Revisiting Netaji's Role in the Freedom Struggle of India, INA and Manipur Perspective
- Part 1 -

Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte *

Indian National Army (INA) museum and a Statue of Netaji Subashchandra Bose at Moirang
Indian National Army (INA) museum and a Statue of Netaji Subashchandra Bose at Moirang


Popularly called Netaji, Subhas Chandra Bose, stands aloft among the many freedom fighters that India has produced. His contribution and character is unique. He provided the leadership when it was most needed. He gave a definite direction, the internal input, which invigorated the freedom struggle movement and intimidated the British Administration.

Netaji was of the firm belief that the British could only be thrown out by force. He had no constitutional means and peaceful methods for the attainment of freedom. He disagreed with Gandhi's method of struggling for freedom. He thought that India under Gandhi's Principle will not attain freedom and never achieve at all. He could not rely on Gandhi on this. While working as an active protagonist of the Congress, he along with Nehru had formed the Forward Block.

Rise of the revolutionary struggle for freedom started by Gandhiji in 1920, developed the middle class group who were led first by C.R. Das and later on by Subhas Bose. After the incident of Chauri Chaura (5th February, 1922), the socio-political condition was completely changed particularly in Bengal because some of the earliest settlers in Calcutta had amassed wealth and property during the John Company's days and dominated the Calcutta Society for nearly a century because of their financial power. Since his entry into politics, his personality made him so popular and, of course, had taken the role of leader who inspired the well to do tycoons, edging their way slowly to the Congress platforms in order to ensure their earthly possession which had been acquired by being loyal to the British.

Regarding his anti-imperialist struggle and Sansyavada, Netaji engaged in a non-existent war with the British Government for the attainment of our political freedom Subhas categorily rejected all the constitutional measures initiated by Gandhi and introduced two paths for easily attaining goal; "uncompromising military and compromise". He further suggested to face a major imperialist nation like Britain is not an easy task. So he wanted the supply of necessary resources depends on our ability to keep up the enthusiasm of the people and maintain the spirit of opposition towards the Government.

As an instance, Subhas opposed Gandhi's resolution on Dominion Status at Calcutta Congress in 1928. Along with that, he also pointed that the Round Table Conference a misnomer. He gave reason to it, "a handful of non-descript Indian nominated by the alien Government would be representing to do with the bidding of the British politicians". This had irritated Gandhi and Nehru. Subhas' never fell in line of sycophants of the British. He behaved in his deeds and words.

He vehemently rejected the Delhi Pact better known in history as the Gandhi Irwin Pact (March, 1931) and he out-rightly declared as a painful document and called to "Strike when the iron is hot".

The long rule of India by an imperialist nation, ultimately made India inferior and that developed inferiority complex would continue till India gets freedom. It is obviously true that India witnessed stiff hardship till she achieved independence. Subhas had foreseen the future. The social, economic and political forces working in unision within India were never possible. It rather contradicts with the British till her legitimate aspirations were fulfilled. Thus to defeat the British was to win freedom for India.

In the process of the freedom struggle of India, the role played by Subhas was significant. His quality was unique as was described by his biographer, N.G. Jog.

"Bose became the man of the hour if, by some miracle he had returned to India, he would have carried everything before him as Napoleon did after his escape from Elba."

This is the truth of which Mahatma and Nehru and the Congress were afraid.

Several factors were responsible for winning our freedom from the British clutches. Though, the Indian National Congress Party acted as the centrifugal force, there were many parties like Indian League, Muslim League, Communist Party, the Liberal Federation, Swarajya Party, Forward Block, India Independence League under Rash Behari Bose and individuals whose name never appeared in history, who had struggled hard for Indian Independence.

Indeed, perhaps the violent ways of Subhas had also contributed a lot for the same. His charismatic leadership had influenced thousands of people which led the birth of Azad Hind Fauz (INA) one major force fighting for India against the British. Before the Madras Congress Session in 1927 Subhas supported Nehru for an ultimate objective to gain Purna Swaraj or complete independence for India.

Subhas made an escape from India on January 16, 1941 through Afghanistan reached Germany on April 3, 1941. He was no stranger to Germany for he had spent time and time again in Europe during 1934 1937 though mostly in Germany, he went to Italy where he met Mussolini several times and to Austria, also. How much Subhas loved India can easily be seen from his actions to the cause of India that can be confirmed by Govind Talwalkar's article "Among the Nazis".

"He was shocked by the cases of maltreatment of Indian students in Germany and Goering's attack on Gandhiji. Subhas even wrote to Dr. A. Franz Theirfelder, Secretary General of the Indian Institute in Munich condemning the attitude of Nazis and demanding an apology from Hitler for his speech and Goering's attack on Gandhiji."

While Gandhiji detested Netaji he never did so. In fact he always defended in person outside India that was his greatness. Gandhi & Nehru therefore felt overshadowed by Netaji and his politics.

It is to be noted that during his visits and stays in Germany, he could not meet Hitler personally despite his several attempts but on 27th May, 1942, met the top brass of Germany of that hour. Furthermore, Subhas asked Hitler to clarify passages in Mein Kampf (a book which gave a very inaccurate account of his own life and set out his beliefs which were insulting to India Hitler explained that they were mainly aimed at discouraging the pacifist tendencies in Germany which might have been further influenced by the Indian movement. In fact, Hitler had discouraged the non-violent path followed by Indian freedom fighters for two reasons. Firstly, the weapon Ahimsa goes against Nazism and, Secondly, admired the British imperial policy, because Hitler, had helped to copy the same after conquering Russia.

When the Japanese conquered the Malay Peninsula; a large number of Indian soldiers fell prisoners into their hands. Under an agreement with the Japanese Government, Bose, now called Netaji (Leader) organized them into an Azad Hind Fauz or Indian National Army. He inaugurated the Government of Free India at Singapore.

It was on October 21, 1943, which is red letter day not only in the life of Subhas but also in the history of India's Independence Movement. This Provincial Government was immediately recognized by nine powers. At midnight on October 23, the Government declared war on Britain to effect liberation from their dominion. The Indian National Army had been formed by Rash Behari Ghosh and Captain Mohon Singh and others, was reorganized and revitalized.

Another significant area initiated by him was the involvement of Indian women in actual military action. Back in 1928, he had been instrumental in raising under the leadership of "Colonel" Latika Ghosh a Congress Woman's Volunteer Corps that had marched on the streets of Calcutta in full uniform. When in 1943 he raised the expatriate INA in Southeast Asia, he decided to add a women's regiment, which he called the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, named after Rani Lakshmibai, the legendary heroine of the Revolt of 1857.

Thus, it was started with the 20 women maintained by Col. Dr. Lakshmi Swaminadhan Sahgal the Commander of the same. Under his able leadership the INA marched victoriously to Indian borders. It posted its tri-colour flag at Moirang Kangla on April 14, 1944 at about 5 pm by Col. Saukat Ali Malik, the Commander of the Bahadur (Intelligence) Group where a monument stands now in his name to honour his supreme sacrifice for the country.

To be continued ...

* Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Lecturer, Damdei Christian College, Motbung, Manipur. This article was posted on March 11, 2012

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