“My last interview with Netaji”

Sardar Sardul Singh Caveesher 

Netaji left India almost one year later than was originally intended by him. The first plan somehow leaked out, and Babuji’s visit to Europe had to be postponed to a later date. During this period Netaji was arrested and put in jail. Those officials who had come to know of the original plan, were disarmed by Babuji’s Indian activities, especially those in connection with Holwell Memorial movement; any doubt left in their mind was  finally set at rest when Netaji refused to come out of jail on bail.

But Netaji did not abandon his idea to see his Axis friends in Europe and persuade them to help India in her freedom movement. In fact it was in jail that Netaji took preliminary steps to again prepare himself for journey to Europe through Afghanistan and Russia. After release arrangements for escape through the North Western Border were given finishing touches and two months before he actually left Calcutta, necessary preparations for journey through the tribal area were rehearsed and completed.

Plan to escape from India

I met Netaji in the last part of August and early part of September. I was in Calcutta for about a fortnight, and had three very long interviews with him in his so-called sick room. He was in the best of health and could speak Urdu, with good many Persian and Pushto words thrown in the pose like a Pathan; his beard was superb and so were his outlandish Frontier gestures. I knew of his plans when Netaji was in jail, but even then I was surprised to see him in such a disguise.

I tried my best to dissuade him from leaving India. I succeeded for a short while to persuade him to agree to form a National Ministry in Bengal which may be a model for the establishment of an Independent and parallel Government in India. Sir Fazlul Haque was willing to operate but the Governor of Bengal would not agree to have Netaji in the ministry and the proposal had to be reluctantly abandoned.

Expulsion from the Congress

Under Gandhiji’s lead the Congress High Command had moral objections against India trying to wrest her freedom from the Britishers when they were fighting against the Germans. Gandhiji was averse to launching any mass movement for the freedom of the country and would not tolerate anyone else taking the initiative in the matter. Subhas Babu and his colleagues were expelled from the Congress for asking the country to take advantage of the international situation that favoured a National rising. Under the guidance of the British officials even Bengal politicians did not look favourably to Netaji’s move to attack the alien Government from within.Netaji had no course left but to leave India and try for India’s freedom with help from outside. Under the Congress leadership there was left nothing for a patriot in India but to go to jail and sulk there in abject helplessness. This oft-repeated experiment did not satisfy Netaji. I found him like a furious lion trying to break down the cage that annoyingly restricted free planning and free action.

Successful mission to Japan

Netaji was determined to take full advantage of the International Situation that was so favorable to the cause of Indian Independence. Apart from new contacts established by Lala Shankar Lal who, risking his life, had gone to Japan to establish there Forward Bloc contacts with Russia, Germany, Japan and Italy, and by other Forward Bloc members in India through foreign consulates, Netaji himself had intimate relations with Mussolini and men like Goebbels and Ribbentrop who wielded great influence with Hitler. Hitler knew Netaji, but they had not personally met each other as, when Netaji was last in Europe, Hitler had not acquired that importance which he did later.

Netaji’s arguments were simple and straight. Gandhiji had a soft corner for British. He would not allow an Indian Rising when Britishers were fighting against Germany. Nor had Gandhiji faith in the Indian masses. Gandhiji was afraid even of stray cases of violence and so would not allow any mass movement without impossible rigid controls. What was true of Gandhiji, was also true of the Congress High Command. The fact there was none among the Congress leaders who had the intelligence or courage to chalk out any line of action without Gandhiji. None of them had capacity for initiative; and when Gandhiji’s activites were paralysed under influence of mawkish sentimentality all other members of the Congress cabinet felt paralysed.

Netaji’s plan of campaign

The Forward Bloc was quite a new organisation. It had not yet developed the organisational strength to carry the country with it in its bid for freedom through revolution. Netaji was too big to be satisfied with what Forward Bloc could accomplish in those days. The only course left to Netaji was to try new fields and new experiments.

How Netaji’s efforts succeeded in establishing a National Government on the Indian soil is now well-known. This subject has not much to do with the subject matter of this article. Its scope is quite limited. I have only to observe that those who think that Netaji failed in his attempt to free India from the foreign yoke with the help of the Axis Powers and the Indian Army are wrong.

It is true that the Indian National Government and the Indian National Army of Netaji’s making were to be disbanded owing to military setback born of Atom Bomb strategy, but the moral and political victory lay with Netaji and his men. The Indian Army, though now serving under the British, through inspiration derived from the exploits of the Indian National Army, has become thoroughly Indian in spirit. The British cannot now use, if against Indians, on any large scale. And what is true of the Indian Army is true of the Indian Police and of all other Indian Services. The Britishers now realise that they cannot get any co-operation from Indians in ruling over this country.

The INA heroes were proposed to be hanged in front of the Delhi Fort just as was done after the collapse of 1857 revolution. But the moral and political victory gained by Netaji completely turned the tables against our opponents.

Those who were to be hanged became national Heroes. The British are soon packing up to leave India. The Cabinet Mission’s efforts however halting and muddle-headed prove that India must soon be free. Netaji’s well planned adventure has thus succeeded beyond all expectations of its supporters and critics. Long Live NETAJI and the spirit that is born of his work and personality!!!          — JAI HIND

Abridged version of the article published in The Free Press Journal’s The Bharat Jyoti, September 15, 1946

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