The truth behind Bharat’s Independence: Gandhi Vs Bose
8 June 2023
"This blog is divided into three major parts which are followed by the headings “Another question”, “Bibliography”, and “Further reading”. "
This blog is centered on a question left unanswered in an earlier blog: To whom do we owe our independence? In a long period of sixty years, the Indian populace has been fed that it was Gandhi’s Satyagraha that got us independence. A very famous lyric in Hindi calls out:
“दे दी हमें आज़ादी बिना खड्ग बिना ढाल
साबरमती के सन्त तूने कर दिया कमाल”
This translates into:
“O saint of Sabarmati You wrought a miracle
You gave us our freedom sans sword and shield”
To which prominent speaker Maj. Gen. (Dr.) G.D. Bakshi says ‘This lyric is an unbashed insult to the 26,000 martyrs of [Netaji’s] INA’
To deepen our understanding of this matter, we will have to investigate the history of a specific time frame which is from 1942 to 1947. Let us begin our hunt for the truth.
The Last of Gandhian Struggle (1942-1944)
At the Bombay session of All India Congress Committee (August 1942), Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement or Bharat Chhodo Andolan. Demand was simple: withdrawal of British forces from Bharat. Responding to the Andolan, British government imprisoned almost all of Congress’s leadership reportedly within hours of Gandhi’s speech. Before being arrested, Gandhi gave the slogan of “Do or Die” attaching it to the Andolan. British government was now trapped in a two-frontier fork, dealing with the world war and the Indian movement at the same time. Thus, to handle the situation, Winston Churchill deployed an all-white army of eight brigades to crush the Andolan. Referring to this situation from an angle of Netaji’s intervention Maj. Gen. Bakshi writes ‘To aid this revolt, Bose had sent gold, US dollars, radio sets and arms to India’. By alternate moves and methods, the Quit India Movement was totally fizzled by the Raj. After that exists an absolute vacuum of non-violent movements by Indian National Congress till the final withdrawal of British forces from India in 1947. Then why did they leave after a gap of four years? And was it an act of charity in return for Congress’ begging for freedom?
Shaking the Raj (1944-47)
There existed another facet of the Indian struggle for independence: The armed one. Subhash Chandra Bose saw the need for mass resistance against the Raj and pointed out that it was the best time to do so. Walking on the path directed by Netaji the re-established INA started offering hot resistance to the British Raj. Combined with the Japanese forces, INA waged war against British rule in northeast India. 1944 saw the Battle of Imphal and Operation C under the direct command of Commander-in-chief Subhash C. Bose of INA or Azad Hind Fauj. In 1945, the Burma campaign and the Battle of Pokoku were launched. The INA now was an active participant in the world war with the sole motive of freeing India. Unfortunately, all these campaigns and fronts were met with disastrous defeats for the INA. Militants were again captured as prisoners of war.
Trials at the Red Fort
Considering the possibility of scaring Bharatiya soldiers, the Raj thought of conducting court martials on INA captives. By the end of 1945, public trials opened at the Red Fort of Delhi.
Public humiliation and punishment met to the patriots continued for months. In the first trial, three major officers tried were Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, and Prem Kumar Sehgal. All three of them were originally officers in the British Indian Army but were kept prisoners in Malaya where Netaji got them free and recruited them into the INA. These officers were tried on the charges of murder and waging war against the king.
Revolts & Mutinies
The effect of the trials didn’t go as planned by the Raj, they made a mistake in judging the Bravehearts of Bharat and it backfired. Outraged by the treatment met to the INA captives, Royal Indian Navy started a mutiny against the Raj in Bombay. Instantly the revolt spread like wildfire among the British Indian Army. Frenzied soldiers started manhunts for all Britishers they could find. Raj’s own cannons were being fired on the Raj itself. Military base in Jabalpur acted the same way. And the Raj was shaken to the root. It was clear now that the loyalties of all Bharatiyas lie with the interests of Bharat and not Gore sahibs. The 2.5 million white troops were home-sick and tired because of the world war, whereas the same number of Indian troops were battle ready and well-motivated. White troops were in no shape to fight the nationalists of Bharat.
The Credit Due
Many historians like R.C. Majumdar and Dr. Kalyan Kumar De claim that it was because of INA’s actions and Military revolts that the British Raj left India. The then-acting governor of Bengal, Justice P.B. Chakraborty discloses that the British Prime-minister Clement Attlee [a key decision maker on the issue of withdrawal of British forces from India] admitted that they left India because of Netaji’s resistance. Dr. Shashi Tharoor also expresses the vulnerability of Raj in facing the armed rebellion of INA. So was INA’s influence in India that “Transfer of Power” published by the British Government several times remarked that Congress supported INA with a motive to excel in the general election of 1946. People at that time knew the significance of Netaji's activities but later, the credit due to him and INA was snatched away.
The Man Himself
It was all due to the excellence and dedication of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose that today we have the liberty to be the way we want. The man had a perfect combination of skills and dedication. Gandhi called him a “Patriot among Patriots” or a “Prince among Patriots”. Rabindranath Tagore gave him the title of “Netaji”. His understanding and observation surpassed almost all other leaders of that time. Many incidents display his superhuman intellect. He was the only one to notice that the loyalty of Bharatiya sepoys to the Raj shall be redirected to free Bharat. Such was his dedication that he was the only military commander of that time to lead the military from the front. Never even gave a thought to himself before the nation keeping his life always on the line. Was an outstanding leader and an even better organizer and planner. His management skills were far higher than the sky. Still, with all these pearls of characteristics, he had another jewel, the brightest one to his persona: Love for the Motherland. The supreme quality of dedicating everything to his country and people. Salute to the most inconvenient patriot of his time.
History is evident that Britishers left Bharat on 15 August 1947, but were we decolonized? When a country breaks free of its exploiters, the first step is to undo the cultural changes made by its colonizers. Did it happen in our case? Instead, the new government performed another feat: being the first and only country to banish and torture its own freedom fighters. The soldiers of INA were not only banned from the newly formed army but were also punished and all financial support to them was ceased. Is this how an independent country treats its soldiers? Was there any effort to re-establish Bharat’s original culture? Were there any efforts to provide young minds with a sense of pride for their nation? It is very logical to ask now: What happened in 1947 was actually freedom or just a transfer of power to a chosen set of anglophiles? Another question, another blog.
Bakshi, G.D. 2019. Bose or Gandhi: Who Got India Her Freedom?
Kakatkar, N.V. 09/08/1966. Tarun Bharat (Daily publishings in Marathi).
Bakshi, G.D. 2019. Bose, an Indian Samurai: Netaji and the INA, a Military Assessment.
Tharoor, Shashi. 2016. An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India.
Fay, Peter Ward. 1994. The Forgotten Army: India’s Armed Struggle for Independence.
Ghose, Chandrachur. 2022. Bose: The Untold Story of an Inconvenient Nationalist.
Borra Ranjan. 1982. A Journal of Historical Review, Vol. 3. Subhash Chandra Bose, The Indian National Army, and The War of India’s Liberation.
For Further Reading
Bose, Subhash Chandra. 2002. Netaji Collected Works.
Kulkarni, V.S. and Murty K.S.N. 1946. First Indian National Army Trial.
Khan, Maj. Gen. Shah Nawaz. 1946. My Memories of INA and its Netaji.
Majumdar, R.C. 2004. History of the Freedom Movement in India.
Ibid. 1943. The History of Bengal, Preface.
“Transfer of Power”. 1971. Fd. Mshl. Auchinleck’s Reports to Viceroy (Archive).