Need for a True History of India’s Freedom Struggle

By Aju Mukhopadhyay

Difference between the two first ranking leaders hindered the birth of Modern India

Aju Mukhopadhyay
Modern India was born with the winning of freedom. In 1938, during the 51st session of the Indian National Congress Subhas Chandra Bose was elected its President. He was given an outstanding welcome and reception at Haripura. It was his political coronation. After a year’s experience he contested for the second term against the wishes of Gandhiji in 1939 and won the election getting 1580 votes against his rival’s (Pattabhi Sitaramayya) 1375 votes. Most Left forces voted for Subhas. Gandhi said, “The defeat is more mine than his…,” and added, “After all Subhas Babu is not an enemy of his country” (Gordon /Freedom 15).
The sarcastic wording by Gandhi looking down on Subhas as “enemy” was really an irony of fate. He called him later “Prince among Patriots” and Subhas only mentioned him for the first time as the “Father of the Nation”. One may find a contrast between Gandhi’s remark with the opinion of Dr. Sitaramayya, about Subhas Chandra Bose.
“Contemporary history carries, with its own charms as well as its own complications. And in it – Subhas’s, what a history – what charms, what complications - A stormy life from boyhood onwards, a strange combination of mysticisms and reality, of intense religious fervor and stern practical sense, a deep emotional susceptibility and cold calculating pragmaticism…”[i]
Subhas issued a statement to Gandhi like a challenge, part of which was, “I do not know what sort of opinion Mahatmaji has of me. But whatever his view may be, it will always be my aim and object to try and win his confidence for the simple reason that it will be a tragic thing for me if I succeed in winning the confidence of other people but fail to win the confidence of India’s greatest man” (Gordon /Freedom 15).
The Left wing of the Congress and socialists failed or betrayed in continuing to support the cause of the President to nominate a Working Committee of his choice. Those who voted for Bose including Nehru now backed. And Gandhians got their resolution passed thus: “Mahatma Gandhi alone can lead the Congress… and requests the President to nominate the working committee in accordance with the wishes of Gandhiji…”
“Gandhi, for his part, was adamant and seemed determined to oust Bose” (Gordon /Freedom 16).
There are many more examples of Gandhi’s dictatorship in the Congress which drove Subhas to the path of revolt against it. The dictatorship left many examples of legitimate reactions in one of the first ranking leaders of the country, KM Munshi. Gandhi issued a stricture that those Congressmen who favoured violent resistance or were associated with gymnasia should get out of the party; and Munshi resigned from it.[ii]
Bose formed Forward Block inviting all left minded people to join. He threw a challenge to ascertain his right to criticize the Congress High Command and demonstrate against it. This was too much for the monopolistic democratic party so he was suspended from the Congress executive positions for three years.
Tagore, who was a friend of Gandhi, broke his silence and wrote:
“Subhas Chandra, I have watched you from afar when you first began your penance for the country… In your lifetime you have absorbed many an experience. Your adherence to duty is a positive proof of your vitality and strength. Incarceration, banishment, incurable disease – all these have sorely tested your strength. . . . You have emerged out of these trials with a vision that reaches beyond the bounds of the country and encompasses the extensive grounds of world history. You have made allies out of your troubles and obstacles… so many steps in the ladder of your success… Those who are real and natural leaders of the country, never stand by themselves. They belong to all men of all times. They stand on the crest of the present and are the very first to bow in obeisance to the first purple rays that usher the dawning future. Keeping that in mind I invite you and through you the whole nation to give a lead to the country.” (Tagore 716-718)
Subhas Chandra was arrested in July 1940 for leading popular demonstration in Calcutta and was imprisoned. Bose was desperate to strike a blow to the imperialists instead of becoming their friends to grasp power when they would leave as it happened at the end. He resorted to hunger strike until death and the British could not go up to that so released him in December 5, putting him under house arrest. He escaped to foreign countries on 16 January 1941.  
Congress and the issue of Partition of the country
Gandhi who often said, “You shall have to  divide my  body before you divide India”, or if partition happened it would be over his dead body, now said to Nirmal Bose, “With whom was I going to carry on the fight? Don’t you realise that, as a result of one year of communal riots, the people of India have all become communal? They can see nothing beyond the communal question. They are tired and frightened. The Congress has only represented this feeling of the whole nation. How can I oppose it?” (Gordon /Freedom 22)
In fact Gandhi’s efforts to bring communal harmony were never successful. He finally supported partition of the country. Earlier, his efforts to support Khilafat movement could not gain him confidence of the Muslim community. The core members of both the community looked at him with suspicion, resulting in his death in the hand of one belonging to his own religion. Remember the horrible aftermaths of partition in both India and Pakistan; a train load of dead bodies came to India on 15 August 1947.    
“Before he was assassinated in 1948, Gandhi – a senior journalist told me – rebuked Nehru and Patel for not being able to reign in partition madness and wished that his ‘other son’ (Subhas) was here!’ Reminded by a Congressman, who had witnessed the dressing down, that Bose was dead and he had himself come to that belief, Gandhi shot back, ‘He’s in Russia.’” (Anuj 45)
Congress assumed a dictatorial character with Gandhi at its head. It continued under the hegemony of one family from Nehru’s time as he was chosen by Gandhi. After partition and independence Gandhi was almost nowhere in the running of the country. He continued to remain on his chosen path of moral and ethical reformation of the people while living in his secluded corner. The path New India followed was entirely different from Gandhi’s ideals. A crippled and weak India was attacked by China; and India compromised with Pakistan, almost dividing Kashmir, which still plagues the country.
What Netaji did outside the country
We must with indebted heart remember that in spite of all pitfalls and reversal of situations in the War ravaged world Subhas Bose gave the clarion call “Give me blood and I promise you freedom.” He gave the battle cry of “March to Delhi/ Delhi Chalo” on 21st October 1943. He established the provisional Government of Free India, which was recognised within few days by Japan, Germany, Italy, Burma, Thailand and China. The provisional Government acquired its first Indian territory when Japan handed over Andaman and Nicobar islands to it on 6th November 1943. The territories were named ‘Sahid’ and ‘Swaraj’ islands respectively. Subhas called upon the Indian people to “rally round our banner and to strike for India's freedom”. The INA Brigade assisted by the Japanese army advanced inside Indian border. Indian flag was hoisted in Kohima in March 1944. INA carried on a heroic campaign against the Allied Forces. Netaji moved from one battle field to another. He often flew from Tokyo to Manila to Singapore to Rangoon. After the fall of the Axis powers Netaji went into hiding and to help him Japan officially declared that he died in air crash near Taihoku airfield on 18 August, 1945. This was a means adopted by Subhas Chandra Bose himself to escape from the clutches of the allied forces. All those who have maintained the idea of his death in air crash have lulled themselves into falsehood for their own interests.
“Two recently declassified Intelligence Bureau (IB) files have revealed that the Jawaharlal Nehru government spied on the kin of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose for nearly two decades… between 1948 and 1968. Nehru was the prime minister for 16 of the 20 years and the IB reported directly to him. The files show the IB resumed British-era surveillance on the two Bose family homes in Calcutta… The agency seemed especially keen to know who all the Bose kin met and what they discussed.”[iii]
Prime Minister Nehru knew of Bose’s presence and was afraid of the chances of his coming back that could threaten his near autocratic ruling and stay as Prime Minister.
Clash of policy and win of the one considered perished
The main clash between Gandhi and Subhas was clash of policy. When  Subhas, at the beginning of his political career, met Gandhi on 21 July 1921, he told Gandhi that he differed with his ahimsa stand for he believed that India would never achieve independence in a non-violent way against the Imperialist Britain.
Subhas’s contest was against the will of the one who felt himself all-in-all in Congress organization and had an idea that none could override him. He pushed his colleagues against the President who felt cornered and resigned against such dictatorial conduct. It was a clique, more violent than violent combat; silently pushing Subhas to leave the country and the movement in chaos resulting in partition of the country.
Many greats, during Gandhi’s time, resigned from Congress which was established by other patriots in 1885. It was because of Gandhi and his group’s total non-cooperation that Bose had to take a dangerous route to flee the country throwing dust in the Police’s eyes on 16 January 1941 and join the most dangerous human group during the war time to set his country free in spite of all impediments created by his political colleagues. Bose could have done greater things had he lived in India including gaining freedom without partition.
The Quit India Movement called by Gandhi in 1942 was not at all non-violent (all the leaders including him were in jail almost up to the end of the drama). British had to leave India in a war ravaged condition of their country in the face of Naval revolt and near revolt by the Indian Army and Air Force which was the result of their actions against INA soldiers.  
Non-violent movement produced a result like the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.  Never the British had yielded to this type of movement though they much liked that in contrast to the violent movements which took the form of terrorism sometimes as a result of their unjust repression. They handed over power to their friends to continue. To corroborate our views that Quit India Movement flapped on the way and Indian freedom was won by violent revolution, by blood- shedding struggle by Subhas Chandra Bose and his followers, let’s have a few relevant quotes from the modern history as reported in India Today.
The declassification of the Netaji files has sparked a massive debate on the need to rewrite modern Indian history…
“A controversial new book written by military historian General GD Bakshi seeks to overturn the traditional idea of how India won its freedom. India Today has been able to exclusively access an advance copy of a Knowledge World Publication, Bose: An Indian Samurai… In 1956, Clement Attlee had come to India and stayed in Kolkata as a guest of the then Governor. Remember, Clement Richard Attlee was the man, who as leader of the Labour Party and British Prime Minister between 1945 and 1951, signed off on the decision to grant Independence to India.
“PB Chakraborthy was at that time the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court and was also serving as the acting Governor of West Bengal. He wrote a letter to the publisher of RC Majumdar’s book, A History of Bengal. In this letter, the Chief Justice wrote, “When I was acting Governor, Lord Attlee, who had given us independence by withdrawing British rule from India, spent two days in the Governor’s palace at Calcutta during his tour of India. At that time I had a prolonged discussion with him regarding the real factors that had led the British to quit India.”
Chakraborthy adds, “My direct question to Attlee was that since Gandhi’s Quit India movement had tapered off quite some time ago and in 1947 no such new compelling situation had arisen that would necessitate a hasty British departure, why did they have to leave?"
“In his reply Attlee cited several reasons, the principal among them being the erosion of loyalty to the British crown among the Indian army and navy personnel as a result of the military activities of Netaji,” Justice Chakraborthy says.
“That’s not all. Chakraborthy adds, “Toward the end of our discussion I asked Attlee what was the extent of Gandhi’s influence upon the British decision to quit India. Hearing this question, Attlee’s lips became twisted in a sarcastic smile as he slowly chewed out the word, m-i-n-i-m-a-l!”
“This startling conversation was first published by the Institute of Historical Review by author Ranjan Borra in 1982, in his piece on Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian National Army and the war of India’s liberation.
“To understand the significance of Attlee’s assertion, we have to go back in time to 1945. The Second World War had ended. The allied powers led by Britain and the United States had won. The axis powers led by Hitler’s Germany had been vanquished. The victors wanted to impose justice on the defeated armies. In India, officers of Netaji Bose’s Indian National Army were put on trial for treason, torture, murder. This series of court martials came to be known as the Red Fort Trials.
“Indians serving in the British armed forces were inflamed by the Red Fort Trials. In February 1946, almost 20,000 sailors of the Royal Indian Navy serving on 78 ships mutinied against the Empire. They went around Mumbai with portraits of Netaji and forced the British to shout Jai Hind and other INA slogans. The rebels brought down the Union Jack on their ships and refused to obey their British masters. This mutiny was followed by similar rebellions in the Royal Indian Air Force and also in the British Indian Army units in Jabalpur. The British were terrified. After the Second World War, 2.5 million Indian soldiers were being de-commissioned from the British Army.
“Military intelligence reports in 1946 indicated that the Indian soldiers were inflamed and could not be relied upon to obey their British officers. There were only 40,000 British troops in India at the time. Most were eager to go home and in no mood to fight the 2.5 million battle hardened Indian soldiers who were being demobilised. It is under these circumstances that the British decided to grant independence to India.”[iv]
More interesting would be the eyewitness memoir of the former Prime Minister of India, IK Gujral, who was present at the Karachi uprising of the Royal Indian Navy in 1946. He wrote on 20.2.2006:
“The naval mutinies of February 1946 remain indelible in the Nation’s mind and even more deep in the psyches of those like me who had witnessed this turning point in history of the freedom struggle…
“Even the firing of the tear gas shells that followed did not affect them, while the determined groups of Ratings peacefully squatted on the tramway lines, ready to face the guns. Their high morale was inspiring. The on-lookers spilled on the road to join the slogan shoutings, ‘Netaji ki jai’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’.
“The Commissioner ordered the firing of the tear gas shells. That made the processionists and the spectators even more excited. They covered their eyes and faces with wet kerchiefs or with clothes got wet with the water sprinkled from the balconies. The women from the balconies passed on to them their wet ‘sarees’ and other garments to ward off the gas. Soon they passed on fruits and sweets and buckets of drinking water without any touch of panic. It was a mela like atmosphere. The public now mingled with the processionists. It was difficult for police to segregate them” (Ratings 25-26. IBC 25-26).
It is to be noted that Nehru and Patel with the support of Gandhi used all means to subdue this Naval revolt. But finally the result was achieved. India was granted the desired Freedom though truncated by partition.
In Free India it is the sacred duty of all authorities to disseminate the true history of the Independence Movement as the first knowledge about modern India. It has long been suppressed. Children of the country who grew old in Free India knew a false history. It should be rectified by all means for the present and future generations.     
Notes and References:


[i] The History of Indian National Congress. V.2-1935-1947. p.678 (as quoted in Taihoku Theke Bharat: Netajir Antardhan Rahasya by Sri Abhijit. Kolkata: Dey’s Publishing. 1971. Second Edition. Hardbound.)
[ii] Nahar Sujata. Mother's Chronicles. Mysore: Mirra Adity Centre.  Book 5, pp. 231 – 237.
(As reported in NDTV dated 27.7.2017) http://www.ndtv.com/?browserpush=true
Work Cited:
1. Freedom. A paper in it: “Themes in a Political Biography of Subhas and Sarat Chandra Bose” by Leonard Gordon. Columbia University; New York. USA.
2. The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore. Ed. Sisir Kumar Das. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademy. 2002. Hardbound. Reprint.  V.3
3. Dhar Anuj. India’s Biggest Cover–up. New Delhi: Vitasta Publishing Pvt. Ltd. 1912. Hard bound.
 4. Revolt of RIN Ratings (February 1946): Indian Book Chronicles (IBC); Supplement with February 2006 issue. Jaipur, India.  

No comments :

Post a Comment

We welcome your comments related to the article and the topic being discussed. We expect the comments to be courteous, and respectful of the author and other commenters. Setu reserves the right to moderate, remove or reject comments that contain foul language, insult, hatred, personal information or indicate bad intention. The views expressed in comments reflect those of the commenter, not the official views of the Setu editorial board. प्रकाशित रचना से सम्बंधित शालीन सम्वाद का स्वागत है।