subhas.gif Netaji Subhas Bose
the true leader of Free India
Freedom never could be a gift, because every gift carries its obligations, its ties.

Earlier we introduced our visitors to the revolutionary leader of India's War of Independence Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

In this page we provide a brief historial note on the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) and on the events leading to the momentous occassion of the formation of Netaji's Provisional Government of Free India on 21 October, 1943 and its subsequent recognition by Japan, the Phillipines, Nanking, Burma, Thailand etc.

Utterly convinced that passive protestations and civil disobedience to the English rulers of India alone cannot guarantee freedom, his overwhelming passion for India's independence drove Netaji out of India - in search of, and to secure, international diplomatic support and military co-operation.

Bose firmly believed that India needed allies in its struggle for freedom even if that meant forging a tie with an 'intolarable' regime as the Nazis of Germany. He said to Kitty Kurti:

It is dreadful, but it must be done. It is our only way out. India must gain her independence, cost what it may.
With the help of a selected few confidants of his revolutionary organisation Bose left Calcutta on 17th January 1941 for Kabul - where previously arrangements were made with German and Italian embassies - for his eventual transfer to Europe. He took grave security risks and braved the rugged mountainous route from Peshawar to Kabul on bare foot in the companionship of only one other person Vagatram.

Equipped with an assumed identity and passport from the Italian Legation in Kabul in the name of Signor Orlando Mazzitto, with diplomatic immunity as an official wireless operator, Alexander Werth p.12 and in the company of Dr. Voelger Bose left Kabul on 18th March for Samarkhand. On 20th March they boarded a train from Tarmeez bound for Moscow.

Disappointed with Russian response to his proposal for help, Bose eventually leaned towards Germany. He despised Nazism - but he was ready to make friends with the devil himself - if that was any assistance to his cause.

His earlier stay in Germany and close contact with Hitler and his top deputies in the mid-thirties and credentials from the Italian and German diplomatic offices in Kabul were supposed to have helped him a great deal when he flew from Moscow to Berlin. Alas! it was not easy!

German foeign Office was very well informed about Bose through ite pre-war Consul General in Calcutta and from its representative in Kabul. The Foreign Office had all the information about his great past and knew from their reports that as an active fighter against British imperialism Bose could be trusted with any help that the Government thought to extend to him. N. G. Ganpuley p.12

[But] at the time the leading lights of German politics must have been so busy that they had no time to consider in deatil the case of a man, even of Bose's political status, who had appeared suddenly on the scene, with his uncommon demands.ibid p.29
Another reason has also been advanced for some of Hitler's reticence to welcome Bose's proposal. The supiriority of Nordic races was a mania with Hitler and accordingly, he had a soft corner in his heart for England. His order on victorious German forces to allow British troops to retreat unharmed from the battlefields of Dunkirk has been cited as evidence to support this hypothesis.
It was therefore not very easy to change this pro-British attitude of Hitler into a friendly gesture towards India which was in direct opposition to England.ibid p.34
Bose's burning desire to forge a tie with all enimies of the British imperialists, his endless patience and his untiring perseverence eventually won the day. After his fruitful contact and negotiations with Adam von Trott Zu Solz (head of the German Eastern Affairs, later made head of Special India Division) and his deputy Alexandaer Werth:
... it was ultimately decided that Netaji should be given every help to choose his men out of POW (Prisoner of War) camps and the German Wehrmacht should give him all the help necessary on the lines suggested.ibid p.39
In this regard Werth observedAlexander Werth, Netaji in Germany
Very soon we felt the strength of his will power, the honesty of his intentions and the inexorability of his personal dedication to India's cause, ... we could not help being influenced by his ideas and wishes.
One of the demands, Bose was able to extract from the German authorities, was the release of all Indian prisoners from War camps and jails in countries under German occupation. Also, with great difficulty and considerable research, Bose was able to make a reasonable list of Indians living at the time in Europe. Soon he (in the name of his assumed identity of Orlando Mazzitto) invited them all to a tea pary - to be held at none other than the former British diplomatic mission. It is here that everyone eventually worked out who this host Signor Orlando Mazzitto really was. Here they started the Free India Centre, Azad Hind Radio centre in October 1941 and finally here was born the Indian Legion (Azad Hind Fauz) later known as the Indian National Army (INA) comprising enthusiastic Indian students, political activists and Indian POW's imprisoned by General Rommel, primarily from the battle grounds of Africa.

Converting the POW's, who fought under the British generals and throughly indoctrinated by their masters, was a rather difficult task for Bose and others. All of a sudden, this largely uneducated band of soldiers, had to come to grips with the idea as soldiers of free India. Dr. Girija Mukherjee, who himself was a patriot journalist, wrote about this subject:

I saw how the whole audience was coming under his spell [as] they were litening. ... when he finished they had acquired new life, new animation, new excitement... Dr. Girija Mukherjee, This Europe
Bose kept working with furious pace and determination to strengthen the Azad Hind Fauz, Azad Hind Radio - his only medium of contact with India his beloved yet bedeviled motherland, and ever so relentlessly in the diplomatic front to secure a tripartite declaration of support from Germany, Japan and Italy.

He saw Mussolini. He frequented between the German foreign office and Japanese mission. He saw Hitler on 26th May 1942 to plead the urgency of his case. At the time Hitler was a little hesitant as his forces were advancing towards Leningrad and did not, understandably, want to take on additional burden right then. The German Chancellor suggested that the time was not right then and wanted to know exactly what kind of 'political concept' Bose had in mind. Netaji was extremely annoyed at this last comment and replied through the interpreter, Von Trott - chief of the Special India Office:
Tell his excellency that I have been in politics all my life and that I don't need advice from any side. Werth, op.cit. p.36.
A remark about Hitler very few would be brave enough to make in the Spring of 1942 - when he was at the Zennith of his success and glory! But we are describing here a man of steel - he had no fear!

Meanwhile, following the attack of Pearl Harbour on 7th of December 1941 Japanese forces made significant naval and army inroads in the East and South East. They virtually controlled everything from Sea of Japan to Bay of Bengal. Cities after cities fell under the Japanese forces by May 1942. Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, Penang and Rangoon. The Japanese Government, persuaded by another fearless Bengali revolutionary, Rash Behari Bose, who was in exile in Tokyo for a considerable length of time and married a Japanese girl, Tosshiko Soma, declared its whole-hearted support for Indian revolutionaries in their fight against the British Raj. Prime Minister General Tojo announced:

It is a golden opportunity for India having, as it does, several thousand years of history and splendid cultural tradition, to rid herself of of the ruthless despotism of Britain and participate in the construction of the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.

Japan expects that India will attain her proper status as India for the Indians... S.A. Das and K.B. Subbaiah, Chalo Delhi.
Mussolini, who sent separate communication to Hitler on the subject, advised Bose to form a government in exile. But Germany considered the proposition a little premature. The above announcement from Japan, however, gave Netaji immense encouragement. Now convinced that he could play a much more active role on the soil of Asia - rather than agonising for ever staying in Berlin. Time was running out. He must be where the centre of action was. So, he decided to transfer to the East and asked for Axis help. The security risk of Bose's transfer was phenomenal. He needed special assistance to safely come to the East. In this matter Rash Behari, who was the Chairman of the Bangkok Conference (of Indians in East Asia), having chaired the Tokyo Conference a few months earlier, was a catalyst. Under his guidance the Bangkok Conference resolved that:
This Conference reequests Sj. Subhas Chandra Bose to be kind enough to come to East Asia and appeals to the Imperial Government of Japan to use its good offices to obtain the necessary permission and conveniences from the Government of Germany to enable Sj. Subhas Chandra Bose to reach East Asia safely.

After fall of Malay, Japanese Major Fujiara transferred 30,000 Indian POW's under the control of the fallen British Army Captain Mohan Singh of the Punjab Regiment in Malay under a deal cut by Preetam Singh and Debnath Das both close revolutionary collegues of the fiery Rash Behari Bose. The Indian Independence League (under the leadership of Rash Behari Bose) took control of this military wing - the INA counterpart in the East - under the command of Captain Singh - to fight side by side with the Japanese forces to forge their way through Burma and march to India, on to Delhi.

Meanwhile the Cripps mission failed, Congress became increasingly more impatient with Britain and was not prepared to wait until the end of the War for India's independence. Even Gandhiji started to look a little moved by Bose's activities in Europe. Joyprakash Narain openly supported Bose's armed revolution saying:
My own interpretation of the Congress position (not Gandhiji's) is quite clear and definite. Congress is prepared to fight aggression violently if the country become independent. Well, we have declared ourselves independent, and also named Britain as an aggresive power; we are, therefore, justified within the terms of Bombay resolution itself to fight Britain with arms. If this does not accord with Gandhiji's principles that is not my fault.R. C. Mazumdar, History of Freedom Movement vol III, p. 669.
Quit India became the slogan. Do or die became the motto. The August movement crytalised. All political leaders of India were despatched to jail by the British Raj. The authorities disbanded the provincial Congress committee of Bengal - the most militant in India on 10th of August 1942. Even Gandhiji himself conceded, at C.R. Das's residence that 'had India sword, I would have asked her to draw it'. This was the kind of electric energy Bose radiated from a long distance. Thousands of Indians in the British Army started defecting and wanted to scrifice their lives for the cause of India. Because it was the wish of their leader. That's what Bose wanted. Fight till your last breath, fight for India! The English author Coupland writes:
"The Revolutionaries of extreme left, specially in Bengal, were still ready to take their orders from Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose, even if they came by Radio from Berlin".R. Coupland, Indian Politics p. 268.

The desparate killing machine of the so-called civilised English rulers of Chuchill started indiscriminate firing on the aroused mob on the streets of Calcutta and other parts of the country. On 11th August, 13 died in Bombay, casualties in Calcutta rose to 6 at the end of 12th with 3 in Bombay, 7 in Bangalore on 13th, 14 in Bombay and 4 in Madras on 14th, 6 in Ramnad, 5 in Godabari and 1 in Niligiri districts, 40 in Delhi in 7 days, 218 in Vagalpore, 38 in Dwarbhanga, 5 at Katihar, 67 in Sultanganj, 8 in Bidpur, 8 in Sahabad, 9 in Laheria, 6 in Dhaka, 4 in Munsiganj, 3 in Taltala ... the list goes on for ever. Churchill wasn't going to be the first minister of the monarch to dismember the British Empire. If Bose was alive in free India, he surely would have demanded a trial of Prime Minister Churcill and all the King's men in India for brutal genocide and crime against humanity perpetrated by them.

The Japanese Government was a little unsure as to whether it was a good idea to bring Subhas Bose to the East in view of the impending perilous risks. Further, they already had another Bose (Rash Behari) who was already doing a commendable job of uniting the East Asian Indians against Briain. As to Rash Behari's request for speedy transfer of Subhas Chandra Bose to the East Lieutenant General Seizo Arisu of Japanese Ground Self Defence is quoted as saying:

Myself and my collegues had no objection to comply with it, but we we were much worried as to the seniority positions between the two Boses after arrival of Mr. Chandra bose. So asked his frank opinion in the matter. In reply he assured me that we should have no worry on this this point and that he would subordinate himself to Mr. Chandra Bose... This impressed me very much and I felt great respect towards him since I saw very plainly that he felt no hesitation to work under the other Bose for the success of the Indian freedom movement. Further, I could clearly understand how much he was devoted to the independence of India.Bipllabi Mahanayak Rash Behari Bose Smarak Samity, Rash Behari Bose - His Struggle for India's Independence p. 50-51.

On the other hand, Subhas facing the same question from Mr. Higuti - Japanese Military Attache at Berlin embassy replied that he did not know Rash Behari personally. But as he was fighting for India from Tokyo, he would be quite happy to fight as a soldier under Rash Behari Bose. This clearly shows the depth of devotion to their motherland of these two revolutionary Bengali greats. It's a pitty that in half a century since India's independence, she had done very little to uphold their ideals to the new generation of Indians.

Mussolini rejected Netaji's request to fly in an Italian long-distance plane as too risky, even though a trial flight was successful from Rome to Singapore without any incidents. Alexander Werth wrote:

After long and complicated discussions with the Italian and the Japanese Embassies in Berlin and Rome, the following was agreed upon between the Special India Division and the German military authorities: Netaji accompanied by only one friend should be taken by a German submarine by way of the British Channel, Bay of Biscay, West Africa, South Africa to the south of Madagaskar where he should be transferred to a Japanese submarine which would take him to the nearest Japanese base in East Asia.

All these arrangements were successfully carried out through joint efforts of Netaji and the Special India Division and thanks to the initiative of General Oshima, Ambassador of Japan in Berlin, his military attache Mr. Yamamoto and other members of the the Japanese Embassies in Berlin and Rome, as well as competent German military authorities. Werth op. cit. p. 38.

Eventually, on the night of 7th Feb 1943 Boses deputy Nambiar, German State Secretary Keppler and Alexander Werth from the Special India Division took Bose and his companion Abid Hassan to Kiel port where a submarine was awaitng the arrival of the INA's Supreme Commander.

subhas.gif At dead of night on the 26th April, 1943 the two submarines could see each other at the pre-appointed location off Madagaskar coast. They did not make initial contact with each other until the following day. But as the weather was pretty rough it was decided to travel futher north-east in search of calmer sea. On 28th, despite inclement weather, Bose and Hassan were transferred from the German sub to the Japanese sub with the help of a rubber boat. On 6th May they landed at Saban, not Penang as originally intended. Yamamoto, the Japanese Military Attache at Berlin subhas.gif Embassy who arrived here earlier to receive the INA Chief, welcomed Bose. Because of the unplanned delay in arrival of the plane which was supposed to fly him to Tokyo, he was stranded at Saban for 5 days and reached Tokyo on the 16th. Ready

Thus the stage was for Bose to emerge as the leader of of the independence movement in East Asia. Tatsuo Hayasida, Netaji Subhas Bose p. 27.

Initially, Prime Minister Tojo refused to even see Bose claiming pressure of work. It was not unknown to him that Mr. Bose came all the way from Germany responding to offer of his government's help. Why then this sudden change of heart! Whilst nobody will ever discover the real truth, it is often speculated that the misgivings created by INA General Mohan Singh's unilateral decision to liquidate INA unit in Malay, thus trying to disfranchise Rash Behari from continuing Japanese Imperial assistance, may have annoyed Tojo no end. On the other hand, he could well have been genuinely under a tremendous pressure of work. Yamamoto was disillusioned with Tojo's behaviour and resigned in disgust. Other leaders convinced General Tojo to eventually see Subhas on 10th of June.

Hugh Toye wrote about Bose:

For most, the personality of the man was over-whelming, there was great genius of enthusiasm, of inspiration. Men found that when they were with him only the cause mattered, they saw only through his eyes, through the thoughts he gave them, could deny him nothing. Hugh Toye The Springing Tiger p. 177-178.
General Tojo was not an exception. The Japanese Prime Minister was charmed as Bose stood before him and spoke of his iron will and determination to snare India's independence off the British hands. He saw fire in this man's belly, hunger for freedom in his eyes and nothing in his words but great devotion to his motherland. The rest is history. The history that the English rulers never wanted to tell the world, the history which even the Congress party wanted to hide, and it was a history which Gandhiji tried to forget. Subhas met General Tojo on 14th June again. The latter agreed to each and every proposal that Bose made to him one by one. He announced in the Diet forthwith:
We are determined to extend every possible assistance for the cause of India's independence. It is our belief that the day is not far off when India will enjoy freedom and prosperity after winning independence.
At a press conference on 19th June, Bose declared that 'we would, however, get freedom only by shedding our own blood. We will be able to preserve our freedom only if we get it through our own sacrifice and toil.' On 20th June Nisi Nippon Shimbun openly published his arrival in Tokyo. Before he left Japan, Bose proposed his plan to establish a Provisional Government of Free India to the Japanese authorities who had little time to consider it properly before his departure for Singapore. When he arrived at Singapore on 2nd July he received a tumultous welcome there from soldiers and civillians alike.
His personal enthusiasm, his vitality, his authority and his world view won him the real allegiance of Indians in East Asia Toye op. cit.
At a reception held on 4th July in his honour Rash Behari transferred the mantel of the Indian Independence League to Subhas. On 25th of August he was formally appointed the Commander in Chief of the INA.

When Bose took command of the INA the army was in a bad shape with low morale and lacked discipline. This he changed in a very short period of time. On 21 October 1943 Bose announced his Provisional Government of Free India.

On 23rd October Japan announced its official recognition of the Bose Provisional Government:

The Provisional Government of India, having been established with Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose as its head, the Nippon Government in its firm belief that it is a great step toward the realisation of an independent India for which the Indian people have long aspired, has reconised it as the Provisional Government of Free India and hereby declares its intention to extend every possible co-operation and support in the Provisional Government's efforts to attain its object.
Soon came General Tojo's personal message congratualting His Excellency President and Prime Minister of Azad Hind Government. Recognition came from Dr. Ba Maw's Provisional Government of Burma on 24th, from the German Government on 29th, from Italy on 9th November. Recognition was extended by Thailand, Nanking, the Phillipines and a number of other nations.

The preparation for assault on the British Raj went along at a lightning pace. The head quarters of the INA was moved from Singapore to Rangoon on 7th January 1944. On the same day, in accordance with previous understanding with Bose, Japanese General Sugiyama, the Chief of General Staff, issued an Army Instruction paving the way for his forces, when conditons are favourable, to attack, occupy and consolidate the Imphal Area in NE India in order to secure GOC in Burma. The INA Chief Bose agreed with Japanese generals in regards to the following code of coduct by respective armies:

  • The two armies would work on a common strategy.
  • Officers and men of the INA would be under their own military law and not under that of Japan.
  • Liberated territories were to be handed over to the INA.
  • A definite independent sector would be allotted to the INA.
  • The only flag to fly over the Indian soil would be National Tri-color.
  • No indiscriminate bombing was to be carried out in Calcutta.
  • Any Japanese or Indian soldiers found looting and raping was to be shot at once.
  • The first success of INA was recorded in Arakan's Mayu Valley when Major L.S. Misra's unit quickly cut off the 7th Indian Division on 4th of February 1944. The foreign minister of Japan Sigimitsu congratulated Bose and his INA:
    Your Excellency! Allow me to tender to your Excellency my heart-felt congrtulations upon the spendid achievements of your gallant troops who have demonstrated their prowess in fighting shoulder to shoulder with Nippon forces.
    The success stories continued in the Arakan and Kaladan sectors. Seatabin, Taung Bazar, Lanacot and Fort White were occupied in early March. The INA Gandhi Brigade, Subhas Brigade and Azad Brigade marched ahead towards the promised land - Free India.

    Kohima fell to INA's Subhas Brigade on 8th April under the command of Col. Thakur Singh (2IC). Moirang fell to INA on 14th April, Col. S. Malik raised the Tri-color flag. The wonderful work done by Major Gen. Kiani's troops, and by Subhas Brigade under Shahnawaz Khan's command allowed INA to surround the British troops in Imphal for around three months.

    The battle of Imphal turned out to be a protracted battle - for which INA's timing was too late in summer. Soon monsoon, not the British army, was to become their biggest advarsary.

    'With continuous pounding of the only connecting link between the INA Headquarters and the Advance forces' by British B29 bombers and nothing to combat them with it was getting tougher by the day. Wrose still, INA did not have any aereal cover of their own - as most Japanese planes left the area to fight the Americans elsewhere. This inevitably meant that it was almost impossible to ensure continuity of supplies. Further, with the onset of monsoon, extensive rainfalls caused widespread flooding.

    INA morale, however, was dampened neither by flood, nor for lack of supplies. They 'lived on grass and leaves for long', they could have gone on longer. Their leaders call was 'We must keep marching on.' Even the defection of Gandhi Brigade's Commandant B.J.S. Garewal and Major Prabhudayal to British army with maps and papers pinpointing exact locations of INA positions could not destroy the fighting spirit of the INA troops. Outbreak of malaria and descentry in the face of a total lack medical facilities and supplies dealt, however, a severe blow and took a heavy toll.

    On Bose's instruction the troops eventually retreated. The extent of loss during retreat was significant.

    Bose and his INA troops did not give up there. The task of rebuilding and strengthening INA continued in Burma. They fought many other battles in Burma against the advacing Allied forces. On 7th May 1945 Germany formally surrendered to the Allied forces. Fuehrer Adolf Hitler had fallen, The Fuehrer was dead.

    Following the fall of Okinawa, despite Japan's proposal of surrender, nuclear attack on 6th of August in Hiroshima, followed by a similar explosion in Nagasaky on 9th, left a terrible mark on the history of an unprecedented account of loss of life and destruction. On 10th August USSR declared war on Japan. And the inevitable followed - Japan surrendered. Bose in his ever-calm voice said to his people:

    Japan's surrender [is] not India's surrender ... The INA would not admit defeat.
    Netaji wanted to stay in Singapore. But impending arrival of the Allied forces was only a matter of time. On advice and under extreme pressure from his Cabinet members, he decided to leave Singapore. On 17th of August 1945, Bose met up with Field Marshal Terauchi in Saigon. With him were a number of top INA officials and Japanese General Isoda and Hachaiya. Netaji, Habibur Rahman who was to accompany Netaji, General Isoda, Hachaiya and Field Marshal Terauchi had a meeting which took place behind closed doors. The rest of the INA officials were not privy to the content or subject matter of that meeting. Whatever was decided was secret and remained so to this day. Netaji and Habibur flew with General Isado and Hachaiya. They reached Taihoku airport the following afternoon, after an overnight stopover at Turan.

    After a short break at the airport and following maintencne checkup of the aircraft and a light refreshment the plane took off from the runway. Mechanical troubles caused the aircraft, hardly elevated 300 ft, to collapse and it crashed down to the ground. Bose was badly injured and was taken to the Nanmoon Hospital where he died later that night.

    At least that was the official announcement.

    The British never believed that story, neither did the 400 million Indians. To this day and as long as India exists, to hundreds of millions of Indians and oppressed people of the world, the leader of Free India - the Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose shall live for ever!

    A significant part of this article was based on excellent details available from Shailes De, Aami Subhas Bolchhi, vol.I,II,III, Eighth Edition, Visvabanee Prakashani, Calcutta BY 1402.