By Gaurav Sharma
When it comes to Indian revolutionaries launching hawkish attacks to overthrow the British Raj, most of us remember Subhas Chandra Bose like the back of our hand. However, mention of another Bose–Rash Behari–slips the through the pages of history like sand sifting through a gaping hole.
For this reason alone, memory of the fiery Behari as, and more than a revolutionary deserves to be rekindled in the fleeting mind of the public.
Born in 1886 in rural Bengal, Rash Behari was brought up in Chandannagar, a town then under French rule. Since his early days, Rash Behari was endowed with a proclivity towards revolution and was often described as a “short tempered and stubborn child”. As a youth, he applied for a job in the British army but was rejected on grounds of being “unmasculine,” a notion which was the natural predisposition of Britishers towards Bengalis at the time.
However, he later secured a job as the head clerk at the Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Dehradun. Although he was working for the British government, Behari was exuberating with anti-colonial ideas especially after coming in contact with revolutionaries such as Amarendra Chatterjee and Jatin Mukherjee, both leaders of the Jugantar movement.
The revolutionary contact was further fueled by his rendezvous with Niralamba Swami, the earliest disciple of Sri Aurobindo. After meeting other revolutionaries, Rash Behari delved full-fledged into the revolutionary arena, making adept use of his chemical material training at FRI to make crude bombs.
Enter the Dragon
In December 1912, the new imperial capital of New Delhi was inaugurated. Keeping an eagle eye at the proceedings, Rash Behari disrupted the celebrations by bombing the caparisoned elephant carrying Lord Hardinge. Hardinge survived the surprise attack but not without the flesh on his shoulders, back and head being torn in strips.
In the aftermath of the rebellious strike, Rash Behari’s aides–Basant Kumar Biswas, Amir Chand and Avadh Behari were convicted and executed. Rash Behari, however, managed to escape unscathed.
During the flood relief program in 1913, Rash Behari joined the Ghadar revolution and soon became one of its prominent leader that attempted to launch a pan-India mutiny.
In the wake of the rapid rise in revolutionary activities, the British launched a large scale offensive against such mutinies. Countless nationalists were captured and executed subsequently.
Rash Behari, however, was not one to be easily hunted down. He took a train back to Dehradun and resumed his work at the FRI. Artfully concealing his identity as a master bomber, Rash Behari met Hardinge a few months later while organizing his reception as visiting dignitary.
However fearing British captivity, Rash Behari fled back to his home town of Chandannagar where he stayed underground for an year. The idea of the Ghadar movement to besiege the soldiers leftover from the mass transfer in Europe, (keeping in mind the First World War) failed to gather much steam and was eventually crushed under British onslaught.
As the British assaults began to escalate, hiding in India was no longer an option for Rash Behari. Soon he sailed to Japan and found shelter in various Pan-asian groups.
Bose Of Nakamuraya
By now, Rash Behari had established strong contacts in Japan, friends who ensured his safe hiding away from predatory British eyes.
An active part of Behari’s concealment was the owner of Nakamuraya bakery, a place where he hid for several months. Developing a fondness for Behari, the owner married him off to his daughter in 1918. The couple birthed two children before the mother died of pneumonia in 1925.
During his stay, Rash Behari introduced the Indian Curry, a dish which would later become so popular among the Japanese that it would dethrone the custard buns that were hitherto the most advertised product.
After the tragic death of his wife, Rash Behari nosedived into active politics.
In 1942, after a British controlled garrison in Singapore was overtaken by the Japanese, many of the captured Indian soldiers formed an Indian National Army to fight alongside Japan to free their motherland.
Excited at the developments, Rash Behari moved to South-East Asia and at a formal announcement in Bangkok he was declared the chairman of India Independence League(IIL), the directing body of the INA.
Soon contact with Subhas Chandra Bose was established to supplement the leadership of INA. In 1943, the two namesakes came face to face with other and conversed in fluent Bengali. A month later Rash Behari handed over the remains of the INA to a younger, more active Subhas Chandra Bose, whom he thought of as his mirror image.
Fading into oblivion
On his death bed, Rash Behari was flooded with memories of the same Indian curry for which he is now fondly remembered (arguably more than Subhas Chandra Bose) in Japan, emphasizing it as the raison d’etre. The Japanese government went a step further and awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, recognising his distinguished contributions.
In India, we have forgotten ‘the other Bose’, choosing to keep a blind eye to his multifaceted contributions while popularizing already immortalized revolutionary icons such as Subhas Chandra Bose.
Rash Behari Bose deserves as much, if not more accolades.