The Flaming Sword

Ideological Evolution of Subhas Bose

I Mallikarjuna Sharma

Unlike his once like-minded colleague but later a close rival in the Indian National Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bose grew up amidst, or was influenced by, a deeply Hindu religious atmosphere in his childhood. This albeit the fact that his primary education was in an English medium Protestant European School at Cuttack, run mainly for European and Anglo-Indian children, which gloried more in its cultivation of European and Christian morals and manners than in its teaching of curricular studies. Or was it perhaps because of it? One find him very sensitive and emotional from early childhood and, what is more, given to a sort of somewhat anguished self-analysis of his own self. When he could not fare well in sports and boxing bouts with the European and Anglo-Indian guys in the School, which he found his uncles and other senior or same aged co-pupils could do, he was almost down with a bout of self-chastisement. One finds him describing himself as an introvert–a too much of that–and so cherishing a poor opinion of himself. However, he says his days, as of his other colleagues, in that school were happy and in giving more emphasis for sports, morals and manners than bookish studies that English Convent gave him the right start in early childhood. But he was able to overcome this feeling of inferiority which strongly haunted him in that School only when he found himself performing well in another, a vernacular, school which gave more emphasis to curricular studies. But there also he was first humiliated and felt himself small for his utter ignorance of his own mother-tongue; however, he took pains to learn and excel in speaking and writing Bengali quickly. And that created a self-confidence in him which "till then had been lacking and which is the sine qua non of all success in life."

The highly sentimental and emotional nature of Bose is evident from the strong attachment he developed towards the Head Master of his new School, Babu Beni Madhav Das. This writer had the fortune to interview a great woman revolutionary of Bengal, Mrs Bina Das, the daughter of this self-same Beni Madhav Das, who fondly recollected that her father was the beloved teacher of Netaji. But that was perhaps an understatement. Netaji himself says: "Of the teachers there was one who left a permanent impression on my youthful mind. That was our head master, Babu Beni Madhav Das. The very first day I saw him taking rounds–and I was just over twelve–I felt what 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 here was a man who was not an ordinary teacher, who stood apart from, and above, the rest of his tribe. And I secretly said to myself that if I wanted an ideal for my life, it should be to emulate him." This long quotation is to reveal the highly emotional and impressionistic nature of Bose at that early childhood, which was a bit peculiar from the run of the ordinary children. So it would not be surprising to know that Bose virtually broke down and wept when it came to parting with his beloved head master and was surprised to find that many or most other students did not feel or do so. The affinity between the teacher and the disciple became all the more intense after this parting as Bose kept up correspondence with him for some years. He was introduced into a 'species of nature worship' by his master who advised him–" surrender yourself completely to nature and let Nature speak to you through her Protean mask." It was the time when Bose was entering on 'one of the stormiest periods' in his psychical life. He was struggling hard to overcome the natural attraction to worldly life and of worldly pursuits and also the growth of sex-consciousness. In this effort he found this nature worship elevating and helpful to a certain point, but it was not enough.

It was at this juncture that he 'stumbled upon' Swami Vive-kananda's Works which turned out to be of greatest help to him in his crisis. He was groping for a principle or an idea to consecrate his life to it and now by sheer accident he got just what he wanted. So he was 'thrilled to the marrow" of his bones. Though his head master had roused his aesthetic and moral sense, it was Vivekananda who had given him an ideal to which he could dedicate his whole being. That ideal was to be 'Atmano mokshartham Jagaddhitaya'—for one's own salvation as also for the service of humanity. That included service of one's own country as Vivekananda's foremost disciple and herself a revolutionary reformist, Sister Nivedita, pointed out. And Netaji could never forget the passionate utterance of Swami himself: "Say brothers at the top of your voice–the naked Indian, the illiterate Indian, the Brahman Indian and the Paraiah Indian is my brother." Vivekananda also exhorted youth to cultivate physical and moral strength and graphically put it: "Salvation will come through the football and not the Gita." With all this the once looming large shadow of his beloved head master began to wane and that of Vivekananda took its place over the emotions and feelings of this impetuous youth.

Vivekananda was still all right and could perhaps be accommodated in the normal course of people's life. But Bose did not stop with that. Drawn towards Viveka-nanda, he took the next steps forward in that direction by more and more drawing himself towards the mentor of Vivekananda—Rama-krishna Paramahansa. The refrain of Ramakrishna throughout his life was that a two-fold renunciation—giving up kaanta and kanakam (woman and Gold)–was the test of a man's fitness for his spiritual life. That the complete conquest of lust involves sublimation of the sex-instinct whereby a man would come to look upon every woman as his mother and not otherwise. Already struggling by his own instinct and nature to overcome attraction towards worldly life and pursuits as also the growth of sex-consciousness, Subhas Bose now began to systematically try to practice the teachings of this great guru of Vivekananda. And he was also able to gather a group of friends who desired to do likewise. Now started the long trial of an intensely emotional and sentimental youth to consciously shed all such 'trammels' and renounce the entire world and withdraw into absolute 'nothingness'.

The persistent futility of the search for a guru and following all and sundry yogic and ethical instructions in course of time created a recoil. Bose himself began to feel that all these were of no real avail for the elevation of his spiritual faculties or for bringing any mental peace to him. He reverted back to the message of Vivekananda that service to humanity was more essential and would bring one nearer to divinity. At this stage–sometime in the year 1912—his beloved head master, Beni Madhav Das, again came to his spiritual rescue, albeit through another manner. A young and resourceful student of the same age as himself came from Calcutta and met Bose and his friends with an introduction from Beni Madhava Das. He belonged to a certain politico-spiritual group in Calcutta, which had spiritual uplift and national service along constructive lines as its ideal. That young man's able persuasion was incidentally the first political impetus in the life of Subhas Bose. It was while pursuing his undergraduate studies at Presidency College, Calcutta, that the real development of Subhas in terms of spiritual and ideological outlooks took place; it is as if to say that the teenager was beginning to grow into a mature man in that campus. Bose came to be very much impressed by Arabindo's teachings and ideology of militant nationalism coupled with his philosophic works. Since they were convinced that spiritual enlightenment was a prerequisite for effective national service and by that time Arabindo also retreated from his active political revolutionary arena into a kind of semi-militant politico-philosophical speculation, this attraction towards that person was but natural. Subhas says Arabindo's philosophical teachings also helped him to overcome the formidable impediments of Shankara's doctrine of Maya, which was like a thorn in his flesh. In contrast he was not at all impressed by Surendranath Banerji, once a popular hero of Bengali youth and 'certainly one of the makers of the Indian National Congress', but who had by then mellowed down into a moderate¼ By the time of his recovery from a long-drawn ailment, the First World War broke out and it was in such situation that the second year of his studies in the Presidency College began. By then Subhas had 'changed a great deal inwardly'. He was, of course, still an active member in the neo-Vivekananda group, which was developing rapidly in numbers and quality, and even gave a part of his scholarship for the group's cause. But his studies were in a hopeless condition and in the Intermediate Examinations in 1915 he could only scrape through. Repentant, he decided to make good at the degree examination and took honours in philosophy for his graduate course. He put his heart and soul into philosophical studies and was quite fascinated by the rational, logical and critical methodology of the Western Philosophy. But when his studies were merrily proceeding, the 'catastrophic' Oaten incident happened in consequence of which he was rusticated from the College, which in effect meant to be debarred from the entire University for about 3 years.

Bose says that the British in India in their social relationships with Indians were quite arrogant and racist. They not only looked down on the 'brown' race but also purposely insulted and even manhandled and beat up the individuals of that race when they came into personal contact whether it be in shops, roads, restaurants, tramcars or trains, etc. This created an acute sense of humiliation, anger, rage among all Indians, coupled with determination to retaliate among the educated and militant Indian youth, at least in Bengal. It would be apt here to know what Subhas himself felt and thought about this phenomenon: "One of my uncles had to return from the railway station because Britishers occupying higher class compartments would not allow an Indian to come in. Occasionally we would hear stories of Indian in high position, including High Court Judges, coming into conflict with Britishers in railway trains. ...Whenever I came across such an incident my dreams would suffer a rude shock, and Shankara-charya's Doctrine of Maya would be shaken to its very foundations. It was quite impossible to persuade myself that to be insulted by a foreigner was in illusion that could be ignored..."

And the Oaten incident was but one of myriad such events. But for Subhas it was fraught with grave personal consequences and moral and ideological impact and hence it needs a brief narration here. Prof. Oaten was known to be an ill tempered if not ill-meaning teacher of the Indian Educational Service who used to be extremely annoyed even at any small disturbance to his lectures. So when one day students of Bose's class while passing through a class Oaten was teaching caused some noise which was unbearable to that teacher, he immediately came out, scolded and physically pushed aside some of those students. This gave rise to subsequent angry protests and agitation by the students and Bose as the class representative took up the matters boldly with the Principal. This even led to a successful strike in the Presidency College in which Bose played a prominent part. At last with Oaten coming down to some extent the dispute was amicably settled. However, after one month or so a similar incident recurred and this time also it was due to Oaten's insolence and rage. What happened subsequently it would be better to hear from Bose himself: "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 appeals 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 blue and black. From the newspaper office to Government House everywhere there was wild commotion" Naturally this gave rise to severe disciplinary proceedings after an enquiry report submitted by a high-level committee consisting of Sir Asutosh Mukherji, former Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University and Judge of the High Court, also found the students guilty and singled out Subhas's name for mentioning. Consequently, Subhas together with some other students was rusticated. After his rustication from the Presidency College, Bose had to wait for about 2 years before being again admitted into the Calcutta University–this time in the Scottish Church College, Calcutta. During this period Bose took to mainly social service activities like nursing the diseased and helpless, especially during a Cholera epidemic. This something was his joining the University Unit in the India Defence Force–a sort of Territorial Army–which was a fulfilment of a longstanding aspiration of his. Prior to this he had tried his best to join the regular army in the 49th Bengalee Regiment when recruitment was going on for it, but was quite disappointed by being turned down only on account of his not so good eyesight. He found so much pleasure in soldiering–drilling, target practising and mock fights, etc. that the entire third year was devoted almost fully to this avocation itself. Only in the 4th year did he commence some hard studies but all the same did well in his B.A. examinations in 1919 though not up to his expectations. Afterwards when he was thinking of joining in M.A. to study experimental psychology, the course of his life took another sudden turn when his parents and brother wanted him to go to England and prepare and appear for the Indian Civil Service Examinations. Though he never thought of taking up a job with the British Government and his membership in the Neo-Vivekananda group presupposed certain anathema to Government jobs, he consoled himself saying to himself that he could never pass the ICS Examination and so the occasion could be taken advantage to visit England and study hard.

In England he found the atmosphere quite democratic and free as far as they Indian students were concerned though in some respects he did find racial discrimination and met with instances of covert if not overt humiliation. He could secure his admission in the Cambridge University, worked hard and finally appeared for the Indian Civil Service Open Competitive Examination in July 1920. He was never sure that he would pass it but was surprised to find that he came out with distinction as a fourth ranker. However, Subhas decided that he would only go 'this far and no further' and would definitely turn down any commission with the Government. He took to long correspondence with his quite understanding and considerate elder brother Sarat Bose trying to get his permission and blessings for his decision to give up ICS and plunge into the national movement. Finally he stood firm on his ground and shoving aside the doctrine of expediency opted for the hazardous path of high idealism.

From that point onwards it is as if Subhas Bose never looked back. Whatever might have been his weaknesses, inward and impressionistic impulses and nightmarish psychic disturbances in the early youth, once he discarded the ICS and plunged into the national movement heart and soul, those rarely ever troubled him again. From then onwards it was the search for the right leader at first, then for the right policies and ideologies next, which occupied his mental or spiritual time and effort for the major part. This apart from the active pragmatic participation side of his in the militant nationalist movement. On returning to the motherland he first met Gandhi at Bombay on 16 July 1921 and ardently discussed about the various facets and problems of the non-cooperation movement. He was not so much impressed by Gandhi's policies as by his personality. Bose's critical faculties led him to the opinion that "there was a deplorable lack of clarity in the plan which the Mahatma had formulated and that he himself did not have a clear idea of the successive stages of the campaign [in the non-cooperation movement] which would bring India into her cherished goal of freedom." Then, on the advice of Gandhi, and also in pursuance of a previous acquaintance of his and correspondence with that person, he met Chittaranjan Das at Calcutta and after a heart to heart talk with him he felt that he had found a leader and meant to follow him.

From that time onwards up to the death of Deshbandhu, Bose was like a right hand man to him. Bose actively participated in the non-cooperation movement but as his master so was he too disappointed and frustrated by the policy and tactics adopted by Gandhi in that movement. To put it in a nutshell, what the master and the disciple together felt was that "Mahatma opens a campaign in a brilliant fashion; he works it up with unerring skill, he moves from success to success till he reaches the zenith–but after that he loses nerve and begins to falter." This faltering led to the anti-climax of the Chouri Choura withdrawal in 1922 which was vehemently criticized by the Deshbandhu and that echoed by Subhas himself. This hasty step by Gandhi indeed provoked extreme reaction from various quarters in the Indian National Congress and Motilal Nehru also joined hands with C. R. Das. This ultimately led to the formation of the Swaraj Party, of course within the broad Indian National Congress but with distinct policy and programme. They were pro-changers and wanted to participate in the legislative councils, etc. to "wreck them from within".At the Gaya Congress though C. R. Das was the President, it was the 'no-changer' policy of Gandhi, firmly supported by Rajaji, that won the day but it was not of much joy or solace to Gandhites because immediately following that the formation of Swaraj Pary was declared. The Swarajists gained significant successes in the elections to the various provincial Legislative Councils. Since Gandhi was arrested and convicted to and was undergoing imprisonment for six years, and there was no worthwhile agitational programme by the no-changers, it was virtually C. R. Das, Motilal Nehru and his Swarajist associates that provided any significant alternative in that situation. In 1924 C. R. Das was elected Mayor of the Calcutta Corporation also and later he became the BPCC President in time for passing of the famous Gopinath Saha resolution at Sirajganj in the end of 1924. Thus he was the first person to wear the Triple Crown–Mayoralty of Calcutta, Presidentship of BPCC and Presidentship of the Indian National Congress.

 The soldier in Bose again rose and to the occasion on the eve of the Calcutta Congress when Bose very carefully and meticulously organized the Congress Volunteer Corps with himself as the General Officer in Commanding. The impressive show put up by Bose and his majors on horseback, his 'infantry' volunteers dressed in military attire and the drill and exercise performed by them, the Guard of Honour given by them, etc. was really spectacular and stole the hearts of the thousands of delegates and audience. But curiously the Mahatma himself was unmoved and unimpressed and brushed it away with the jibe that it was like a circus show at Park Circus! Various revolutionary groups actively participated in this Volunteer Corps with each major group accounting for at least one or two Majors. The famous martyr of the First Lahore Conspiracy Case, Jatin Das, was himself an activist and a Major in the volunteer corps. His contribution and sacrifice have been spoken of in glowing and moving terms by Subhas in later days.

Bose also moved the Complete Independence Resolution, actually an amendment to the official resolution moved by Motilal Nehru demanding dominion status, in this famous Congress at Calcutta. Actually there was a compromise agreement arrived in the Subjects Committee of the Congress to the extent that the official resolution would be allowed to be passed without any hindrance and unanimously but that it would be operative for one year only. And if the Government of India failed to honour that resolution and grant dominion status within one year, the next Congress to be held would unanimously demand complete independence. And Bose was a party to the same. So it was not expected of him to move this amendment in a sudden manner. Even the revolutionary delegates did not approach him for that in the first instance. It was Bose's elder brother, Sarat Bose, who was to move such an amendment on behalf of the revolutionary delegates. However, the impetuosity and emotional nature of Subhas gained upper hand and he himself suddenly moved the amendment. Bose, along with Jawaharlal Nehru, was an active member of the Independence League within Congress formed much earlier. The amendment though defeated mustered substantial number of votes and caused much anxiety and worry to the official leadership. No wonder Mahatma Gandhi caustically commented that if a person could not abide by his own word even for a day, how could one expect of any honesty and truth, etc.—obviously hinting at the sudden volte face of Bose. Bose was a trenchant critic of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact though he stood by the proven leaders of the Congress during the Karachi Congress saying,

"In times of crisis a party has sometimes to stand by its leaders even when it is known that they are committing a blunder." Likewise he did not find much fault with Gandhi for not being able to rescue Bhagat Singh and his comrades from gallows though he was of the opinion that if such a commutation/release were made a condition for arriving at a Pact probably their lives could have been saved. He was sore that the Pact excluded so many classes of political prisoners from its purview. He presided over the Naujawan Bharat Sabha conference at Karachi held along with the Congress sessions and appreciated their orientation towards and commitment to the cause of Socialism.

Later when Mahatma Gandhi was selected by the Indian National Congress as their sole delegate to the Round Table Conference, Bose had unreservedly criticized the decision. He was of the opinion that a sufficiently big delegation with capable and intellectual leaders including Gandhi should have been sent and it should have been mainly used for the cause of propaganda abroad for Indian independence. Subsequently when the Communal Award was announced on 17 August 1932, Bose was also a caustic critic of its provision of separate electorates for Harijans or depressed classes. But he could not gulp the act of fasting by Gandhi in protest against it, which unexpected development he characterized as "complete sidetracking of the civil disobedience movement in the country." The fast of Mahatma Gandhi which started on 20 September 1932 finally ended with the coming down of the Hindu leaders of the Congress, Hindu Mahasabha, etc., as also Ambedkar to make a pact with Gandhi by way of Poona Agreement dated 24 September 1932. To his shock Bose noted that while the Communal Award provided 71 seats in the Provincial Legislatures for the depressed classes, the Poona Agreement had provided 148 and as for as Bengal was concerned the Hindus (other than scheduled castes) who had already been unjustly treated in the Award sorely felt that further injustice has been done to them by this Communal Award because in Bengal the depressed classes are not significant in numbers. Bose was not happy either with the role of Ambedkar about whom he caustically commented: "In 1930 and after, Dr. Ambedkar has had leadership thrust upon him by a benign British Government, because his services were necessary to embarrass the nationalist leaders." He noted that Ambedkar had himself approached Gandhi at the Round Table Conference in London with the proposal of a certain number of reserved seats for the depressed classes on the basis of common electorate which was rejected by Gandhi at that time. But when the Communal Award was made making provision for separate electorates for the depressed classes, Ambedkar took full advantage of it and exacted the maximum possible reserved seats from Gandhi to come to a Pact. However, Bose did also note that the most important result of the 'epic fast' was to give a powerful impetus to the movement for the eradication of untouchability.

Along with Vithal Bhai Patel, the illustrious Speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly, Bose gave a statement to the press from Europe condemning the way of conduct of the Civil Disobedience movement and its final withdrawal by Gandhi. It is noteworthy that as regards none of the major movements led by Gandhi, Bose was in agreement with him on the strategy and tactics adopted by Gandhi to conduct those movements. Bose spent his time in 1933–1936 in Europe for health reasons as also for doing propaganda for the cause of Indian Independence and for exploring the possibility of utilizing the League of Nations for advancing the cause of India's freedom. It would be worthwhile here to quote in extenso from Bose himself: "Between 1933 and 1936, the writer [Subhas] toured practically the whole of Europe outside Russia and studied at first hand the conditions of post-Versailles Europe. He was several times in Italy and in Germany, and in Rome he was received by Signor Mussolini on several occasions. He studied on one hand, the growth of the new forces that were ultimately to challenge the old order that had been set up by the Treaty of Versailles–and on the other, he studied the League of Nations which symbolized that old order. …… In may countries in Europe, he was able to rouse interest in India and to help in founding organizations for developing contact with India. The tour concluded with the visit to Ireland, where he had met President de Valera and other Ministers of his Government, as well as the leaders of the republican movement. …… During his stay in Europe, the writer was everywhere watched and followed by the agents of the British Government who tried their best to prevent his making contacts with different governments and with important personalities in different countries. In Fascist or pro-Fascist countries, the British agents tried to paint him as a Communist. In Socialist or democratic countries, on the other hand, they tried to describe him as a Fascist. In spite of these obstacles, however, he was able to do useful propaganda for India and rouse sympathy for the Indian freedom movement in several countries of Europe."

So here it would be apt to know something about the ideological commitments and features of Subhas Bose. As already stated he was socialist no doubt but which kind of socialist? He could not be regarded as a scientific or Marxian socialist nor did he ever claim so. Unlike Nehru who in that period, though for a short duration of some years only, openly identified himself with the cause of Communism and even joined the Anti-Imperialist League led by Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, Bose never identified with that cause. Nehru was quite close and cordial with M.N. Roy in those days and it was widely rumoured that the fundamental rights resolution moved by Nehru in the Karachi Congress was in fact the work of M.N. Roy. But Subhas, though a Bengali, seems to have never any significant contact with nor he ever approved the line of M.N. Roy. Bose, of course, did not adopt a hostile or negative attitude towards the ideology of communism but at the same time he wanted a sort of synthesis of communism and fascism, which sounded strange to many socialists of that period or thereafter. Bose quoted Nehru thus: "I [Nehru] do not believe that fundamentally the choice before the world today is one between some form of Communism and some form of Fascism, and I am all for the former, that is Communism. I dislike Fascism intensely and indeed I do not think it is anything more than a crude and brutal effort of the present capitalist order to preserve itself at any cost. There is no middle road between Fascism and Communism. One has to choose between the two and I choose the Communist ideal. In regard to the methods and approach to this ideal [of Communism], I may not agree with everything that the orthodox Communists have done. I think that these methods will have to adapt themselves to changing conditions and may vary in different countries. But I do think that the basic ideology of Communism and its scientific interpretation of history is sound." Then Bose goes on to radically differ with Nehru. He says: "The view expressed [above] is... fundamentally wrong. Unless we are at the end of the process of evolution or unless we deny evolution altogether, there is no reason to hold that our choice is restricted to two alternatives. Whether one believes in the Hegelian or in the Bergsonian or any other theory of evolution—in no case need we think that creation is at an end. Considering everything, one is inclined to hold that the next phase in world history will produce a synthesis between Communism and Fascism. And will it be a surprise if that synthesis is produced in India?" And then he goes on to delineate the common traits in both communism and fascism such as aversion to and demand for abolition of private property, call for the supremacy of the State over the individual, etc. He further remarks that in India the ideology of Communism cannot make headway because Communism currently had no sympathy with nationalism in any form and the Indian movement is a nationalist movement. Further Russia which is then on the defensive has little interest in provoking world revolution. In India there being no feeling against religion as such it is difficult for atheistic communism to progress here, etc. This was in 1935 or so. But later on in January 1938, by which time the communist movement in India, due to the Dutt-Bradely Thesis and the Popular Front theory approved by the Comintern, came out of the shackles of the line of the VI Congress of the Communist International, when R. Palme Dutt interviewed him, Bose made certain corrections to these observations. He clarified as follows: "My political ideas have developed further... 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. This is what I meant when I referred to a synthesis between Communism and Fascism"... After his another tour to and return from Europe, in fact while still he was in Europe, Bose was unanimously elected as the President of the Indian National Congress for the Haripura Session in 1938. He did his best to promote the cause of independence and also the cause of socialism as the Congress President. In fact it was Bose who was instrumental in launching the National Planning Committee for drawing up a comprehensive plan for industrialisation and national development in October 1938. He comments that as it was Gandhi was annoyed at the militant policy of Bose closing all doors for compromise with British imperialists and added to that this policy of industrialisation to which Gandhi was dead opposed caused him further annoyance. So no wonder that Gandhi and his staunch followers stoutly resisted Netaji's attempts to get reelected as President for the next session. But despite their opposition as also that of Nehru, Bose was elected as President of the Tripuri Session of the Indian National Congress with a comfortable majority. Gandhi was so much annoyed and offended and, in the columns of Harijan, commented that Pattabi's defeat was his own defeat. But at the actual session which was held in March 1939, he was presented with an almost insurmountable obstacle in the form of a resolution [the Pant resolution] passed limiting his choice of nomination of Working Committee members to those approved by Gandhi only. He might have been able to overrule it by way of his Presidential privileges and proceeded to nominate his own persons but that would have meant an inevitable split or at any rate absolute non-cooperation from Gandhite circles. Neither the Congress Socialist Party nor the Communist Party of India were prepared for that and would not support Bose to that extreme. Also Bose was already down with high fever and he could not take all this tension and worry with equanimity. So he thought it best to resign his presidentship and propagate and pursue his own policies to the extent possible and to the duration possible on the Congress platform. After resigning, he could not continue in Congress for long and formed another party, the Forward Bloc, and organised a mammoth Anti-Compromise Conference at Ramgarh in March 1940 right beside the Congress Pandal.

From Afghanistan Bose went to Italy and thence to Germany. Whatever have been his previously referred clarifications to Rajani Palme Dutt, Bose again took the calculated step or risk of allying with the fascists and nazis for support to his efforts to drive away the British from India. From Italy he broadcast to all Indians in India or elsewhere the happy news of his safe arrival in Europe and his uncompromising fight for freedom. In Germany, he even met Hitler and discussed the terms and conditions of the Nazi support to him. He was not quite satisfied with Hitler's demeanour, especially Hitler's disparaging attitude towards Indians at large. However, he had to compromise for the sake of the ultimate goal. He derived some zeal and inspiration and also took some advice from Sardar Ajit Singh, martyr Bhagat Singh's paternal uncle, who had organized a few battalions of Azad Hind Fauz from the Indian Prisoners of War in the captivity of Italy. Some battalions of Azad Hind Fauz were organized by Bose also in Germany and the understanding was that they would not be used to fight anyone but the British. However, it appears Hitler had merrily flouted the understanding later. By this time i.e. the end of 1941-42, some units of Azad Hind Fauz (Indian National Army) were organized in South East Asia also by Captain Mohan Singh and others and an Indian Independence League under the leadership of Rashbehari Bose was guiding it. But serious differences developed between Captain Mohan Singh and the Japanese and Mohan Singh tried to disband INA even without consulting Rashbehari Bose. Rashbehari stoutly opposed such moves and there was a crisis. At this juncture Bose was invited to take the leadership of the struggle of the Indians resident in South East Asia and he readily agreed. Starting from Kiel in North Germany to Bose undertook a most perilous and hazardous journey in a submarine and safely finding way through the British mine fields laid in the ocean here and there, and transferring to another submarine in the mid-sea in the Indian Ocean, he finally reached Penang in the Far East after 90 days. He was accompanied by Abid Hassan (of Hyderabad) in this historic journey. He was given a big ovation on landing and soon took charge of the Indian Independence League as well as the Indian National Army (INA) and ably directed both till his end.

To state briefly, Indian National Army soon transferred its main forces to Burma and launched the War of Independence on 4 February 1944 in the Arakan region. The Azad Hind Fauz marched up to the Manipur-Assam front and penetrated up to Kohima. In March 1944 a general offensive was begun in the direction of Manipur and Assam, and the frontier was crossed at several points. However, due to highly inclement weather and other reverses, the Fauz had to retreat. The overall military situation has also changed in favour of the allies and Germany surrendered in the end of 1944 or so. The dreams to liberate India by a military offensive came to naught. Rangoon was surrendered to the British on 3 May 1945. But the Azad Hind Fauz, due to the generous help of the Burmese nationalist leader Aung San, could retreat to Thailand in April 1945 itself. It fell back upon Bangkok on 24 April 1945 and the Azad Hind Government functioned there till the date of final surrender in August 1945.

Subhas was not willing to surrender to the British and so was making plans to go over to the Russian territory and surrender to the Russians. While in an airplane on this mission, it was reported that he died in a sudden crash of the plane at Tai-hoku airport in Taiwan on 18 August 1945. However, this story is not believed to this day by many staunch followers of Netaji and they think he crossed over to Russia where he was detained. Later, after independence and due to the treacherous moves by Nehru, he must have been killed in Russia itself–this is what many of them say.

As for the ideological standpoint of Subhas in this crucial war period, it appears that he did not change much from the previous times. But perforce he was more and more dependent on the fascists of various types. Though the Andaman and Nicobar islands, renamed by him as Shaheed and Swaraj islands.

It was never truly or wholly in the hands of the Azad Hind Administrator, the Chief Commissioner, Loganathan. Some untold atrocities were perpetrated there by the Japanese on Indian freedom fighters who had been incarcerated there by the British and who got localized thereafter. And it is reported that Subhas or Azad Hind Fauz could do nothing to rescue them. I am strongly in doubt whether it was wise at all on the part of Bose to have allied with Germany, Italy and Japan during the World War II–because fascism was certainly the greater evil. The only document of any importance–the Proclamation of Independence by and Provisional Government of Azad Hind Government no doubt traced the history of India's freedom struggle right through Sirajuddoula, Tipu Sultan, Velu Thampi, 1857 martyrs, etc. to the present days and exhorted Indians to revolt and drive away the British imperialists by all means. It is thus declared in a significant passage in it: "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 resolve to pursue happiness and prosperity of the whole nation, of all its parts, cherishing all children of the nation equally and transcending all the differences cunningly fostered by an alien government in the past."

Noble ideals of an egalitarian society and ideal of socialism and welfare state in brief. It is true Bose never declared war against the Soviet Union and targeted the Anglo-American imperialists only. But the association with the Nazis and fascists was certainly quite disturbing. I shudder to think about what would have happened in case the Germans and Japanese won–by their examples in the genocides of Jews, Chinese and other peoples. I really wish, while heartily admiring Subhas Bose for his courage and initiative, that how better would it have been had he took to another path, the path of armed or militant struggle inside the country itself and that without the fascist support. No doubt, he is a 'bow of burning gold' but the arrows released from that bow could have been quite fatal to our freedom and liberty in case the fascists had won the Second World War. Due to constraints of space I limit my observations to this brief extent and seek pardon from the interested readers. I record my wholehearted appreciation and admiration of, and pay homage to, that great martyr.

Vol. 53, No. 22-25, Nov 29 - Dec 26, 2020