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Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose - The Heart & Soul of Azad Hind Fauj

Read about the early life of Subhash Chandra Bose and how he escaped from British India.

Netaji’s escape route took him via modern day Pakistan, Afghanistan and Soviet Russia. Supporters of the Aga Khan III helped him across the border into Afghanistan. After assuming the guise of a Pashtun insurance agent to reach Afghanistan, Bose changed his guise and traveled to Moscow on the Italian passport of an Italian nobleman. From Moscow, he reached Rome, and from there he traveled to Germany. In Germany, he instituted the Special Bureau for India under Adam von Trott zu Solz, broadcasting on the German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. He founded the Free India Center in Berlin, and created the Indian Legion consisting of some 4500 soldiers out of Indian prisoners of war who had previously fought for the British in North Africa. A left-wing admirer of Russia, he was devastated when Hitler's tanks rolled across the Soviet border. Matters were worsened by the fact that the now-retreating German army would be in no position to offer him help in driving the British from India. When he met Hitler in May 1942 his suspicions were confirmed, and he came to believe that the Nazi leader was more interested in using his men to win propaganda victories than military ones. So, in February 1943, Bose turned his back on his legionnaires and slipped secretly away aboard a submarine bound for Japan. This left the men he had recruited leaderless in Germany.

Bose spent almost three years in Berlin, Germany from 1941 until 1943, during which he married Emilie Schenkl and a daughter Anita Bose Pfaff was born to them in 1942.

During this time, the Indian National Army (INA) or the Azad Hind Fauj was born. Originally, it was founded by Capt Mohan Singh in Singapore in September 1942 with Japan's Indian POWs in the Far East. This was with the support of the Indian Independence League, headed by expatriate nationalist leader Rash Behari Bose. However, the first INA was disbanded almost immediately in December 1942 after disagreements between Hikari Kikan and Mohan Singh, who came to believe that the Japanese High Command was using the INA as a mere pawn and propaganda tool. Mohan Singh was taken into custody and the troops returned to the prisoner-of-war camp. However, the idea of a liberation army was revived with the arrival of Subhas Chandra Bose in the Far East in 1943. In July, at a meeting in Singapore, Rash Behari Bose handed over control of the organization to Subhas Chandra Bose. Bose was able to reorganize the fledgling army and gained massive support among the expatriate Indian population in south-east Asia. They supported by both enlisting in the Indian National Army, as well as financially. At its height it, INA consisted of about 85,000 troops, including a separate women's unit, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, headed by Capt. Lakshmi Swaminathan. This second INA fought along with the Imperial Japanese Army against the British and Commonwealth forces in the campaigns in Burma, Imphal and Kohima, and later, against the successful Burma Campaign of the Allies.

Even when faced with military reverses, Bose was able to maintain support for the Azad Hind movement. Bose's most famous quote was "Give me blood, and I shall give you freedom!" It was part of a motivational speech for an Azad Hind Fauj in Burma on July 4, 1944. In this, he urged the people of India to join him in his fight against the British Raj

When Japanese funding for the army diminished, Bose was forced to raise taxes on the Indian populations of Malaysia and Singapore who supported INA. When the Japanese were defeated at the battles of Kohima and Imphal, the INA was forced to pull back, along with the retreating Japanese army. Finally, with the fall of Rangoon, the INA troops surrendered under Lt Col Loganathan. The remaining troops retreated with Bose towards Malaya or escaped to Thailand. Japan's surrender at the end of the war also led to the eventual surrender of the Indian National Army, when the troops of the British Indian Army were repatriated to India and some tried for treason.

Bose is alleged to have died in a plane crash in Taihoku (Taipei), Taiwan, on 18 August 1945 while en route to either Tokyo or possibly the then Soviet Union. The Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Bomber he was travelling on had engine trouble and when it crashed Bose was badly burned, dying in a local hospital four hours later. It is believed that his body was cremated, and a Buddhist memorial service was held at Nishi Honganji Temple in Taihoku. His ashes were taken to Japan and interred at the Renkōji Temple in Tokyo.

However, the absence of his body has led to many theories suggesting his possible survival. One such claim is that Bose actually died later in Siberia, while in Soviet captivity. According the Inquiry Commission under Justice Mukherjee, which investigated the Bose disappearance mystery in the period 1999-2005, the Taiwan government confirmed 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.

Recently Netaji's grand nephew Sugata Bose in his book "His Majesty's Opponent" claimed that the founder of the Indian Independence League in Tokyo, Rama Murti had hidden a portion of alleged cremated remains of Bose as "extra precaution" in his house and secondly, this portion has been brought to India in 2006.

Bhagavad Gita was a great source of inspiration for Netaji in his struggle against the British. Swami Vivekananda's teachings on universalism, his nationalist thoughts and his emphasis on social service and reform had all inspired Subhas Chandra Bose from his very young days. The fresh interpretation of the India's ancient scriptures had appealed immensely to him. Many scholars believe that Hindu spirituality formed an essential part of his political and social thought through his adult life, although there was no sense of bigotry or orthodoxy in it. Subhas who called himself a socialist, believed that socialism in India owed its origins to Swami Vivekananda. Bose's correspondence prior to 1939 reflects his deep disapproval of the racist practices of, and annulment of democratic institutions in Nazi Germany  However, he expressed admiration for the authoritarian methods (though not the racial ideologies) which he saw in Italy and Germany during the 1930s, and thought they could be used in building an independent India.

While Bose had clearly expressed in his early days that democracy was the best option for India, his belief seems to have changed during the second World War. He seems to have decided that no democratic system could be adequate to overcome India's poverty and social inequalities, and that an authoritarian state, similar to that of former Soviet Russia would be needed for the process of national re-building.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose - The Heart & Soul of Azad Hind Fauj

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – Early Life of the Fearless Socialist Authoritarian

Read about Netaji's leadership of the Indian National Army or the Azad Hind Fauj here.

Subhash Chandra Bose, popularly referred to as Netaji (Respected Leader), was one of the prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement.  He led a national political and military force against the British powers during World War II.

He was born on January 23, 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa to Janakinath Bose and Prabhabati Devi, a Bengali family. He was the ninth child of a total of fourteen siblings. His early education was in an Anglo Indian school in Cuttack, followed by Ravenshaw Collegiate School and Presidency College, which he attended briefly. His nationalistic temperament came to light when he was expelled for assaulting Professor Oaten for his anti-India comments. Bose later topped the matriculation examination of Calcutta province in 1911 and passed his B.A. in 1918 in philosophy from the Scottish Church College under University of Calcutta.

Subhash Chandra Bose left India in 1919 for England with a promise to his father that he would appear in the Indian Civil Services Examination. He was selected in his first attempt, but he did not want to work under an alien rule. So he resigned and returned to India.  He studied in Fitzwilliam Hall of the University of Cambridge, and matriculated. He was later a non-collegiate student and studied Philosoe newspaper Swaraj. At that time he took charge of publicity for the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee. His mentor was Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das who was a spokesman for aggressive nationalism in Bengal. In the year 1923, he was elected the President of All India Youth Congress and also the Secretary of Bengal State Congress. He was also Editor of the newspaper "Forward", founded by Deshbandhu. Bose worked as the CEO of the municipal corporation of Calcutta 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.

In 1927, after being released from prison, Bose became general secretary of the Congress party and worked with Jawaharlal Nehru towards India’s independence. Bose was arrested and jailed again for civil disobedience. But upon his release, he emerged to become Mayor of Calcutta in 1930. During the mid-1930s Bose travelled to Europe, visiting Indian students and European politicians, including Mussolini. He observed party organization and saw communism and fascism in action. By 1938 he had become a leader of national stature and agreed to accept nomination as Congress president.

Netaji advocated complete unconditional independence (Purna Swaraj) for India, whereas the All-India Congress Committee wanted it in phases, through Dominion status. He was in favor of using force against the British. This meant a confrontation with Gandhiji and his ideals of non-violence. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi opposed Bose's presidency, splitting the Indian National Congress party. Bose appeared at the 1939 Congress meeting on a stretcher. He was elected president again over Gandhi's preferred candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. However, due to the politics of the Gandhi-led clique in the Congress Working Committee, Bose had to resign from the Congress presidency. His uncompromising stand finally cut him off from the mainstream of Indian nationalism. After that, Subhash Chandra Bose organized the Forward Bloc, aimed at consolidating the political left.

Despite his clear dislike for British subjugation of India, Bose was deeply impressed by their methodical and systematic approach and their steadfastly disciplinarian outlook towards life. In England, he exchanged ideas on the future of India with British Labour Party leaders and political thinkers. He came to believe that a free India needed socialist authoritarianism, on the lines of Turkey's Kemal Atatürk, for at least two decades. But Bose was refused permission by the British authorities to meet Mr. Atatürk at Ankara for political reasons.

With the outbreak of the second World War, Bose advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest against the British government’s decision to involve India in the war, without consulting the Congress leadership. He was once again sent to prison, but was released following a seven-day hunger strike. Bose's house in Calcutta was kept under surveillance by the British but he successfully escaped to Germany, leaving behind two pending court cases. A few days before his escape, he sought solitude and on this pretext avoided meeting British guards and grew a beard and on the night of his escape he dressed as a Pathan to avoid being identified. On January 19, 1941, Bose escaped from under British surveillance, accompanied by his nephew Sisir K. Bose in a car that is now at display at his Calcutta home.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – Early Life of the Fearless Socialist Authoritarian

Emperor Ashoka The Great

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Emperor Ashoka is considered one of the most influential figures in India's history. He was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the great Mauryan empire. He is believed to have lived between 304–232 BC. Popularly known as Ashoka The Great, he ruled over most of present-day India during the years 269 - 232 BC. After numerous conquests, including the powerful Kalinga empire, his kingdom stretched from present-day Pakistan & Afghanistan in the west, to the present-day Bangladesh and Assam (Indian state) in the east, and ranged as far south as northern Kerala. His empire was headquartered in Magadha (modern day state of Bihar).

 

Ashoka, his name meaning "painless, without sorrow" in Sanskrit, was born to King Bindusara and Queen Subhadrangi, the daughter of Champa of Telangana. He had several elder siblings, all of whom were his half-brothers from other wives of Bindusāra. From a very young age, Ashoka received military and warfare training. He was an accomplished hunter, and according to a legend, he killed a lion with just a wooden rod. He was a skilled fighter, whose expertise with the sword was well known. He acquired the reputation of a fierce warrior and a heartless general.

 

Bindusara's death in 273 BC led to a succession war. Bindusara wanted his son Sushim to succeed him but Ashoka was supported by his father's ministers. According to one legend, Ashoka became the king by getting rid of the legitimate heir to the throne, by tricking him into entering a pit filled with live coals. Another legend states that he killed 99 of his brothers, sparing only one, named Tissa. Ashoka’s coronation took place in 269 BC, four years after his succession to the throne.

In the initial years of his reign, Ashoka is said to have had bad temper and was wicked by nature. Legend goes that he administered a loyalty test to his ministers and killed those that failed. He also kept a harem of hundreds of women and burnt many of them to death when he felt that they insulted him. He built an elaborate and horrific torture chamber which earned him the name of Chand Ashoka, meaning Ashoka the Fierce.

Although the early part of Ashoka's reign was violent and gory, the war with Kalinga became a key turning point in his life. The kingdom of Kalinga was situated on the east coast of India (present-day states of southern Orissa and north coastal Andhra). It prided itself on its sovereignty and monarchial democracy. This was quite an exception in ancient Bharata (India) where the prevalent custom was that of an absolute monarchy. The Kalinga battle was bloody and left more than 100,000 soldiers and many civilians dead or deported. It is said that when Ashoka was walking through the grounds of Kalinga after his conquest, rejoicing his victory, he was moved by the horrific sight of thousands of bodies strewn across the landscape. The piercing wails of the kith and kin of the dead made a lasting impression on his mind. He cried out -

What have I done? Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Do I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other's kingdom and splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant. What's this debris of corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil?

The brutality of the Kalinga conquest led Ashoka to embrace Buddhism, and marked the beginning of a peaceful and glorious chapter of his life. He was so influenced by the teachings of Gautam Buddha that he made Buddhism his state religion around 260 BC, and preached it within his domain and worldwide from about 250 BC. It is said that he propagated it as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. He whole heartedly adopted the principles of Dhamma (righteousness) namely, ahimsa (nonviolence), love, truth, tolerance and vegetarianism. He constructed hospitals for animals, renovated major roads throughout India, attempted to raise the professional ambition of the common man by building universities for study, and water transit and irrigation systems for trade and agriculture. He undertook many philanthropic and developmental activities for his subjects. After this transformation, Ashoka came to be known as Dhammashoka, meaning Ashoka, the follower of Dharma.

Ashoka established many monuments such as stupas, viharas and stambhas venerating Buddhism. The most famous among them are the Sanchi stupa, the Ashoka stambha of Sarnath and the Lion Capital with Ashoka Chakra carved at its center. The Lion capital is a sculpture of four "Indian lions" standing back to back. It was originally placed atop the Ashoka stambha at Sarnath, but is now in the Sarnath Museum in Uttar Pradesh. This Lion Capital has been adopted as the National Emblem of India and the Ashoka Chakra (wheel of Dharma or Sharmachakra) has been placed onto the center of the Flag of India. Ashoka played a critical role in making Buddhism a world religion. As the peace-loving ruler of one of the world's largest, richest and most powerful multi-ethnic states, he is considered an exemplary ruler, who tried to put into practice a secular state ethic of non-violence.

The source of much of our knowledge of Ashoka is the many inscriptions he had carved on pillars and rocks throughout the empire. All his inscriptions have the imperial touch and show compassionate loving. He addressed his people as his "children". These inscriptions promoted Buddhist morality and encouraged nonviolence and adherence to Dharma (duty or proper behavior), and they talk of his fame and conquered lands as well as the neighboring kingdoms holding up his might. One also gets some primary information about the Kalinga War and Ashoka's allies plus some useful knowledge on the civil administration. Ashoka's own words as known from his Edicts are: "All men are my children. I am like a father to them. As every father desires the good and the happiness of his children, I wish that all men should be happy always."

Ashoka ruled for an estimated forty years. After his death, the Mauryan dynasty lasted just fifty more years. Ashoka had many wives and children, but many of their names are lost to time. Mahindra and Sanghamitra were twins born by his first wife, Devi, in the city of Ujjain. He had entrusted to them the job of making his state religion, Buddhism, more popular across the known and the unknown world. Mahindra and Sanghamitra went into Sri Lanka and spread Buddhism there.

In his old age, he seems to have come under the spell of his youngest wife Tishyaraksha. It is said that she had got his son Kunala, the regent in Takshashila, blinded by cunning. The official executioners spared Kunala and he became a wandering singer accompanied by his favourite wife Kanchanmala. In Pataliputra, Ashoka heard Kunala's song, and realized that Kunala's misfortune may have been a punishment for some past sin of the emperor himself. He condemned Tishyaraksha to death, restoring Kunala to the court. Kunala was succeeded by his son, Samprati, but his rule did not last long after Ashoka's death.

The great monarch Ashoka will always be remembered as a wise, compassionate and philanthropic king. In the history of India he will always be Samraat Chakravartin Ashoka - the Emperor of Emperors Ashoka.

And now, read about - Swami Vivekananda,  Vinoba Bhave

Emperor Ashoka The Great

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