Subhas Chandra Bose was born on 23 January 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa, British India, and is presumed to have died 18 August 1945 (although this is disputed) in Taiwan. He was an Indian revolutionary who led an Indian national political and military force against Britain and the Western powers during World War II. Popularly known as Netaji (literally “Respected Leader”), Bose was one of the most prominent leaders in the Indian independence movement and is a legendary figure in India today.
Subhas Chandra Bose was born in a Bengali Kayasth family on January 23, 1897 in Cuttack (Odiya Baazar), Orissa, to Janakinath Bose, (ADVOCATE), and Prabhavati Devi. He was the ninth child of 14. He studied in an Anglo school at Cuttack (now known as Stewart School) until standard 6. He then shifted to Ravenshaw Collegiate School of Cuttack. From there he went to the prestigious Presidency College where he studied briefly. His nationalistic temperament came to light when he was expelled for assaulting Professor Oaten for his anti-India comments . Subhas Chandra Bose assaults Oaten, 1916 .
A brilliant student, Bose later topped the matriculation examination of Calcutta province in 1911 and passed his B.A. in 1918 in philosophy from the renowned Scottish Church College of the University of Calcutta (after being expelled from the Presidency College, Calcutta for his assault on Prof Oaten for the latter’s anti-India statements.)
Bose went to study in Fitzwilliam Hall of the University of Cambridge, and matriculated, that is formally enrolled in the Cambridge University, on 19 November 1919. He was a non-collegiate student. He studied Philosophy for Moral Sciences Tripos, as the honours BA is known. He was awarded a third class pass in the examinations for Part I of this tripos in 1921. He graduated BA by proxy on 4 November 1922.
His high score in the Civil Service examinations meant an almost automatic appointment. He then took his first conscious step as a revolutionary and resigned the appointment on the premise that the “best way to end a government is to withdraw from it. At the time, Indian nationalists were shocked and outraged because of the Amritsar massacre and the repressive Rowlatt legislation of 1919. Returning to India, Bose wrote for the newspaper Swaraj and took charge of publicity for the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee. His mentor was Chittaranjan Das, spokesman for aggressive nationalism in Bengal. Bose worked for Das when the latter was elected mayor of Calcutta in 1924. In a roundup of nationalists in 1925, Bose was arrested and sent to prison in Mandalay, where he contracted tuberculosis.
Bose advocated complete independence for India at the earliest, whereas the All-India Congress Committee wanted it in phases, through Dominion status. Finally at the historic Lahore Congress convention, the Congress adopted Purna Swaraj (complete independence) as its motto. Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom and the inability of the Congress leaders to save his life infuriated Bose and he started a movement opposing the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. He was imprisoned and expelled from India. Defying the ban, he came back to India and was imprisoned again.
Bose was elected president of the Indian National Congress for two consecutive terms, but had to resign from the post following ideological conflicts with Mohandas K. Gandhi and after openly attacking the Congress’ foreign and internal policies. Bose believed that Gandhi’s tactics of non-violence would never be sufficient to secure India’s independence, and advocated violent resistance. He established a separate political party, the All India Forward Bloc and continued to call for the full and immediate independence of India from British rule. He was imprisoned by the British authorities eleven times. His famous motto was “Give me blood and I will give you freedom”.
His stance did not change with the outbreak of the Second World War, which he saw as an opportunity to take advantage of British weakness. At the outset of the war, he left India, travelling to the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, seeking an alliance with each of them to attack the British government in India. With Imperial Japanese assistance, he re-organised and later led the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA), formed with Indian prisoners-of-war and plantation workers from British Malaya, Singapore, and other parts of Southeast Asia, against British forces. With Japanese monetary, political, diplomatic and military assistance, he formed the Azad Hind Government in exile, and regrouped and led the Indian National Army in failed military campaigns against the allies at Imphal and in Burma.
His political views and the alliances he made with Nazi and other militarist regimes at war with Britain have been the cause of arguments among historians and politicians, with some accusing him of fascist sympathies, while others in India have been more sympathetic towards the realpolitik that guided his social and political choices.
Bose is alleged to have died in a plane crash Taihoku (Taipei), Taiwan, on 18 August 1945 while en route to Tokyo and possibly then the Soviet Union. The Japanese plane he was travelling on had engine trouble and when it crashed Bose was badly burned, dying in a local hospital four hours later. His body was then cremated. This version of events is supported by the testimonies of a Captain Yoshida Taneyoshi, and a British spy known as ‘Agent 1189.
The lack of a body has led to many theories have been put forward concerning his possible survival. One such claim is that Bose actually died later in Siberia, while in Soviet captivity. Several committees have been set up by the Government of India to probe into this matter.
In May 1956, a four-man Indian team known as the Shah Nawaz Committee visited Japan to probe the circumstances of Bose’s alleged death. However, the Indian government did not then request assistance from the government of Taiwan in the matter, citing their lack of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
However, the Inquiry Commission under Justice Mukherjee, which investigated the Bose disappearance mystery in the period 1999-2005, did approach the Taiwanese government, and obtained information from the Taiwan Government that no plane carrying Bose had ever crashed in Taipei, and there was, in fact, no plane crash in Taiwan on 18 August 1945 as alleged. The Mukherjee Commission also received a report originating from the U.S. Department of State supporting the claim of the Taiwan Government that no such air crash took place during that time frame.
The Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to the Indian Government on November 8, 2005. The report was tabled in Parliament on May 17, 2006. The probe said in its report that as Bose did not die in the plane crash, and that the ashes at the Renkoji Temple (said to be of Bose’s) are not his. However, the Indian Government rejected the findings of the Commission, though no reasons were cited.
Several documents which could perhaps provide lead to the disappearance of Bose have not been declassified by the Government of India, the reason cited being publication of these documents could sour India’s relations with some other countries.
Bose was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award in 1992, but it was later withdrawn in response to a Supreme Court directive following a Public Interest Litigation filed in the Court against the “posthumous” nature of the award. The Award Committee could not give conclusive evidence on Bose’s death and thus the “posthumous” award was invalidated. No headway was made on this issue however.
Bose’s portrait hangs in the Indian Parliament, and a statue of him has been erected in front of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly.
Several people believed that the Hindu sanyasi named Bhagwanji or ‘Gumnami Baba’, who lived in the house Ram Bhawan in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh at least until 1985, was Subhas Chandra Bose . There had been at least four known occasions when Gumnami Baba reportedly claimed he was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The belongings of the sanyasi were taken into custody after his death, following a court order. These were later subjected to inspection by the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry.
The commission came down against this belief, in the absence of any “clinching evidence”. The independent probe done by the Hindustan Times into the case however provided hints that the monk was Bose himself. Some people believe that Gumnami Baba died on 16 September 1985, while some dispute this. The story of Gumnami Baba came to light on his death. It is alleged that he was cremated in the dead of night, just under the light of a motorcycle’s headlamp, at Faizabad’s popular picnic spot, on the bank of River Saraju, his face distorted by acid to protect his identity. Faizabad’s Bengali community still pays homage at the memorial built at his cremation site on the anniversary of his birth. However, the life and activities of Bhagwanji remain a mystery even today.
Justice Manoj Kumar Mukherjee who probed into the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose stated in his report that the question of whether the sanyasi of Faizabad (Bhagwanji) was (or not) Bose “need not be answered” as there was no clinching evidence to prove it. However, he inadvertently stated in a documentary shoot that he believed Bhagwanji was none other than Bose. This revelation supports the view that Bose had not died in the plane crash in 1945, and was in fact in India after that.
Bose married his Austrian secretary Emilie Schenkl in 1937. Their only daughter, Anita Bose Pfaff born in 1942, is an economist associated with the University of Augsburg.