Netaji’s ideology and Bharat Ratna

Col J P Singh, Retd
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was an Indian nationalist whose defiant patriotism made him a   hero in Indian Freedom Movement. He had great drive and charisma. He created a popular  Indian slogan ‘JAI HIND’ which is today’s salutation of our Army. He also revamped and  commanded Azad Hind Fauj, also called ‘Indian National Army’ (INA) which under him  became a symbol of freedom and a model of ‘unity in diversity’ by region, religion, ethnicity  and even gender. He advocated complete unconditional independence for India whereas Indian  National Congress wanted a phased transition to independence  through Dominion Status. His  emotional call “Give me blood and I will give you Freedom” resounded the mind of every patriotic  citizen of India. He hoisted the Indian Tricolour in Moirang, Manipur. The towns of Kohima  and Imphal were placed under siege by divisions of the Japanese, Burmese and INA during the  attempted liberation of India, also known as ‘Operation U-GO’ against the Commonwealth Forces.  And that is why he should have been conferred with Bharat Ratna, the highest Indian civil award, soon after the independence. Surprisingly it was not done. Learning that NDA Govt has decided to do it on 68th Independence Day, the media has debated  the delay and desirability thus educating us on the contributions of our beloved hero and various other great Indians. Many had immensely contributed in the freedom movement but Netaji did something extraordinarily more than others. He planned to rid India of British rule during the 2nd World War with the help of Germany and Japan. The Indian National Congress, the main instrument of Indian nationalism, praised Bose’s patriotism but distanced itself from his tactics and ideology, especially his collaboration with fascism. Foreign and fascist supported strategic plan has left a troubled legacy which could be behind Netaji’s suppressed recognition.
Netaji was a leader of the younger and radical wing of Indian National Congress in  1930s, rising to become Congress President in 1938 and1939. However, he was ousted  from Congress leadership positions in 1939 following differences with Mahatma Gandhi. He  openly attacked the Congress’ foreign and internal policies. Bose believed that Gandhi’s tactics  of non-violence would never secure independence. He therefore advocated violent resistance.
He established a separate political party, the ‘All India Forward Bloc’ and continued to call for the  full and immediate independence of India from British rule. He was imprisoned by the British  authorities eleven times.
The period of 2nd World War saw the peak of freedom struggle with ‘Quit India Movement’ led by  Mahatma Gandhi and armed struggle launched by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which  eventually led to withdrawal of British from India. Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Satyagrah’ had succeeded   in South Africa against discrimination, abusive labour treatment and oppressive police control  over Indian settlers by which he got all the hated legislations against Indians repealed. The  tactics he used there were non-violent boycotts, fasts and protest marches. Mahatma Gandhi  came back to India in 1915, joined the freedom struggle which he later led. Netaji and Mahatma  Gandhi were the two great Indians who led from the front. Freedom movement soon became a  mass movement that encompassed every section of society. Outcome of these two separate  movements led to Indian Independence Act 1947 which created independent India.
Netaji was under house arrest when he secretly attempted a great escape from India in 1940. He arrived in Germany in April 1941 through Afghanistan where Nazi leadership offered him unexpected support for the cause of India’s independence. With the German funds, a Free India Centre was set up in Berlin followed by Free India Radio, on which Bose could broadcast daily. A 3,000-strong ‘Free India Legion’ out of 4,500 Indian soldiers of British Army, captured by Rommel’s Afrika Corps, was formed to aid in a possible future German land invasion of India. Netaji met Hitler in May 1942. By spring 1942, Japan was wining in Southeast Asia whereas Germany was facing reverses in USSR and Africa due to which its priorities towards India changed. Hence a German invasion of India became untenable. Netaji decided to move to Southeast Asia where Japan was on the winning spree, for which Hitler provided a submarine. Netaji boarded the submarine in February 1943, reached  Madagascar and changed over to a Japanese submarine and in May 1943 he disembarked in Sumatra.
With Japanese support, Netaji revamped INA out of Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army who had been captured in Singapore which included my father-in-law Capt (INA) Gandharb Singh. With Japanese monetary, political, diplomatic and military assistance, he formed ‘Azad Hind Govt in Exile’ in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He led the Indian National Army in military campaigns against the Commonwealth Forces upto Imphal and Kohima through Burma. However, the luck did not favour Netaji as it did to Axis powers.  His military effort was short lived. In late 1944 and early 1945 the British Army under Field marshal Slim, first halted and then devastatingly reversed the Japanese  attack on India from Burma Front. Almost half the Japanese forces and half the participating INA contingent got killed. The INA was driven down the Malay Peninsula and surrendered with the recapture of Singapore. Netaji had chosen not to surrender with his forces or with the Japanese, but to escape to Manchuria with a view to seeking a future in the Soviet Union which he believed to be turning anti-British. Before reaching Manchuria, he is said to have died when his plane crashed in Taiwan. Some Indians, however, did not believe that the crash had occurred, with many among them, especially in Bengal, believing that Bose would return to gain India’s independence.
Netaji was of the opinion that no democratic system could be adequate to overcome India’s  poverty and social inequalities. He wrote that a socialist state similar to that of Soviet Russia   would be needed for the process of national re-building. Accordingly, some suggest that Netaji’s  alliance with the Axis during the war was based on more than just pragmatism. According to  them, Netaji was a militant nationalist, though neither Nazi nor Fascist. His political views and the  alliances he made with militarist regimes at war with Britain have been the cause of arguments  among historians and politicians, with some accusing him of fascist sympathies, while others in  India have been more sympathetic towards the realpolitik that guided his social and political  choices.
With the fall of Rangoon, Netaj’s Govt ceased to be an effective political entity. A large proportion  of the INA troops surrendered, the remaining retreated along with Netaji towards Malaya and  Thailand. Japan’s surrender at the end of the war also led to the eventual surrender of INA.
When the troops of INA were repatriated to India some were tried for treason including Capt  Gandharb Singh who, as Security Officer, had accompanied Netaji upto the Airport for his last  flight.
In India the Indian National Congress’s official line was succinctly expressed in a  letter Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. Gandhi said, “Subhas  Bose has died well. He was undoubtedly a patriot, though misguided”. Many Congressmen  have yet not forgiven Netaji for opposing Mahatma Gandhi and Pt Nehru and for collaborating  with what they considered Japanese fascism. This is being discussed as the reason for the  denial of recognition to the hero of freedom struggle.
‘For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’ says the Holy Bible. The way India glorifies its heroes the same way it will be respected world over.


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