Patriots >Extremist Leaders > Subhashchandra Bose
Subhashchandra Bose (1897-?)

To Prabhavati Devi, wife of Janaki Nath Bose, a well-to do Lawyer of Cuttack, Orissa, was born on January 23, 1897, a son-the ninth among their fourteen children-who was destined to become of the foremost leaders of India’s freedom struggle and who was to leave an indelible impress not merely on the history of modern India but on the minds and hearts of the people of Asia. Janaki Nath was descended from the Bose of Mathi Nagar, 24-Parganas. He had migrated to Cuttack some time after he had graduated in law from the Calcutta University. Prabhavati Devi belonged to the family of the Dattas of Hatkhola in Calcutta.

Janaki Nath was elected Chairman of the Cuttack municipality in 1909; later he was appointed Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor. In 1912 he became a member of the Bengal Legislative Council and was awarded the title of Rai Bahadur. In 1917, following serious differences with the District Magistrate, he resigned the post of Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor, and some years later gave up the title of El Bahadur as a protest against the repressive policy of the Government.

In his boyhood, Subhas Chandra was greatly influenced by his father and mother, particularly the latter from whom he derived his religious temperament, However, it would not be incorrect to say that even more than his parents he was inspired by Beni Madhab Das Headmaster of Ravenshaw Collegiate school, Cuttack. He almost ‘adored’ the Headmaster, and was strongly drawn to him.

Subhas passed the Matriculation examination, standing second in the Calcutta University, from the Ravenshaw Collegiate School. He entered the Presidency College, Calcutta, where he got involved in the “ Oaten Incident ”. Prof. Oaten was assaulted by some students of the College who had been infuriated by the abusive language used by the Professor against India and Indians during one of his lectures. The high-spirited Subhas who had been in the black-list of the Principle for some time was held guilty as the prime mover in the incident, and was held expelled from the College and rusticated from the University in 1916.

With the help of Sir Asutosh Mookerjee he, however, got himself admitted to the Scottish Churches College in 1917 with a “ no objection “ certificate, and graduated in 1919 with a First class in Philosophy. He also joined the University Training Corps in 1917.

In 1919, Subhas’s parents decided to send him to England, as they keenly desired that he should join the Indian Civil Service. The young man whose inner being had been set aflame by the incandescent spirit of Swami Vivekananda, and whose heart had already become the seat of spiritual aspiration and patriotic fervour, was in two minds about the objective set for him by his parents. He, however, finally submitted to their will, probably with mental reservations. In England he appeared for the Indian Civil Service competitive examination in 1920, and came out fourth in order of merit. He also secured the Cambridge Tripos in Moral Sciences.

Subhas Chandra did not, however, complete the year of probation, which every successful candidate in the competitive examination was required to undergo. His mind had been deeply disturbed by grave developments at home: after the heinous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre by General Dyer in 1919, Mahatma Gandhi had, in August 1920, lunched the barque of the Congress on the stormy, uncharted sea of non-co-operation and civil disobedience against ‘ Satanic ‘ British Government, and had called the nation to suffering and sacrifice.

Subhas handed his resignation in April 1921, and returned to India, reaching Bombay on July 16,1921, He went straight to the Mahatma for guidance who, perceiving the passion for India’s freedom that consumed Subhas, directed him to Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, who had in the meantime flashed on the Indian Political firmament and become the uncrowned King of Bengal. From then on for a brief period of four years, till C.R. Das’s death in1925, Deshabandhu was his political Guru.

Subhash Chandra first proved his mettle in the thorough manner in which he worked for the total boycott of the Prince of Wales in Calcutta in 1921; subsequently his capacity for organisation and executive ability were amply demostrated in the discharge of his duties as Chief Executive Officer of the Calcutta Corporation during the mayoralty of C.R. Das. The Government, however, soon clamped him behind the bars in distant Mandalay on the trumped-up charge that he was actively associated with the terrorists of Bengal.

However, after three years of detention without trial under the obnoxious Regulation III of 1818, he was released in 1927 on medical ground , and soon began to take an active part in political life despite his shattered health. He was elevated President of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee. He devoted much of his time and attention to the organisation of the youth and to the Trade Union movement as well.

In 1928 the Motilal Nehru Committee appointed by the Congress declared in favour of Domination Status, but Subhas Chandra Bose along with Jawaharlal Nehru opposed it, and both asserted that they would be satisfied with nothing short of complete independence for India. Subhas also announced the formation of the Independence League. At the Calcutta Congress in 1928, presided over by Motilal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose was G.O.C. of the Congress Volunteers. The Lahore Congress session under Jawaharlal Nehru’s presidentship adopted a resolution declaring that the goal of the Congress would be complete independence of “Poorna Swaraj”, involving severance of the British connection.

Gandhiji’s Salt Satyagraha Movement (1930) again found Subhas in the thick of the fight, and the Government arrested him and lodged him in jail. When the Satyagraha Movement was called off in March 1931 upon the conclusion of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Subhas, who, along with others, was also set at liberty, raised his voice in protest against the Pact and the suspension of the movement, specially when patriots like Bhagat Singh and his associates had not been saved from the gallows.

He soon came into conflict with the law, with the result that he was once again detained under the infamous Bengal Regulation. Within a year or so, his physical condition became so alarming that he was released, and banished from India to Europe, where, besides recouping his health, he took steps to establish centres in different European capitals with a view to promoting politico-cultural contacts between India and Europe.

Returning to India in 1936 in defiance of a Government ban on his entry, he was again arrested and imprisoned for a year; but soon after the General Election of 1937 and the accession of Congress to power in seven Provinces, Subhas found himself a free man again , and shortly afterwards was unanimously elected President of the Haripura Congress Session in 1938.

In his Presidential address he stressed the revolutionary potentialities of the Congress Ministries formed in seven Provinces

, and the address was also notable for its clarity with regard to what should be the Congress policy in the new epoch. Contrary to the popular notion regarding Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s role in Planning , it was Subhas Bose who as Congress President in 1938 , talked of planning in concrete terms, and set up a National planning Committee in October that year.

The year that followed saw the steady worsening of international relations, and clouds of war gathering on the European horizon, At the end of his first term, the presidential election to the Tripuri Congress session took place early 1939. Subhas was re-elected, defeating Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya who had been backed by Mahatmaji and the Congress Working Committee. Soon after the election , the member of the Congress Working Committee resigned, and the Congress met at Tripuri under the shadow of a crisis within the Party as well as internationally.

Subhas was a sick man at Tripuri, but even so, with amazing, almost prophetic foresight, he warned that an imperialist war would break out in Europe within six months , demanded that the Congress should deliver a Six months ultimatum to Britain and in the event of its rejection a country-wide struggle for ‘Poona Swaraj ‘ should be launched , taking full advantage of Britain’s entanglement in the international imbroglio. His warning and advice , however , went unheeded, and what was worse , his powers as Congress President were sought to be curtailed.

He , therefore, resigned his Presidentship in April 1939, and for the democratisation, radicalisation and reorientation of the Congress into a sharp instrument of the people’s will to freedom, he announced , in May 1939 , the formation of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee and was further debarred from holding any elective office in the Congress for a period of three years.

In September 1939 war broke out in Europe, and Subhas Bose’s prophecy at Tripuri came true almost to the very day. India was dragged into the Imperialist War by an ordinance of the Governor -General declaring India a belligerent country. The Congress Ministries in seven Provinces resigned in October 1939, but Mahatma Gandhi declared that he would not like to embarrass the British Government during the war.

In March 1940 Subhas Bose convened an Anti-Compromise Conference at Ramgarh, Bihar, under the joint auspices of the forward Bloc and the Kisan Sabha. The Conference resolved that a world -wide struggle should be launched on April 6 , the first day of the National Week , calling upon the people not to help the Imperialist War with men , money or materials, and to resist by all means and at all costs the exploitation of Indian resources for the Preservation of the British Empire .

The Indian People , hungry for freedom, participated in their thousands in the struggle launched throughout the country by the Forward Bloc on April 6. At the Nagpur session of the All India Forward Bloc held in June 1490, the Ramgrah stand was reiterated, and the Forward Bloc demanded National Government in India.

Soon after the Nagpur session Subhas was arrested in July by the Bengal Government on the eve of the Anti-Holwell Monument Satyagraha in Calcutta, and sent to jail. While in prison , he resorted to hunger-strike, whereupon he was released in December 1940. A month later, on the historic ‘ Independence Day ‘ , January 26, 1941, an astounded India heard the news that Subhas had suddenly disappeared from his house under the very nose of the C.I.D. who had kept a round -the-clock vigil at his house on Elgin Road, Calcutta.

It was not until November of that year that news tickled in from Berlin that he had gone out of India, in order , to use his own words,” to supplement from outside the struggle going on at home". Recognising Britain’s difficulty as India's opportunity , and on the strategic basis , “ our enemy’s enemy is our friend ”, he held talks on a basis of equality, at the first with Germany and later negotiated an alliance with Britian’s foe in the East, Japan.

In January 1942, he began his regular broadcasts from Radio Berlin, which aroused tremendous enthusiasm in India. By the end of 1942 the British, French and Dutch Imperialism in East Asia crumbled before the Japanese blitzkrieg and Subhas , with the Fullest cooperation of the German and the Japanese Government's left Germany early in 1943 and after a perilous three-month voyage in a submarine arrived in Singapore on July 2, 1943.

The dramatic appearance of the dynamic leader was a signal for wild jubilation among the Indian prisoners-of-war no less than among the civilian community in Singapore and elsewhere in East Asia. Two days later, on July 4, he took over from Rash Behari Bose the leadership of the Indian Independence Movement in East Asia , organised the Azad Hind Fauj( the Indian National Army) and becoming its Supreme Commander in August 25, proclaimed the provisional Government of Azad Hind on October 21.

He was hailed as Netaji by the Army as well as by the Indian civilian population in East Asia. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were liberated in November and renamed Shaheed and Swaraj Islands respectively . The I.N.A. Head quarters was shifted to Rangoon in January 1944, and marching thence towards their Motherland with the war cry “ Chalo Delhi ! ” on their lips, the Azad Hind Fauj crossed the Burma Border, and stood on Indian soil on March 18 ,1944.

How the brave Army subsequently advanced up to Kohima and Imphal, how Free India’s banner was hoisted aloft there to the deafening cries of “Jai Hind” and “Netaji Zindabad”, how the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki compelled Japan to surrender and the I.N.A. subsequently to retreat, have all become part of world history.

Subhas was reportedly killed in an air crash over Taipeh, Taiwan (Formosa) on August 18, 1945: the intrepid warrior and astute statesman was then not even fifty. However , even Government spokesmen have confessed that there is no ‘ irrefutable proof ‘ of his death in the air crash. In 1970 over 400 Members of Parliaments wrote to the President if India demanding an enquiry into the circumstances connected with his disappearance, On July 20 , 1970, the Government of India announced its decision to constitute a commission of Inquiry.

To his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose , a renowned advocate and a political leader in his own right , Subhas was deeply attached, and it was Sarat Chandra who financially helped him, in the early years of his carrier, and backed him politically during the vicissitudes of his turbulent and meteoric career.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was tall, well above the average and was somewhat predisposed to obesity .Subhas chandra Bose’s chubby face with its cherubic smile concealed a granite core of will. Gentle and affectionate in disposition, he could be very firm, even relentless whenever occasion demanded. To know him was to love him.

Author : Hari Vishnu Kamath