Although he is less well known in the western world than Mahatma Ghandi, Subash Chandra Bose was no minor figure in the history of India's path to independence from the British Empire. He was twice elected President of the Congress Party.
In contrast to the non-violent message of Ghandi, however, Bose advocated a militaristic approach to liberating India. Bose proposed unifying Hindus under the flag of an Indian National Army and compelling the British to quit India using armed force if necessary. To accomplish this goal, Bose argued that Hindus should use any means necessary, even if this meant relying on the support of the Axis Powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan, the extreme nationalist ideologies of which Bose found attractive. Despite subscribing to extreme nationalism, Bose's personal ideology appears to have been marked by an amalgamation of communist and fascist influences. This is apparent in his radically leftist political activities before the Second World War, but also in comments he made praising fascism.
Following his birth in 1897, Bose attended a foreign missionary school, where he demonstrated an early inclination toward being a free thinker. When he graduated in 1919, Bose went to England to qualify for the Indian Civil Service. He accomplished this by 1920 he had returned to Calcutta, where he worked under Chittaranjan Das, a Bengali independence activist. From 1921 on, Bose actively opposed British rule in India. This led to him being arrested no fewer than three times by the British authorities over the course of the decade.
At this time Bose formed close ties with the radical left and in the late 1920s Bose commonly could be heard calling for the formation of a parallel government in India based on the centralized mobilization of peasants and workers. In September 1930, Bose was elected Mayor of Calcutta. British authorities, however, would not tolerate his constant agitation for Indian self-rule. Bose was therefore exiled to Europe in 1933. His appearance in Europe at this time was fortuitous for his ideological development. In Europe, Bose was a traveling spokesman for his countrymen and he met with many important figures, including Benito Mussolini, Alfred Rosenberg, and Czech President Edvard Beneš, in order to promote his cause.
Bose also spoke out brazenly against Mahatma Ghandi and upon returning to Indian public life in 1937 he was twice elected president of the Indian National Congress against Ghandi's wishes. A central part of Bose's platform was calling for national economic planning and the "socialist reconstruction" of India.
With the outbreak of war, Bose stepped up his agitation for Indians to take advantage of British weakness and throw off colonial rule. He organized mass demonstrations, for which he was again arrested by the British. Bose finally was forced to escape India via Afghanistan in January 1941. After traveling through the Soviet Union on an Italian passport, Bose arrived in Rome. From Italy, Bose traveled to Berlin, Germany in order to cultivate Adolf Hitler's support for creating an armed force of Indian prisoners of war captured by the Germans when British forces were defeated in France and Holland in 1940. The notion of forming an Indian National Army had been in Bose's mind a long time. Now, when German power was at its peak, the opportunity presented itself for Bose to form that army. In Berlin, Bose created a Special Bureau for India in the German propaganda ministry and he broadcast speeches on German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. Bose also founded the Free India Center and created the Indian Legion (4500 soldiers altogether) which was attached to the German Army, but later placed under the authority of the Waffen-SS. The members of the Indian Legion were required to swear allegiance to Hitler and Bose in order to secure German support.
Eventually, Bose came to realize that Germany could not help his cause any further. He therefore set off for India on a German submarine in order to coordinate the formation of an Indian National Army (again using Indian POWs) with the Japanese. Arriving in Singapore in 1943, Bose took over the nascent Indian National Army and supervised its growth into a force of 85,000 men. INA troops eventually fought along the northeastern frontier of India alongside Japanese troops. However, with the defeat of Japan, the INA was also defeated.
Bose is alleged to have dies in an airplane crash in April 1945 while on route to Tokyo.
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