Political views of Subhas Chandra Bose

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Bose with Gandhi in 1938

Subhas Chandra Bose's political views were in support of complete freedom for India at the earliest, whereas most of the Congress Committee wanted it in phases, through a Dominion status.[1] Even though Bose and Mohandas K. Gandhi had differing ideologies, the latter called Bose the "Prince among the Patriots" in 1942. Bose admired Gandhi, recognising his importance as a symbol of Indian nationalism; he called him "The Father of Our Nation" in a radio broadcast from Rangoon in 1944, in which he stated that "I am convinced that if we do desire freedom we must be prepared to wade through blood",[2] a statement somewhat at odds with Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence. Thus, although they shared the goal of an independent India, by 1939 the two had become divided over the strategy which should be used to achieve Indian Independence, and to some degree the form which the post-Independence state should take: Gandhi was hostile to industrialisation, whilst Bose saw it as the only route to making India strong and self-sufficient (in this he may have been influenced, like many other Indian intellectuals of the time, by reports of the success of the Soviet five-year plans). Jawaharlal Nehru disagreed with Gandhi on this point as well, though not over the tactics of protest.


Bose was accused of collaborating with the Axis, after he fled to Germany in 1941 and offered Hitler an alliance. He criticized the British during World War II, saying that while Britain was fighting for the freedom of the European nations under Nazi control, it would not grant independence to its own colonies, including India. It may be observed that along with Nehru, Bose had organized and led protest marches against the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and of China itself in 1938, when he was Congress president[citation needed]. In 1937 he published an article attacking Japanese imperialism in the Far East, although he betrayed some admiration for other aspects of the Japanese regime.[3]

Bose's earlier correspondence (prior to 1939) also reflects his deep disapproval of the racist practices of and annulment of democratic institutions in Nazi Germany.[4] He also, however, expressed admiration for the authoritarian methods (though not the racial ideologies) which he saw in Italy and Germany during the 1930s, and thought they could be used in building an independent India.[5] Nevertheless, Bose's tenure as Congress Party President (1938–39) did not reflect any particular anti-democratic or authoritarian attributes. Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Anton Pelinka and Leonard Gordon have remarked that Bose's skills were best illustrated at the negotiating table, rather than on the battlefield.

Subhash Chandra Bose and Muhammed Ali Jinnah of the Muslim League seen here together

At the Tripura Congress session of 1939, he demanded giving the British Government a six-month deadline for granting independence and of launching a mass civil disobedience movement if it failed to do so. He believed that "... the country was internally more ripe for a revolution than ever before and that the coming international crisis would give India an opportunity for achieving her emancipation, which is rare in human history."[6]

Bose's judgment in allying with the Japanese has been questioned, as many argue[who?] that he would have been unable to ensure an independent India had he ridden to power on Japanese bayonets, and was in danger of being turned into a puppet ruler like Pu-yi, the last Chinese Emperor in Manchukuo. In 1943 Rash Behari Bose had urged this on him during his last visit to Subhas Bose in Singapore, pointing out that the Japanese had claimed right of conquest in Manchuria and would do so in India, whilst Quit India had shown that this would not be accepted by the Indian Nation.[7]

Nevertheless, given the Indian National Army's (INA) overwhelming dependence on Japanese military support, he would have been in a weak position. Bose also seems to have ignored the appalling treatment meted out by the Japanese to the Asian inhabitants of the lands they conquered as part of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity sphere, which included the forcible recruitment of labour from the overseas Indian population to build projects such as the Burma Railway, and massacres of Malayan Chinese in Singapore where he spent most of the war.[8]

Bose has been branded as a fascist in some quarters.[who?] Others believe that Bose had clearly expressed his belief that democracy was the best option for India.[9][dubious ]

Statues of Bose and Mohandas K. Gandhi at a center in Guntur.

Had either of the alliances he forged during the war resulted in Indian independence in the manner he envisaged, it would have been at the cost of an Allied defeat in the Second World War, a price that some Indians would argue is too high: Gandhi himself, in the immediate aftermath of the war, said that Bose had been "foolish in imagining, that by allying himself with the Japanese and the Germans, who were not only aggressive Powers, but also dangerous Powers, he could get Indian freedom".[10] The alternative of non-violent protest within India espoused by Gandhi and the rest of Congress ultimately led to British withdrawal, albeit at the expense of the partition of the country along communal lines. Even before 1939, Congress had secured political concessions from the British in the form of elected provincial assemblies, and an agreement that the British taxpayer would foot the bill for Indian re-armament.[11] Although it was rejected by Congress at the time, the 1942 Cripps mission's offer of full independence after the war could be considered the point at which the British departure became inevitable.[12] Britain's weakness after the war, and domestic political pressure on the Labour Government also made British withdrawal more likely. Publicly at least, Bose never believed that this would happen unless they were driven out by force: as late as 1944, three years prior to independence, he announced that "I am honestly convinced that the British Government will never recognise India's demand for independence".[13]

Nirad Chaudhuri considered it a backhanded tribute to Bose that the Congress tricolour and the Muslim League green flag flew together for the last time during the mutiny of the Indian navy in Bombay unleashed in 1946 partly at anger within the Navy at the trial of INA officers by the British.[14]

Judith Brown argues that the Mutiny of the Indian Navy was a minor factor in the British decision to leave compared to domestic political pressure, American hostility to any continuation of the Raj, and the breakdown of almost all networks of support and collaboration brought about by thirty years of Congress agitation. By 1946 over 50% of the members of the Indian Civil Service were Indians, and even Churchill recognised that the offer of independence made by the Cripps Mission in 1942 could not now be withdrawn.[15] In this interpretation concerns over the loyalty of the military were only one factor amongst many amidst the general breakdown in authority: nor, it could be argued, did all this necessarily stem from the activities of Bose and the INA. The prospect of communalism infecting the armed forces worried the British just as much.[16]

Bose was considered a patriot even by some of his rivals in the Congress. Gandhi himself wrote that Bose's "... patriotism is second to none",[17] and he was moved to proclaim after Bose's death that he was a "prince among patriots" - a reference, in particular, to Bose's achievement in integrating women and men from all the regions and religions of India in the Indian National Army.[18] Bose wanted freedom for India at the earliest opportunity, and to some extent, he didn't care who he had to approach for assistance.[19]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Subhas Chandra Bose.Itihas.sify.com. URL accessed on 7 April 2006
  2. ^ "Father of Our Nation" (Address to Mahatma Gandhi over the Rangoon Radio on 6 July 1944) The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Edited by Sisir K Bose & Sugata Bose (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 1997 pp301-2
  3. ^ "Japan's Role in the Far East" (originally published in the Modern Review in October 1937): "Japan has done great things for herself and for Asia. Her reawakening at the dawn of the present century sent a thrill throughout our Continent. Japan has shattered the white man's prestige in the Far East and has put all the Western imperialist powers on the defensive - not only in the military but also in the economic sphere. She is extremely sensitive - and rightly so - about her self-respect as an Asiatic race. She is determined to drive out the Western powers from the Far East. But could not all this have been achieved without Imperialism, without dismembering the Chinese Republic, without humiliating another proud, cultured and ancient race? No, with all our admiration for Japan, where such admiration is due, our whole heart goes out to China in her hour of trial" The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Edited by Sisir K. Bose & Sugata Bose (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 1997 p190
  4. ^ Bose to Dr. Thierfelder of the Deutsche Academie, Kurhaus Hochland, Badgastein, 25 March 1936 "Today I regret that I have to return to India with the conviction that the new nationalism of Germany is not only narrow and selfish but arrogant. The recent speech of Herr Hitler in Munich gives the essence of Nazi philosophy.... The new racial philosophy which has a very weak scientific foundation stands for the glorification of the white races in general and the German race in particular. Herr Hitler has talked of the destiny of white races to rule over the rest of the world. But the historical fact is that up till now the Asiatics have dominated Europe more than have the Europeans dominated Asia. One only has to consider the repeated invasions of Europe by Mongols, the Turks, the Arabs (Moors), the Huns, and other Asiatic races to understand the strength of my argument...." The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Edited by Sisir K. Bose & Sugata Bose (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 1997 p155
  5. ^ Sen, S. 1999. Subhas Chandra Bose 1897-1945. From webarchive of this URL.
  6. ^ The Congress Resigns. indhistory.com
  7. ^ C.A. Bayly & T. Harper Forgotten Armies. The Fall of British Asia 1941-5 (London) 2004 p327; A.M. Nair An Indian Freedom Fighter in Japan (New Delhi) 1985 p230
  8. ^ Nicholas Tarling (Ed.) The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia Vol. II part 2. From World War II to the Present (Cambridge) 1999 p8
  9. ^ Roy, R. C. (2004). Social, Economic and Political Philosophy of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Orissa Review. pp. 7–8. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009. Retrieved 19 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Nirad C. Chaudhuri "Subhas Chandra Bose-His Legacy and Legend" Pacific Affairs Vol. 26, No. 4 (Dec. 1953), pp. 351
  11. ^ Keith Jeffery "The Second World War" The Oxford History of the British Empire Vol. IV The Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press) 1999 p312
  12. ^ Judith Brown Modern India. The Origins of an Asian Democracy 2nd Edition (Oxford) 1994 pp293-316, 328
  13. ^ "Father of Our Nation" (Address to Mahatma Gandhi over the Rangoon Radio on 6 July 1944) The Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Edited by Sisir K Bose & Sugata Bose (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 1997 p301
  14. ^ Nirad C. Chaudhuri "Subhas Chandra Bose-His Legacy and Legend" Pacific Affairs Vol. 26, No. 4 (Dec. 1953), pp. 349-350
  15. ^ Judith Brown Modern India. The origins of an Asian Democracy (Oxford University Press) 1994 pp325-30 On page 326 she writes "By 1946 the British knew their network of Indian allies in their various services was a fast-weakening support and instrument of their rule. The strains of war, the prospect of transferred power, and the communal conflict had eroded efficiency and morale, and now threatened ultimately loyalty to the raj itself. Wavell was in no doubt that he was not only presiding over an imperial edifice which must be dismantled or collapse. He was also head of a government whose very mechanisms for daily administration were breaking down. In September he argued that simply on administrative grounds the raj could not last more than 18 months, and looking back over 1946 he noted in late October, 'Our time in India is limited and our power to control events is almost gone. We have only prestige and previous momentum to trade on, and they will not last long."
  16. ^ Brown Modern India p325
  17. ^ Gandhi, Mohandas K. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Ahmedabad: The Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, Navajivan Trust, 1972-78), Volume LXXXIII, p. 135
  18. ^ Bose, Sugata - Maximum Leader, India Today
  19. ^ Sen, S.Subhas Chandra Bose 1897-1945. From webarchive