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Who is Subhas Chandra Bose

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Born on January 23, 1897, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was a patriot, defiant revolutionary and an exemplary leader. While his attempts to seek the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for India's independence left a troubled legacy, Subash Chandra Bose was an inspirational leader in every sense. He was imprisoned by the British authorities eleven times but his stance never changed.

Subhas Chandra Bose

Bose was the ninth child of Prabhavati Devi and Janakinath Bose and was born in Cuttack, Orissa Division, Bengal Province. He studied in Protestant European School first and then at Ravenshaw Collegiate School. As a child, Bose was admired by his own teachers for being a brilliant and scintillating genius. When he was in Germany, he met Emilie Schenkl, the daughter of an Austrian veterinarian whom he married in 1937. They had a daughter Anita Bose Pfaff.

Making of a revolutionary

Bose was a thorough revolutionary and a patriot. His nationalistic temperament first came to light when he was expelled from Presidency College for assaulting Professor Oaten for anti-India comments. He then went on to complete his B.A in philosophy in in 1918 at Scottish Church College at the University of Calcutta. His aim was to appear for the Indian Civil Services when he left to England in 1919. He ranked 4th in the examination but refused to work under the British. Subhas Chandra Bose believed that the Bhagavad Gita was a great source of inspiration for the struggle against the British. Swami Vivekananda's teachings were his inspiration. Subhas who called himself a socialist, believed that socialism in India owed its origins to Swami Vivekananda

Bose stood for self-governance, even if it meant the use of force against the British. This philosophy was in contradiction to Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent means. The confrontation split the Congress. While Bose tried to keep the front united, Gandhi advised him to form his own cabinet. The rift also divided Bose and Nehru. U. Muthuramalingam Thevar stood by Bose and mobilised all votes from South India in his favour. Bose successfully defeated Mahatma Gandhi's candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya to be elected as Congress' President again. He later resigned from the party.

"Only on the soil of sacrifice and suffering can we raise our national edifice," Bose had written to his brother in 1921. The same year, he returned to India. He founded a newspaper, 'Swaraj' with his mentor, Chittaranjan Das, an aggressive nationalist. In 1923, Bose was elected as the President of All India Youth Congres and also became the Secretary of Bengal State Congress.

Subhas Chandra Bose's various roles

In 1925, Bose along with other nationalists was sent to prison in Mandalay where he contracted tuberculosis. Bose, after being released worked with Jawaharlal Nehru. He was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Congress Volunteer Corps, a role that he loved. He was once again arrested for civil disobedience but came out to became the Mayor of Calcutta.

During his visits to Europe, he observed communism and fascism and wrote the first part of his book 'The Indian Struggle'. Bose's book alone rattled the British government that ordered a ban. The British feared that the book alone would encourage unrest, that was the power of Netaji's words. In 1938, Netaji agreed to become the Congress President.

On June 22, 1939, Bose organised the All India Forward Bloc a faction within the Indian National Congress aimed at consolidating the political left. The impact was great in Bengal and South India. His popularity soared with thousands of young Indians identifying with his ideology. Bose advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's decision to declare war on India's behalf. he sought Gandhi's help but got none. He continued to organise the protest and was eventually arrested. He went on a hunger strike for seven days after which he was released. The British, unwilling to take a chance, kept him under surveillance by the CID.

Bose, however, escaped and went to Germany via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Days ahead of his escape, he sought solitude and grew a beard. On January 16, 1941, he dressed as a Pathan and escaped. His nephew Sisir Kumar Bose arranged a German-made Wanderer W24 Sedan car, which would take Bose to Gomoh Railway Station in the then state of Bihar. Bose had many supporters in Afghanistan, Soviet Union, Rome and Germany who helped him. He sought Russia's help but was transferred to the German Ambassador who arranged for Bose to go to Berlin. In Berlin, Bose raised an army, 'the Indian Legion'.

Netaji's army

"I swear by God this holy oath that I will obey the leader of the German race and state, Adolf Hitler, as the commander of the German armed forces in the fight for India, whose leader is Subhas Chandra Bose" was the legion's oath. Bose, however, was disappointed after meeting Hitler in May 1942. He realised that Hitler was more interested in using his men to win propaganda victories than military ones. Bose once again escaped aboard a submarine bound for Japan.

Bose believed that Gandhi's tactics of non-violence would never be sufficient to secure India's independence, and advocated violent resistance. He established a separate political party, the All India Forward Bloc. With Japanese monetary, political, diplomatic and military assistance, he formed the Azad Hind Government in exile, and regrouped and led the Indian National Army in failed military campaigns against the allies at Imphal and in Burma. The Japnese however, thought that he was militarily unskilled.

Despite his fallout with Gandhi, Bose in his address on July 6, 1944, in a speech broadcast by the Azad Hind Radio from Singapore called him the "Father of the Nation". He asked for his blessings and good wishes for the war he was fighting. Bose was the first to call Mahatma as the Father of the Nation.

Death and mystery

While his death is a mystery to many, Bose is said to have died from third-degree burns in a plane crashed in Taiwan on August 18, 1945. Many Indians did not believe that the crash had occurred. Popular culture believes that Bose's body was cremated in the main Taihoku crematorium on August 20, 1945. On September 14, a memorial service was held for Bose in Tokyo and a few days later the ashes were turned over to the priest of the Renkōji Temple of Nichiren Buddhism where they have been kept till date.

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