Friends, Indians, Countrymen,
Lend me your tears. I come to praise Netaji for they've buried him, and the good he did they've interred with his memory.
They say he shook hands with Hitler and make it sound like a sin. Indeed, he'd have shook hands with the devil himself for the azadi of the Hind he loved more than his very life. Netaji was readying to wage war against the British Empire and in war, is an enemy's enemy not a potential ally? "But the Nazis gassed millions to death in the concentration camps!" they counter apoplectically, and since they are honorable men they forget that the British starved millions to death in Bengal, besides the uncounted number of Indians they beat, burned, hung, shot or cannoned to death. They forget the regular shaking of Lord Mountbatten's hand by others, the regular kissing of Lady Edwina's face, the regular acceptance of the hospitality of His Majesty's government...
They say Netaji defied the Mahatma and make it sound like sacrilege. By god, he'd have defied god himself for the azadi of the Hind he revered more than his very gods. He fought the Mahatma, on a matter of principle, and he won. "But he wanted a dictatorship!" they rage, and because they are honorable men they do not for a moment think he meant it in the sense of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of whose enlightened, benevolent, socialist-authoritarian "dictatorship" in Turkey even pacifists like Panditji and the Mahatma were big, big fans.
They say--no, enough of what they say of him. Recalling the incident of his expulsion from Presidency College, Subhas Chandra Bose writes in his unfinished autobiography:
The principal sent for me and said--or rather snarled--in unforgettable words, "Bose, you are the most troublesome man in the college. I suspend you." I said "Thank you" and went home.
This was the first sacrifice. Presidency was a top college, and Bose a top student. But then Bose was also Bose. He would defy principals for principles all his life.
At age 23, freshly selected to the I.C.S., he wrote the following to his brother Sarat Chandra Bose:
The Civil Service can bring one all kind of worldly comfort, but are not these acquisitions made at the expense of one's soul? The principle of serving an alien bureaucracy is repugnant to me.
This was the second sacrifice. The ICS after all was the forerunner to the IAS, only ten times more powerful and a hundred times harder to get into. All Calcutta, half of Cambridge, and large parts of Whitehall tried their best to get Bose to withdraw his resignation. Bose's response?
Compromise is a bad thing--it degrades the man and injures his cause.
In 1938, he was elected President of the Indian National Congress. A year later he was elected again, defying Gandhi at the peak of Gandhi's influence. Smarting at the High Priest's defeat, the acolytes quit the Working committee en masse and moved a resolution for a new one to be appointed in line 'with Gandhi's ideas.' In response, Netaji wrote to the Mahatma:
If you feel that the Congress will be able to fight better with another president I shall gladly step aside... If self-effacement will further the national cause, I assure you most solemnly that I am prepared to efface myself completely.
This was the third sacrifice. It was for country, as always, but also for the man he himself had first called 'Mahatma', and who in turn, much later, called him 'the prince among patriots.'
It is all sacrifice from here on till the end of his recorded history. By the early 1940's Bose had been arrested eleven times and jailed in the blackest of prisons. In 1941 he escaped from house-arrest under the noses of the CID. In disguise, unwell, with MI5 assassination squads hunting him, he made his way across the border to Afghanistan, then onwards to Moscow and Germany. That was the first time they declared him dead, by the way, in March, 1942, with Reuters claiming that he had, heh, 'died in a plane crash on way to Japan.' He hadn't, of course. He'd taken a submarine.
By the end of 1943, in the middle of a world war, under the direst of circumstances, he had raised a trained army of 50,000 free Indians--free of crown, caste, class, region, religion, even gender. Azad Hind Fauj, it was called, and what a glorious fauj it was. Alongside the Japanese it fought so well and so hard that the British War Museum recently named the battles of Imphal and Kohima the greatest British battles ever. Yes, the INA lost, and soon Netaji was lost too, but when in 1946 the British put a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh officer of the INA on trial for treason at the Red Fort, a unanimous "patriotic fury" swept India. Protests, rioting and mutinies broke out. As Auchinleck feared a complete 'dissolution' of British Indian forces and Attlee was told by delegations of MP's that Britain had best quit India post haste or be kicked out, it was the specter of Subhas Bose that strode the battlements of Lal Qila, the streets of Calcutta, the Royal Naval Docks of Bombay and the whole of Hind, putting the long-forgotten fear of god back in the British. Defeated in battle, he and his army had still won the war of independence.
Long story short: Netaji and the Indian National Army fought for an azad Hind. Really fought. Tooth and nail. Body and soul. Till their last breath.
The question is-- Will Azad Hind fight for them? Will it free their history from obscurity and mystery? Will it honor the names of Kiani, Malik, Rehman, Dhillon, Sehgal, Mann, Mech, Phizo, Baruah, Koirengsing, Ahlawat, Sastry, Yellapa, Loganathan, Dalal, Das, Yadav, Singh, Asha Sahay, Janaki Devar, Hiraben Betai and countless others? Will it honor the name--Subhas Chandra Bose?
Please think about it. Think of him at age 19, on a train to Cuttack to evade arrest after his expulsion from Presidency College:
My educational career was at end and my future was dark and uncertain. But I was not sorry. There was not a trace of regret in my mind. I had rather a feeling of supreme satisfaction, of joy that I had stood up for our honor and self-respect and had sacrificed myself for a noble cause. After all, what is life without renunciation, I told myself. And I went to sleep.
Good night, sweet prince.
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