Subhas Chandra Bose: What is a correct, rational, assessment?

Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

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Today, 23rd January, is the birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose, and many persons who call him ‘Netaji’ and regard him as a hero and liberator of India will celebrate it. I regret to say, however, that I cannot, since I regard Bose as objectively an agent of the fascist Japanese imperialists.

What is the correct, rational, assessment of Bose ?

No doubt in his youth he was a patriotic person who resigned from the ICS to serve the country.

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Subhas Chander Bose with Mahatma Gandhi

He joined the Congress party, but later had serious differences with Gandhiji and others over the method of carrying on the independence struggle, with the result that he was forced to resign from the Presidentship of the party after the Haripura Congress session in 1939.

He then became frustrated, and in 1940 secretly left India to take help,from the Germans.

In Germany, where he arrived in April 1941, Bose not only hobnobbed with Hitler but even with Himmler, two of the most evil men in history, responsible for sending millions of Jews to gas chambers.

He made radio broadcasts for the Nazis, and organized 3000 Indian soldiers captured by the Germans in North Africa, to fight along with the Nazis.

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Subhas Chander Bose with Hitler

But when Hitler ultimately showed no interest in invading India, Bose went in 1943 to Japan and raised his ragtag ‘Azad Hind Fauj‘ to fight with Japanese support against the British army.

In my opinion Bose was a highly ambitious person, and he became frustrated because Gandhiji had sidelined him, and Hitler gave him no importance, so he thought that the only alternative left was to ally with Japan, on the theory that one’s enemy’s enemy is one’s friend..

The Japanese fascists used Bose in their fight against the British, but the moment his utility was over they would probably have bumped him off or turned him into a puppet ruler like Pu Yi, the puppet ruler of Manchukuo.

Does anybody think that the Japanese fascist imperialists would have given freedom to India if they had defeated the British? No, they would have made India their colony (as they made Korea, Manchuria and other parts of China, Vietnam,etc) and looted us.

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Subhas Chander Bose inspecting a parade of Azad Hind Fauj

If we resisted, the Japanese would assuredly have massacred our people, as they did to the people of Shanghai, Nanking, etc.

When Bose went to the Andaman Islands in 1944 he never protested against the ill treatment by Japanese soldiers of the local population, rather he turned a blind eye to it.

If Bose was a great freedom fighter, why did he give up the fight against the British the moment the Japanese surrendered in August 1945 ? He should have carried on a guerilla war against the British, the way the Chinese Eighth Route Army fought against the Japanese.

It may be said that there were no weapons after the Japanese surrender to fight the British. But in guerilla war one fights with the weapons of the enemy, by snatching them from him. The fact that he did not do so shows that there was nothing in the man.

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Subhas Chandra Bhose meeting Japanese Prime Minister Tojo Hideki in 1943

First he tried to become an agent of the Nazis, but they rebuffed him. Then he became an agent of the Japanese, who accepted him as their loyal agent.

Some people support Bose’s alliance with the Japanese by saying that an enemy’s enemy is one’s friend. In the real, practical, world, this maxim cannot be of universal application.

One can understand alliance with Japan if there was a possibility that such an alliance could have benefited us and given us real freedom. But there was no such possibility. Even if the Japanese, with I.N.A. support had defeated the British, they would never have given us freedom, but instead they would have converted India into their colony.

The very nature of the then fascism prevailing in Japan makes this evident. The Japanese had come militarily upto the Indian border not for a picnic, but as imperialists, to seize raw materials for their growing industry.

My assessment of Bose is that though originally patriotic, he later became an over ambitious person, who to satisfy his ambition and ego was prepared even to ally with the devil, like a Faust. It is high time Bengalis (and others) realize this.

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Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

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