Society Magazine

Remembering the Greatest Leader Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose

Posted on the 23 January 2023 by Sampathkumar Sampath

History is most important but most history across the world has been written with a strong bias towards the victor and those in power.  The life history of many Indians who sacrificed themselves in freedom movement was not properly portrayed,  in schools, we took pride in memorizing the name of Lord Curzon, Wellesley, Dalhousie, Minto-Morley reforms –  we read about a lot about this glorified clerk of British East India Company. Later it was capsuled that Gandhi got us freedom without drop of blood and Nehru family started ruling the Nation.

Remembering the greatest leader Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose

Give Me Blood! I Promise You Freedom!!   The British are engaged in a worldwide struggle and in the course of this struggle they have suffered defeat after defeat on so many fronts. The enemy having been thus considerably weakened, our fight for liberty has become very much easier than it was five years ago. Such a rare and God-given opportunity comes once in a century. That is why we have sworn to fully utilise this opportunity for liberating our motherland from the British yoke.  The first phase of our campaign is over. Our victorious troops, fighting side by side with Nipponese troops, have pushed back the enemy and are now fighting bravely on the sacred soil of our dear motherland – thundered this man. 

One man who  was non-submissive, had clear vision and strategy –  made the British fear him, has left the most indelible impression on India – as fighter par excellence, a great martyr, a man who could have shaped the destiny of India -   ‘Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose’ and today is the day when  Nation remembers him.

On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbour and later declared war on Britain and the United States.  .. but we never read about the ‘Battle of Imphal’ – the capital of State of Manipur in 1944 when   Japanese armies attempted to destroy the Allied forces and invade India, but were driven back into Burma with heavy losses. Together with the simultaneous Battle of Kohima on the road by which the encircled Allied forces at Imphal were relieved, the battle was the turning point – a victory could have changed the fortunes of the Nation.   According to a voting in a contest run by the British National Army Museum in 2013, the Battle of Imphal was bestowed as Britain's Greatest Battle.

Remembering the greatest leader Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: An M3 Lee tank crosses a river north of Imphal to meet the Japanese advance.  Source : www.iwm.org.uk/collections

Movie is only a form of entertainment, yet there are some films / some scenes that move us. Shankar directed ‘Indian’ [Bharatheeyudu] was a good film.  To many the hero was not the young Kamal but the older Indian Senapathy. The flashback in black & white was really moving taking us to older days, especially the footage of the great Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose.  The story shows Senapathi as a young valiant fighter joining  Bose’s army with the full support of his wife Amirthavalli. The handful of Nation’s soil to be smeared on forehead daily is poetic.  Senapathi gets captured,  survives the brutalities and comes to back in free India riddled with corruption, and he fights that !!

On Sept 16th, 1985, in a dilapidated house in Faizabad, formerly the capital of Oudh province in India, a reclusive holy man known as Bhagwanji or Gumnami Baba (‘the saint with no name’) breathed his last. Locals had long suspected that he was none other than Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945),  the greatest revolutionary  who raised an independent army against the British Empire seeking  total independence for India. The Second World War had enabled him to practice what he preached and his Indian National Army  fought with the Japanese in Burma attempting to drive the British out of the subcontinent.  Sadly, his death has remained mysterious.  Nethaji was reported killed in an air crash in August 1945, while trying to escape to the Soviet Union, many believed then and continue to believe now that, helped by his Japanese allies, he faked his death, reached Russia and returned to India many years later to lead the secret life of a hermit.

     After their first defeat at the hands of British in 1757, there arose many instances  when Indian patriots formed groups and fought hard and bitter battles exhibiting selfless sacrifice.  Alongside hundreds of Velu Thampi, Peshwa Baji Rao, Sardar Shyam Sing, Rani Laximibhai, Tantia Tope, Maharaj of Dumraon, Nana Sahib, there are many hundreds hidden whose exploits, history did not record or were neglected by the British historians and later partisan historians. .. towering among them all would be ‘Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose’.   

Remembering the greatest leader Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose

History records that Subash Bose, whose success in Indian National Congress was not accepted by Mahatma Gandhi had their last face-to-face meeting and ‘long conversation’ in June 1940 before Subhas’s imprisonment and daring escape. Subhas made ‘a passionate appeal to Mahatma to come forward and launch his campaign of passive resistance’. Gandhi was ‘ non-committal’ because he felt ‘the country was not prepared for a fight’.

On 5th Feb 1941, the Dy Foreigh Minister of Third Reich, Dr Woermann received in Berlin a coded message from the German embassy in Kabul.  It stated that 3 days earlier, Indian patriot Subhas Chandra Bose had walked unannounced into the Embassy and asked for help in going to Germany.  He had arrived in Kabul after perilous journeys from Calcutta, across the north-western frontier and the tribal areas lying between India and Afganisthan.  He sought protection in German legislation and also help in reaching his destination.  The passage to Berlin necessitated flight over Russian territory, the German Embassy contacted the Russian Ambassador who explained that they could not help the fugitive from India escape secretly from Afghan as that would embroil Russia’s relations with Afganisthan. 

The man was daring and was not afraid to precarious existence; he had started from Peshawar under assumed names, dressed like Pathan, and playing deaf and dumb too.  Subash and Talwar  walked over rocky grounds, climbed mountains, rode mules, faced risk of recognition and arrest – after dithering far too long, Russia yielded to pressure from 3 Axis powers to let Bose pass through Moscow with stipulation that Bose would not stay in Soviet Russia and pass through Moscow in disguise.  Mussolini’s Govt came forward more enthusiastically than others to help Subhas.  History has not probed deep to Bose’s thought, preferences and plans.  While in June 1940, Hitler’s victory had seemed imminent, in Jan 1941, it had become a probability.  When victory was no longer certain for Germany, other considerations came to the fore and led Bose decide in favour of Russia. 

Imphal, the capital of Manipur state, lay in a plain surrounded by hills and was the main British base in the area. It was held by Scoones’ 4th Corps.  In 1944, Imphal was not what it is now, yet some physical features do remain the same.  The main entrance to the valley is by the all-weather road which winds its way northwards through some picturesque natural scenery and narrow tracks. General Mutaguchi had estimated his campaign for occupation of Imphal area would be over in a month or so.  Hence, after Tokyo’s order to march received in Jan 1944, he did not at first have much anxiety about rains – the troops began to arrive piecemeal by roadvehicles and on foot.  Its 15th division was to come from Nanking China, were detained by Singapore’s command ostensibly to construct road and overawe Japan’s unwilling ally, the Thai Govt. All these exasperated the strategy of Mutaguchi. 

Inspite of the questionable wisdom of announcing his timetable to Press, General Mutaguchi’s 15th army had kept the secret about crossing the Chindwin very well and the sudden appearance of 3 divisions of Japanese troops on India’s frontier took the British by complete surprise. Japanese appeared at the door of Kohima in April and occupied it.  In the end Japanese military circles did not appear to credit Mutaguchi with intelligence of high order.  Mutaguchi had been telling Nethaji that INA men could join Japanese army after the latter had broken through the enemy’s defences.  Mutaguchi’s assault on Imphal basin was an action replay of Japanese army trapping 7th division of British in Kaladan valleu, followed by his failure to secure the surrender of the enemy.  Netaji had wanted to drive the enemy out of Imphal rather than hold them captive there – ‘No’ Mutaguchi had exclaimed, - ‘there is a big fish in the tank and I want to catch it’ !!!.  Getting a foothold even without annihilation would have left them much stronger.

Remembering the greatest leader Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose

Nethaji had clear views that the result of the Battle of Imphal concerned India much more than Japan.  With Imphan in its control, Bose’s provisional Govt could have stirred up an anti-British revolt in eastern India after widespread sabotage of British military installations and means of communication. So significant were these to India, yet, did we ever read these and Battle of Imphal in our school curriculum or in our Nation’s History and who is to blame ???

INDIA did not feature in Second World War, but the turn of events widely impacted it – yet the Historians and politicians chose to ignore and record its impact.  Nethaji was daringly different.  He arrived in Kabul escaping the British.  As he was strategizing to fight the invaders, Gandhi had led campaigns and garnered all attention of freedom struggle.  The non-violent campaigns did not impact and were not powerful enough to dislodge the colonisers.  After failure of 3 such peaceful attempts, the fourth one was launched by Nethaji, an armed assault form outside India in collaboration of Britain’s enemies.  Its aim was either to overcome the power or that the freedom fighters laying down their lives would rouse patriotic feelings in the minds of Indian soldiers serving the British Army.

Even as those efforts went unheralded by the Congress dominated struggle, one influential member of British cabinet, Sir Stafford Cripps, proposed that UK make a precipitated withdrawal from India with all her forces and administrative personnel.  That was the precise moment, Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose had brought freedom within the grasp of people, instilling fear in the minds of colonisers.

Remembering the greatest leader Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose

The man of this day – NETHAJI SUBASH CHANDRA BOSE – stands tall above Gandhi, Nehru and all others whom we read about.  Nation today remembers and pays homage to the great son of India.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
23rd Jan 2023
Biblio : collated from various sources and some excerpted from the Book – : ” Netaji Subash Chandra Bose – from Kabul to Battle of Imphal “ – by HN Pandit. 

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