Sunday, July 24, 2016

Subhas Chandra Bose: Vanished Indian Activist

Portrait of Subhas Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose was an Indian nationalist who spent years as an activist and rebel leader while Britain was still in control of India. During World War II, he was first put on house arrest by the British and then escaped to seek help from the Nazis. His years of trying to make India an independent country and running from its foreign rulers eventually led to his mysterious disappearance.

Subhas Chandra Bose was born on January 23, 1897. He was one of 14 children. Despite this, he got a decent education from an early age and went on to study at Presidency College. However, he did not complete his studies. He attacked a professor who reportedly spoke out against India. Bose was expelled for the incident. He then studied philosophy at Scottish Church College and managed to secure a B.A. with assaulting anyone.

After graduating, Subhas Chandra Bose moved to Britain and attended Fitzwilliam College. He came home rather quickly because he did not want to work for Great Britain. His early sentiments foretold his future. He became involved in nationalist activities and found himself in tumbles with British authorities. While in jail in 1925, he came down with tuberculosis. This did not stop him from continuing his rebellious activities.

In 1927, Subhas Chandra Bose began working with the Indian National Congress as their general secretary. This led to even more trouble with the law, but did nothing to curb his success. He became mayor of Calcutta in 1930. He was even briefly president of the Indian National Congress. However, opposition from Mohandas Gandhi led to his resignation. It was not this, but rather his frequent protesting, that saw him put under house arrest by the British. Once he escaped, his strategy was to turn to Britain's enemies–the Axis powers.

Subhas Chandra Bose went to the Nazis for help, which only deepens the mystery surrounding his final years. With the help of many connections, he made it out of India through Afghanistan, Russia and Rome before he finally arrived in Germany in April of 1941. There, he had a great deal of support, or so it seemed. He was allowed to start the Special Bureau for India and raise an army of 4,500 Indian prisoners of war.

The soldiers of Subhas' army answered to Hitler. Their allegiance was to him, but they recognized Subhas Chandra Bose as the ruler of India. Though he had very little real power, he did manage to make many connections. He met with men like Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler himself. Bose discovered through these meetings that his German support was for appearances. They were very unlikely to help him invade India and win it back from the British. Those of us who can see this in hindsight may find it surprising that it took him nearly three years to realize that. With Axis powers stretched to the brink and India being a much lesser target than the Soviet Union, it would have been foolish for the Nazis to invade there. Furthermore, it is surprising that a nationalist who loved his country would want the Nazis to invade it. They were not exactly known for quick withdrawals.

In response to his discovery that his work in Germany was in vain, Subhas Chandra Bose snuck away to Japan, leaving his small army behind. By a stroke of luck or genius, he was able to take control of the Indian National Army, which had already been formed in Japan. Unfortunately for him, that army's fate was tied to that of Japan. As Japan suffered defeat and surrendered, so did the Indian National Army. Then, suddently, Bose disappeared.

Subhas Chandra Bose's alleged disappearance only lasted five days before there was an explanation, but it was a shoddy one. It is said that his plane crashed in Taiwan. He survived the crash, but did not survive his injuries. Once he passed away, he was cremated, and the Japanese took him to the Renkoji Temple. Skepticism was immediate, though his death was confirmed by a British spy whose name has not been revealed. Is that really evidence?

Those who believe Subhas Chandra Bose lived fall mainly into two camps. Some believe he went into hiding in Russia and faked his own death. Others believe he was imprisoned in Russia. Bose certainly had a lot of friends and enemies in a lot of places. Either scenario is possible. Nonetheless, he is certainly dead by now.


67 years on, govt can't continue sitting on secret Bose files, retrieved 8/18/12,