Title: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: Feared Even in Captivity
Author: Santanu Banerjee
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Pages: 137; Price: Rs 499
Finally a book, that is bold in its content! Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: Feared Even in Captivity by Santanu Banerjee is an excellent and well-researched book that has dared to bring out all the facts and present it to the people of India. It is no secret that Bose’s entire life was nothing less than a spy-thriller and even his death was, and still is shrouded with mysteries.
He single-handedly rose to become one of the biggest thorns for the British empire, as he was not someone who believed that freedom can be attained by negotiation. He believed that the only way to get an independent India was to fight for it and win it back. The book contains controversial statements, as the stakeholders are not only big global powers but also it mentions the controversial air crash story in 1945, which apparently killed Bose and hence points a questionable finger at the Indian government. Also, the book focuses on the complicated relationship that Bose and Gandhi shared till the end. There was mutual admiration and yet, they had their share of disagreements, however, they definitely shared a camaraderie, for instance, when Gandhi and Bose met on a train in Calcutta, just a little before the formal Congress Presidential election, “Gandhi told Bose to sever all his links with ‘terrorist groups’. To this, a smiling Bose replied, “In that case, first I must severe my links with you.’ Both enjoyed a hearty laugh!”
In another instance, the book narrates the incident when the news of Bose’s air crash was doing the rounds in the political circle, Gandhi was unsure of the news as the book points out, “What, however, kept bothering Nehru and Mountbatten was Gandhi occasionally telling people that ‘My inner voice says Subhash didn’t die.’ Nehru may seem to have been on the side of the people, but Gandhi’s credibility was much higher with them, and Gandhi’s inner voice only added to the trauma of Nehru and his royal English friend.”
Interestingly, the book points out, “After Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo, and Lal Lajpat Rai, only Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose remained truly Indian till the very end and felt that India would need to travel into a new Indian hood when it emerged free from British bondage.”
Bose was ready to go to any length to get a free unified India. The book says, “During 1933-37 when Bose was exiled in Europe, he ceaselessly carried out his propaganda against Great Britain with top Italian and German leaders. He was also in touch with the pro-soviet intellectuals… His foreign policy was openly pronounced, seeking help from globally anti-British forces.”
Bose’s escape to Germany was nothing less than a plot for a spy movie, as the book recalls the incident, “The moment the British government came to know that Bose was in Kabul and waiting for a vacillating Kremlin giving him a transit visa, the ’Teheran-and Cairo-based British spies were licensed to kill Bose’. …Bose escaped, and after it was known that he gave British CIDs a slip, Gandhi admired his resourcefulness.”
Also, the author effectively brings out a side of Gandhi that many might not have known. In the last decade of his life, it was agony and burden that were his constant company. Banerjee’s book states a very important point in this book regarding the British effort to break India on communal lines, “Bose predicted this a decade before it actually took shape, during his 1938 presidential speech in Haripura. It was a prophecy that came true, following which millions of Hindus and Muslims were slaughtered and killed as the negotiation that had begun with Gandhi relegated to the backyard, and the British choose their ideological stooges Nehru and Jinnah in the days culminating to the Independence.”
As one proceeds from one to the next chapter of this book, the author forces the reader to wonder what possibly could have been a parallel story for the journey of India to independence. Food for thought!