Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

A Straightforward Revolutionary

Mukundalal Sircar (...continued)

Like a student, Subhas was a veritable reader of books and he purchased all up-to-date literature on socialism and communism, specially the literature of Russia. He felt convinced that the Russian Revolution was thoroughly scientific. That turned his mind as to how he could also work for socialism under the given conditions in India. There and then he visualised his future programme of work. At one time Subhas was influenced by Garibaldi, as Surendra Nath Banerjea had been influenced by Mazzini. Then Michael Collin's influence was also there, but subsequently, his mind was influenced by Lenin. He formed his own mind and plan, and as a result, he wanted to establish and maintain his contact with foreign democracies. He used to say often that the Chittagong Armoury Raid opened the eyes of the people to the fact that without possessing arms and ammunitions of their own and in spite of the prevalence of the Arms Act, the people could defeat the brutality and murder committed by the mercenaries of the Government. He always felt restive as to how to deliver India from her bondage and with whom he should make alliance for the final struggle against British rule. Just then de-Valera came into power in Ireland and the literature of the Sinn-Féin movement which brought Irish freedom, turned his attention more to militarism than pacifism. So many times he used to say that dishonesty must be eradicated from politics — in words, thoughts and deeds. He never liked to go against his conscience and faith. He could never reconcile his thought to non-violence in the context of politics as was generally understood and preached by Gandhiji. In his personal dealings, however, with others and humanity at large, he was very soft and he practised rational non-violence, but so far as politics and for that matter dealings with the military power ruling over India were concerned, he was firm in his opinion that it would be impossible for India to be free without the use of the same weapon as was used by Britain to rule over India.

It was at this time that we both used to discuss various matters relating to Indian politics in contrast with those of other countries, and ultimately Subhas decided to keep himself in line with the tide in the rising forces of other countries. On the basis of these thoughts, therefore, he planned his future programme of the Indian revolution. He felt passionately the necessity of forming a Socialist party and in the course of my statement in court in which I was then being tried, I introduced his suggestion of organising the Hindusthan Samyavadi Sangh. And this name and idea was incorporated in his political statement issued from Vienna (Austria).

The mere change of place from Jubbulpore to Madras did not bring the slightest improvement to his health. On the contrary, his case became worse inasmuch as the gall-blader was affected. The Medical Board appointed by the Government of India (because he was detained as a State-prisoner under the orders of the Central Government) came to Madras, examined him and recommended that his life would be in danger if he was kept further in jail; in addition, he should be sent to a place of bracing climate preferably outside India. Dr. B. C. Roy of Calcutta being one of the members of the Board, suggested that Bose should be sent to somewhere within India. This recommendation not being unanimous, the Government decided to send him to Bhawali Sanatorium strictly under police guard there.

Will-power and sustaining capacity always dominated over his physical disability and diseases. He received the medical report with utter indifference, but could not be indifferent to politics which was the very breath of his life. He began seriously again to plan his future work both in India and abroad. Because of the aggressive nature of his revolutionary programme, most of the colleagues of Subhas deserted him either due to fear of the Government or of the official group of the Congress. Another group of his colleagues deserted Subhas for fear of losing their career through politics. The trusted few had been and are still there in the field to follow his ideals and programme. The only few from amongst those who were selected by him in 1932 for his future programme, are still loyal to Subhas in comradeship. It was and still it will be a great pleasure and glory to work with him when he comes back in our midst. He has got a large heart to forgive his opponents and forget the mistakes of his associates, if they reassured sincerely and seriously of their future conduct. He never forgets his friends and colleagues; on the other hand, he gives the best protection to his admirers, followers and comrades. This is borne out by the fact that even when he suddenly disappeared from India in 1941, he wrote several personal letters to those loyal friends and he mentioned again to me the names of several persons in India, so that they might be protected even in his absence.

On the eve of leaving his homeland in January, 1941, when he handed over all the work to me, he did not forget to mention the names of certain persons who and whose families needed pecuniary help and also of those whose domestic affairs and properties would be at stake. That is why we used to call him a master of details. On this occasion we had five hours' talk covering a wide range of national and international matters, having direct bearing upon the future Indian Revolution and the seizure of power. During this talk no one else was present in the room. It was on the 16th of January, 1941.

Being alarmed of the danger of Subhas' life, I could not keep quiet and with limited resources and opportunities inside the jail, I started agitation for the appointment of a fresh Medical Board to examine him again and report on his health. Subhas left the Madras Penitentiary on 9th October, 1932 for the Bhawali Sanatorium, and within a few days after his transfer I also came out on bail in order to pursue the agitation. Through the press, platform and literature the agitation was carried on unabated specially in two provinces, viz., Madras and Bengal. The brown and blue eyes of cats maintained by the bureaucracy in Madras were ever vigilant over my activities and in order to foil the agitation the police succeeded twice to get my bail-bond cancelled and fresh arrest warrants issued. There was not a single foul means which they left unused to get me arrested, but the cause was so great and just that sincerity and honesty of purpose on my side baffled the tricks on the other side and I was free immediately on both the occasions without going to jail. I could then freely go to Calcutta to see through the thing myself. There I met eminent persons like Sir Nilratan Sarkar, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Dr. Sunil Bose, Kumar Debendra Lal Khan and others who took up the matter most sympathetically and seriously. Malaviyaji was so much moved on hearing the bad condition of Subhas’ health that tears rolled down his cheeks and he remarked, — "Subhas has become a physical wreck. He must be saved at any cost and his desires must be fulfilled. The country needs him badly. Don't worry. God is with us." Such is the love the people cherish in their hearts for Subhas. To-day the love for Subhas is greater than ever before. Bengal was simply ablaze in anger when his condition was revealed and specially when the people came to know that it was the note of dissent given by Dr. B. C. Roy against the majority recommendation, which prevented the Government from releasing Subhas and sending him out of India. After finishing my work in Calcutta I went back to Madras to stand my trial which culminated in giving me rest in jail for one year. It was on the 9th January, 1933.

It was a great relief for all of us to learn that the Government of India had appointed another Board to examine and report on his health. This time Dr. B. C. Roy had no place on the Board, and on the basis of this Board's unanimous recommendation Subhas was released on condition that he would proceed straight from the Bhawali Sanatorium to Europe at his own expense, as the Board said his health would improve only in climates like that of Switzerland in the West. So, Subhas became free again and embarked on the Steamer Ganges at Bombay on 23rd February, 1933.

If one recalls the background of this story, he will find that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had been planning a gigantic struggle ever since 1932 and that struggle at the psychological moment of international turmoil will be turned into a regular battle against the Imperialist rule of Britain. Keeping this in view, he made contact with all Indians in Europe and established his relations with most of the diplomats and revolutionaries of the independent countries in Europe, and thus did he evoke their sympathy and enlist support towards the cause of India's independence. Netaji's statesmanship and superb diplomacy succeeded in preparing the ground during his sojourn in Europe during the years 1933-36.

Coming back to India quite hale and hearty, in April, 1936, he found himself arrested again and kept in detention till March, 1937 when he was released. Nothing could daunt his courage and weaken his strength of conviction, and as before, he was determined to fulfil his mission. This year (1937) opened a new leaf of the political history of India, when the National Congress formed popular Ministries in most of the provinces in India. Though under the aegis of British Imperialism, a section of the Congress wanted to fight from within and wreck the Constitution of 1935 under which the popular ministries had been formed in the provinces; whereas Subhas Babu wanted to prepare the country for the second front of war against British rule while the ministerial section would make frontal attack from within the legislatures. Subhas Babu was elected President of the Congress in 1938, but unfortunately, he could not advance his revolutionary programme for the preparation as much as he wanted. The reason was obvious. The parliamentary mentality overtook the Congressmen who were running the imperialist machinery and therefore, even as Congress President, he could not fulfil his ideas by making revolutionary use of the Governmental machine, captured in the majority of the provinces in India. On the other hand, the then Government used repressive measures and passed reactionary legislations against the workers and peasants in whose fighting elements Subhas Babu had to rely for any effective struggle against British Imperialism. Thus the preparation of the country through revolutionary channels, according to his plan, was frustrated. Yet, he knew no rest and fought against all odds within the Congress when he found that the topmost Congressmen had been influenced by parliamentary activities and had been drifting to mere constitutionalism. By that time the international situation became tense indicating all the probabilities of a gigantic war in which Great Britain would also be involved. This war would create a great opportunity for India to be free, but, finding himself not in agreement with the Working Committee of the Congress, he felt restless all the more, and wanted to revolt against its policy, but he could not for the sake of unity and discipline among themselves. Though he realised his helplessness under the circumstances, he could not, as a born revolutionary, reconcile helplessness with his restlessness. Ultimately, the latter triumphed and he revolted against unity of inaction and stood for the Congress presidentship for the second time in 1939. Despite the rightist section of the Congress and ministerial forces working against his election, he was elected President by a triumphant majority of the combined leftist forces of the country. After the Munich episode war clouds were gathering in the international horizon and Subhas Babu visualised the inevitability of England's difficulty in the then impending war. Now, being equipped with the country's verdict in his favour, he wanted to give a stiff but clean fight to Britain and for the matter of that, according to the fundamental principles and ethics of a duel, he wanted to give a six months' ultimatum to the British Government. Unfortunately, the political banckruptcy and lust for power-politics blinded the rightists not to see the political implication, wisdom and force of this ultimatum. On the contrary, it was ridiculed by them. He, however, pursued his original plan and prepared the country with as many followers as he could gather round him from amongst the revolutionary sections of the country. In the midst of the struggle which he started in April, 1940, he was drafted into prison but escaped from the ugly jaws of British Imperialism in the beginning of 1941.

Crossing the borders of India unnoticed and undetected, he went straight to Germany via Russia. There he formed a strong Liberation Army (European Wing) composed of exiled Indians and Indian prisoners of war who had fallen into the hands of Germany and Italy. After a thorough study, theoretical and practical, of modern warfare, he visited all the war fronts of Europe in 1942 and took the supreme command of his army. Adolf Hitler recognised this Army and its Commander-in-Chief as the liberators of India from British rule. Hitler introduced him to his countrymen as the saviour of India and asked them to give greater honour to Bose who, he said, was the Fuhrer of 400 millions of India while himself was the Fuhrer of only 82 millions. His organisation was thorough and perfect so much so that even after the fall of Germany into the hands of Allied forces, the India Office in London had to say that no trace of any Indian could be found in Germany. Netaji came to the war front in East Asia to lead a gigantic war that was yet to be waged as second front against Britain on the Indo-Burma border for the purpose of penetrating into India to settle accounts with the Britishers who have been exploiting India for more than 200 years.

It may be recalled that the writer who knew Subhas Babu intimately and followed his line of thought and work closely and intelligently, told the country in May, 1941 (four months after his disappearance) that he was in Germany for fulfilling his life's mission, i.e., to secure independence for India. But unfortunately, the people here, including persons holding important positions in political life, were influenced and misled by the British propaganda made against Subhas. The first shot of this kind of scurrilous propaganda was thrown by the Military Secretary to the Government of India on the floor of the Council of State on the 10th November, 1941 to the effect that Subhas Babu had joined the Axis Powers to invade India and he was then in Berlin or Rome. It may be the fear complex or inferiority complex which was responsible for dulling the intellect of our patriots to believe British propaganda more than what a section of our countrymen had said in those days. Even in October, 1942 and January, 1943 a section of Subhas Babu's associates and followers predicted that he was coming as the supreme head of the Free India Government and as Commander-in-Chief of his National Army. When the British Army had to withdraw its forces from the Arakan front in February-March, 1943, it was also predicted in certain quarters in India that the Indian National Army would infiltrate into India crossing the borders of Assam sometime after December, 1943. All these happened, as revealed now, when he appeared in the East. The whole history of it and every detail of his heroic activities is now known, to the world. It is a matter of gratification that those who dubbed him as a misguided patriot and a traitor, are now admiring the sterling qualities of the man of India's destiny. Had they appreciated and followed his advice in time, the history of India would have been a different one today. It is hoped that this book will be a great help to the people to guide their future line of action, which Netaji could not finish, and thus fight the final battle of freedom under a correct and dynamic leadership like that of Netaji. The country will not be surprised if and when Netaji comes back to India to command that battle. The people will certainly welcome him — a straight revolutionary — with all the warmth in their hearts, and in the meantime, prepare the country for the final struggle.

Jai Hind

Author: 
Mukundalal Sircar

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