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>>

Subhas Meets the Writers of Forward Bloc

PK Ray

The author was initiated into the revolutionary freedom movement during his teens. Later he came in close contact with Bose, and in 1946, after joining the Congress, was elected to the All India Congress Commiittee.

My main work in Forward Bloc was to clarify and propagate its socio-economic thinking thrugh writing in the chief media, of the same name, that is, the Forward Bloc under the editorship of a veteran journalist and devotee of Subhas, Satya Ranjan Bakshi. I used to write special articles on the economic issues facing the country and the ways to solve them. As a regular writer, one day, during the second half of 1939, I received an invitation to attend a meeting of some selected contributors of the paper at 38/2, Elgin Road, Calcutta, Subhas' residence. As I went there one late evening I was led to the first floor in a fairly big room well furnished. There I found four others including the veteran writer Gopal Haldar. The names of three others I do not remember today. After being first welcomed by a gleaming and smiling Subhas in his milk white khadi 'dhoti' and 'punjabi' (the usual dress of a Bengali gentleman) he invited us to an adjoining round table for tea. After we all were setated, Subhas started talking about the current political situation in the country and the world, his disputes with Gandhi and the 'official' group of top leaders in the country, his justification behind forming the Forward Bloc first as a separate group within the Congress and then when forced out of it, as a separate party. He had the highest regard for Gandhi, and also respect for the leadership of Nehru, Patel and Azad. He, however, felt, they all were being unrealistic in relying too much on passive and non-violent non-cooperation by the Congress. He was sure a great war involving Britain was coming in Europe, and Japan and Italy and finally even USA and Russia might be involved. In his foreign policy analysis, he observed that Hitler was against the Jews, who had long ago emigrated from their original land Israel, forced by the Arab conquerors, and came to Germany as to many other countries including Russia, USA and Britain. The Jews were very clever and active people and helped to build up the economic and scientific power of Germany. But they were very much ethnically oriented, and had extraterritorial allegiance and strong community of feeling with their compatriots, Jewish settlers, in countries all over the world, particulary in Britain, France, USA and Russia. By virtue of their enterprise and skill many of them rose high up in the politico-economic hierarchy in those countries. He gave the examples of Reading and Simon in Britain. For their extraterritorial allegiance and economic domination in the German society, Hitler did not like them and tried to force them out of Germany. But Subhas had greate respect for Jewish scholarship and intellect and particularly mentioned the names of Marx, Einstein and Laski (of then London School of Economics) for their epoch-making discoveries and liberal and progressive views. Subhas was referring to the Jews, particularly of Britain, who had a strong influence on British political decisions.. And they were mostly conservative in approach as they had close interests on the contemporary commercial and industrial establishments in Britain. These Jewish lords would definitely block any negotiation by the British Government with the Indian leaders in giving any political concessions which might affect their vested interests.

Continuing, Subhas said that, like Nehru, he had also been in close touch with the current international developments, and felt that a war was inevitable; so India must be prepared to take the opportunity. He felt that the main COngress body was not being directed towards such preparations. Too much initiative was left to the British. Instead, he wanted the Congress to take the initiative and launch a nationwide struggle. Even a non-violent civil disobedience on a countrywide scale would upset the Brtish war efforts. Subhas was sure the British would not be able to figh a war, as it had been demonstrated in earlier battles and wars like World War I, without the manpower and the material and economic resources of India. So even a massive civil disobedience struggle would force the British to come to a compromise with the real Indian leaders like those in the Congress, and also compel them to desist from proposing 'fake' and dluted schemes of constitutional advances for India.

Subhas also reiterated his view that in our new and more intensified struggle for freedom we should cultivate friendship with nationals and governments of other countries, who were sympathetic to the cause of India's freedom, regardless of whether such sympathy arose out of a genuine love for the Indian people or out of a feeling of self-interest. He emphasised that Indian leaders should take a realistic stand and learn by the experiences of other countries. Even the United States of America, in the formative stage and fight against the British Colonial Government in the 1770s, took the help of France, and Lenin, the great revolutionary leader of Russia, was helped by Germany towards the end of the World War I.

Subhas wanted all of us to develop and propagate these ideas through the new national medium, the Forward Bloc.

I felt quite elated by hearing from Subhas' own mouth his ideas about the goals and the strategy of the new fledgling party.

After I came home that evening from Subhas' place, I started thinking over its contents, and how to propagate them according to my capacity. I was most gratified that I had been invited to the talk. I followed up in having further clarification and exposition by holding a series of discussions with various persons who had been in closer contacts with SUbhas for a much longer time, such as Satya Ranjan Bakshi, at his home in Preonath Mallik Road, Calcutta, Kumar Devendr Lal Khan of Narajole at his residence in No.3 Minto Park, and others. I used to hold some discources at the residence in Ballygunge in South Calcutta of Bhupendra Kishore Rakshit Ray, an elderly and senior BV (Bengal Volunteer) member who also had joined the Forward Bloc. The participants were mainly ladies. The subjects were often the current international issues and their impact on India and our activities.

From Netaji: His Life and Work, edited by Shri Ram Sharma, published in 1948 by Shiva Lal Agarwala & Co. Ltd., Agra