acts and guaranteed strict action against any Japanese or Indian soldier who violated its injunctions. The second Proclamation dated April 15, 1944, proclaimed the Provisional Government to be the only lawful Government of the Indian people and gave a call to: “Rally round your own Government – and thereby help in preserving and safeguarding your newly won liberty”.
There was great disparity in numerical strength and in equipment between the Japanese-I.N.A. forces and that of the Allied forces, which was particularly conspicuous in regard to air power. The ratio of Allied and Japanese air power in Burma Sector in 1944 was 10:1 which was reduced to 100:1 in 1945.
The lightning speed with which the I.N.A. Japanese combined forces swept through the difficult mountainous terrain and jungle came as a shock to the Britishers. The rapid advance of the I.N.A. – Japanese troops is all the more creditable because it was accomplished without any air support whatsoever, and with meager artillery and motorized transport. The Thirty-first Japanese Division virtually galloped its way through the British defenses and within two weeks it crossed the Indo-Burmese border and reached Kohima. The Fifteenth Japanese Division moved swiftly and entrapped the motorized Seventeeth British Division. It appeared that the Seventeeth British Division was doomed, since it had to surrender or face extinction. The Britishers, however, were successful in breaking through the blockade of Imphal-Tiddim road and escaped. On account of confusion and slackness of Lt. Gen. Motozo Yanagida, the enemy was not given a hot pursuit for a week. Ultimately Yanagida resumed the march and captured Torbung, 50 kilometres south of Imphal on April 10, 1944.
Walking 56 kilometres a day through the rough hilly terrain and thick forests they were about to camp for the night when one of the jawans pointed out that they were in close vicinity of India. The entire detachment expressed unanimous desire to reach their motherland and they marched ahead, till only the barbed wire fencing separated them from the soil of India. A jawan cut off the barbed wire and soon all of them were delirious with joy, It was an emotional scene. Many bent down and kissed the soil of Mother India. Others picked up the sand and applied it as a tilak to their foreheads, Dr. Ba Maw, in his book “ Break-through in Burma” quotes the Japanese war correspondents accompanying the I.N.A. as saying, “We were deeply moved when we saw the Indian soldiers bursting out with joy when they had the first glance of the mountains and rivers of their motherland. The cries of Jai Hind, Jai Hind, rent the sky and reverberated in the enemy camp through dense jungles on the border line”.
In spite of the initial bungling by Yanagida, the 31st
Japanese Division converged on Kohima. The
outlook appeared to be extremely favourable to the I.N.A. Japanese forces; they
were indeed far ahead of the schedule in respect of their targets.
The communiqué dated April 6, 1944 issued by the Japanese Imperial
Headquarters proclaimed: “Japanese troops, fighting side by side with the
Indian National Army captured Kohima early on 6 April”.
Everyone, including the British, considered the fall of Imphal to be
imminent, as the Japanese - I.N.A. combine were only three miles from Imphal and
laid a tight siege. On May 21, 1944
Netaji was back at his Headquarters at
Rangoon to fly to Imphal, if necessary, in his personal aircraft Azad
Hind to lead the victory march into the city.
The postage stamps and currency notes of the Provisional Government of
Free India were ready for circulation in the liberated territories.
For the administration of the liberated territories, laws and
administrative matters were laid down in great detail.
Major General Chatterjee was appointed Governor and he was ready to take
Imphal was encircled by the Japanese and I.N.A. forces from all sides. However, they were in short supply of everything-transport, communications, arms, and ammunitions, food supplies. Air support was wholly non-existent. Mutaguchi emphasized speed to overcome dangers and deficiencies involved in the operation. However, he had wagered too heavily on capturing the British stores and supplies.
However, Mutaguchi had underrated the strength and ability of the Allied Air Force to drop supplies and troops by air. Out of about 100 squadrons of air-force stationed in India during the Second World War the Allies had deployed 58 squadrons-about 700 planes in the area. In fact, Lt. Gen. Fujiwara Twaichi in F.Kikan estimated that the Allied Air Force in Burma area had about 1000 aeroplanes. According to the Headquarters of British Indian Army the Allied air-force during the Imphal campaign “delivered over twenty thousand tons of supplies to the beleaguered garrison on the plain, flew reinforcements to the tune of well over twenty thousand men, a complete division”.
Apart from making supplies to their own troops, the Allies effectively used their air superiority to strike at the advancing Japanese-I.N.A. forces whose supply lines being already too long and tenuous could be cut.
The expectancy and optimism of April 1944, therefore, gave way to anxiety in May when torrential rains broke out prematurely all over Burma. The Japanese strangle-hold did not result in the British surrender since having no way to escape the enemy was compelled to stay put and fight. The enemy was sustained by supplies from the air. The Japanese also lost the opportunity of capturing Dimapur.
The delay in capturing Imphal and the advent of premature monsoon turned a desperate situation into a disaster.
The I.N.A. had reached only two miles away from Imphal. The British Commanders had ordered their troops to evacuate Imphal, but since the Imphal-Kohima road was blocked by the Japanese, the British forces had no escape route and had to stay out and fight for their survival. Due to torrential rains Chindwin River was swollen. Flash floods in the rivulets and streams drowned thousands of Japanese soldiers while thousands died of starvation or became victims of malaria, dysentery and diarrhea. Indeed, far more soldiers died through drowning, starvation and disease than through fighting on the war front.
The I.N.A. lost over four thousand jawans and officers on the Imphal
front. The defeat on the Imphal
front was a great setback to Netaji’s plan for India’s liberation. However, Shah Nawaz summed up the achievements of the I.N.A.
“During the period the I.N.A. with much inferior equipment and an extremely poor supply system was able to advance as much as 150 miles into Indian territory. While the I.N.A. was on the offensive, there was not a single occasion on which our forces were defeated on the battlefield, and there was never an occasion when the enemy, despite their overwhelming superiority in men and material, was able to capture any post held by the I.N.A. On the other hand there were very few cases where the I.N.A. attacked British posts and failed to capture them.”
Netaji soon came to know that his officers and men were undergoing untold
sufferings and hardships. The
marshes proved to be death traps; it was impossible to wade through them.
Malaria, dysentery and diarrhea were rampant, and hundreds were dying of
disease and starvation. Netaji
toured the war front to organize relief and succour to his men.
He arranged for the transport of the sick and the wounded by all possible
means-truck, bullock carts, boats. He
set up hospitals in barracks and tents and arranged medical and nursing aid.
He spent the whole of September and October, 1944 on relief work on a
titanic scale against heavy odds and could save the lives of thousands.
His very presence, his words of concern and loving care, seemed to infuse
a new life and vitality into the sick and the wounded.
Hugh Toye in his book “ The Springing Tiger” says:
“… everywhere-his presence was welcomed, for there was about this
dedicated man an awe and a passionate sincerity which could inspire devotion and
Netaji was a born optimist. Even after the I.N.A. met its failure on the war front, Netaji was of the view that in a long drawn struggle, temporary set-backs should not dishearten them. He, therefore, got busy drawing up future plans for the struggle.
After the disaster on the Imphal front Netaji returned to his Rangoon Headquarters. He did not conceal the true state of affairs from his people. He took them into confidence and told them about the failure on the Imphal front. His candour had the desired effect-the morale of the Indians in South East Asia did not sag but remained buoyant.
On July 7, 1944 on the first anniversary of the reorganization of the I.N.A. Netaji addressed the citizens of the allies of the Provisional Government of Free India. On the following day Netaji broadcast a message to his countrymen pointing out that the British rule having become defunct, even the catalyst of the American aid would not be able to save it and made three significant predictions: (i) the liquidation of British Empire whatever be the result of the Second World War; (ii) the American bid for economic domination of the world; (iii) the unbridgeable rift between the Soviet Union and Anglo-Americans.
Netaji returned to Rangoon from Mandalay after an extensive inspection tour of the war fronts and hospitals. He called a meeting of his Cabinet and a conference of his Commanders, at which it was unanimously resolved that for its supplies the I.N.A. should not rely on Hikari Kikan-the Japanese liaison agency-but should become self-sufficient. The Azaad Hind Sangh was also reorganized so that it could become an effective instrument of self-sufficiency in procuring war materials and food supplies. Changes were also made in the command structures, including some transfers of the Commanders. For the successful prosecution of the War a 12 member “War Council” was established with Netaji, Major Generals Bhonsle, Chatterji, M.Z.Kiani, and Colonels Aziz Ahmed, Ehasan Qadir, Habibur Rehman, Gulzara Singh, I.J.Kiani, Shah Nawaz Khan besides Sarvashri Parmanand and Raghavan as members.
The war situation had by now, completely changed. The pressure of the British forces had increased and the Japanese forces were on the run. On January 11, 1945 Ayukab fell to the British forces. In the plains of Mandalay area, the Japanese forces were encircled by the enemy tanks. The Japanese escaped towards Maymyo but suffered heavy casualties in the process. On his birthday on January, 23, 1945, he was weighed in gold at Rangoon as well as at Singapore, which in a large measure helped in procuring supplies for the I.N.A.
At about that time the Burmese Army under the young 32 year old Major General Aung San rebelled against the Japanese. The Japanese sought Netaji’s cooperation in putting down the Burmese rebellion. Netaji stoutly declined saying that the I.N.A. would only fight for India’s freedom, as it was not a mercenary force. He did not permit the use of the I.N.A. for suppressing the Burmese. This had a salutary effect on Major Gen. Aung San who directed his army to cooperate with the I.N.A.
On reaching Rangoon he got the stunning news of desertions by five staff officers of the Second I.N.A. Division, viz. Majors Madan, Riaz, Sultan Anwar, De and Mohammed Baksh at Popa. The surrender papers signed by them were air-dropped widely over the positions held by the I.N.A. Such an act of treachery and cowardice stung Netaji’s heart. A terrible sense of disgust and disappointment descended on him. He took the entire blame on himself. He reasoned that if he had not listened to Shah Nawaz but had gone to Popa to lead the I.N.A. such a shameful event would not have occurred. For several days he spoke to no one. The news of further reverses least affected him. He resolved that if ever acts of treachery were repeated by the I.N.A. personnel, he would consider his life not worth living. He authorized the prescription of death penalty for desertion. In the two Special Orders of the Day dated March 13, 1944, he authorized every officer, Commissioned or Non-Commissioned, and sepoy “to arrest any other member of the I.N.A. no matter what his rank may be, if he behaves in a cowardly manner, or to shoot him if he acts in a treacherous manner”. As a follow-up measure, lists of doubtful persons were prepared and they were relieved of their posts. Some arrests were also made. “Traitors Day” was observed on which the I.N.A. units competed with one another in openly dishonouring the traitors and cowards.
By April, 1945, Japanese resistance to the British and Allied forces in Burma had petered out. The Burmese Head of the State, Dr. Ba Maw, had already left Rangoon with his entourage. The Japanese Commander-in-Chief in Burma, General Heitaro Kimura, met Netaji on April 20, 1945 and spent several hours in a bid to persuade him to withdraw to Thailand. Netaji wanted to remain in Rangoon and fight the British forces. The War Council, however, reasoned that instead of fighting in Rangoon Netaji should organize the next phase of struggle in Malaya and Thailand and, if need be, from China and even the Soviet Union.
Netaji briefed Major General Loganadhan, who was staying behind at Rangoon, to fight to the last man. Then Netaji visited the army camps on April 24, 1945 to bid farewell to the officers and men of the I.N.A. He left Rangoon on the same night. In his “Special Order of the Day” addressed to the brave officers and men of the I.N.A. issued on the occasion of his departure from Burma, Netaji paid tribute to them:
“Your brave deeds in the battle against the enemy on the plains of Imphal, the hills and jungles of Arakan, and the oil fields-will live in the history of our struggle for independence for all times. The future generations of Indians who will be born, not as slaves but as freemen, because of your colossal sacrifice, will bless your names and proudly proclaim to the world that you, their forebears, fought and suffered reverses but, through temporary failure you paved the way to ultimate success and glory.”
He exhorted them to “sacrifice every thing, even life itself,” to
uphold India’s national honour, so that “your comrades who will continue the
fight elsewhere may have before them your shining example to inspire them at all
times”. On his part, he pledged
to steadfastly adhere to the oath that he took on 21st October, 1943
“to do all in my power to serve the interest of thirty eight crores of my
countrymen and fight for their liberation”.
His concluding words were prophetic: “India shall be free-and before
Fate of Rani
The safety of the girls of Rani Jhansi Regiment had been causing anxiety
These ingénues belonging to diverse social, linguistic and religious backgrounds had voluntarily come forward and joined the I.N.A. They hailed from Burma, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Amongst them there were even Anglo-Indian girls-Josephine and Stella. Netaji, therefore, considered it his moral duty to ensure that they were returned to their parents safely.
The first batch of 150 Ranis under the command of Lt. Pratima Pal left for Bangkok on March 29, 1945. Netaji had directed Deb Nath Das, an Advisor to the Provisional Government of Free India, to escort them personally to Bangkok and arrange for their stay there. Before their departure, he personally briefed them about the precautions to be taken for protection from continuous air raids and attacks from spies, saboteurs, and stragglers. A goods train was all that would be arranged for their transport to Bangkok, which, though a primitive mode of transport, they cheerfully accepted. They had to travel only by night-observing total blackout. Colonel Rawat, Subedar Akram Khan, Lance Naik Ali Akbar Khan, amongst others, was detailed to provide protection. They set up gunny bags filled with sand on the top of the goods wagons and took up positions there with machine guns. The girls were themselves armed with rifles and machine-guns. After crossing the Sittang River, they faced Allied aerial attacks but they did not suffer any casualties. However, they were not so fortunate on the second night when their train was attacked by stragglers. As recalled by Debnath Das in his book, “Battle of Imphal”:
“Havildar Stella was found killed. Havildar Josephine expired in the morning. Hv. Stella and Hv. Josephine were buried with full honours. Hav. Kamla was brought to Moulmein. She survived but her left hand had to be amputed.”
Netaji,therefore, resolved to take the remaining girls of Rani of Jhansi Regiment along with him at the time of their retreat to Bangkok.
The enemy planes had been bombarding indiscriminately all over Burma. The spies and saboteurs were active everywhere. Danger lurked everywhere. Tegu, where Netaji’s convoy was to halt, posed danger, since they were not sure whether it was still free or had already fallen into the British hands.
As S.A. Ayer in “Unto Him a Witness” observed:
“Life and death lost their meaning. We were alive at that moment but we were not sure that we would be alive the next.”
During these weary marches, Netaji kept on thinking and discussing with his colleagues about the next phase of the struggle may be, they could start their struggle anew from China or even seek the support of the Soviet Union. According to Netaji’s own perception, the entente between Anglo-Americans and the Soviet Union was bound to flounder with the end of the Second World War.
However, these thoughts about the future did not divert Netaji’s mind from what was of immediate concern to him which was the safety and well being of his companions. He personally ensured that all the sick, the weak and those with sore feet were cared for and carried in trucks. He was personally attending to all their needs-safe places for the concealment of trucks, food and water, shelter, dispersal and camouflaging of vehicles during the bombardments. When the Allies planes droned above, he personally directed his people to jump off the vehicles and take cover and only when the planes flew away, he told them to resume the march. In the process, he disregarded his own safety. He personally directed work at ferries, and at times, worked with his own hands for bringing the vehicles to safe places.
The convoy reached Waw at the dead of right at 2.00 A.M. There was no bridge on the river. General Isoda requested Netaji to cross the river by ferry, but Netaji was not willing, as he wanted the Ranis to cross the river first. Col. Malik and Major Swami surveyed the riverside and found a spot where the river was only six feet deep. The girls swam across the river. After nightlong efforts, only six out of twelve trucks could be brought by ferries. Netaji was the last to cross and immediately after reaching the other side he got busy camouflaging the trucks. The enemy planes which had throughout been strafing and “carpet bombing”, destroyed five trucks. Netaji time and again escaped being shot by the relentless machine-gunning by the enemy planes.
In spite of extensive blisters on his feet, Netaji walked 24 kilometres declining the request of General Isoda to travel by car. In the evening Isoda arranged some trucks. After traversing a distance of 24 kilometres they arrived on April 30, 1945 at a village near Moulmein and halted there. Early in the morning of the 1st of May 1945 they reached Moulmein. During these six days after leaving Rangoon they rested during the day and trekked at night. Every one except Netaji took rest., He would sleep only for two hours a day. He declined repeated requests to travel by car and in spite of having blisters all over his feet, he kept pace with others. S.A.Iyer recording the experiences of these fateful days said:
“I witnessed during that three week perilous but memorable retreat in the jungles of Burmese-Thai border, the true greatness of Netaji-that magnificent greatness which took within the sweep of his personality, a soldier, a statesman, a born leader, and the most important of all, the highest qualities of a humanist man.”
After eleven days’ journey, eluding the enemy planes, they reached Bangkok on May 15, 1945. On reaching Bangkok Netaji arranged for the reception and stay of his weary comrades in the Thai capital.
In Rangoon, the I.N.A. retained the control of the city until May 4, 1945 when the British forces captured it. According to Debnath Das:
“When enemy troops marched through streets in Rangoon they heard the slogans, ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, ‘Azad Hind Zindabad’, ‘Netaji Zindabad’ echoing and re- echoing everywhere.”
The local girls of the I.N.A. in spite of the warning proudly saluted the picture of Netaji. Their interrogators wanted them to state that they had joined the I.N.A., not voluntarily, but under compulsion, for which they were sorry. The girls bravely refused to do so. As reported by Col. Lakshmi Sehgal (nee Swaminathan), the courageous commander of Rani Jhansi Regiment:
“The British officers were really surprised to find this spirit and many of them gained clear insight into the true personality of Netaji after seeing the spirit of
courage and sacrifice which Netaji alone had infused into the minds of these
Plans for Post-War Situation
The perils and hair-breadth escapes during the preceding three weeks, instead of diminishing, further stoked the revolutionary ardour of Netaji and his followers, to pursue their vision of liberating India. Even his critic, Hugh Toye, conceded:
“The loss of Burma and the hard sorrowful march to Bangkok did not
vision. Bose still thought his objective attainable in India,
whatever happened in
South-East Asia. He now saw
the I.N.A., carrying the infection of his influence
into the Indian Army to loosen still further the British grasp and to
deepen nationalist confidence – Never would he give up; somehow he was sure,
the dream would be fulfilled.”
Netaji was quick to discern the simmering conflict which had developed between the Soviet Union on the one hand and America and Britain on the other. In his broadcast from Bangkok on May 21, 1945, Netaji spoke about the implications of this widening gulf between the Soviets and the Anglo-Americans for India’s struggle for freedom:
“I have always been of the opinion that if Germany collapsed, it would be a signal for the outbreak of an acute conflict between the Soviets and the Anglo-Americans,. That conflict has already broken out and it will be intensified in the days to come. The Provisional Government of Free India will continue to follow international developments with the closest interest, and endeavour to take the
fullest advantage of them. The fundamental principle of our foreign policy has been and will be-Britain’s enemy is India’s friend.”
Netaji had seriously considered the Soviet Union as an alternative ally for continuing the Freedom Struggle, in the event of Japanese defeat. In fact, even while the Imphal campaign was at its height, Netaji had tried to get in touch with the Soviet authorities through the Japanese Government, using the good offices of Admiral Kanci-Chudo, Commander of the Japanese Imperial Navy in Burma, who was sympathetic to this idea. But the Japanese Government had then dragged its feet. Similar efforts made, a few months later, by Col. Yamamoto had also proved abortive. During his visit to Tokyo to attend the Greater East Asian Coprosperity Conference, Netaji had declared:
“Should Germany lose, we will have to continue to fight the Allied powers even by joining hands with Russia.”
An attempt to contact the Soviet Ambassador, Jacob Malik, was made during Netaji’s visit to Tokyo in November 1944, but the Japanese Foreign Minister, Shigemitsu, had not been helpful in arranging Netaji’s meeting with Soviet Ambassador. Netaji’s letter was returned by the Soviet Ambassador unopened.
Netaji was,however, at his broadcasting best when the British Viceroy, Lord Wavell, initiated his efforts to lure the Congress leaders into the vortex of the Britain’s imperialist designs by dangling the carrot of power before them. Wavell on taking over as the Viceroy of India released Gandhiji unconditionally on May 6, 1944. The Viceroy, who had gone to London in March 1945 for consultations, returned to India. On June 14,
1945, he broadcast a statement proposing to reconstitute his Executive Council so as to have “an equal proportion of Muslims and caste Hindus”. To facilitate the implementation of his plan he released Maulana Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other members of the Congress Working Committee (C.W.C.) and convened a Conference at Simla.
Wavell’s proposals were, in the words of the then Congress President Maulana Azad, “not different in substance, from the Cripps Offer”, rejected by the Congress in 1942. It was, therefore, ironic that the Congress leaders agreed to consider the Wavell Plan. The reason, perhaps, was as Jinnah put it, “Congressmen are dying to get back to power”. Jinnah’s view received support from a statement by Jawaharlal Nehru, who said:
“We were tired men. We
were not prepared to go to jail again.”
Netaji , in his broadcast from Singapore on June 19, 1945, unmasked the genesis of Wavell’s proposals, namely, the urgent British need to mobilize the support of the Congress so that the long term needs of using half a million Indian troops for the long drawn American, British, Dutch and French military campaigns to recapture the colonies in East Asia could be ensured. To leaders at home, he, therefore, put a straight-forward question.
“Whether they will take the responsibility of fighting Britain’s imperialist war in the Far East and of sacrificing half a million Indian lives for the same.”
He pointed out that the consideration of Wavell’s proposals meant “a go-by to the fundamental principles and beliefs of the Indian National Congress” and added:
“The Congress stands for complete independence. Lord Wavell’s offer, as has been rightly pointed out by Mahatma Gandhi, does not even mention the word ‘independence” ; secondly, the Congress stands for non-participation in and resistance to Britain’s imperialist war. Thirdly, the Congress is still pledged to the ‘Quit India’ resolution adopted three years ago, and the national slogan for the Indian people since then had been ‘Do or Die’, in the fight for India’s freedom. No Congressmen can, consistent with these principles, therefore, look at Wavell’s offer – Nevertheless the fact that so many Congressmen and leaders are actually considering the British offer is because a wave of defeatism has swept over India since the Anglo-American success in Europe and in Burma. In a fit of pessimism and defeatism some Congressmen are now considering the offer which they rejected in 1942.”
He exhorted his countrymen at home, especially the Congressmen, to give up pessimism, defeatism and despondency, to take full advantage of the widening differences amongst the Allies and to start a raging campaign against Wavell’s offer, so that “Lord Wavell’s offer goes the same way as the Cripps offer in 1942”.
In his broadcast from Singapore on June 21, 1945, Netaji pointed out that (i) the rank and file of the Congress would definitely reject Wavell’s proposals; (ii) the cunning British Government had released only members of the C.W.C., to effectively muzzle the opinion of the Left Wing of the Congress (iii) under the Congress Constitution, the C.W.C. could not take any decision on Wavell’s proposals; and (iv) even morally the C.W.C. should not take any decision on this issue, which would have a far-reaching effect on the future of the Congress and India for several decades.
His broadcast on June 24, 1945, from Singapore stands out for its boldness and brilliance. He began by saying:
“The crisis that faces India today has arisen because some influential
amongst our countrymen, who only three years ago, were shouting
‘Liberty or Death’, are now
prepared to enter into compromise with the British Government on Lord Wavell’s
To Netaji, there could be no compromise on the question of independence. He was of the opinion that if only resistance to the British rule was continued, independence could be won by the end of the War. On a personal note he said:
“Some of the leaders at home are furious with me for opposing their plans for a compromise with the British Government. They are also furious with me for pointing out that the Congress Working Committee has constitutionally no right to make such a fateful decision behind the back of the All India Congress Committee.”
About the criticism regarding Netaji’s taking Japanese aid, his spirited reply was:
“I am not ashamed of taking the help of Japan. My cooperation with Japan is on the basis that Japan recognizes India’s complete Independence. Japan has granted formal recognition to the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. But those who now want to cooperate with the British Government and fight Britain’s imperialist war are prepared to accept the position of subordinates, responsible to Britain’s Viceroy in India. If their leaders co-operate with the British Government on the
basis that Britain grants formal recognition to the Government of Free India, that would be a different matter.”
He felt stung by the uncharitable criticism of the I.N.A., and asserted:
“The army, the Azad Hind Fauj, has been trained by Indian instructors, using the Indian language. This army carries India’s national flag, and its slogans are India’s national slogans. This army has its own Indian Officers and its own officers’ training schools, run entirely by Indians. And in the field of battle, this army fights under its own Indian commanders, some of whom have now reached the rank of General. It is the British Indian Army that should be called a puppet army, because it is fighting Britain’s imperialist war under British officers. Am I to believe that in an army of two and half million, Indians are found fit only to obtain the highest honour in the British army, namely, the Victoria Cross, but not one single Indian is found fit to hold the rank of General?”
To the ease-loving arm-chair politicians back home, he did some plain speaking:
“I and my comrades here are engaged in a grim struggle. Our comrades at the front have to play with death. Even those who are not at the front have to face danger every moment of their existence. When we were in Burma, bombings and machine-gunning were our daily entertainment. I have seen many of my comrades killed, maimed and injured from the enemy’s ruthless bombing and machine-gunning. I have seen the entire hospital of the Azad Hind Fauj in Rangoon razed to the ground, with our helpless patients suffering heavy
casualties. That I and many others with me are still alive today is only through God’s grace. It is because we are living, working and fighting in the face of death that I have a right to speak to you and to advise you.”
In his broadcast of June 17, 1945, Netaji warned the gullible politicians at home that the Simla Conference was a trap laid by the wily Viceroy and congratulated Mahatma Gandhi on his wise step in not attending it.
It came as great relief to Netaji when Wavell on July 11, 1945, finally announced the failure of the talks which he had initiated. At least Dr. Girija, K. Mookerjee had given credit to Netaji for the failure of Wavell’s initiative:
His appeal had effect and the Congress finally rejected the offer made by Lord Wavell.
Gandhiji rejected the proposals and favoured elections to a Constituent Assembly on the basis of adult franchise. Gandhiji deprecated that the top leaders of Congress “had come out of jail tired and dispirited and without the heart to carry on the struggle. They wanted a settlement with Britain and what is more, hungered for power”, adding:
“I fear they may throw to the winds the basic principles for which the Congress had stood. If God gives me strength, I will fight for these principles with my life.”
For once, the perceptions of India’s two Men of Destiny-Gandhiji and Netaji-completely coincided and they were speaking in the same idiom.
Netaji called upon the Indians in East Asia to renew their efforts for the struggle, and not to lose heart because of temporary setbacks:
“A true revolutionary is one who never acknowledges defeat, who never feels depressed or disheartened. A true revolutionary believes in the justice of his cause and is confident that his cause is bound to prevail in the long run.”
As regards the change wrought by the exposure of the Indian soldiers of the British Army to the I.N.A. after the capture of Burma, Netaji pointed out:
“The ways of history-like the ways of Providence-are often mysterious. For the fulfillment of our objective it was perhaps necessary that the British Indian Army
should come into Burma and see the I.N.A. The British Indian Army have now seen us with their own eyes. What is the result? There is no longer any talk of a puppet army-of a Japanese Indian Force or ‘J.I.F.’ Even enemy propagandists now, at last, talk of an I.N.A.”
He told his audience at home as well as in East Asia:
“For enslaved India it is much more honourable to join hands with the enemies of the British Empire than to curry favour with British leaders of political parties. India’s independence is a settled fact. The only uncertain factor is the time factor. Why should we be easily discouraged and rush to the Viceroy’s house for a compromise?”
The 8th of July was a red letter day of the Netaji Week. On that day Netaji laid the foundation stone of Shaheed Smarak (Martyrs’ Memorial)-a monument to honour the heroes who died fighting for India’s freedom,-at Connaught Drive, on the water front of Singapore. The function was attended by the officers and men of the I.N.A.,
including the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, the students of the Azad School and Indian National College, prominent citizens of Singapore, Ministers and officers of the Provisional Government of Free India and foreign dignitaries. After Netaji had unfurled the National Tricolour and laid the marble plaque, the entire audience
in silence for two minutes to honour all those brave heroes who died fighting
for the cause of India’s freedom.
Towards the End of the War
On August 13, 1945 at 2 a.m., Dr. Lakshmayya and Sri Ganapathi reached the guesthouse where Netaji was staying. In fact, he was waiting for their arrival. As soon as they were ushered in, they held closed-door consultations. Dr. Lakshmayya gave him the shattering news about the Japanese decision to surrender. On receiving the news he did not lose his composure. On the contrary, as recorded by S.A.Ayer:
He first broke into a smile and almost his first words were: “So that is that. Now what next?”
And to relieve the gloom that had descended, he added with a twinkle in his eyes:
“Well don’t you see that we are the only people who have not surrendered.”
Again, to quote S.A.Ayer, who was an eye-witness:
“It was a soldier speaking. He was already thinking of the next move and the next battle. He was not going to be beaten-Japan’s surrender was not the surrender of the Liberation Forces fighting for India’s freedom. The I.N.A. would not admit defeat.”
Many decisions were taken and implemented quickly. The civilian employees of the Provisional Government were discharged and 23,000 I.N.A. troops in and around Singapore were disbanded and all of them-civilians as well as troops-were paid off. The problem which was bothering Netaji was the return of 500 Ranis in Singapore to their parents. After a good deal of persuasion by Netaji himself the Ranis agreed to return to their parents. The parting was poignant. The Ranis had received paternal affection and care from Netaji. They were each given an amount sufficient for over six months. Detailed instructions were given to their Acting Commander, Captain Janki Thevers, for their safe return to their parents.
But as regards their leader, Netaji left it to his Cabinet to decide about his own future, indicating that personally he preferred to stay there and face surrender along with others. The discussions of the Cabinet went on all through the 14th of August.
Ambassador Hachiya gave notice that Japan would surrender on Augtust 15, 1945. Netaji issued his last “Special Order of the Day” and “Special Message to the Indians in East Asia”, both of which were memorable for their straightforward appeal.
In the Special Message, Netaji praised the Non-Resident Indians of East Asia for the spontaneity and enthusiasm of their response to his call for “Total Mobilisation” and “the lavish contributions made by them, of men and materials for the cause of Motherland”. “Their shining example of patriotism and sacrifice had already earned them an undying place in the history of India’s struggle for freedom”, he said. Their sufferings and sacrifice had “ensured the emancipation of our Motherland and will serve as an undying inspiration to Indians all over the world. Posterity will bless your name, and will talk with pride about your offerings at the altar of India’s freedom”.
“Never for a moment falter in your faith in India’s destiny. There is no power on earth that can keep India enslaved. India shall be free and before long.”
In his Special Order, he gave the I.N.A. a word of cheer.
“No set-back and no defeat can undo your positive achievements of the past.”
And exhorted them:
“To conduct yourself with the discipline, dignity and strength befitting a truly Revolutionary Army. Knowing you as I do, I have not the slightest doubt that even in this dire adversity you will hold your heads erect and face the future with unending hope and confidence.”
. Netaji’s Ministers decided that he should at once leave Singapore for the Soviet Union or a place under her influence, as by then even Thailand and Indo-China had become unsafe. Anand Mohan Sahay was sent to Hanoi to contact Dr. Ho Chi Minh to assess the possibility of seeking a sanctuary in areas under the control of the Chinese Communists. No reply came from him for two days.
Since Netaji did not reach Saigon, Ambassaor Hachia and Lt. General Isoda, Head of Hikari Kikan, air-dashed to Singapore and persuaded Netaji to leave Singapore immediately. The Imperial Headquarters sent yet another emissary, Col.
Sehai. Netaji said that he would like to contact the Soviet forces in Manchuria. He told Isoda:
“I have no illusions and I am prepared to face the worst, execution and imprisonment by the Russians. I wish to go and take a chance even if there is the slightest possibility. I request the Japanese Government to assist me.”
Lt. Gen. Isoda conveyed Netaji’s messaged to Count Terauchi’s Headquarters at Dalat Saigon who, in turn, contacted Tokyo. The Japanese Government protested but the powerful Field Marshal over-ruled his Government, and decided to help Netaji reach Soviet-Manchurian border. Terauchi also decided to depute Lt. Gen.
Tsunamasa Shidei, the then Chief of Staff of Burma Command, to take over the prestigious Kwantang Army at Dairan in Manchuria and Shidei was asked to go along with Netaji. Shidei’s fluency in English, French and German and his knowledge of International Law were supposed to be an asset for settling the surrender procedure with the Soviets and helping Netaji to cross over to the Soviet Union.
Netaji left Singapore for Bangkok at 9.30 a.m. on August 16 with Ayer, Col. Habib-ur-Rehman, Col. Pritam Singh and Negishi.
They reached Bangkok at 3 p.m.
Count Terauchi had given instructions to make room for Netaji on the “Heavy” Bomber of 97-2 type, known to the Allies as “Sally”, that was to carry Lt. General Shidei from Saigon to Chungchum, Manchuria, via Dairan.
With a crew of seven men, Lt. Gen. Shidei and his three A.D.Cs., only one more seat was left on the “Sally”. But Netaji’s entourage was much larger. To sort out the problems of transporting Netaji and his aides, Lt. Gen. Isoda took a 30-minute hop to Dalat in a small plane. The Japanese Southern Headquarters informed him that there were no experienced pilots for the long-distance flight, They were racing against time, since consequent upon the Japanese surrender, ban on all military flights could come into effect any moment. Last minute negotiations could secure one more seat on the ’Sally’. Netaji decided to take Habib-ur-Rehman with him. Others of his entourage were to follow as soon as the pilots could be arranged.
Thus, with Habib-ur-Rehman and five pieces of luggage, Netaji boarded the twin-engined ‘Sally’.
The announcement of Netaji’s death was, for the first time, made by Domai news agency on August 23, 1945.
The truth or otherwise of the story of Netaji’s death at Taipei generated a raging controversy, which has not died down even after four decades.
Appreciation of Bose
Let me share with you the thoughts that have been crowding in my mind since yesterday. India has accorded to the released I.N.A. men a right royal welcome. They have been acclaimed as national heroes. Everybody seems to have been swept off his feet before the rising tide of popular sentiment. I must, however, frankly confess to you that I do not share this indiscriminate hero worship. I admire the ability, sacrifice and patriotism of the I.N.A. and Netaji Bose. But I cannot subscribe to the method which they adopted and which is incompatible with the one followed by the Congress for the last twenty-five years for the attainment of independence.
For me the visit to the I.N.A. men in detention was a matter of pure duty. It gave me supreme satisfaction to be able to meet them, and they on their part received me with warmth of affection which I shall always treasure. I have interpreted their welcome as a token of their recognition in me of a devoted servant of the country.
Netaji was like a son to me. I came to know him as a lieutenant, full of promise under the late Deshabandhu Das. His last message to the I.N.A. was that whilst on foreign soil they had fought with arms; on their return to India, they would have to serve the country as soldiers of non-violence under the guidance and leadership of the Congress. The message which the I.N.A. has for India is not adoption of the method of appeal to arms for settling disputes (it has been tried and found wanting) but of cultivating non-violence, unity, cohesion and organization.
Though the I.N.A. failed in their immediate objective, they have a lot to their credit of which they might well be proud. Greatest among these was to gather under one-banner men from all religions and races of India and to infuse into them a spirit of solidarity and oneness to the utter exclusion of all communal or parochial sentiment. It is an example which we should all emulate. If they did this under the glamour and romance of fighting, it was not much. It must persist in peace. It is a higher and more difficult work. We have to die performing our duty and without killing.
(Taken from “Collected Works
of Mahatma Gandhi” Vol. 83 - Ahmedabad, 1981).
Nehru on the Achievements of Subhas
Some people ask me why I am now praising Subhas Bose when I had opposed him while he was in India. I want to give a frank reply to this question. Subhas Bose and I were co-workers in the struggle for freedom for 25 years. He was younger to me by two or four or perhaps more years. Our relations with each other were marked by great affection. I used to treat him as my younger brother.
The Indian National Army fought bravely for the freedom of India and large numbers of them died in that struggle. We honour them for their fight for freedom and for their sacrifices. Yet the main lesson they teach us is not only the love for the country and freedom, but discipline and organization and the unity they forged among themselves. The communal problem that troubles us so much was solved by them in their ranks. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lived together as Indians, and struggled unitedly for the common cause. We honour them for this specially and we honour their greatleader, Subhas Chandra Bose. Even when we differed from him in the past we respected him as a great fighter for India’s freedom. In recent years he showed himself a great organizer and, above all, a welder of different communities of India into a single body. The facts that have come out in the recent trial establish that he consistently resisted the Japanese encroachment on the freedom of the Provisional Government, which he had set up, and on the Indian National Army. This Government and this army were no puppets of the Japanese, but were moved by the passion for freedom. Repeatedly they declared that they would not serve Japanese imperialism. The situation then was difficult and required a careful handling. Subhas Bose and his colleagues proved themselves as able leaders in those moments of great crisis and difficulty. Therefore we have to learn from the Indian National Army how to build up our unity and how to organize and discipline ourselves.
(Taken from “Selected Works of
Jawaharlal Nehru” edited by S. Gopal/New Delhi, 1978)
Following excerpts have been taken from Dr. Subhas C. Chatterjee’s book, Subhas Chandra Bose: Man, Mission and Means published by Minerva Associates (Publication) Ltd, Calcutta, in 1989.
What type of government did Subhas Chandra contemplate for free India? Is it a democratic system or an authoritarian system or a mixture of both? Bose had no particular fancy for the so-called democratic government specially in the context of the array of the fundamental problems of India which were eating into the vitals of the whole nation and which had immobilized the progress of the country. He, it appears, was aware of the fact that the so-called democracy as it is practiced by the Western countries only believed in giving some political rights to the people without changing the economic pattern or the pattern of distribution of wealth in society. Western democracy believes in deliberations and discussions- -deliberations and discussions may stand as hindrance to the speedy implementation of policy for solving the fundamental problems for which independence is sought. Therefore, it may take countries to uplift the material condition of the masses. Democracy was to him a broad term with social, economic and political implications. He says, “While striving to attain liberty we have to note all its implications. You cannot free one half of your soul and keep the other half in bondage. You cannot establish political democracy and endeavour at the same time to resist the democratization of the society. Privileges based on birth, caste, or creed should go, and equal opportunities should be thrown open to all irrespective of caste, creed or religion. The status of woman should also be raised and women should be trained to take a larger and a more intelligent interest in public affairs.” He visualized a “social and political democracy” based on the abolition of all privileges, distinctions and vested interests so that a reign of perfect equality (social, economic and political) may be established in free India.
The Right to Work
Bose dreamt of an India where every human being must have the right to work, and the right to a living wage. Subhas Chandra spoke of a fair, just and equitable distribution of wealth. For this purpose, it might be necessary for the State to take over the control of the means of production and distribution of wealth.
It bears repetition that he was firmly of the view that mere political freedom is an illusion to the teeming millions without its social and economic contents. He says, “By freedom I mean all-round freedom i.e. freedom for the individual as well as for society; freedom for the rich as well as for the poor; freedom for man as well as woman; freedom for all individuals and for all classes. The freedom implies not only emancipation from political bondage but also equal distribution of wealth, abolition of caste barriers and social inequalities, and destruction of communalism and religious intolerance.”
Complete Social and Economic Equality
In his presidential address delivered at Amaravati, on December 1, 1929, Subhas Chandra says:
“All classes and individuals, belonging whether to the majority or to the minority community should have freedom without any discrimination. Viewed from this angle, liberty amounts to equality, and equality, as we must know, brings its fraternity.
“Before a society can be freed from its bondage women must have
equal rights with men in social as well as legal matters.
The difference in status between the rich and poor should be abolished.
Whatever practices stand in the way of social progress should with no
exception be abandoned. Every one
should be given equal opportunities for education and development.
Everywhere and in every sphere, be that social, political or economic,
each of us should have equal right, and not the slightest inequality of
property, removal of all social laws that breed inequality, abolition of the
caste system, and freeing the country from the foreign rule – these should be
the basic propositions of the society we desire to build up anew.”
Economy on Socialist
Subhas Chandra Bose was sure in his mind that the economic ills of free India could not be solved unless they were tackled on socialist lines. He was a socialist and in many speeches he wanted that the economic structure and polity of the free Government of India must be based on socialism. Thus, in the Presidential address at the All-India Trade Union Congress session in Calcutta on July 4, 1931, he says: “I have no doubt in my own mind that the salvation of India, as of the world, depends on socialism.”
In the Presideential address at the Haripura Congress, February 1938, Subhas Chandra reaffirms his faith in socialism. He says: “If after the capture of political power national re-construction takes place on socialistic lines-as I have no doubt it will, it is the ‘havenots’ who will benefit at the expense of the ‘haves’.” Again in the same speech he says: “Socialism is not an immediate problem for us-nevertheless, socialist propaganda is necessary to prepare the country for socialism when political freedom has been won.” The Haripura address is replete with the socialistic ideas of Bose. At one part of the same speech Bose says: “ I have no doubt in my mind that our chief national problems relating to the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and disease, and to scientific production and distribution can be effectively tackled only along socialistic lines. ” The Forward Bloc which was born in May, 1939, for ‘bringing about left consolidation’, also stood for ‘a thoroughly modern and socialist state.’ In an interview with R. Palme Dutt, published in the Daily Worker, London, January 24, 1938, Bose says in answer to a question, “what I really meant was that we in India wanted our national freedom, and having won it, we wanted to move in the direction of socialism.” In answer to a question put by Professor Meghnad Saha, Subhas Chandra replies: “The rising generation are now thinking in terms of socialism as the basis of national reconstruction.”
In his address to the students of Tokyo University in November 1944, Bose emphatically pursues his ideas on socialism. There he says: “We cannot leave it to private initiative to solve these national problems, especially the economic problem. If we leave it to private initiative to solve the problem of poverty and unemployment, for instance, it will probably take centuries. Therefore, public opinion in India is in favour of some sort of socialist system, in which the initiative will not be left to private individuals, but the state will take over the responsibility for solving economic questions. Whether it is a question of industrializing the country or modernizing agriculture, we want the state to step in and take over the responsibility and put through reforms within a short period, so that the Indian people could be put on their legs at a very early date.”
Bose’s socialism was a means to an end. It was a means to develop and to bring a new confidence coupled with a sense of pride and glory to Indian manhood. But it must be mentioned in this connection that Bose had no faith in any current brand of socialism. His socialism may rather be called humanitarian socialism. This view has been confirmed by Sarkar Ghosh who says: “Bose started more as a humanitarian than as a ‘scientific’ socialist, which Nehru claimed to be. For Bose, the main appeal of socialism lay in its concern for the uplift of the poor and downtrodden. This socialism does not owe allegiance to any hide-bound system of ideas, to no rigid and regimented brand of ‘ism’ that are in vogue to the modern world.”
According to Bose, socialism of free India must be built on the foundation of Indian history and culture – it must be suited to the soil, natural disposition, needs and conditions of India. Subhas Chandra says: “New ideas of socialism are nowadays traveling to India from the West, and they are revolutionizing the thoughts of many, but the idea of socialism is not a novelty in this country.. We regard it as such only because we have lost the thread of our own history. It is not proper to take any school of thought as unmistakable and absolute truth. We must not forget that the Russians, the main disciples of Karl Marx have not blindly followed his ideas; finding it difficult to apply his theories they have adopted a new economic policy consistent with possession of private property and ownership of business factories. We have therefore to shape society and politics according to our own ideals and according to our needs. This should be the aim of every Indian.
Again in his presidential speech at the All India Trade Union Congress, held in Calcutta on July 4, 1931, he says, “Various currents and cross-currents of thought sometimes make trade union workers feel bewildered as to the path or the modus operandi they should follow. There is, on the one hand the Right Wing who stands for a reformist programme above everything else. On the other side there are our Communist friends who, if I have understood them aright, are adherents and followers of Moscow. Whether we agree with the views of either group or not, we cannot fail to understand them. Between these two groups is mother group which stands for socialism – for full-blooded socialism – but which desires that India should evolve her own form of socialism as well as her own methods. To this group I humbly claim to belong.” In the same speech Bose continues: “India should be able to evolve her own methods in keeping with her own needs and her own environment. In applying any theory to practice, you can never rule out geography or history. If you attempt it, you are bound to fail. India should therefore, evolve her own form of socialism. When the whole world is engaged in socialistic experiments, why should we not do the same? It may be that the form of socialism which India will evolve will have something new and original about it which will be of benefit to the whole world. Again, Subhas Chandra while inaugurating the first Socialist School, on the lines of the summer School at Harha,, fifty miles from Lucknow, for training Congress workers in the ideology and principles of social reconstruction, said: “I consider Socialism good for humanity. When I say good, I accept the principle, but its applications in India depend on history and the psychology of other factors. For free India, however, social reconstruction must be on the socialistic lines.”
It must be remembered that Subhas Chandra wanted “some sort of socialist system” or reconstruction on ‘scientific’ socialism. Some sort of ‘socialist system’ or ‘socialistic lines’ – these terms were used by Subhas Chandra to avoid any confusion with Marxian socialism. He accepted the economic content of ‘scientific’ socialism but refused to accept order cardinal principles associated with this theory. Bose was not a Marxist; he was least interested in the underlying theories of Marxism. As a man of action imbued with the eternal and inexorable principle of Atmano Mokshartham Jagaddhitayacha and as a believer in India’s glorious heritage he looked at Marxism at the harbinger of new hopes to the masses in free India, but this Marxism is not the same as practiced by Karl Marx or Lenin-this is Indian socialism i.e. a new social order based on the synthesis of all known experiences and experiments all over the world. This synthesis has been called by Bose Samyavada.
No system according to him, was perfect-every system had its merits and demerits. As a student of philosophy he believed in the law of evolution which states that every system progresses dialectically – through thesis, antithesis and synthesis. His socialism was also a synthesis of the merits of different systems of the present day world. He preferred to think of socialism much too eclectically.
According to Bose, justice, equality, freedom, discipline and love formed the very basis of his concept of socialism. To quote Bose himself: “I am led to the conclusion that the principles that should form the basis of our collective life are justice, equality, freedom, discipline and love.
With his passion for the ideal equality and free and full development of human personality Subhas Chandra was a socialist – but not of any particular brand as we have seen earlier. His socialism was based on a synthesis between extreme materialism of the West and the extreme spiritualism of the East. It is a synthesis between the old and the new. To quote Bose himself: “We want to build up a new and modern nation on the basis of our old culture and civilization.” This synthesis is in the true spirit of Indian culture and civilization. This is Indian socialism, which, while aiming at ending all sorts of exploitation in the society, does not sacrifice the freedom of the individual to the authority of the state. ‘Man is God’ – Tattvamasi i.e. ‘You are He’ is a basic tenet of Indian philosophy. Brought up in his tradition, Bose like Swami Vivekananda, glorified human personality and sought a balanced development of its material and spiritual aspects in a free and exploitation less society.
Bose called his doctrine of equality – which formed the core of his idea of socialism – Samyuvada, a term, not coined by him, but gained currency in Indian philosophy long before him and, in fact, used by Bankim Chandra and Vivekananda among others. It is interesting to point out in this connection that both Bankim Chandra and Vivekananda had in mind an egalitarian society when they used the term. They did not develop this term further into a doctrine. But Bose developed this term into a specific doctrine. His idea of an egalitarian society is contained in his Samyavada which had its own features and purposes.
Our idea about his socialism would be clearer if we look at the plan and programme of action chalked out for the Samyavadi Sangha – the name he proposed to give to a new party which he intended to form to implement his socialist policies. Although he had no opportunity to form the party, it is easy to have an idea of his concept of socialism from the aims and objectives he set for the proposed party in his The Indian Struggle. He said that the party would stand for the interest of the masses, that is, of the peasants, workers etc., and not for the vested interests, that is, the landlords, capitalists and money-lending classes. Another important task of this party would be to abolish landlordism and introduce a uniform land tenure system for the whole of India. Further,
he writes: “It will believe in a sound system of State Planning for the re-organisation of the agricultural and industrial life of the country.” In the same programme, Bose also speaks of the complete political freedom and economic liberation of the Indian people. Having stood for both material emancipation and spiritual salvation of every individual, Bose conceived of a socialist system which, while reorganizing the society on an egalitarian basis, would fully realize the worth and importance of the individual in the true Indian tradition.
Subhas Chandra was not a Marxist. In his epoch making book “The Indian Struggle” Bose, while defining his attitude towards Marxism, says: “There are several reasons why communism will not be adopted in India. Firstly, Communism today has so sympathy with Nationalism in any form and the Indian movement is a Nationalist movement- a movement for the national liberation of the Indian people. Secondly, Russia is now on her defensive and has little interest in provoking a world revolution, the recent pacts between Russia and other capitalist countries and the written or unwritten conditions inherent in such pacts, as also her membership of the League of Nations, have seriously compromised the position of Russia as a revolutionary power. Moreover, Russia is too preoccupied in her internal industrial reorganization and in her preparations for meeting the Japanese menace on her eastern flank and is too anxious to maintain friendly relations with the great powers, to show any active interest in countries like India. Thirdly, while many of the economic ideas of Communism would make a strong appeal to Indians, there are other ideas which will have a contrary effect. Owing to the close association between the church and the state in Russian history and to the existence of an organized Church, Communism in Russia has grown to be anti-religious and atheistic. In India, on the contrary, there being no organized church among the Indians and there being no association between the church and the state, there is no feeling against religion as such. Fourthly, the materialistic interpretation of history which seems to be a cardinal point in Communist theory will not find unqualified acceptance in India, even among those who would be disposed to accept the economic contents of Communism. Fifthly, while communist theory has made certain remarkable contributions in the domain of economics (for instance the idea of state-planning), it is weak in other aspects, for instance, so far as the monetary problem is concerned; Communism has made no new contribution, but has merely followed traditional economics. Recent experiences, however, indicate that the monetary problem of the world is still far from being satisfactorily solved.
“While, therefore, it would be safe to predict that India will not become a new edition of Soviet Russia, one may say with equal strength that all the modern socio-political movements and experiments in Europe and in America will have considerable influence on India’s development. Of late, India has been taking and in future will continue to take, more and more interest in what goes on in the outside world.”
In a speech to the students of Tokyo University he further says why India should not follow Soviet Russia or communism in future. His arguments show his own distaste and distrust for communism. He says: “Firstly, class conflict is something that is quite unnecessary in India. If the Government of Free India begins to work as the organ of the masses, then there is no need for class conflict. We can solve our problems by making
the state the servant of the masses. There is another point which has been overemphasized by Soviet Russia and that is the problem of the working classes. Another point on which we do not fully agree is that, according to Marxism, too much importance is given to the economic factor in human life. We fully appreciate the importance of the economic factor which was formerly ignored, but it is not necessary to overemphasize it.
His socialism, we have remarked earlier was not of any particular brand. It was a type by itself, which was very much in keeping with India’s own needs, environment and cultural heritage.
He was sure that the problems of free India could only be eradicated by some radical reform put through ruthlessly in the socio-economic framework of the land. A so-called democracy which pampered the propertied class and which neglected the poorer sections of the community would not serve his purpose. He was fully aware that political democracy sans economic and social democracy is quite meaningless. He rightly understood that more granting of some formal rights and freedoms to the people was full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Therefore to complete democracy or to give it a more significant meaning as a way of life and not as a dogma, Subhas Chandra invested the state to be established in free India with a socialistic character. This metamorphosis of the state from one dominated by landlord aristocracy and capitalism, foreign and indigenous, to that in favour of the masses presupposes some quantum of force on the part of the Government against the ‘haves’ and stern action against the ‘haves’ is not possible in a so-called democracy of the Western model and that is why Bose invoked dictatorship as the form of Government in free India. Bose says in his Tokyo speech, “If we are to have an economic structure of a socialistic character, then it follows that the political system must be such as to be able to carry out that economic programme in the best possible way. You cannot have a so-called democratic system, if that system has to put through economic reforms on a socialistic basis. Therefore, we must have a political system – a state – of an authoritarian character.
This dictatorship as form of Government for free India was imperative only to prepare India for democracy. This dictatorship was nothing but a temporary phase. As Girja Mookerjee says: “As to the future of India, the only thing he held to be necessary was a strong Central Government during the period of transition, after which the people of India were to decide for themselves what form of Government they would like.
This dictatorship will not be akin to any of the known dictatorships to the world. As a believer in the law of Hegelian Dialectics with its consequent synthesis, he wanted a synthesis of National Socialism and communism in India. In other words it can be said this state-system or dictatorship will contain in it all the good points of both National Socialism, i.e. fascism, and communism. Bose says: “What we in India would like to have is a progressive system which will fulfill the social needs of the whole people and will be based on national sentiment. In other words, it will be a synthesis of nationalism and socialism.” According to Bose, both national socialists and communism are anti-democratic or totalitarian and anti-capitalistic in nature. Again Bose says that National Socialism values national sentiment while communism believes in socialism and planned economy. Bose’s synthesis of the two types of Government will consist of the above-mentioned principles. It is undoubtedly a dictatorship but this dictatorship is benevolent – the Government will work as the servant of the people and not as a clique of any class.
A question that has often been raised about Bose is: was he a fascist? In fact, Bose has been described by in many quarters as a fascist. Moscow’s Red star described Bose as an “Indian quisling.” In an article published in Pravda on January 7, 1946, the Soviet journalist David Zaslavsky described Bose as “the notorious would be quisling of India.” “Fascist Rogue” and “Indo-Fascist adventure.” People’s War dated 27th September, 1942 says: “who exploits the situation? None but the anti-national Forward Blocists, none but those adherents of the traitor Bose.” People’s War dated December 6, 1942, called Bose’s I.N.A. as the “fifth column legions.” Again G. Adhikari wrote in Peolple’s War dated July 18, 1943: “Hitler has sent Bose to Tojo. Tojo has made the ‘Deshagaurab’(sic) the Commander-in-Chief of a fifth column Indian Army. Bose is screeching every day over the Singapore Radio; the Indian National Army is ready to strike from without with the help of the Japs. You strike at your national defense from within and prepare for the entry of the Japs.” Again the same issue of the paper continued, “The significance of Hitler – Tojo-Bose conspiracy is clear enough. We can and must smash it in the interest of the freedom and independence of our people and that of our brother people of China.
Why has Bose been called a fascist? What are the grounds of such allegations against him? Those who call him a fascist do so without rhyme or reason. They, we are afraid, use this term about Bose as a mere catchword without caring to enquire into its theoretical implications with any seriousness. These are people who confuse theory with political strategy either unconsciously or consciously to sub serve their own political ends. It is true that Subhas Chandra in his enthusiasm to free his motherland from foreign bondage visited many countries of Europe during 1933-36. During this period Bose in fact, worked as the ambassador of the people of India in Europe.
He visited Germany and Italy during this period but the purpose of his visit was not any love or respect for any ideology of the Governments of those countries. The purpose of his visit was to win the support of those countries for the liberation of India. He visited Germany and Italy but it should be noted that there was no love or respect for the fascist leaders or for their opinion behind the mission of his visit. For the liberation of India he was ready to make friends with any country – no matter what its political philosophy was. During this period he was also impressed by the extraordinary national consciousness which Germany and Italy had created among the masses National Unity and solidarity coupled with national discipline of these countries enthralled him. These characteristics of fascism impressed him because they had special relevance to dependent and independent India. No one could gainsay that national unity and solidarity resulting from a keen sense of national consciousness and also rigid national discipline are passports to a country’s success in achieving national freedom or in accomplishing speedy socio-economic reconstruction. That is why he pleaded for a synthesis between communism and fascism in his famous work The Indian Struggle. In his address to the students of Tokyo University, November, 1944 Bose also says: “To repeat once gain our political philosophy should be synthesis between National Socialism and Communism.” This synthesis is composed of the best features of both the systems. Thus, it is neither fascism nor communism but a mixture of both clearly indicating Bose’s originality and independent thinking as opposed to a blind servility to any particular ‘ism’ or ideology.
It is also true that Subhas Chandra Bose in his ardent desire for liberating India from the foreign yoke joined hands with the fascist powers. His primary desire was to go to Russia for he firmly believed that the Soviet Union as the first Socialist Republic of the world would definitely support the national liberation movement of India with every possible help. But his attempts to go to Moscow, was not met with success. Finding no other alternative he had to go to Germany for Germany was then the sworn enemy of Great Britain and in Europe outside Russia, Germany could ably measure swords with England. If taking help from outside powers for the country’s liberation is unpatriotic then all who acted similarly in the past were also traitors. Then Garibaldi, Sun-yat-sen, Ezmon de valera and Masaryk would be accused of having acted in a wrongful way-they were all traitors or stooges in the hands of foreign powers. We all know that England being ideologically opposed to Bolshevism made alliance with Russia for strategic or –political reasons. We are here reminded of the famous words of Churchill. He says: “No one has been a more consistent opponent of communism than I have been, for the last 25 years. I will unsay no word that I have spoken. But all that fades away before the spectacle that is now unfolding. Any man or state who fights against Nazism will have our aid.. Any man or state which marches with Hitler is our foe. Churchill here as a true statesman put the national interest above any ideological consideration. As a diplomat he found Hitlerism to be against British interests and his superb diplomatic skill impelled him to enter into an alliance with the Soviet Union. He also made use of the old adage “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” which had been also used by Subhas Chandra to liberate India. If Churchill by making friendship with the Soviet Union was not a Communist then why should Bose who made alliance with the fascist powers to free India be dubbed a fascist. Stalin also made a non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939 for national interest. Did he go fascist by entering into that pact? Certainly not. Then why should Bose be called a fascist?
It is true that Bose sought help from the fascist powers but he never surrendered his independent spirit nor the good of India to them. Dr. Krasa says that it was impossible for a progressive man like Subhas Chandra Bose to be a fascist. In his book Tiger and Schakal, Reimund Schnabel also maintains the same view. He says: “The assumption is also justified that he viewed the Nazi ideology skeptically and was no stooges of Hitler or Mussolini. Bose believed in functioning in accordance with political realism. This has also been confirmed by Paul Loverkuchn. He says: “Bose was in no way a collaborator in the evil sense which the word has acquired of recent years, rather he was a true Indian patriot with but one idea, who was prepared to do nothing simply for Germany’s sake, but anything and everything, including the harnessing of German interests, for India. This has also been c9orroborated by Girija Mookerjee. He says: “He strongly believed that the foreign affairs of a country should not be conducted on an ideological basis for no country worth the name sticks to such principles when its vital interests are involved.
Bose had no respect for fascism. His repeated use of the term ‘Nazi hordes’ clearly shows his disdain for Nazism. Bose’s attitude towards fascism has been best stated in one of his letters written to Dr. Thierfedar, Director of the Indian Institute, Munich, Germany in March, 1936. There he writes: “When I first visited Germany in 1933, I had hopes that the new German nation which had risen to a consciousness of its national strength and self-respect, would instinctively feel a deep sympathy for other nations struggling in the same direction. Today I regret that I have to return to India with the conviction that the new nationalism of Germany is not only narrow and selfish but arrogant. The new Racial philosophy which has a very weak scientific foundation, stands for the glorification of the white races in general and the German race in particular. It therefore pains us that the new nationalism in Germany is inspired by selfishness and racial arrogance. This letter evidently shows his dislike for fascism.
Fascism glorifies the state. Its motto is, “Nothing outside or above the state, nothing against the state, everything within the state, everything for the state. It openly worships the state as a permanent instrument of realizing the people’s destiny.”
Subhas Chandra does not glorify the state, to him, the state is a means to an end-that is to promote the welfare of the people. The state exists for the individuals-therefore; it will work as the servant of the masses. Secondly, fascism professes imperialism. But Subhas Chandra was against imperialism. His nationalism is bereft of self-aggrandizement and imperialism. In his presidential address at Haripura Congress he says: “Ours is a struggle not only against British Imperialism but against world imperialism as well, of which the former is the key-stone. We are, therefore, fighting not for the cause of India alone but of humanity as well.
Bose was out and out an internationalist. He found no conflict between nationalism and internationalism. Subhas, it has been said earlier, was in favour of an international order based on freedom, justice and reciprocity. Bose supported the establishment of a regional order for according to him “the method of setting up a regional order is the only way in which a world order can gradually be built up.”
Moreover, we have seen that fascism stands for capitalism and big private property. “It does not purport to abolish the existing ruling classes, militarists, industrialists or bureaucrats. It secures their alliance, and in return it gives them power and wealth.” Subhas Chandra Bose was in favour of radical change in the economic structure of society. He was against capitalism. He was in favour of socialism in the economic sphere.
Therefore, it is fairly obvious from the foregoing analysis that Subhas
Chandra Bose whether judged from practical or theoretical angles was not a
fascist but a statesman of wide experience who put national interest above
everything else for the liberation of his country.
Following excerpts have been taken from the book “Subhas Chandra Bose: Pioneer of Indian Planning” published by the Planning Commission, New Delhi in 1997,the birth centenary year of Netaji.
In the Foreword, the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Madhu Dandavate wrote:
The blueprint for Free India outlined by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in his presidential address at the Haripura session of the Indian National Congress in February 1938, envisaged that the first task of the Government of Free India would be to set up a ‘National Planning Commission’. He foresaw India’s freedom and in order to accelerate the task of national reconstruction and fight against poverty, he spent the better part of his tenure as the Congress President in 1938, in paving the way for setting up the National Planning Committee under the aegis of the Indian National Congress.
Having talked of importance of National Planning at Haripura in February, 1938, Netaji ensured before the year was out, that the ‘National Planning Committee’ was inaugurated by him on December 17, 1938. Netaji appointed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the first Chairman of this Committee. This National Planning Committee later was succeeded by the Advisory Planning Board set up by the Interim Government in 1946. Subsequently in Free India, the Planning Commission, as it is known today, was constituted in 1952.
When I joined as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, I recollected Netaji’s writing on National Planning and realized that much of what he had advocated was still to be translated into reality. He had talked of a strong Central Government backed up by meaningful Regional Authority. ‘While unifying the country through a strong Central Government, we shall put all minority communities as well as Provinces at their ease by allowing them a large measure of autonomy’, Netaji had said in his Haripura address.
In his address to the students of Tokyo University in November 1944, Netaji said, “If you are to understand Modern India, you have to take note of three important factors. The first factor is the ancient background, that is, the ancient culture and civilization of India, of which the Indian people of today are conscious, and of which they feel proud. The second factor is the struggle, which has gone on without any break or interruption since we were finally overpowered by the British. The third factor consists of certain influences which have come into India from outside. Since 1857, modern liberal and democratic thought has been influencing the intellectuals of India to a large extent.” Netaji, referring to the success of the people of Japan over Russia in 1904-1905 and the new awakening in China under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, said that the Indian revolutionaries have been exceedingly receptive to the influences exerted by the revolutionaries abroad.
Outlining his plan for free India, Netaji advocated ‘a very big programme of industrialisation’. He further said, ‘The next problem in the degree of importance will be that of poverty and unemployment. The third problem in Free India will be education’, Netaji said and added ‘If we are to solve these three important problems, how are we going to do it? Shall we leave it to private agency and private initiative or will the State take up the responsibilities in solving these problems?’ Here again, in far away Tokyo, in the midst of the Second World War in November 1944, Netaji emphasized the importance of National Planning.
The efforts to strengthen secularism has been an ongoing process, In his Tokyo speech Netaji had addressed himself to the problem of multiplicity of religions in India and said ‘The Government of Free India must have an absolutely neutral and impartial attitude towards all religions and leave it to the choice of every individual to follow his particular religious faith.’
At a time when we are passing through a turmoil on the question of morality in public life, we may recall the words of Netaji. ‘There may be people who doubt whether a nation can rise to a high moral level, whether a nation can be farsighted and unselfish and undertake the work of establishing a new order. I have every faith in mankind. If it is possible for one individual to be unselfish, to live one’s life at a high moral level, I see no reason why an entire nation cannot also rise to that level. This is a task not only for the leaders and the politicians, but also for the whole nation especially for those who are the hopes of the nation – youth and the students’. Netaji had told the gathering at the Tokyo University.
Through this Commemorative Volume, we, in the Planning Commission, offer our humble tribute to the man whose initiative and pioneering work has laid the foundations of our Yojana Bhavan. On the occasion of the birth centenary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, let us resolve to strengthen the decentralized planning process as an instrument of fulfilling the human, social and economic aspirations of the people.
This volume unmistakably reveals that in the field of planning, Netaji was not only a pacesetter but a pathfinder as well.
The “Introduction” provides the historical background to the idea of planning as it related to Netaji.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose became President of the Indian National Congress at a time when industrialisation of India was uppermost in the minds of most national leaders. What shape would industrialization take in India was the question. Some advocated emphasis on cottage industry while others, looking at the power of the industrialised West, were votaries of large-scale industrialisation. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had been an advocate of scientific thinking and had promoted the concept of “think-tanks” functioning within the Indian National Congress and formulating strategy for the future of India right from his days as a student, in 1921. Under his leadership, therefore, the concept of National Planning received the right direction. The Planning Commission, as it exists today, is an offspring of the efforts of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who entrusted the task of heading the first body called the National Planning Committee, which was inaugurated on December 17, 1938 in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) to his colleague in the national movement, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Netaji outlined his concept of National Planning in his address delivered at the Industries Ministers’ Conference in Delhi on October 2, 1938. Prior to this, in May 1938, he had convened in Bombay a conference of the Premiers of seven Congress Provinces. Netaji went ahead with the formation of the National Planning Committee which he inaugurated in Bombay on December 17, 1938.
Netaji took a deliberate decision to appoint Jawaharlal Nehru as the
Chairman of National Planning Committee. Offering
chairmanship to Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter dated October 19, 1938, Netaji
wrote: “I hope you will accept the Chairmanship of the Planning Committee.
You must if it is to be a success”.
As the Congress President and the architect of the idea of National
Planning, Netaji could have assumed the historic role of being the first
Chairman himself. But he knew that
for planning to be a success, consensus was a must.
The period of history in which he headed the Indian National Congress was
marked by sharp ideological contradictions within the national movement.
Thus, in order to take everyone along and to ensure that the seeds of
planning and industrialisation in India were sown on fertile soil, Netaji
resisted the arid idea of himself dominating the first National Planning
Committee though the formation of the Committee was made possible primarily
because of the accelerated efforts undertaken by him as the Congress President.
Planning: Free India’s
Netaji’s desire was that when a government was formed in Free India, planning should receive the top-most priority. The formation of National Planning Committee in 1938 was the first step towards achieving this objective. On the eve of Independence, in October 1946, an Advisory Planning Board was set up at the national level by the Interim Government, which in turn paved the way for the formation of the Planning Commission in 1952.
Netaji, in his presidential address at the 51st session of the Indian National Congress held at Haripura in February 1938, said: “The very first thing which our future National Government will have to do would be to set up a Commission for drawing up a comprehensive plan of reconstruction. This plan will have two parts – an immediate programme and a long period programme. In drawing up the first part, the immediate objectives which have to be kept in view will be three-fold – first, to prepare the country for self-sacrifice; secondly to unify India; and thirdly to give scope for local and cultural autonomy”.
Referring to unity of India vis-à-vis scope for local and cultural
autonomy, Netaji had said in his Haripura address: “These objectives may
appear to be contradictory, but they are not really so.
Whatever political talent or genius we may possess as a people, will have
to be used in reconciling these two objectives.
While unifying the country through a strong Central Government, we shall
have to put all minority communities as well as Provinces at their ease by
allowing them large measure of autonomy in cultural as well as governmental
In an interview with the famous Scientist, Prof. Meghnad Saha, on August 21, 1938 Netaji elaborated on the problems of national reconstruction. He said, “The problem we have to face is not industrial recovery, however, but industrialisation. India is still in the pre-industrial stage of evolution. No industrial advancement is possible, until we pass through the throes of an industrial revolution. We can at first determine whether this revolution, that is industrialisation, will be comparatively a gradual one, as in Great Britain, or a forced march, as in Soviet Russia”.
Netaji asserted in his interview to Prof. Meghnad Saha, “I have no
doubt that when we have a National Government for the whole country, one of the
first things we shall have to do is to appoint a National Planning
Fight Against Poverty
Before the advent of the Netaji era, the Congress Working Committee had only been talking of an industrial plan. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose introduced the concept of poverty and unemployment, national security and national reconstruction along with need for rapid industrialisation into the concept of National Planning.
Excerpts from Netaji’s Speech as the Congress President at the Haripura Conference in February 1938:
Plan of Reconstruction
Though it may be somewhat premature to give a detailed plan of
reconstruction, we might as well consider some of the principles according to
which our future social reconstruction should take place.
I have no doubt in my mind that our chief national problems relating to
the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and disease and to scientific production
and distribution can be effectively tackled only along socialistic lines.
The very first thing which our future national government will have to
do, would be to set up a commission for drawing up a comprehensive plan of
reconstruction. This plan will have
two parts – an immediate programme and a long-period programme.
In drawing up the first part, the immediate objectives which will have to
be kept in view will be three-fold – first, to prepare the country for
self-sacrifice; secondly, to unify India; and thirdly, to give scope for local
and cultural autonomy. The second
and third objectives may appear to be contradictory, but they are not really so. Whatever political talent or genius we may possess as a
people, will have to be used in reconciling these two objectives.
We shall have to unify the country so that we may be able to hold India
against any foreign invasion. While
unifying the country through a strong central government, we shall have to put
all the minority communities as well as the provinces at their ease, by allowing
them a large measure of autonomy in cultural as well as governmental affairs.
Special efforts will be needed to keep our people together when the load
of foreign domination is removed, because alien rule has demoralized and
disorganized us to a degree. To promote national unity we shall have to develop
our lingua franca and a common script. Further,
with the help of such modern scientific contrivances as aeroplanes, telephone,
radio, films, television etc. we shall have to bring the different parts of
India closer to one another and through a common educational policy we shall
have to foster a common spirit among the entire population.
Long-term Programme for Free India
With regard to the long-period programme for a Free India, the first problem to tackle is that of our increasing population. I do not desire to go into the theoretical question as to whether India is over-populated or not. I simply want to point out that where poverty, starvation and disease are stalking the land, we cannot afford to have our population mounting up by thirty million during a single decade. If the population goes up by the leaps and bounds, as it has done in the recent past, our plans are likely to fall through. It will, therefore, be desirable to restrict our population until we are able to feed, clothe and educate those who already exist. It is not necessary at this stage to prescribe the methods that should be adopted to prevent a further increase in population, but I would urge that public attention be drawn to this question.
Regarding reconstruction, our principal problem will be how to eradicate poverty from our country. That will require a radical reform of our land system, including the abolition of landlordism. Agricultural indebtedness will have to be liquidated and provision made for cheap credit for the rural population. An extension of the co-operative movement will be necessary for the benefit of both producers and consumers. Agriculture will have to be put on a scientific basis with a view to increasing the yield from the land.
To solve the economic problem agricultural improvement will not be enough. A comprehensive scheme of industrial development under state-ownerships and state-control will be indispensable. A new industrial system will have to be built up in a place of the old one which has collapsed as a result of mass production abroad and alien rule at home. The Planning Commission will have to carefully consider and decide which of the home industries could be revived despite the competition of modern factories and in which sphere large-scale production should be encouraged. However much we may dislike modern industrialism and condemn the evils which follow in its trail, we cannot go back to the pre-industrial era, even if we desire to do so. It is well, therefore, that we should reconcile ourselves to industrialization and devise means to minimize its evils and at the same time explore the possibilities of reviving cottage industries where there is a possibility of their surviving the inevitable competition of factories. In a country like India, there will be plenty of room for cottage industries, especially in the case of industries including hand spinning and hand-weaving allied to agriculture.
Last but not the least, the state on the advice of a Planning Commission,
will have to adopt a comprehensive scheme for gradually socializing our entire
agricultural and industrial system in the sphere of both production and
appropriation. Extra capital will
have to be procured for this, either through internal or external loans or
Excerpts from the Address to the Bombay (Mumbai) Corporation, May 10, 1938:
I remember that during the few years that I had the occasion to spend in Europe, one of the most striking things which came to my notice was the achievement of the Socialist Municipality of Vienna. I believe nobody, no matter to what nationality he belonged, who had occasion to see some of the achievements of that Municipality went back without a conviction that here was an achievement of much importance and significance to all those human beings who were interested in civic welfare. The Vienna Municipality, in the course of twelve years, provided housing accommodation for at least 2,00,000 persons and this arrangement for housing 2,00,000 persons was made without any additional taxation and without any loans. The entire charge was met from revenue and that revenue was collected by taxing amusements. We know that amusements are taxed in this country also but unfortunately the cities do not have the benefit of that taxation. What impressed me most, therefore, was the fact that so much could be achieved in one city without any additional taxation and without loans. That is why I was stressing the point that if you could achieve something in one city, that would have significance for the whole world.
Now, Sir, the city of Bombay has a splendid situation surrounded by the sea. It is situated in the midst of fine natural scenery and the streets and buildings of Bombay-at least the better and richer parts of Bombay-can compare favourably with any city in this world; but that is only one side of the picture. We cannot forget the poverty which we have in this city and the slums in which our poorer countrymen have to live. We have, therefore, to address ourselves to the task, of looking after the poorer and less fortunate sections of our countrymen. One of the greatest sons of India, Deshbandhu C.R.Das, once said that the ideal of civic bodies should be to make them poor men’s Corporations and in his first speech as the Mayor of Calcutta, he laid down a programme of service to the poor. That programme was in many ways an ideal programme and has afforded an inspiration to the corporation of Calcutta and indirectly to other civic bodies as well. I think we have yet to travel a long way before we can honestly claim that our civic bodies are in reality poor men’s Corporations. There is a great deal of work to be done but what is needed most is inspiration, zeal and passion to serve the poor. It is that zeal, that passion which is the motive power that will enable us to travel along the path of service and to convert our cities into poor men’s Corporations, Sir, here in Bombay you have achieved much, specially in the field of primary education. Your achievements in the sphere of education as also in other spheres have been of immense benefit to the citizens of Bombay and afforded an inspiration to others who have been entrusted with civic government elsewhere. I do hope that you will not rest content with what you have already done but that you will move with the times and travel fast in the direction of making your Municipal Corporation an ideal one.
Civic progress all over the world is moving in the direction of what may be called Municilpal Socialism. ‘Socialism’ is a word which is sometimes a bogey to many, but I believe if we analyse and try to understand what socialism really stands for, and particularly what Municipal Socialism stands for, we shall have no reason to fight shy of it. Consciously or unconsciously we have been moving in the direction of Municipal Socialism. Today every modern municipality has taken upon its shoulders immense duties which were unthinkable twenty or thirty years ago. The sphere of these social duties and responsibilities is, we may well say, fast expanding from day to day. Today a modern municipality has to furnish not merely pure drinking water, roads, lighting etc. but it has to provide primary education and it has to look after the health of the population and to tackle problems which the municipalities did not think of a few years ago. It is difficult to say where you are going to draw a line in future. You have in the case of the Birmingham Municipality a Municipal Bank and there are other municipalities in the West which have taken upon their shoulders duties and responsibilities which were unheard of and unthinkable a few decades ago. That is why I say that we have been moving consciously or unconsciously in the direction of Municipal Socialism. Municipal Socialism is nothing else but a collective effort for the service of the entire community. With this ideal before us, if we address ourselves to the task that awaits us and fulfill our duties in the most satisfactory manner, we shall be serving not merely the cause of our cities but the cause of humanity as well. We, who are interested in civic affairs, must take lessons not merely from the achievements of our own municipalities but we travel abroad, in Europe and America and also in the Far East, read literature and collect information about municipal problems there, so that we may work more efficiently and satisfactorily in our own cities. That is why I have stressed the point that your achievements here in Bombay are not only for your own fellow citizens but have a much wider significance.
Apart from the opportunities which we get by joining civic bodies-opportunities of civic service-there is another positive gain which we can derive out of our association with them and that is this; our work in connection with these bodies equips us for the larger duties in public life. I think it was Bryce, one of the foremost political thinkers of England, who said that the real school of democracy is local self-government. Professor Laski and others have sung in the same tune.
One word more and I have done. We
are frequently told by foreigners that municipal development, like other
attempts at social progress in this country, have been the result of our contact
with the West and that before we came into intimate touch with Europe in the 18th
and 19th centuries, very little had been achieved in the direction of
civic progress. Sir, I should like
to take this opportunity of giving the lie direct to this charge.
In the sphere of municipal progress we are not creating something out of
nothing, but we are building on ancient foundations.
As in the sphere of village self-government we are building on very
ancient foundations, so also in the sphere of local self-government we are doing
the same. One has only to turn to
the ancient relics of Mohenjodaro to realise what a high degree of civic
achievement our forefathers in this ancient land could boast of. And after the age of Mohenjodaro if you come to the Mauryan
empire and study the records and descriptions of the capital of the empire,
viz., Pataliputra was not only a highly developed city but also the municipal
government of that city had varied functions, functions that can compare very
favourably with those of any modern municipality. For words like Mayor and other modern municipal terms you
will find synonyms in our ancient language which were then in vogue.
Then came what may be called the Dark Age in Indian history.
During this Dark Age there was a set-back not only in Municipal progress
but in other departments of national life as well.
But because of the Dark Age one should not conclude that prior to that,
we had not achieved any progress in civic affairs.
It is necessary to remind our countrymen about this, because
unfortunately as a result of our age-long servitude we have to a large extent
forgotten our own past. It is only
on account of the researches, past and present, made by our own scholars and
historians that have unraveled to us our own forgotten past, that we can now
realise what progress our forefathers had once made in the domain of civic
affairs. Therefore, we can claim
that in the matter of civic progress we are building on ancient foundations.
That I think will give us inspiration in addressing ourselves to the
problems of the present and of the future.
Science and Politics
Answers to Questions posed by Prof. Meghnad Saha.
The Indian Science News Association invited Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the then President of the Congress, to preside over the third general meeting of the Association on August 21, 1938. Professor Meghnad Saha put certain questions to Netaji at the meeting. Here are the relevant proceedings:
Question. May I enquire whether the India of the future is going to revive the philosophy of village life, of the bullock-cart-thereby perpetuating servitude, or is she going to be a modern industrialised nation which, having developed all her natural resources, will solve the problems of poverty, ignorance and defence and will take an honoured place in the comity of nations and begin a new cycle in civilisation?
If the Congress High Command decides on a policy of industrialization,
are they going to set up a rationalised scheme of industrialisation and
establish a National Research Council and mobilise the scientific intelligentsia
of the country? I put the question
because the Congress has come into power in several provinces and because there
is a great confusion of ideas regarding the future industrialisation of India.
Answer: The movement of Indian emancipation has reached a stage when Swaraj is no longer a dream no longer an ideal to be attained in the distant future. On the contrary, we are within sight of power seven out of eleven provinces of British India are now under Congress ministries. Limited though the powers of those governments are, they have yet
to handle the problems of reconstruction within their respective domains. How are we to solve these problems? We want, first and foremost, the aid of science in this task.
May I now with your permission, place before you some of my ideas on the
problems of national reconstruction? We
hear very often nowadays of schemes for bringing about industrial recovery in
this land. An officer in this
province recently wrote a voluminous book on a recovery plan for Bengal.
The problem we have to face is not industrial recovery, however, but
Process of Industrialisation
Though I do not rule out cottage industries and though I hold that every attempt should be made to preserve and also revive cottage industries wherever possible. I maintain that economic planning for India should mean largely planning for the industrialisation of India. And industrialisation, as you will all agree, does not mean the promotion of industries for manufacturing umbrella-handles and bell-metal plates, as Sir John Anderson would have us believe.
I gradually recognise the fact that your magazine ‘Science and
Culture’ has helped to direct intelligent thoughts in this country towards the
problems of industrialisation.
The articles published periodically on Electric Power Supply, Flood-control, River-physics, need for establishing a National Research Council, etc., have been highly illuminating and instructive.
I should now like to make a few observations on the principles of national planning:
(1) Though from the industrial point of view the world is one unit, we should nevertheless aim at national autonomy, especially in the field of our principal needs and requirements.
(2) We should adopt a policy aiming at the growth and development of the mother industries, viz., power supply, metal production, machine and tools manufacture, manufacture of essential chemical, transport and communication industries, etc.
(3) We should also tackle the problem of technical education and technical research. So far as technical education is concerned, as in the case of Japanese students, our students should be sent abroad for training in accordance with a clear and definite plan so that as soon as they return home, they may proceed straightaway to build up new industries.
So far as technical research is concerned we shall all agree that it should be free from governmental control of every kind. It is only in this unfortunate country that government servants are entrusted with scientific research on receipt of princely salaries and we know very well what results have been obtained therefrom.
(4) There should be a permanent National Research Council.
(5) Lastly, as a preliminary step towards national planning, there should be an economic survey of the present industrial position with a view to securing the necessary data for the National Planning Commission.
These are, in brief, some of my ideas on the problems of industrialization and national reconstruction and I believe they are held in common by scientific men and women in this country. We, who are practical politicians, need your help, who are scientists, in the shape of ideas. We can, in our turn, help to propagate these ideas and when the citadel of power is finally captured, can help to translate these ideas into reality. What is wanted is far reaching co-operation between science and politics.
Professor Saha has in the course of his illuminating address, asked me what the attitude of the Congress is towards the problems of industrialisation. I must say that all Congressmen do not hold the same view on this question. Nevertheless, I may say without any exaggeration that the rising generation is in favour of industrialisation and for several reasons. Firstly, industrialisation is necessary for solving the problem of unemployment. Though scientific agriculture will increase the production of the land, if food is to be given to every man and women, a good portion of the population will have to be transferred from land to industry. Secondly, the rising generation is now thinking in terms of Socialism as the basis of national reconstruction and Socialism presupposes industrialisation. Thirdly, industrialisation is necessary if we have to compete with foreign industries.
Lastly, industrialisation is necessary for improving the standard of living of the people at large
Problem of Indian Unity
Professor Saha has asked another question, viz., whether India will
be one nation when she is freed from British control.
To this I may reply that we of the Congress are conscious of our
responsibility in matter of achieving Indian unity and solidarity.
We want to go not the way of China, but the way of Turkey.
But we shall have to work very hard indeed, if we want to hold together
as one nation when we are free. For
promoting national unity and solidarity, many things are needed, viz., a common
lingua franca, a common dress, a common diet, etc.
The Congress, as you are aware, has been advocating Hindustani as the
lingua franca of this country. But
I believe that what is wanted most of all is the will to be one nation and to
hold together as one nation, when foreign domination ceases.
Thus, to my mind, the problem of unity is largely a psychological
problem. The people must be
educated and drilled to feel that they are one nation.
Other factors, like language,
dress, food etc., may help unity, but cannot create it, in addition to this
national will, what is needed for maintaining national unity and solidarity is
an all-India party. That party is
Excerpts from Netaji’s speech delivered at the Industries Ministers’ Conference in Delhi on the 2nd October, 1938.
It is needless for me to point out that with the problems of poverty and unemployment looming so large in our national life today, the question of utilizing all our resources to the best advantage of the nation has assumed enormous importance. It is essential to improve the miserable lot of our peasantry and to raise the general standard of living. This cannot be achieved merely by the improvement of agriculture. Greater efficiency in agricultural methods, which is certainly desirable, may give us more and cheaper food and other necessities of life obtained from agriculture, but it will not solve the problem of poverty and unemployment. This may appear paradoxical but a little consideration will show that great efficiency means that the same production in agriculture can be effected by less than the present number of agriculturists. In that eventuality the present situation of unemployment may become worse as a result of scientific agriculture.
How then shall we
tackle this formidable problem? It
is our aim to see that everybody – man, woman and child, is better clothed,
better educated and has sufficient leisure for recreation and for cultural
activity. If this aim is to be
realized the quantity of industrial products has to be increased considerably;
necessary works have to be organised and a large proportion of village
population has to be diverted to industrial occupations.
India is a country with resources similar to those of the United States of America. Her mineral wealth and other natural resources are superabundant. What is wanted is their systematic and organized exploitation by us in the best interest of the nation. Every country in the world that has grown rich and prosperous has done so through the fullest development of its industries. I shall here cite the example of only one country, Before the Great War, Russia was no better than India. She was mainly an agricultural country and nearly 70 per cent of the population was peasants, almost as miserable and wretched
as our peasants today. Industries were in a backward state, power was undeveloped and was considered a luxury. She was without knowledge of her power resources, without experts and technicians. But within the last sixteen years she passed from a community of primarily half-starved peasants to one of primarily well-fed and well-clothed industrial workers. She has achieved a considerable measure of success in her efforts to solve the problem of poverty, disease and famine which perpetually haunted her peasant population before the Revolution. This has been largely due to planned industrialisation of the whole country which pre-supposed a scheme of planned electrification. This marvelous progress in Russia in a very short period deserves our careful study and attention, irrespective of the political theories on which this State is based. I have quoted the example of Russia merely because of the resemblance which the pre-war conditions there bear to those in our country and to show how far a scheme of planned industrialization can take us on the path to all-round prosperity.
We Congressmen of today have not only to strive for liberty but have also to devote a portion of our thought and energy to problems of national reconstruction, considering that we are within sight of power and Swaraj is no longer a dream to be realized in the distant future. National re-construction will be possible only with the aid of science and our scientists. There is at the present day a lot of loose talk about schemes for bringing about industrial recovery in this land. To my mind the principal problem that we have to face is not industrial recovery but industrialization. India is still in the pre-industrial stage of evolution. No industrial advancement is possible until we pass through the throes of an industrial revolution. If the industrial revolution is an evil, it is a necessary evil. We can only try our best to mitigate the ills that have attended its advent in other countries. Furthermore, we have to determine whether this revolution will be a comparatively gradual one, as in Great Britain, or a forced march as in Soviet Russia. I am afraid that it has to be a forced march in this country, in the world, as it is constituted today, a community which resists industrialization has little chance of surviving international competition.
The Role of Cottage Industries
At this stage I should like to make it perfectly clear that there need not be a conflict between cottage industries and large-scale industries. Such conflict, if any, arises out of misunderstanding. I am a firm believer in the need of developing our cottage industries, though I also hold that we have to reconcile ourselves to industrialization. We find that in the most industrially advanced countries of Europe a large number of cottage industries still exist and thrive, In our country we know of cottage industries – like the handloom industry for instance – which have withstood competition with Indian and foreign mills and have not lost ground. Industrialisation does not therefore mean that we turn our back on cottage industries. Far from it. It only means that we shall have to decide which industries should be developed on a cottage basis and which on a large-scale basis. In the peculiar national economy which exists in India today, and in view of the limited resources of our people, we should do our very best to develop cottage, industries, side by side with large-scale industries.
Industries may be roughly classified under three heads – heavy, medium
and cottage industries. Heavy
industries at the present time are no doubt the greatest value for the rapid
economic development of the country. They
form the backbone of our national economy.
We cannot unfortunately make much headway in this direction until we
capture power at the Centre and secure full control of our fiscal policy. The medium-scale industries can be started by business
leaders with Government co-operation and help.
As regards cottage industries, I have already observed that there need
not be any conflict between their development and that of large-scale industries.
Challenges of National Planning
I shall now draw our attention to some of the problems which you may have to consider at this conference:
Arrangement for a proper economic survey of each province.
(2) Co-ordination between cottage industries and large scale industries with a view to preventing overlapping.
The advisability of having regional distribution of industries.
Rules regarding technical training in India and abroad for our student
Provisions for technical research
(6) Advisibility of adopting a committee of experts to give further advice on the
problems of industrialization.
If these problems could be tackled at this conference, I am sure that our purpose in meeting here this afternoon would be fulfilled. As I have indicated at the outset, we have to go into the question of the existing industries in the different provinces and the needs and possibilities of new ones. We can fulfill this task only if we tackle a variety of problems some of which I have indicated above.
In conclusion, I express the ardent hope that through your help and
co-operation the conference may prove to be a success and may afford a powerful
impetus to the industrial regeneration of our poor and exploited country.
National Planning Committee
Excerpts from the inauguration speech of Netaji at the first meeting of the All India National Planning Committee in Bombay on December 17, 1938.
During the last few weeks, I have noticed an apprehension in certain quarters as to the possible effects of our efforts to industrial planning on the movement that has been going on since 1921 for the production of Khadi and the promotion of cottage industries under the auspices of the All India Spinners Association and the All-India Village Industries Association respectively. It may be remembered that at Delhi I made it perfectly clear in my opening speech that there was no inherent conflict between cottage industries and large-scale industries. As a matter of fact, I divided industries into three classes; cottage, medium-scale and large-scale industries and I pleaded for a plan which would lay down the scope of each of these classes. Not only that, in the National Planning Committee we have reserved a seat for a representative of the All-India Village Industries Association. It would be doing us a grave injustice if it be urged or even apprehended that the promoters of the National Planning Committee want to sabotage the movement for the revival of cottage industries.
Everybody knows or should know that even in the most industrially advanced countries in Europe and Asia, e.g., Germany and Japan, there are plenty of cottage industries which are in flourishing condition. Why then should we have any apprehension with regard to our own country?
I may now add a few remarks on the relation between cottage
industries and large-scale industries. Among
large-scale industries, mother industries are the most important, because they
aim at producing the means of production. They
put into the hands of artisans necessary appliances and tools for facilitating
quicker and cheaper production. For
example, if in the city of Benares we could supply electrically driven looms
along with electrical power at the rate of half-anna per unit, it would be
possible for the artisans working in their own homes to turn out sarees and
embroidered cloth of different varieties at about five or six times the present
rate of production and it would enable them to compete successfully with foreign
imported goods of this description. With
a good marketing organization and an organization for the supply of raw
materials, these artisans can be rescued from the depths of poverty and misery
to which they have fallen.
This is not the only instance which I can give, if the power industry and the machinery manufacturing industries are controlled by the State for the welfare of the nation, a large number of light industries like the manufacture of bicycles, fountain pens and toys can be started in this country by men of the artisan class working with the family as a unit. This is exactly what has been done in Japan. Success depends entirely upon the fact that power and machinery are extremely cheap and the Japanese government have set up boards for the supply of raw materials and for proper marketing. I believe that this is the only way by means of which the handloom industry and the silk industry of our country can be revived.
The National Planning Committee will have to tackle specific problems. It will have first to direct its attention to the mother industries, i.e., those industries which make the other industries run successfully-such as the power industry, industries for the production of metals, heavy chemicals, machinery and tools, and communication industries like railway, telegraph, telephone and radio.
Our country is backward in respect of power supply compared with
other industrially advanced countries, in the matter of electrical power
particularly India’s backwardness can be gauged from the fact that while in
India we have at present only seven units per head, a backward country like
Mexico has ninety-six units per head and Japan about five hundred units per
head. In developing electrical
power, the government has squandered money; take the instance of the Mandi
Hydro-Electric Scheme on which the government has spent ten times as much as
other countries have done on similar efforts.
Now I wish an enquiry could be made into the manufacture of machinery and
machine tools with a view to keeping up supplies in the event of interruption of
communications with foreign countries owing to war or any other causes.
The other key industries into which an inquiry should be started are the
fuel industry, the metal production and heavy chemical industries.
In this respect the resources of the country have not been properly
investigated and, whatever little industry there is, is being controlled by
foreigners, with the result that there is a lot of wastage.
This is particularly true of the fuel industry.
The last key industry is the transport and communications industry which includes railways, steamships, electrical communications, radio, etc. At present the railways are controlled by the Railway Board, which is entirely under European management and only a small fraction of the requirements of the railways is manufactured in the country. As regards steam navigation, excepting coastal traffic, the entire communication is in the hands of non-Indians owing to unfair privileges enjoyed by them. Electrical goods are entirely supplied by foreign countries. As regards radio, I would like to suggest the setting up of a special sub-committee to investigate its possibilities.
Lastly we will have to consider the most important problem of finding the necessary capital and credit for our plan industrialization. Unless this problem is solved, all our plans will remain mere paper schemes and we shall not make any headway in our industrial progress.