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Bose and Bose

With the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, a new chapter began. Both the Boses, in different continents, were now striving to utilise the war to strengthen the cause of Indian Independence. Between December 1941 and March to June 1942, Rash Behari established contact with military and civil high commands in Japan to impress upon them the necessity to help India in her struggle for freedom

RAJU MANSUKHANI | New Delhi |

I t was 12 June 1942. At a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose said, “I regard myself as a servant of the Indian nation and my present task is to lead the fight for India’s independence. But as soon as India is free, it will be the duty of the Indian people to decide what form of Government they desire and who should guide the future Indian state… I am convinced that during the course of this war India will be free. The freedom of India will mean the expulsion of AngloAmerican imperialism from Asia, and it will afford a powerful stimulus to freedom movements all over the world.”

These powerful words of Netaji were broadcast by Azad Hind Radio and heard by thousands across Europe and India. His speeches called for struggles against both British and US imperialism which had shackled the colonies.

Having escaped from British India in January 1941, Bose in Germany proposed to the Germans that the “Free Indian Government” be established in Berlin. He was disappointed by the lack of immediate support from Adolf Hitler whom he had met a fortnight earlier.

Though Bose greeted Hitler as ‘an old revolutionary’, the Führer made clear his unwillingness to make any moves or issue any proclamations. Hitler told Bose that he would facilitate his trip to East Asia; not by an air route but that a submarine would be placed ‘at his disposal’.

“My own experience has now convinced me that by the logic of history, the Tripartite Powers have become our natural friends and allies. Every blow struck at the British Empire is a help to India in her fight for freedom,” he said during the press conference. (Germany, Italy and Japan were the Tripartite Powers he referred to.) When asked about his plans, he replied, “the plans of a revolutionary must always be adapted to the circumstances of the moment and to the needs of the situation in which he is interested.”

Historians have commented on Bose’s self-image now as a ‘revolutionary’, linking himself to a tradition of violent resistance stretching back to the earliest days of British conquest, especially in the regions of Bengal.

In Netaji’s life, as he moved through war-torn Europe, there was another revolutionary, another Bose who came to play a historic, dramatic part in India’s freedom movement. This was Rash Behari Bose, a global revolutionary who had escaped from Calcutta and settled in Japan way back in 1915. The two Boses, unrelated to each other, were bonded by their patriotism and sense of adventure and fearlessness.

Rash Behari, since the early party of the century had worked with revolutionaries in Punjab; he was instrumental in recruiting the uncles of Bhagat Singh for revolutionary activities.

During the Delhi Durbar of 1911, he was with the Anusilan Samiti which planned to bomb the procession of Viceroy Lord Hardinge. In 1913, after the Lahore bombing conspiracy, Rash Behari went into hiding in Calcutta, then Varanasi.

In 1914-15, Rash Behari Bose was spurred into action against atrocities which Ghadr Party members had faced. He planned a great uprising within the British Indian Army. 21 February 1915 was the D-Day, but a traitor in Lahore put paid to all the plans.

Several revolutionary workers, including Ghadr leaders were killed in clashes with police and military; this came to be known as the first Lahore Conspiracy Case. Rash Behari escaped to Varanasi, and then onwards to Japan.

Under a false identity of PN Tagore, and posing as a relative of Rabindranath Tagore, he boarded a steamship from Calcutta on 12 March 1915, reaching Japan on 5 June. Rash Behari was now a revolutionary on foreign soil, just as Subash Chandra would be decades later.

When in 1924, he founded the India Independence League in Tokyo, little did he know a long struggle awaited him. His slogan ~ ‘Asia for Asians’ ~ struck a chord. With Rash Behari’s efforts East Asians now began to look upon India’s emacipation as a stepping-stone to Greater Asian liberation from colonial bondage.

Both Rash Behari and Rabindranath Tagore had looked eastwards: one promoted Indo-Japanese cooperation and goodwill at a political level, while Gurudev built on the cultural front. In Rash Behari’s perspective, enemies of Britain were friends of India, no matter what their ideology was. He was a hard-headed realist. Rash Behari had his differences with Tagore, who had written to him, “Japan has not taken long to betray the rising hope and repudiate all that seemed significant in her wonderful and symbolic awakening and has now become itself a worse menace to the defenseless people of the East.”

Rash Behari countered this anti-Japanese propaganda by Indians by organising meetings, and advocating Indo-Japanese collaboration under the League. In November 1938, he even issued a manifesto boldly calling for revision of India’s foreign policy. Subhas Chandra, at this time, was Congress President ready for challenges that would make him part ways with the party.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, a new chapter began. Both the Boses, in different continents, were now striving to utilise the war to strengthen the cause of Indian Independence.

Between December 1941 and March to June 1942, Rash Behari established contact with military and civil high commands in Japan to impress upon them the necessity to help India in her struggle for freedom, in line with Japan’s objectives.

His campaign bore fruit and General Tojo, Japan’s Prime Minister, declared in the Imperial Diet that his government was prepared to help Indians achieve freedom.

Rash Behari was not alone in this campaign. Swami Satyananda Puri or Praffula Sen of Anusilan Samiti and Sirdar Pritam Singh were team-mates from Bangkok.

Together they reorganized the League and shifted its base to Singapore. Rash Behari was president of Council of Action who ensured the newly formed Indian National Army was accorded powers and status of a free National Army of an Independent India, in equality with armies of Japan and other friendly powers.

Rash Behari threw himself heart and soul into organising the IIL and INA. He took tough decisions when INA was faced with a leadership crisis, dismissing General Officer Command General Mohon Singh.

On 9 December 1942, Rash Behari said: “I once again pledge to serve the cause of India’s Independence without fear and without favour, loyalty and conscientiously to the utmost of my ability…it would have broken my heart, if at this moment, I had let this movement die…”

By April 1943, Rash Behari had set the INA house in order, though his health was deteriorating. A military training centre was operational in Kuala Lumpur with 1,000 civilians undergoing modern warfare training.

He now was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose in the East. He organized an official invitation for Subhas in Germany, requesting his participation at the Bangkok Conference. Meanwhile a safe passage for Subhas Chandra Bose was arranged, between Germany and Japan, to reach Tokyo. The stage was set a dramatic chapter of our freedom struggle: one Bose was ready to hand over the baton to the other younger Bose.