The salutation ‘Jai Hind’ permeates our consciousness and is an integral part of our everyday life. Have you ever wondered who popularised this expression which spurs us to action, motivates us to serve our motherland and instils a powerful sense of nationalism in us? Did you know that it was the country’s most iconic freedom fighter, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who made this slogan immortal by making it a national greeting? Today on the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I bow my head in reverence to the great nationalist leader, who played an unparalleled role in liberating our motherland from the yoke of British rule.
The government of India’s decision to celebrate Netaji’s birth anniversary as ‘Parakram Diwas’ is a befitting tribute to the legacy of a visionary statesman of exemplary courage whose name is etched in the annals of Indian history in letters of gold. As we all know, Netaji was a fearless leader of extraordinary calibre, who left no stone unturned in his quest to attain freedom. As the events of his time and a study of his life reveal, he was a natural leader of men—fired by nationalism and a missionary zeal to break the shackles of colonial rule in India.
Subhas Chandra Bose was born into a well-to-do family in Cuttack to Prabhavati and Janaki Nath Bose. As a young boy, Bose was deeply influenced by Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo. A brilliant student who always excelled in academics, Bose appeared for the Indian Civil Service (ICS) examination in deference to the wishes of his parents. A rare combination of diligence and exceptional intelligence, he cleared the ICS in flying colours.
Subhas Chandra Bose was on the horns of a dilemma when it came to joining the Civil Service—he wrote a number of letters to his brother and parents seeking their permission to leave the ICS and dedicate his life to the cause of liberation of his motherland. Once in a letter to his brother, he wrote, “I am now at the cross-ways and no compromise is possible. I must either chuck this rotten service and dedicate myself whole-heartedly to the country’s cause—or I must bid adieu to all my ideals and aspirations and enter the service…”. He eventually crossed the proverbial Rubicon haunting his thoughts and left the Civil Service.
Upon his return to India, Subhas Chandra Bose committed himself irrevocably to the cause of freedom. With his dynamism, vision and exemplary dedication to the cause of India’s freedom, Bose became a youth icon in no time. He soon emerged as a threat to the British rulers. Subhas Chandra Bose was arrested on a few occasions and was even sent to the infamous jail of Mandalay in Burma. In 1941 when he was under house arrest in his Calcutta home, Bose made a bold escape with the help of his close relatives and set out on a treacherous journey to Berlin via Kabul.
Subhas Chandra Bose had strongly felt the need for a National Army to oust the Britishers. He once said, “India must have a National Army that should reach the standards of the most successful and modern army of the World, in discipline, training and equipment, in order to be able to fight for freedom and to defend it after it was won.” Upon reaching Berlin, he proposed his plan to the German government and started recruiting Indian prisoners of war in Germany.
The fact that Subhas Chandra Bose who had started with 12 men in September 1941, could recruit more than 2000 troops by August 1942—bears eloquent testimony to his charismatic leadership and inspiring vision. His regular radio broadcasts and journal ‘Azad Hind’ instilled a stirring sense of patriotism in thousands of Indians. Fittingly, Bose was given the title of Netaji, by the Indian soldiers in Berlin.
Netaji, during his stay abroad, made many allies such as Germany, Japan, Italy etc. Netaji once told Rash Behari Bose, “From what I have learned during my eighteen months of experience abroad, Japan, Germany and Italy are our allies in our fight against British Imperialism. However, the Independence of India must be achieved by the Indian people themselves.” Netaji was guided by a clear vision and refused to get swayed by the powerful people and governments around him.
The first Indian National Army (INA) was formed on February 17, 1942, but by December, it was in disarray and Netaji emerged as the only hope for its revival. On July 4, 1943, Netaji assumed INA’s leadership and leading by example, with his vision and fearlessness, ignited the spark of patriotism in its ranks. It was then that he gave famous war cry ‘Chalo Delhi’ (On to Delhi). Netaji told the soldiers in no uncertain terms about the thorny path that lay ahead—“I can offer you nothing except hunger, thirst, privation, forced marches and death. But if you follow me in life and in death—as I am confident you will—I shall lead you to victory and freedom.” He promised his troops that he would be with them “in darkness and in sunshine, in sorrow and in joy, in suffering and in victory.” Netaji was successful in rekindling patriotism in the troops.
In October 1943, Netaji took the historic step of proclaiming the Provisional Government of Free India in Singapore. By December 29, 1943, the Japanese formally handed over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government of Free India, enabling Netaji to be back on his motherland. Many great freedom fighters like Veer Savarkar, Batukeshwar Dutt, Ghadarite Sohan Singh Bhakna, Bhai Parmanand and others, were incarcerated in the dreaded Cellular Jail of Andaman and Nicobar islands and faced untold hardships there.
In a visionary move, Netaji established a women’s regiment in the INA. The Rani of Jhansi Regiment, comprising several hundred women soldiers, was led by Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, a successful overseas doctor who gave up her practice to plunge into the thick of the freedom struggle spearheaded by Netaji.
Netaji unfurled the Tricolor in Port Blair on 30th December 1943 and declared Andaman and Nicobar Islands to be the first Indian Territory to be freed from BritishRaj. Getting that very land back where the British committed the most inhuman atrocities on Indian freedom fighters was an accomplishment which stands in history as a remarkable feat of exceptional valour.
Over the next one year, the Indian National Army (INA) under the inspiring leadership of Netaji carried out a host of successful missions, but eventually had to retreat in the later part of 1944. Netaji in his last order sent a special message to the Indians living in East Asia, observing—”The roads to Delhi are many… and Delhi still remains our goal.” Netaji was an unstoppable force and did not ever let any obstacle overpower his will to free our motherland. He fought untiringly for India’s freedom till his last breath. On August 18, 1945, it was reported that Netaji died in a plane crash in Taipei. Of course, there are different theories about his death.
NetajiSubhasChandraBose epitomises the noblest attributes of powerful patriotism, selfless service, dedication to a larger cause and extraordinary valour in the face of untold adversity. A charismatic leader and a visionary nationalist, Netaji will continue to inspire generations of Indians and instil in them a profound love for the motherland.