"Subhash Bose: India's First Prime Minister?" | A fan’s tribute to India’s greatest revolutionary
Anil Bhat writes how different history would have been, if Bose became the first Indian Prime Minister.
Born on January 23, 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa, Subhas Chandra Bose was the ninth of fourteen children born to Janaki Nath Bose, a famous lawyer and Prabhavati Devi. A brilliant student right from childhood, he topped matriculation in Calcutta province and graduated with a first class in Philosophy from the Scottish Church College, Calcutta. To fulfill his parents’ wishes he went to England in 1919 to compete for Indian Civil Service (ICS). In 1920, he appeared for the ICS examination there and stood fourth in order of merit. Strongly influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s teachings and known for his patriotic zeal as a student, he was so disturbed by the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, that he withdrew from his ICS apprenticeship midway and returned to India in 1921.
Back in India, Bose began to get influenced by Gandhi and joined the Indian National Congress. Gandhi put him under Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, whom Bose later acknowledged his political guru. Over a period Bose’s mettle elevated him to the top of the Congress’ hierarchy, but strongly believed in independence by force contradicting Gandhi’s pacifist approach. In January 1941, Bose left India to wage a war aimed at liberating India from British occupation and then, with almost five years of struggle and some battles, disappeared, causing an unending myth and mystery, and becoming a source of paranoia for the British and some top Indian Congressmen. Both the British and Nehru ensured that Bose and his family were kept under surveillance for decades after Independence and that too with utter secrecy, suppressing any facts that could surface and obscuring the trail. Three commissions/committees of inquiry and the recent declassification of files have so far not revealed anything about Bose’s death/disappearance.
What would have happened in that event? What directions would India’s socio-economic development and international relations have taken? These and many associated issues have been examined in this book, which is part fiction and part commentary on circumstances through which Bose worked and fought. It is not a biography but a fan’s tribute to India’s greatest revolutionary and is unique in the sense that, the author has attempted to dwell upon perplexing questions that have engaged a good majority of Indians and tried to figure out what would have happened to India in terms of development and security if the great revolutionary had returned to India and taken over as the independent India’s first Prime Minister.
In the past over seven decades a number of books emerged on Subhash Bose or ‘Netaji’ as he came to be known Foreign writers mostly covered the events following his dramatic escape to Europe from house arrest in Calcutta in January 1941 via Afghanistan and Russia and accepted or confirmed his death in an air-crash in Formosa on 18th August 1945, but they tended to understate the great Indian revolutionary’s military skills on the grounds that he was not a trained military man. Indian writers with more of an emotional connect with the great Indian revolutionary tended to eulogize his patriotism, exploits of the Indian National Army (INA), establishing a Government of independent India, slogans including ‘Delhi chalo’, etc, but many did not accept that he died in the 18th August 1945 air crash in the then Formosa. In their opinion the accident was a clever fabrication for covering up the great hero’s escape to Manchuria for the purpose of continuing his fight against the British occupation of India. Some of them also went as far as to state that Bose served time in Siberian gulags; escaped from Russia and came to live in India and, that the Nehru Government of independent India did not want him to come to India and participate in the political process.
Probably the most damning part of Bose’s mystery relates to former Prime Minister Lal Bahdur Shahstri’s surprising and mysterious death in Tashkent where he went for the peace talks following the 1965 Indo-Pak war. One of a number of versions/references to the Shastri-Bose meeting in Tashkent, is in an article by Anoop Bose Advocate, Supreme Court of India, titled ‘The Tragic Death Of Lal Bahadur Shastri And The Mystifying Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Angle’, published in Law Gup Shup, which reads: “On 16th August, 2015, Sunil (Shastri’s son) disclosed on Zee 24 Ghanta that his father told him shortly before his death about a ‘special person’ he was going to meet. Was this ‘special person’ Netaji? Was Shastri planning to present Netaji before his countrymen on 23rd January,1966? Did he intend to invite Netaji as the Chief Guest to the Republic Day parade on 26th January,1966? Was he going to abdicate in favour of Netaji? These questions will perhaps remain inscrutable forever!’ And considering the condition of Mr Shastri’s body, with his face visibly much darker than his normal complexion, the big question that emerges is that was he done to death by poisoning because he met Bose and planned to invite him to India?
While the Congress government would never release the Netaji files for obvious reasons, why did the BJP government, initially keen to publicize the files, later decide not to disclose most of them? Two recently declassified Intelligence Bureau (IB) files have revealed that the Nehru government spied on Bose’s kin. Analysts opine that a major reason to keep the files secret is that they will expose how the Nehru/Congress governments continued to be subservient and stool pigeon to the British.