and the INA
Chandra Bose (popularly known as Netaji) was a romantic figure
and a great nationalist hero of our generation. In 1942 Subhash
Bose formed the Indian National Army (INA) in the far-east
-- the Japanese occupied areas, and he was its supreme commander
until his death in 1945. It was a controversial decision on
German and Japanese powers (known as the axis) were regarded
by many as fascist, expansionist and authoritarian. The atrocities
committed, particularly by the Japanese army, defied the rules
of war and the Geneva Convention. Subhash Bose, frustrated
by the week-kneed policy of the Congress and in an act of
desperation had concluded that "my enemy's enemy is my
friend". He may have sincerely believed that the Japanese
would be helpful in gaining India's freedom!
1945 the Japanese lost the war and surrendered. INA members
were then arrested by the victorious British. The vast majority
of them were released. However, to demonstrate that defection
and mutiny would not go unpunished a few senior officers were
tried by the British in the Red Fort in Delhi.
Calcutta, when I was a school student in class eight, we joined
the strikes and protests against first of these trials; Captain
Rashid Ali was tried first after whom that day was called
"Rashid Ali Dibash". Wearing a barrister's gown
after many years, Jinnah and Nehru defended Captain Rashid
Ali, Major Shahnawaj and Captain Dhillon. I remember going
on strike and then in procession from our school to the Wellington
Square in Calcutta to join a large meeting presided over by
Dr. A.M. Malek, then vice-president of the All India Trade
Union Congress. It was addressed, amongst others, by Dr. Bidhan
Chandra Roy, a famous physician of his time.
I also saw another famous and often controversial personality
-- V. K. Krishna Menon, president of the India League in the
UK, who spoke with a rolled umbrella in hand. From the meeting
area, we heard sounds of gun shots and soon learnt that police
had fired on a group trying to come to the meeting through
the Dharamtola Street killing two people including a woman.
The names of Calcutta Police Commissioner Hardwick and his
deputy Doha (later the Inspector-General of Police in East
Pakistan) come to my mind in this connection. The protests
against the trials spread all over India and finally resulted
in the dismissal of the INA officers from the British Indian
army. Since they had voluntarily left that army years ago
to join the liberation forces (INA), it was not a big loss
Subhash Bose was born in 1897. He was a brilliant student
of the Calcutta Presidency College where he earned a first
class undergraduate degree in philosophy. He then went to
Cambridge and finished his Tripos in two years instead of
three. At his father's insistence he joined the Indian Civil
service (ICS) after successfully taking the examination from
the UK. As an ICS officer, he joined the Calcutta City Corporation
as its secretary at the request of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan
Das, then the Mayor of Calcutta. After some time he resigned
from the ICS in order to join the Congress. Though a very
eligible young man, he chose to remain a bachelor and devote
himself wholeheartedly to politics and India's independence.
He was twice elected as the President of the Indian National
narrated by Nirad C. Chaudhury (then secretary to Sarat Bose,
a senior Congress leader and elder brother of Subhash) in
one of his books, Gandhi was unhappy about the defeat of his
nominee Pattavi Sitaramaiya in 1939, for the post of congress
president in a close contest with Bose, who was elected for
the second time. He also disliked Bose's martial appearance
on that occasion in full khaki uniform on a horseback to inspect
the uniformed congress volunteer guards.
Bose had to resign before completing the second term due to
serious differences of opinion with and the machinations of
the right wing sympathisers of the Congress, including Gandhi.
He formed a new progressive party called the Forward block.
In view of his persistent and fiery opposition to British
rule, he was then arrested (for the eleventh time in his political
life) by the British. Bose went on hunger-strike jail; the
British had to free him and place him under house arrest in
Elgin Road in Bhowanipur (near the Bengal Tennis Club) in
1941. From there he vanished one night that year only to surface
after some time in Austria.
a student in the MA class in Dhaka University in early 1954,
I visited Calcutta along with a few friends. We made it a
point to visit Subhash Bose's house, by then a museum, and
saw in a third floor bedroom his clothes and personal articles
kept in the exact way he had left them on the day of his departure.
Apparently, his police guards thought he was sleeping in bed
(which he had arranged to look that way) but he had already
slipped away. Bose went to Austria (by land route via Kabul)
where he lived for a short time and married an Austrian woman.
Later he went to Berlin to seek German assistance to secure
waiting uncertainly for a number of days, Shubash Bose secured
an interview with Hitler through the German Foreign Minister
Ribbentrop. I have read in one of Bose's biographies that
Hitler was not sympathetic, in fact he told Bose that the
British rule of India had a beneficial and modernising influence
on the country and its inward looking society. Hitler had
particularly mentioned that the caste system was India's handicap.
Hitler praised the construction by the British of the infrastructure
in India, particularly the railways, which unified the country
and increased trade and commerce. Frustrated, Subhash Bose
went to Japan in 1941with German assistance -- he reportedly
was transferred from a German to a Japanese submarine in high
(and rough) seas near Madagascar (now Zanzibar) in the Indian
Ocean under the most dangerous conditions. He reached Tokyo
and received Japanese support to form the INA.
1942-43, we were temporarily in Jalpaiguri -- in my Grandfather's
house -- due to Japanese air attacks on Calcutta and the resultant
panic. We used to secertly hear Subhash Bose's patriotic and
emotional speeches in Hindi starting with "Bhaiyon aur
Baheno -- Jai Hind". His was a call to arms to drive
out the British from India. The programme, beamed over the
Azad Hind Radio from Japan and later Burma, would always end
with the INA's marching song "Chalo chalo Dilli chalo,
aghey kadam barahe ja, khushi ka geet gaye ja".
years later, I was fortunate to meet two senior members of
the INA, Brigadier Raja Habibur Rehman, who was the chief
of staff of Subhash Bose and Colonel Imtiaz Kayani, whom Bose
had reportedly selected as INA chief in case of his death.
They were senior colleagues of mine while I was serving as
a Deputy Secretary in the President's Secretariat (1967- 69)
in Rawalpindi. Older than me, both used to treat me quite
affectionately. Their past association with the INA and reverence
for Bose had not gone very well with the vast majority of
the Pakistani elite and army officers. They were drawn to
me because of my interest in the INA and their role in it.
This allowed them to open up to me with their personal stories
was then the Political Agent in Gilgit. He had several times
invited me to visit him in remote Gilgit and see the spectacular
sights there. The once weekly PIA flight through the high
mountainous area was particularly risky (one of our CSP colleagues
died at that time in an air crash in this route) and for other
personal reasons, I was unable to go. Whenever he was in Pindi,
he would visit me, once in my house in the Satellite Town.
He was a good person, but according to General Ayub Khan,
who was his minister for a little while, Rehman "was
his own boss and unable to work under anybody".
was a joint secretary in the Cabinet Division sitting in the
same building as I. Subhash Bose had recruited these officers
along with many other officers and soldiers from the British
Indian personnel captured by the Japanese during the battle
with the British in Malaysia and Burma. Most of them joined
for patriotic reasons to free India. INA members got many
privileges from the Japanese e.g. food, clothing, medical
treatment and of course military supplies and training.
Rehman was accompanying Netaji Subhash Bose on his last journey
in a Japanese military aircraft from Taipei in Formosa (now
Taiwan) to Tokyo. As narrated to me by Rehman, Subhash Bose
was going to Tokyo to make a final appeal to Tojo, the Japanese
prime minister for more resources for the INA to continue
to fight effectively to free India. In fact, in the Burma
front inadequately trained and equipped INA troops were put
in forward positions by the Japanese command and suffered
defeats and terrible losses. However, it was Bose's belief
till the very end that if somehow the INA with Japanese assistance
could penetrate into India, common people and the students
in India with whom he was immensely popular would rise up
all over India in massive rebellion against the British.
I personally believe that Subhash Bose's expectation that
the Japanese at that late stage would or could provide increased
assistance to him was unrealistic. Also, there were a lot
of people, particularly the British educated congress leaders,
the Indian elite and intellectuals who favoured democracy
and open society of the allied powers (led by the British
and Americans) and not the authoritarian and fascist model
of the Japanese and Germans.
received a first hand account of the sad end of Subhash Bose
from Habibur Rehman who was by his side during Netaji's last
few days. The small plane in which Bose was seated in the
front and Rehman in the back seat crashed and caught fire
on the runway while taking off. Rehman did not allege that
the Japanese had sabotaged the plane though I have a suspicion
that it was possible. Bose had fallen from favour and military
and food supplies to the INA at the time were being drastically
reduced by the Japanese who were themselves suffering shortages
and losing the war. Also, the Japanese did not have confidence
anymore in the INA as a credible fighting force against the
Rehman and Subhash Bose were injured and severely burnt. They
were treated in the Japanese Army Field Hospital in Taipei.
Even though Bose had third degree burns on seventy percent
of his body and in terrible pain, he fondly enquired from
Habibur Rehman (who had lesser injuries) lying by his side
about the latter's condition by saying 'Raja Sahab, apko zaida
chot to nahi lagi'? (trust that you were not hurt too badly?).
Brig Rehman had many nice things to say about Bose's charming
manners, leadership qualities, deep patriotism and non-communal
approach in which he was uncompromising. Bose died of his
injuries in the hospital, and was cremated in Taipei. It was
Brig Rehman who, after his recovery, carried Bose's ashes
to Tokyo where it was kept for many years in a Buddhist temple
until brought back after many years to India under Indian
Kayani, who used to be called 'tiger kayani' in the INA was
equally complimentary about Bose. According to Kayani's personal
experience during the difficult period of war and privation,
Subhash Bose treated Hindus and Muslims the same way. It was
Kayani's belief that if Bose returned to India after the war,
he would have peacefully and fairly settled the Hindu-Muslim
issue and there would not have been any need for the partition
after the independence of Pakistan and India in 1947, Rehman
and Kayani were mobilised by the Pakistani authorities to
lead tribal militia and other irregular forces to go into
Kashmir at the time of the Maharaja Hari Singh's unilateral
accession to India. Rehman and Kayani were then given senior
civil positions in the Government. Interestingly, their INA
colleague Major Shahnawaj had joined the Indian Army and fought
on the Indian side in Kashmir, later rising to the rank of
a Brigadier. That was the beginning of the Kashmir conflict,
which unfortunately continues till today and threatens war
between India and Pakistan from time to time.
The author, a former CSP officer and a retired member
of the World Bank Staff, writes from Washington.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004