Bose: An Indian Samurai (Netaji and the INA: A
Maj Gen (Dr.) G D Bakshi
Price and Pages: Rs 764,384
Published by: KW Publishers
Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhein azadi doonga
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
The way of the Samurai is found in death… By setting his heart right every morning and evening, the Samurai is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the way.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo Hagakure, The Book Of The Samurai
Netaji Bose has always remained a figure shrouded in mystery. While we do know a little about his early years, we know next to nothing about what finally became of him. The version of history that has been fed to us claims that Bose died in a tragic plane crash. But the actual facts of where and how and when the incident occurred have never been accurately explained. General G.D. Bakshi’s significant book on Bose takes on the mantle of setting the record straight. Not just on the suspicious story about his death, and various versions, but also on the vested interests who wanted to keep the importance of Bose’s contribution to India’s freedom struggle under wraps—names that stood to gain if Netaji’s name was wiped out of existence.
There are always two sides to a story and Bose: The Indian Samurai is the other side—the side that few of us knew about but that we deserve to know.
Gen Bakshi puts into perspective how and why the British were finally ousted from India. He traces how the British colonial rule over India faced its first ever threat to existence by way of the revolt of 1857. The British successfully suppressed the uprising and ensured that never again would the diverse population of India unite to weaken its hold over its prized colony. The book reveals that despite all efforts to prevent it, this is precisely what happened in the end. Revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad were ruthlessly silenced by the British. But the Indian National Army (INA) led by Subhas Chandra Bose served to be the final nail in the coffin of the Raj. The war of Independence described in the book proves at length that it was the INA that won freedom for India. The INA instigated a massive armed rebellion in the Indian armed forces, which made it virtually impossible for the British to continue to govern India.
Gen Bakshi upholds Bose as the icon of Indian nationalism and makes a fervent plea to invoke his real role and undeniable stature in India’s struggle for freedom. The book is his personal tribute to one of the greatest Indians of the last century. It is a strong voice against forces that have sought to wipe out the legacy of Bose, censor his contribution and sideline the importance of the work he did for the country’s freedom. The author refers to him with pride as India’s “scholar warrior par excellence”, “India’s first supreme commander” and a “Prince among Patriots”—in other words, an Indian Samurai.
The book traces with exacting fortitude, all events that led to the birth of the Azad Hind Fauj in 1941. It refers to a paper written by Ranjan Bora, published by the Institute for Historical Review describing how Hitler and the Nazi leadership were impressed by Bose and went out of their way to support him. The reader easily feels a sense of thrill as secret stories unfold, mysteries are unravelled and never before known facts on Bose’s life are unveiled. The reader finds himself sinking into Bose’s charismatic personality—his innate dignity, triumphs, the jolt of his losses and the exhilaration of his progress in his brief but unforgettable political career.
We learn that the radicalisation of Bose had begun in 1927 when he questioned the Gandhian philosophy for the first time. We unearth the voracious readership of Bose—that he read endlessly about geopolitics and had an intuitive grasp about the subject. He had tremendous insight and vision and had impeccable academic credentials—he ranked fourth in the ICS entrance exam. We discover that the salutation Jai Hind comes from the INA and that it was the genius of Bose that converted the national anthem Jana Gana Mana into a military band tune. We conclude without doubt that yes, Bose was a masterful military motivator. In Gen Bakshi’s own words, “the purpose of the book is not so much to focus on Bose as a political leader but as an innovative military leader and Supreme Commander of the INA…”
The book brings out the true glory of Netaji: “his high risk taking ability, his outstanding courage in the face of certain death…(and) his amazingly adventurous life that reads like a racy thriller.”
It is discomfiting to note that there has been an “orchestrated attempt to falsify our recent history and impart to it a vicious spin… Netaji’s…role (has been)…erased from our history books which have turned into hagiographies for a dynastic leadership.”
One might ask why it is important today, 69 years after Independence, to debate how we got our freedom. Gen Bakshi says how we got our freedom defines the kind of state we have become. “The Nehruvian narrative, tried strenuously to deny the use of force as a contributory factor for India’s independence. It was trying to seek legitimacy for its rule…(going) to the logical extremes to profess pacifism…as a guiding credo of state behavior.”
Nehru presented to the world that India’s freedom was won by ahimsa and non violence. Gen Bakshi’s book proves that such a belief was no more than a childish fantasy. The spiritual force of Mahatma Gandhi did by no means succeed in convincing the British to leave India. Rather it was a disobedience that they could easily deal with, even happily tolerate. Nehru went overboard in trying to overcome Bose’s legacy of violence. He hated the military and had declared to Gen Roy Bucher, the first British chief of independent India’s Army that he did not need armed forces in independent India. The look of incredulity on the British general’s face can only be imagined.
“Very fortunately for India, the trauma of partition, the Pakistani invasion of J&K and the need to liberate Hyderabad, underlined the inescapable need for military force in a Westphalian state system,” writes the author with vehemence.
Through a compilation of facts from history, seminal papers and presentations and books written by well known historians like Dr Mithi Mukherjee, Dr R.C. Majumdar, Ranjan Bora, and a scathing denunciation of other prominent authors like Bipin Chandra whose 600 pages of Indian history “devotes just one page and a half to Netaji”, Gen Bakshi upholds the unimpeachable truth that the armed forces under Bose’s fiery leadership, became “defenders of India rather than upholders of the British empire”.
The book is rife with juicy titbits about how India’s independence was won. For example, the author quotes historian Bora and espouses that Clement Attlee, who gave India independence by withdrawing the British rule from India, when asked about Gandhi’s role in Britian’s decision to quit India said just one word: “minimal”.
The book ends with a call for many more Boses and Sardar Patels, otherwise our nation runs the risk of falling into “incompetence and mediocrity”. Gen Bakshi’s message through his book is pertinent and timely: “We need another INA…which can rise above the pettiness of caste, creed and ethnicity, who can unify and synthesize. For whom, this country isn’t just a place—it is an overwhelming emotion!” One of the hallmarks of Bose was his strong opposition to labels of caste and creed, a befitting strategy to fight the British viewpoint that there was no India, only a warring conglomeration of castes and creeds forever at war with one another.
History, they say cannot be re written. So be it. But Bose: The Indian Samurai proves that history can be re-conveyed, it can be reopened, it can be scrubbed clean of myths and falsities. It can be restored. Gen Bakshi deserves accolades for doing just that.
Vinita Agrawal is a freelance writer and poet from Mumbai.