Subhas Chandra Bose Jayanti – A devout Hindu known for his patriotic zeal

via V.N. Gopalakrishnan published on January 23, 2010

Subhas Chandra Bose Jayanti is being celebrated on January 23. Popularly known as Netaji (Beloved Leader), he was a legend in the Indian independence movement. He was an illustrious and aspiring patriot who fought the British in unconventional ways and with impressive valour.

He believed that the Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita were the sources of inspiration for the struggle against the British Raj. Swami Vivekananda’s teachings on universalism, his nationalist thoughts and his emphasis on social service and reform had inspired him from a very young age. The interpretation of India’s ancient scriptures had immense appeal on him.. Many believe that the Hindu spirituality formed the essential part of his political and social thought through his adult life.

He called himself a Socialist and believed that socialism in India owed its origin to Swami Vivekananda. Subhas Bose was influenced more by Lokmanya Tilak and Sri Aurobindo. He did not agree with Gandhiji’s methods of achieving independence through non-violence means.  Rana Pratap and Shivaji were his heroes and he believed that the only way to liberate his people was by shedding blood. 

Historian Leonard Gordan has stated: “Inner religious explorations continued to be a part of his adult life. This set him apart from the slowly growing number of atheistic socialists and communists who dotted the Indian landscape.” He was a devout Hindu and was known for his patriotic zeal.

Though Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru have garnered much of the credit for the successful culmination of Indian freedom struggle, the contribution of Subas Chandra Bose was equally significant. But he has been denied his rightful place in the annals of Indian history. He founded the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) to overthrow the British Raj.
Subas Bose had clearly expressed his belief that democracy was the best option for India. Some believe that his authoritarian control of the Azad Hind was based on political pragmatism rather than any anti-democratic belief.

However, during the early 1930s, he seems to have decided that no democratic system could be adequate to overcome India’s poverty and social inequalities. He wrote that an authoritarian state like the Soviet Russia would be needed for the process of nation building. Some suggest that Bose’s alliance with the Axis powers during the World War was based on pragmatism. He was a militant nationalist and not a Nazi or a Fascist as he supported the empowerment of women, secularism and other democratic ideas. His correspondence prior to 1939 reflects his disapproval of the racist practices in Nazi Germany. But he expressed his admiration for the authoritarian methods which he saw in Italy and Germany during the 1930s and thought they could be used in building an independent India.

 He advocated complete freedom for India at the earliest, whereas the Indian National Congress Committee wanted it in phases, through a Dominion status. Leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru supported Subhas Chandra Bose and finally at the historic Lahore Congress convention, the Congress had to adopt Poorna Swaraj (complete freedom) as its motto. Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom and the inability of the Congress leaders to save his life infuriated Subhas Chandra Bose and he started a movement opposing the Gandhi-Irvin Peace Pact.
Subhas Bose was elected President of the Indian National Congress for two consecutive terms, but had to resign from the post following ideological differences with Mahatma Gandhi and after openly attacking the foreign and internal policies of the Indian National Congress.

He believed that Mahatma Gandhi’s tactics of non-violence would never be sufficient to secure India’s independence, and hence he advocated violent resistance. He established the All India Forward Bloc, a separate political party, and continued to call for the full and immediate independence of India from British rule. He was imprisoned by the British authorities eleven times.

Subhash Chandra Bose was born in a Hindu Kayastha family on January 23, 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa, as the ninth child among 14, of Janakinath Bose, a successful lawyer and Prabhavati Devi, a follower of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who could inculcate spiritual values in her son. A brilliant student, Subhas Bose topped the matriculation examination of Calcutta province in 1911 and passed B.A. in 1918 in Philosophy from the Scottish Church College of the University of Calcutta. He went to study at the University of Cambridge, and passed the civil service examination but he resigned the appointment on the premise that the “best way to end a government is to withdraw from it.”

At the time, Indian nationalists were outraged because of the Amritsar massacre and the repressive Rowlatt legislation of 1919. After returning to India Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose came under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and joined the Indian National Congress. On Gandhiji’s instructions, he started working under Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, whom he later acknowledged as his political guru.
Voyaging in a German submarine, Subhas Bose reached Singapore, where he founded the Indian National Army (INA).

On October 21, 1943 he proclaimed a Provisional Government (in exile) of India. Girija K. Mookerjee in his biography of Subhas Bose stated: “As a National Revolutionary dedicated to the cause of Indian independence, Subhas Bose was moved in all his actions by one desire and one desire alone that is to find ways and means to fight for the liberation of his motherland”. He is presumed to have died in an air crash over Taiwan on August 18, 1945 at the age of 48. Contradictory evidence still exists regarding his death in the accident. Though he did not live to see the Indian independence, his spirit still lives through his words – Jai Hind.

 (Author is a social activist and Director, Indo-Gulf Consulting. He can be contacted on [email protected]).

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