Saluting Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

Monday, January 23, 2023

“I am not afraid of troubles and calamities. I will not run away even when the troubled day comes, but I will go ahead and bear the troubles… …You give me blood, I will give you freedom” – said Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose during our freedom struggle. He was one of the great leaders of that period whose only aim was to achieve freedom from oppressive British Rule at the earliest. 

Born in a well-to-do family in Cuttack on 23rd January, 1897, Subhas’s childhood was very eventful. His school education took place in Cuttack. He was brilliant in studies. He passed his matriculation examination in 1913 with very high marks. He then took admission in Presidency College, Calcutta where he studied for a brief period. He did his B.A in 1918 with philosophy as his main subject from Scottish Church College, Calcutta. During his college days he used to read passionately the teachings of Sri Ramkrishna Paramhans and his great disciple Swami Vivekananda. This had a definite bearing on his evolving thought process during that exceptionally turbulent time in Indian history.

In order to fulfil the desire of his advocate father, young Subhas sailed to England in 1919 for further studies and also to appear in ICS (Indian Civil Service) examination. He got through the ICS examination with flying colours by securing fourth position. Notwithstanding his selection in ICS, he was not happy to serve the British Government due to his strong sense of opposition to oppressive British rule in India. Consequently, he resigned from ICS and came back to his motherland in April, 1921. He was the first Indian to leave ICS.

Young Subhas was full of enthusiasm, energy and knowledge. He started participating in the freedom movement very actively. Mahatma Gandhi was the foremost leader of the Indian National Congress and was at the centre of the freedom movement. Subhas, however, was ideologically closer to the tallest leader of Congress in Bengal, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das who was well-known for his aggressive nationalism. In 1923, he was elected as the President of All India Youth Congress, the youth wing of Congress party. He was the editor of ‘Forward’- a newspaper started by Chittaranjan Das. In 1924 he served as CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) when Das was its mayor. Interestingly, Subhas also served as the mayor of CMC in the year 1930.

For the British Government in India, Subhas was one of the main targets as he was becoming very popular among all sections of society, mainly youth who wanted freedom of the motherland as soon as possible. Consequently, he was arrested by the British administration more than ten times - first in 1925. He was sent to ‘Mandalay jail’ in Burma where he fell sick and was released when his condition became very serious.

The differences of Subhas with Gandhi and his close associates on ways and means to achieve independence were coming to the fore. Interestingly, at that point of time, Gandhi faction was in favour of Dominion status for India within the British rule, whereas Subhas and associates wanted complete self-rule.

Subhas Chandra Bose was elected President of Indian National Congress for two successive terms despite open opposition from the Gandhi camp. It is interesting to know that at the time when he was contesting for his second term in 1939, he was not well and hence brought to the convention centre on a stretcher. Ironically, despite his election as President of Congress Party, he was not getting support in CWC (Congress Working Committee) meetings. Finally, Subhas was forced to resign by the Gandhi camp soon after. He then formed “All India Forward Bloc”-a new faction within Congress Party to voice his opinion and continue his struggle for freedom.

He travelled widely both in India and Europe. He used to have very extensive interaction with opinion makers, leaders and intellectuals during these visits. In one such visit to Germany in 1934, he met with Emilie Schenkl, the daughter of an Austrian in Berlin whom Subhas married in 1937.

The international power scene was also changing fast. World War-II erupted in 1939. Indians were sent to fight the war from the British side. Thousands of countrymen were dying on the war front. Subhas was feeling agitated.

In 1941 he was put under house arrest in Calcutta, but this time Subhas escaped and travelled in the guise of a Pathan through Peshawar, Afganistan, Soviet Union etc. to finally reach Germany with great difficulty. World War–II was in full operation and countries like Germany and Japan extended their cooperation to Subhas for fighting the main common enemy country, Britain. He started his radio broadcast on issues related to Indian Freedom Struggle from Radio Berlin on a regular basis.

Subhas took over the charge of Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) from Ras Bihari Bose in 1943. He gave a new dimension to its overall functioning by his dynamic and military leadership to make it a real challenge for British rule in India thereafter. He formed a separate ladies wing in INA, the “Rani of Jhansi Regiment” named after the great freedom fighter “Rani Lakshmi Bai” of Jhansi. He was the supreme commander of INA - a committed team of over forty thousand soldiers. Subhas used to inspire and motivate his INA team by saying, “When we stand, the Azad Hind Fauz has to be like a wall of granite; when we march, the Azad Hind Fauz has to be like a steam roller.”  

He also formed a provisional government named “Azad Hind Government” which was recognised by a number of countries including Germany, Japan and Italy. The national flag of Azad Hind Government was hoisted in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Netaji on 30th December, 1943 as the Head of the Provisional Government and Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army. It marked the symbolic fulfillment of his promise that the Indian National Army would stand on Indian soil by the end of 1943. This historic visit also marked the declaration of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as the first liberated territory of India from British Colonial Rule. Later in early 1944, the flag was also unfurled in Manipur.

Subash coined slogans like “Jai Hind” and “Dilli Chalo” which became very popular among Indian masses.  From that time the countrymen started calling him affectionately and respectfully by the name “Netaji”. His reported unfortunate death on 18th August, 1945 in a plane crash in Taiwan is still a mystery due to several reasons.

Undoubtedly, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will continue to be remembered with great admiration as a true patriot, a disciplined soldier and an exceptional leader of the Indian Freedom Struggle. Jai Hind. 

Published in "Morning India" daily.
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