I have said before, and I truly believe, that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was India’s Dark Knight. His political stance was controversial and he bedded some questionable allies. But, nothing accelerated India’s Independence more than his gutsy moves. In 1935, Gandhi and his brigade were ready to sign off on a Provincial Government. It was around that time that Bose declared his disdain for the passivity of INC under Gandhi. Under Bose’s leadership, a large section of the youth in India decided that it was time to go to war against India’s perpetrators – The British! Netaji became the thorn in the side of not just the Brit elites, but the likes of Gandhi and Nehru, who had to reconsider their passive stance. In the early ’40s, Netaji had stirred up a storm that the British Empire simply couldn’t digest anymore. Their bitterness has been immortalized in the contentious 1944 article about Netaji, by Alfred Tyrnauer in the Saturday Evening Post, titled “India’s Would be Fuhrer”. I would take you through parts of that historical article, that summarizes the British angst against the man who decided that “the enemy of the enemy is a friend”.
The Fascist Leader
Bose never minced words on the need for militant effort for freedom. He openly stated that the British were systematically exploiting India and driving the country to poverty. He believed that there was only one way to end this unequal partnership – to wage war for what was rightfully ours. The British, obviously, preferred the more ‘political’ approach of Gandhi, whose non-violent methods were not a direct threat to the British contingent. This is what Tyrnauer thought of Netaji’s approach,
Shrewd, handsome, intelligent, British-educated, vain and boundlessly ambitious, Bose began his amazing metamorphosis from a revolutionary Socialist into an advocate of Fascism almost exactly ten years ago”
Imagine being termed fascist by a regime that, merely a couple of decades back, was responsible for the infamous Jallianwalabagh Massacre of unarmed civilian men, women, and children!
The Bengal Famine Leverage
Very little is known or ever mentioned about one of the worst engineered genocides in the world. It was the holocaust that went unpunished – Bengal’s famine of 1943. Three million people died in the famine of ’43. People who resorted to eating grass and human flesh before vomiting to death. The celebrated Churchill decided to divert medical and food supplies, meant for the victims, to well-fed European soldiers. When confronted with the realities, he famously remarked, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”
Let us divert our attention for a moment to this radical political mass murder. And see how the article in question portrayed it. It read, incredibly, as below:
The “psychological preparation” of the planned invasion of his homeland is at present concentrating on the tragic famine situation in Bengal. Again and again, he charges the British with deliberately depriving the people of India of food in order to “teach them a lesson.” Again and again, he incites Indian men and women to revolt against the government that is so “inhuman, callous and inefficient.” He tells the starving Bengalese that “while hundreds of Indians are lying dead on the streets of Calcutta, the British are having their regular sumptuous eight-course meals and are drinking and dancing to the jazz.“
You would think that the author would go on to explain how Netaji’s allegations are grossly untrue. He does nothing of the sort. It feels like the author is triggered by the fact that an Indian man has the audacity to question the moral standing of an Imperial decision.
In fact, the author agrees that Bose had a solution ready. He had negotiated with the Burmese, who were ready to ship 1,000,000 tons of rice to India, only if the British cleared their ships. The author expresses his anger at this negotiated pact, but not at the British stance to decline it. Just a reminder – three million people died.
The Partition Bullet
It is difficult to say what would have happened and how the Japanese patronage would have panned out if Bose’s army had reached Delhi. But, it is universally accepted that if he had the chance to helm the rushed and poorly managed British exit from India, the partition situation, India’s most resource-draining concern to date, might have been averted. The author of the article rued,
But he resolutely rejected the Pakistan idea – aiming at the division of India into two separate and independent states, Moslem Pakistan and Hindu Hindustan.”
What is touted as Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah’s biggest mistake, might have played out differently under a Bose leadership.
The Asiatic Fifth Column
Subhas Chandra Bose realized that WWII was India’s best chance at freedom, and he grabbed at it. He met all the enemies of the British, and actively participated in an armed conspiracy against them. I wonder why this move felt so unexpected to the author. I mean, you don’t oppress and brutalize a people for 300 years and expect loyalty in exchange, do you? Maybe if you are British, ’cause he wrote,
In addition to Burma, Bose extended his anti-British conspiracy to Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Indo-China, Iran and Afghanistan in collaboration with German and Japanese agents. An Asiatic fifth column of staggering proportions was in the making to stab Britain in tbe back when she was to be fighting off the Nazi onslaught in the west and the Japanese attack in the east.
At this point in the article, the author sounded like the bully who was sorry that he got caught! Even 74 years later, I can feel the desperation of a losing tyrant, whose hands had been forced by a spirited man and his lethal alliances. Not just them, it was Netaji’s threat of a 300,000 strong army that forced Gandhi to push the agenda with Non-cooperation movement. Netaji strong-armed wily, manipulative, political systems to play the game upfront or get the hell out.
It is a pity that India chooses to forget Netaji. It is sad that my daughter has no reason to know that it is his 121st birthday today. It is hilarious that he was demonized as a tyrant and a politician by some of the most self-serving agents of world politics. I salute Netaji for his relentless effort to make Indian Independence happen, even at the cost of his own life, reputation, and death!
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