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Bose and Russia~I

A few months later, Dadabhai Naoroji’s granddaughter, Khurshed Naoroji, in her letter to Louis Fischer, confirmed Bose’s existence in Russia.

NANDALAL CHAKRABARTI |

Netaji’s effort to seek outside help for India’s independence often raised questions about contradictions between his leanings towards Russia and decision to seek German assistance during the Second World War. These should be addressed with reference to the unique way he dealt with ideological and strategic imperatives simultaneously, in a turbulent era. It is true that Bose wanted socialist development in independent India. But he never wanted to follow the Soviet model of socialist experiments. His objective was socialist development rooted in Indian conditions. He clarified his goal further, in an interview with Rajani Palme Dutt in 1938. He said that India would move towards socialist development only after winning independence. His strategy for establishing contacts with the Russians should be viewed from this priority assigned to national freedom. Bose went to Russia before visiting Germany for assistance.

A German Intelligence Report says: “In the spring of 1941 he had crossed Russo-Afghan Frontier…in Moscow no official cognizance had been taken of his presence, but the Russians had done everything they could to make his stay there a pleasant one.’’ This hesitation to come out openly in his support at the time prompted Bose to move elsewhere. However, even after this, he remained inclined towards Russia. When Germany invaded Russia, he condemned it as an act of imperialist aggression. On 17 July 1941, in a meeting, Bose told the German Undersecretary of State, Woermann that in the war between Germany and Russia, Indians would be on the Russian side. The man never shied away from spelling out that his nationalism was anti-expansionist. This was his clear ideological stand. Three years later, in October 1944, in the last cabinet meeting of the Azad Hind government, he said that in a conflict between the AngloAmericans and the Russians he would seek Russia’s support.

He explained his policy by asking, “… if Anglo-Americans in order to defeat Axis Powers can join hands with the Communists, what is wrong in my enlisting anybody else’s support to liberate my motherland?” The decision, here, was strategic. He never lost sight of the advantages which the changing international scenario offered for his country’s freedom. Meanwhile, the contact with the Russians was established. S C Sengupta of INA told the Khosla Commission that one of Netaji’s ADCs [Aide-De-Camps], Resbi Elice, informed that ‘necessary arrangement’ had been made with Stalin and Molotov through the Russian Ambassador in Tokyo, Jacob Malik. Col. Pritam Singh also confirmed Bose’s contact with the Russians. Before the Mukherjee Commission he said that Netaji had told him, “Contact has already been made with Russia and we should try to move towards that direction.” Lt Sadhu Singh informed that in December 1944 Bose did visit Russia. A declassified file [249-INA], reveals this.

The Russian connection came to light once again, when documents collected by the Mukherjee Commission from the Public Record Office London brought to the fore the concerns of both the Russians and the British about Bose’s existence in Russia as late as 1946. Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, 1st Baron Inverchapel, who was Britain’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, sent a telegram on 7 January 1946 from Moscow to the Foreign Office [of Britain] about an article in the Russian newspaper Pravda on a report published in the Indian newspaper, National Herald. The report of National Herald said, Bose ‘‘had fled to Russia and has been there since the Japanese surrender…” He “was free to travel about the Soviet Union.” Sir A Clark found the information so urgent that he sent the telegram to the Foreign office on the day Pravda’s article on the report was published. It is significant that Clark referred to Pravda’s reaction as a ‘’laboured refutation’’ of the National Herald report. Evidently, he was not willing to accept Pravda’s view. He must have been convinced of Bose’s existence in Russia.

What was Bose doing in Russia at that time? The most clinching document on it is a report from Tehran found in the Declassified file no. 273 INA. The report says that Moradoff, the Russian Vice Consul General, had disclosed in March 1946 that Bose was in Russia secretly organising ‘a group of Russians and Indians to work on the same line as the INA for the freedom of India’. A few months later, Dadabhai Naoroji’s granddaughter, Khurshed Naoroji, in her letter to Louis Fischer, confirmed Bose’s existence in Russia. Fischer was an American journalist who authored ‘’Seven days with Gandhi’’. Khurshed, apprehending the danger of Bose’s return to India from the Soviet Union wrote on 22 July 1946, ‘’… at heart the Indian Army is sympathetic to the Indian National Army. If Bose comes with the help of Russia, neither Gandhiji nor the Congress will be able to reason with the country’’.

Unfortunately, the documents on Bose’s leaning towards Russia as well as his existence there beyond 1945 have triggered wild speculation. Many have relentlessly circulated, without any evidence, a narrative of Bose’s death in Russia and many others have tried to establish that Bose had an embassy in Siberia. Some revel at these brazen lies as brilliant research work. It is time that the lies are exposed finally.