By Gaurav Sharma
While popular opinion says that the freedom that we enjoy today is the result of the efforts of the Father of the Nation, would it be a delirious thought if Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had more to do with ousting the British than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi?
Let’s have a look at what Netaji did for us.
Even ahead of Gandhiji’s Quit India Movement, Bose had pressed that the Congress serve a six month ultimatum to the British during the Second World War. It was an apt opportunity that Bose thought could be taken advantage of in 1939. But the party spearheaded by Gandhiji refused to act.
Notably, the gearing of the Indian National Army to combat with the British Indian Army coincided with the start of Gandhiji’s Quit India Movement in 1942. The movement fizzled out a few months after it was crushed in three weeks time.
While the argument still remains whether either were effective in affecting the retreat of the British, what needs primacy here, is Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar’s interview with BBC’s Francis Watson in February 1955.
Ambedkar pondered as he recalled the then British Prime Minister’s move to retreat from India in 1947 , “I don’t know how Mr Attlee suddenly agreed to give India independence,” and he went on to say, “That is a secret that he will disclose in his autobiography. None expected that he would do that,” he added.
In the BBC interview he also affirmed that from his “own analysis” he had come to understand that “two things led the Labour party to take this decision” [to free India].
Ambedkar explained: “The national army that was raised by Subhas Chandra Bose. The British had been ruling the country in the firm belief that whatever may happen in the country or whatever the politicians do, they will never be able to change the loyalty of soldiers. That was one prop on which they were carrying on the administration. And that was completely dashed to pieces. They found that soldiers could be seduced to form a party — a battalion to blow off the British.”
A year after his interview in October 1956, two months before Ambedkar passed away, the very secret was disclosed by Clement Attlee in a confidential talk. This talk came out in the open only after two decades.
What Ambedkar had foreseen only became more consolidated from records and data from credible authorities such as Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor and Major General GD Bakshi.
Excerpts of an observation in a secret report (Nov 1945) by Sir Norman Smith, Director, Intelligence Bureau, only reinforces the impact of the INA on British move to transfer power: “The situation in respect of the Indian National Army is one which warrants disquiet. There has seldom been a matter which has attracted so much Indian public interest and, it is safe to say, sympathy… the threat to the security of the Indian Army is one which it would be unwise to ignore.”
In 1976, an interesting observation made by Lt General SK Sinha, former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir and Assam, one of the only three Indian officers posted in the Directorate of Military Operations in New Delhi in 1946, is worth a mention: “There was considerable sympathy for the INA within the Army… It is true that fears of another 1857 had begun to haunt the British in 1946.”
To add to it all British MPs met Atlee in 1946 and warned him that, “There are two alternative ways of meeting this common desire (a) that we should arrange to get out, (b) that we should wait to be driven out. In regard to (b), the loyalty of the Indian Army is open to question; the INA have become national heroes…”
So while it is true that Netaji was sidelined and eventually ousted from the Congress, it cannot be denied that he did erect an army that made the colonialists question their power over India.
Much buzz circulates in the country of his disappearance but little is acknowledged of his crucial role in delivering a powerful blow to the British Raj.