Excerpt from ‘The Vanishing of Subhash Bose: The Mystery Unlocked’ by Rajesh Talwar
Rajesh Talwar | December 3, 2020
THE VANISHING OF SUBHASH BOSE: THE MYSTERY UNLOCKED
By Rajesh Talwar
Kapaz Publications, 209 pages, Rs 250
The fate of Subhash Chandra Bose has long been an enigma. Now that the government has declassified the papers relating to his mysterious disappearance, Rajesh Talwar has penned the full story behind it in ‘The Vanishing of Subhash Bose: The Mystery Unlocked’. Talwar, who has studied Negotiation at Harvard, Human Rights Law at Nottingham, and Law and Economics at Delhi University, earlier authored several non-fiction including ‘Courting Injustice: The Nirbhaya Case and Its Aftermath’ (Hay House, 2013) fiction including ‘How to Kill a Billionaire’ (Juggernaut Books; 2016).
Here is an excerpt from the concluding chapter of ‘The Vanishing of Subhash Bose: The Mystery Unlocked’:
The soldiers of the Indian National Army (INA) who were brought back to India to face trial were ultimately given a reprieve. This was not done out of the goodness of the Englishman’s heart, but rather because there was a strong groundswell of Indian public opinion in their favour which could not be ignored. Had it been only the Indian civilian population who were outraged at the trial the British might have not cared, but there was clear support for the INA even among the ranks of the British Indian army. The British may have consulted with the Congress Party but the party too threw up their hands. The issue was such that the Congress could not go against the tide of public opinion, otherwise it would itself lose favour. The British understood that they could have a rebellion in the Indian army on their hands if they did not proceed with care and caution.
After sacrificing thousands of lives for the British in their war, why was it that on the INA issue, the British Indian army was suddenly no longer loyal to the British or could not be trusted to remain loyal?
Sections of the British Indian army started to question themselves and their own motivations when they came into conflict with their own Indian brothers serving in the INA in the North East and in Burma. Their conscience was troubled and their intellect finally awakened. How could they possibly fight with and kill their own Indian brothers, who were fighting for India’s independence. Whether the Japanese could be trusted was a separate, intellectual question really. The Indians fighting for the INA were fighting for India’s independence. Who was the British Indian army fighting for? It was for the British. They could not find it within themselves to refute the greater logic to INA actions. India had not even been promised freedom by the British. Why were they fighting? Were there not mercenaries compared with the INA? Such were the troubling questions that passed through each British Indian army soldier’s mind, and there was no satisfactory answer. They were also fighting against people whom they knew and had fought alongside. Those very men from the British Indian Army now worked in service of the INA.
When Indians fought for the British in conflicts far away in Europe and in Africa, they probably did not even ask themselves such troubling questions. Why am I fighting? Why, in God’s name, am I risking my life fighting for a race that rules over my own people, who humiliate and disrespect them day in and day out? They were somehow able to ignore such questions from raising their head, because they were fighting against people they didn’t know. The enemy, be it African or European was really an abstraction.
Face to face with their brothers (and even sisters!!) in the INA they could not ignore these questions. The question of fighting against the Ranis from Bose’s Jhansi of Rani Regiment would not have been merely troubling; it would have been heart-breaking for any uniformed Indian with honour, chivalry and self-respect! Doubts spread within the ranks of the British army not only engaged in the north east and in Burma but across the country even as they won the war and the INA was forced to retreat.
Families in India continue to celebrate the courage displayed by their ancestors in wars fought on behalf of the British. Is it worth celebrating really? Is it not the courage of a mercenary that is being celebrated?
Courage is always worth celebrating, it may be said, with truth, even if it the courage of a mercenary. Let us also not forget that the idea of Indian nationalism had still to be properly formed. The Indians who fought for the British fought as they would have for any other king.
That is true, but on the other hand surely the courage of a person who fights for a noble cause is on a higher footing. The courage of a person who fought for a foreign English queen must be judged at a lower level than the courage of a man or a woman who fought for the freedom of India? Even the British admired the courage of the famed Rani of Jhansi, more than they admired the courage of their own men, be they English or Indian.
There will be some who will argue, with a degree of justice that there were mercenaries within the INA too. It is true that there were many British Indian Prisoners of War who had been captured by the Japanese. Netaji met these men and convinced them that they had all along been fighting with the wrong people for a cause that was not their own; many saw the logic in his arguments and agreed to enlist in the INA to fight against the British. They were then no longer treated as Prisoners of War and became a fighting asset for Bose and the Japanese. Now it could be said that some of these men were no better than mercenaries, and their real motive was not to remain Prisoners of War anymore, but to have their freedom as a soldier. No one can delve into the secret corners of the hearts of these men and know the purity of their reformed understanding: was it just the better life and freedom of a soldier that they coveted, or were they now really seeing the foolishness of their earlier ways? They were in any event willing to risk their lives. Even Shah Nawaz, the chairman of the first committee that enquired into the alleged air crash in which Bose was supposed to have died was one such individual, who had been ‘converted’ to the INA cause. He had originally fought with the British Indian Army, had been captured by the Japanese, made a Prisoner of War, and then after listening to Subhash Bose’s inspiring talk he returned to the theatre of war but this time to fight against the British. There were many such converts, and the purity of their actions may have been uncertain or questionable in some cases.
On the other hand there were also thousands of men and women who fought for the INA, who had no prior military experience. These were men and women who had not fought in any army. No woman soldier in the INA’s Rani of Jhansi regiment (named after the legendary heroine of the 1857 rebellion) had ever fought a war before but they had been drawn to the cause by Bose’s stirring words. This was heroism at another level altogether, rarely surpassed anywhere in the world. There are numerous moving testimonies of parents in Singapore and Malaysia giving permission to their daughters, upon Netaji’s request to fight in the great Indian cause of freedom. We need to honour not only the ladies who died fighting, the women who survived, but also their beloved parents and families who consented to have their daughters risk their lives.
Netaji never had a portrait in the Indian Parliament for many years. A great affront to one of India’s great sons, but it could have been ignored if it had been the only one, and other heroes from the INA had been honoured. No one was honoured. Yet more shamefully, not a single Rani has been honoured. They deserve not only a standalone group photograph placed in a corner but they deserve an entire wall – and even that would not suffice to properly honour them!
[Reproduced with the permission of the publishers]
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