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Dhaka Tribune

The immortal Netaji

Mapping out the fights, activities and ideals of the revolutionary Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and other freedom fighters who gave everything for independence from British rule

Update : 23 Jan 2024, 12:39 PM

Salute to the immortal soul of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on the auspicious day of his birth in our land, for which he sacrificed all his talent, spirit, energy and even his precious life, to free it from the clutches of colonial British forces. 

The mainstream Indian politics was led by Mahatma Gandhi and a host of brilliant leaders since the inception of the Indian National Congress in 1886. Later, other parties emerged like the Muslim League, Swaraj Party, Krishak Praja Party and so on. They were all fighting to get rid of the British colonial rule and its accompanying oppression and exploitation. All the movements, demonstrations and agitations followed non-violent tools propagated by Gandhiji and other mainstream leaders.

Violence necessary for freedom

But since the inception of the 20th century there emerged another distinct line of underground politics in India and amongst expatriate Indians. Anushilan Samity, Jugantor, Gadar Party were some of the few exponents of Agnijuga in the anti-British colonial movement. These comparatively younger freedom fighters believed that the British could not be dislodged by a non-violent movement -- they used arms and force against Indians; Indians should retaliate in the same way. These young revolutionaries were disillusioned by the failures of the non-cooperation movement and Khilafat movement of the early twenties of that century.

Bhagat Singh, Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah, Bagha Jatin, Surya Sen, Preetilata, Savarkar, Matangini Hazra and many such revolutionaries sprang up. Historically important happenings started making the headlines. Few of them were: Jalianwalabagh massacre; Kakori train action; fight on the bank of Buri Balam; Binoy Badal Dinesh action in writer's building; Chittagong youth revolution; Pahartali European club attack; Alipore bomb case and others.The youth of India were not afraid to become martyrs for the freedom of their motherland.

Our Netaji Subhas Chadra Bose was a visionary leader. Defying the more matured senior leaders, he decided to go into action with his younger, militant supporters. He completed one term as Indian National Congress President. The old guards understood his ability of mesmerizing the people with his fierce speeches of freedom by any means and his organizing capabilities. The seniors were bogged down with the idea of non-violent ways of seeking and negotiating freedom from colonial rule. When Netaji won the Congress Presidency next, he was tactfully deprived of the position. 

Colonial Britain, the only enemy

The leader understood what he had to understand. He came out of Congress to form his own Forward Bloc. Soon WW2 started. Indian politicians were demonstrating in the Quit India movement which was of course a prototype non-violent one. Still, all the notable Indian leaders were put behind the bars. The backbone of the movement was broken. 

Then the Brits pleaded with the Indians to help them by joining WW2. In return, they will consider granting self rule when they win. The Indian leaders had no option but to agree. Not Netaji. He was different. He considered the old proverb, “my enemy's enemy is my friend.” Acting on this axiom he deceived the British intelligence and escaped from his police internship at his Calcutta home to Europe via Punjab, NWFP, Afghanistan, USSR and finally landed in Germany. It was a huge accomplishment and is termed “The Great Escape” in Indian history.

Both Germany and Japan promised Netaji all possible help to fight the British and free his motherland India. He took that chance. Indische Legion was formed in Germany. The backbone was Indian POWs in the custody of Axis forces in different sectors. Expatriate Indian students were other enthusiasts. They had regular military training and even ran a radio station. With satisfactory progress of the Germans in the far east this legion was planned to thrust its attacks on the western Indian front. 

By 1943 it appeared to be difficult as the German progress in this front was slow. Chandra Bose changed his strategy. Both the Germans and Japanese agreed that he had a better chance of entering India from the east with Japanese help. Then ensued another protracted great feat. A German submarine brought him to the East African coast where he changed over to a Japanese one that eventually brought him to Singapore via Indonesia. In Singapore Netaji took command of the Azad Hind Fauz. The blueprint was already laid by veteran revolutionary Rash Behari Bose who was residing in Japan for a while and working towards Indian freedom. 

The INA marched forth. The expatriate Indians in all the nooks and corners of South Asia sprang up. Some came to fight. Others came with monetary support. Those who were not of fighting age, offered other voluntary services. Even the young girls wanted to shed their blood for their motherland. The Rani Jhansi brigade was formed to accommodate them. 

From Singapore, Netaji went northward with his forces. Andaman and Nicobar islands were by then in the hands of Japanese forces and as allies in war they supported Netaji to set up his first HQ in Indian soil in the premises of the half destroyed infamous cellular jail in the Andaman and Nicobar islands which Netaji promptly renamed as Shahid and Swaraj islands.

Azad Hind Fauz was by then fighting together with the Japanese forces further north and crossing over to the mainland Indian territories of the north east.

Fierce tooth and nail battles were being fought on a daily basis in the Imphal-Kohima front. Places of strategic importance changed hands often. Col Shaukat Malik was leading the INA forces in this front. He set up INA frontal headquarters at a place called Moirang, hardly 40 km away from Imphal. The Azad Hind Fauz could hold it for three months. 

Netaji left his Swaraj dweep HQ and joined his frontline soldiers at Moirang. There was a do or die battle in the 200-odd-km front of Manipur and Nagaland. Netaji, at some point of time, shifted to a rural setting in Nagaland to bolster his forces. Unfortunately not all wars can be won. The INA was not a regular army and did not have proper logistics. Japan, the logistic suppliers and co-fighters were far from their land and with no sure-shot supply points. 

The north Burmese terrains leading to the Indian far east were treacherous, rugged, mountainous, covered with thick growth and no supporting inhabitants. Moreover Chiang Kai Shek's China was gearing up to attack the Axis, having joined the Allies. Half starved and short of ammunition the Japanese had to retreat with their revered Indian counterparts. The last battle in this sector was fought at the residential tennis court of Kohima DC. A hand to hand battle saw Japanese defeat and their fate in this sector was sealed.

Mysterious life and death after war

Netaji gave orders to his forces to retreat and go back to regular life, if possible, until further orders. The army suffered colossal losses while retreating. And the leader was known to have flown from Vietnam to Taipei en route to a probable USSR destination. There are various conspiracy theories about his whereabouts after August 17, 1945. Four enquiries were held, one by the British and other three by the Indian authorities. None could come to any clear conclusion and satisfy people.

Though there is much proof that Netaji died in a plane crash at Taihoku (Taiwan), there are many others on the contrary. Of late a duo of enthusiastic Netaji lovers have worked meticulously for years and they have published many books on Netaji mystery. Though many have dubbed them as conspiracy theorists they have already established themselves as scholars on the subject. 

Doing a little bit of study on Netaji and visiting Faizabad and Bhagagawanji's residence, I talked to many people who are and were part of the process. Having done all the exercises myself, I cannot discount the theory propagated by them. But everyone has their own choice to decide on the fate and whereabouts of the great leader.

Following into Bangladesh’s Liberation War

Here I may add a lesser known fact. During our great War of Liberation, a Field Hospital was started by Capt Akhtar Ahmed BP of 4th Bengal first at Sonamura with meagre resources to treat Muktijoddhas injured in the battles. Later it was finally shifted to a place in Bishramgonj in the Litci Orchard of Mr Habul Banerjee. He allowed his huge orchard eagerly to our cause and even spent time there helping the staff when he could. 

Capt Sitara Begum BP, Dr Zafarullah, and Dr MA Mobin worked in the hospital till our victory. A host of volunteers, some of whom excelled later in different fields were also in full time devoted attendance. The hospital was under Sector-2 of our Muktijoddha commanded by valiant Maj Khaled Mosharraf BU (later Major General, Army Chief and brutally killed by some derailed miscreants). Mr Habul Banerjee was an ardent follower of Netaji and a fighter of the Azad Hind Fauz. He was later honoured by the Distinguished Foreign Friend of Bangladesh Liberation War Medal.

Salute again to Netaji, Banerjee and all freedom fighters. Jug jug zio!

Pradip Kumar Dutta is currently engaged in the campaign for a global recognition of the 1971 genocide.

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