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Subhas Chandra Bose: The Great Patriot

Updated on October 24, 2015

Subhas Chandra Bose (or most widely known as Netaji) is perhaps the most
enigmatic and prominent character among the leaders of Indian Independence
movement as is understood from the unresolved mysteries regarding the life and
achievements of this ardent patriot who totally dedicated his life for the cause of the country’s independence. The most puzzling fact about Netaji is the conclusion
regarding his disappearance that whether he really died in the plane crash on August 18, 1945 at Taipei or he managed to escape. After nearly seventy years of his disappearance, he is yet to get the recognition which he deserves. Today Netaji has become an iconic personality for the generations that came after him.

According to British secret records, Subhas was “implacable foe of British rule in India”.



Netaji and the role of youth:

Netaji in uniform
Netaji in uniform

Netaji had firm belief on the youth and regarded them as the sole creator of a dream world. According to him, self-abnegation, bravery, hope and endeavour shapes the life of a youth.

In his essay, ‘Dreams of Young’, Netaji wrote, “We have been born into this world in order to fulfill a purpose to spread a message. Just as the sun rises to flood the earth with light as flowers bloom in the forest to spread their fragrance, as the river rushes to the sea to bring the sweet refreshing rain – we have come to this world, full of joy and with the fullness of our hearts, to establish a truth. And that is to discover the unknown and mystical purpose of life, through contemplation and a life of action which only can make our otherwise senseless existence meaningfull.”

The leadership qualities in Netaji was well understood during his college days at Kolkata. He devoted his life for the service for the woebegone and for the society from his very young age. He followed the ideals of Swami Vivekananda and considered the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna as his initiation.

In the first Nagpur Youth Conference, Netaji spoke, “Every human being, man or woman is born equal, and he or she shall have equal opportunities of development – that should be our dictum.” According to him the characteristic idealism, unity, endeavour and thought of the youth is the most important. And essential is action.

In 19 October, 1929, Netaji spoke at the Lahore Punjab Students’ Conference, “ That without action cannot suffice to build character, and for this reason, participation in healthy activity – political, social, artistic etc – is necessary for developing character.”

So he sustained the youth for developing a dream nation.



Role of Netaji in Indian Independence Movement:

In the historyof Indian struggle for independence, it is mentioned in magnified versions about the role of Gandhi, Nehru and other Congress leaders but when the role of Netaji comes in picture, it is mentioned that he is an international war criminal. But how can a freedom fighter who had sacrificed everything for his motherland can be a criminal? He had sacrificed his luxuries as an ICS officer, went to jail and was brutally treated by the Britishers and overall bet his life for the country. Whereas for Gandhi and Nehru, sacrifice was a far-away thing and enjoyed all the priviledges available. Though both of them were barristers, they even did not have the capabilities to become even juniors of Jinnah and C.R.Das. If they happened to have cleared ICS, never would have they thought of sacrificing for the nation.


It is claimed in history that Gandhi and his non-violence movement got India’s independence. But is there any factual correctness in it? Dr. R.C.Mukherjee, one of the greatest Indian historians called the period 1920-1947 as ‘The Age of Gandhi’. But while evaluating the role of Netaji, he wrote, “it seldom falls to the lot of a historian to give his views, differing radically from those generally accepted without demur, confirmed by such an unimpeachable authority. As far back in 1948, I wrote in an article that the contribution made by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose towards the achievement of freedom in 1947 was no less than, and perhaps far more important than that of Mahatma Gandhi”.


This gets further authentication from a conversation of Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of Britain at the time of India’s independence and B.P.Chakraborti, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court and Governor of West Bengal in 1956 when Attlee visited India and stayed for three days at Raj Bhawan in Calcutta. In Chakraborti’s question for the Britishers to leave India in a hush-hush when the Quit-India movement lay in ruins, which in Chakraborti’s words, “In reply, Attlee cited several reasons, the most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British Government. Towards the end, I asked Lord Attlee about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Gandhi’s activities. On hearing this, Attlee’s lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, putting emphasis on each single letter - ‘mi-ni-mal’(emphasis added)”.

At Cambridge
At Cambridge

In the book, ‘The Last Years of British India’, Michael Edward wrote, “India owes more to Netaji Bose than to any man even though he seems to be a failure”.

Also in BBC analysis in ‘Enemy of Empire’, the reasons for the British to quit India when the Congress was no longer in a fighting mood, it concluded that the single largest blunder commited by the British was the INA open trial at the Red Fort that eventually cost them their rule over India.

Netaji was initially misunderstood by other Congress leaders viz., Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and others with the exception of Tagore for seeking help from the facist powers which might invite some new problems, In Nehru’s words, “If Subhas returns to India with his army, I will receive him with an open sword”. But it was later well understood that Netaji did not surrender his right of command to any foreign power. On the contrary, the Japanese army was made to fight in the North-East India under INA control whose credit goes entirely to Netaji. Even Gandhi remarked that Netaji’s patriotism was second to none. Once Gandhi wrote about Netaji, “ The lesson that Netaji and his army brings to us is one of self-sacrifice, unity irrespective of class and community and discipline”.



Netaji with his army
Netaji with his army

Did Netaji really died ?

Till today the disappearance of Netaji is not clear. The news of his death has been disputed by members of his family. The reports too suggest that he had survived. According to Major Bhaskaran, the confidential Assistant of Netaji in the INA, Netaji’s body was carried to the crematorium in a coffin which was 5.6 ft long, whereas Netaji was nearly 6 ft tall. So it can be believed that the body transported in the coffin may be that of another person and not actually of Netaji.

Most of the people believed that just to escape from British army or to avoid from charges of being declared as War Criminal, the story of plane crash would have been created by Netaji with the knowledge of the Taiwan and Japanese governments of that time. Also the inappropriate view of the then Congress leaders about Netaji, has created doubt among people's mind that the Govt of India has not made any serious efforts to know the truth.


Also the theories that claimed Netaji’s death in the plane crash were rejected by the Mukherjee Commission. According to the commission, the ashes kept in Tokyo's Renkoji Temple that were believed to be of Netaji, were instead thought of as the remains of Ichiro Okura, a Taiwanese army-man who died in August 1945. During the requisition of two files by the Mukherjee Commission, the Central Government refused to provide those files on the questionable ground that, “information contained in these files, if disclosed, will affect relations with friendly countries”. So the conclusions regarding Netaji’s survival could only be achieved from the secret inquiry reports which are yet to be declassified. So the question arises that if Netaji had died or had survived, what was there to hide as classified information? Even the British intelligence did not believed the reports of Netaji's death, but Indian officials suppressed that part of Britain's report.

A rare photograph of Subhas Chandra Bose
A rare photograph of Subhas Chandra Bose

Also according to some reports, Gumnami Baba alias Bhagwanji who lived at Ram Bhavan at Faizabad was believed to be Netaji due to his resemblance with him. Probably he entered Uttar Pradesh via Nepal in the guise of an ascetic and started staying there at Faizabad. Baba's rooms allegedly contained photos of Netaji's parents. It was said that Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi knew all about him and the District Administration in Faizabad took care to ensure the Baba's privacy. Reports say that he breathed his last on September 16, 1985 in Faizabad and was cremated on Sept 18, 1985 .

According to Durgaprasad Pandey, a student of Lucknow University in 1940-1941, Netaji was invited to give a lecture at the university and he saw him from a close distance for nearly two hours. Later during his service, he met Gumnami Baba several times and he claimed that the holy person possessed the same thundering voice as that of Netaji.

Apurba Ghosh, a resident of Manikganj in Dhaka claimed the Bengali saint of Basti in UP as Netaji. He had seen Netaji several times at his residence at Woodburn Park and at Elgin Road. Also he met him after the Dhaka Conference of Forward Block in 1939 at Manikganj. After conversations with the saint, he said that he had no doubt that the person was Netaji himself.

In 2006, Nizamuddin, a 102-year-old man claiming to be Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's driver-cum-bodyguard claimed that Netaji did not died in the Taipei air crash, but he survived. Nizamuddin said that he met Netaji and his brother Sharat Chandra Bose in 1946 over a bridge on a river in Thailand, a year after his alleged death. Nizamuddin was also sure that Netaji lived in Faizabad in the guise of Gumnami Baba.

From the various circumstances and research on the matter, it is well understood that Netaji was alive after 1945. Even the Congress leaders were well aware of this fact but still Netaji was declared to be dead and the files regarding him was marked as classified by the Government of India. It is said that Nehru received a letter from Netaji after 1945 in which he informed that he was living in Russia. Even Gandhi also knew about Netaji’s survival which is clear from his words, “If someone shows me his ashes, even then I will not believe that Subhas is not alive. He is alive and is hiding somewhere.”



Religious Netaji:

Netaji was highly devoted to God and was inspired by ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’. He explored the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and the writings of Sri Aurobindo in search for a religious philosophy that would led him to political activism. Once Netaji said about Swami Vivekanada, “If Swamiji had been alive, I would have been at his feet”. He not only followed Swamiji’s mission, but he had turned his life into His mission.

Leonard A. Gordon wrote about Netaji, “Inner religious explorations continued to be a part of his adult life. This set him apart from the slowly growing number of atheistic socialists and communists who dotted the Indian landscape”. This religious exploration in him set him apart from the other Congress leaders to whom it was just a vain quest.

In 1914, he had left his home to become a saint when he met Swami Brahmananda at Ramakrishna Mission who inspired him to remain an anchoret by the soul and inner being while devoting the life for the sake of the nation. So Netaji could not become a saint but the religious idealism in him made him a great person that the history today knows.

Netaji accepted Upanishadic concept of 'Tyaga' and absorbed the ideals of abjuration for self-realisation and became determined to work ceaselessly for the nation.

He always kept a rosary and a copy of The Gita with him. Every morning, he used to read verses from The Gita and Sri Chandi after having his bath. According to Iyer, the Minister for Publicity in Bose’s Cabinet, “Most intensely he sought the guidance of God. He felt that in every step that he took, God himself was leading him by both hands, hence that immobile face, iron determination, supreme but quiet seif-confidence, and an ascetic indifference to success or failure”.

When the Indian National Army was operated from Singapore, then Netaji sometimes went to the local Ramakrishna Mission there, without informing anyone and spent couple of hours in meditation in the prayer room with rosary in hand.

Thus the life of Netaji teaches us how a person can attain greatness in life by ascending the stairs of spiritual heights. Through his devotion to spirituality and religious ideology, he had paved the way for India’s independence.

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