Jodi Tor Daak Sune Keu Naa Aase, Tobe Ekla Chaalo Re (Tagore Song - If nobody else responds to your call carry the burden alone)
Years later a great man had said the following (From the book Oi Mahamanab Ase), "Dead Man took nothing from you, he gave and left his everything and worldly wealth and matter to you, he took away nothing, he kept nothing for himself, he did nothing for himself, he wanted nothing for himself or his personal aggrandizement and for power. He gave himself to India. He gave something to India and he effaced himself away. He has no rancour for Bapu (because Bapu got twice defeated) in his fight against him and was so rattled that he gave up his Congress membership and also started a whispering campaign (against your Dead Man). Your Dead Man has no rancour because Bapu at last turned a volte face and preached fighting for freedom and honour; and because hearing and becoming stimulated and emboldened by the radio exhortations of your dead man, he stoutly opposed partition and during the last fateful meeting he wept like a child before them and sobbed out praying against partition but he was overridden roughshod. Also, it has been kept a secret that your Dead Man went with Bapu's full blessings and concurrence of the inner committee."
Louis Fiscer, in the course of his conversations with Gandhi asked him about Subhas Chandra Bose. Gandhi described Bose as a "patriot of patriots", but, "misguided".
Gandhi had earlier dismissed an appeal by Rabindranath Tagore to reconsider the decision to ban Subhas for three years from Congress Working Committee. "Bans cannot be lifted without their apologizing for indiscipline", was his exact quote. This was the treatment that he meted out to one, who not only called him the "Father of the Nation", but also asked for his "blessing and good wishes", "in this holy war for India's liberation."
Bose had already made up his mind to leave India and fight from outside. He knew that he won't be able to dislodge the British Government from within India as the Government would surely put him in jail. He had no organization of his own unlike Gandhi. His only weapon was his mass support and popularity. But that would not be enough to fight a machinery like British Administration. He had to give them a mighty push and that could be done only if he could carry out an armed struggle at a scale much higher than what the revolutionaries could do. He knew the plans of Bagha Jatin and Rashbehari Bose in 1914 to incite mutiny in the barracks. He was of the opinion that the geopolitical situation had given him the unique opportunity to seek help from the enemies of the Britain to wage a war now. He had to somehow leave India. His original thought was to take the help from Russia. He had also toyed with the idea of seeking help of Japan, possibly because of the presence of Rashbehari there. He had earlier contacted the Kirti Kisan Party through Sardar Niranjan Singh Talib and Comrade Acchar Singh. However the arrest of Subhas had put a brake on the plan. On 5 December Subhas was transported in an ambulance to his home in Elgin Road. He was put up in his father's bedroom where he spent his time in prayer and meditation and read Gita daily. A ring of security was established by the Government. All his visitors were monitored and his correspondences were intercepted and read before being delivered. On Dec 16, Mian Akbar Shah had come from frontier to meet Subhas. Bose asked him to help to formulate his escape plan via Peshawar to Kabul. Bengal Volunteers jumped into action, esp. Major Satya Gupta and Satya Ranjan Bakshi worked tirelessly to chalk out a meticulous escape plan and logistics around it including money.
From his confinement in his house Subhas once again had reached out to the Mahatma. He offered unconditional cooperation with Mahatma's movement even though it was not on the issue of National Independence, and despite its "restricted scope and form." Mahatma replied on 29th December 1940, "You are irrepressible whether ill or well. Do get well before going in for fireworks." He added that, "With the fundamental differences between you and me, it is not possible till one of us is converted to the other's view, we must sail in different boats, though their destination may appear, but only appear to be the same."
Amare bandhbi tora, Se bandhan ki toder aache? (Tagore Song - Do you possess the shackles for capturing me?)
Subhas Bose was last seen in his house on 16 January 1941. It is now said that in the dead of the night, he dressed up as a one Md. Zia-ud-din, an insurance agent, left his Elgin road house in a car with the help of his nephews, in particular Dr. Sisir Bose who had driven the car and traveled to Bararee in Bihar where he was rested in another of his nephew, Dr. Asoke Nath Bose's house. From the memoirs of Dr. Asoke Nath Bose, it appears that Subhas chose Sisir for driving him as he was not involved in any prior political activities and was an efficient driver. Sisir had already made a sortie to know the routes. Sarat Bose was completely aware of the plan and two other nephews Dwijendra and Aurobindo and niece Ila who had earlier nursed him, were also engaged in helping in executing the plan. In all his correspondences he had mentioned that he would be put in jail by the police. He also had to deceive his family members since his houses in Elgin Road and Woodburn Park were surrounded by police and spies. On 17 January, 1941, at around 1.30 AM, Bose bade his final good bye and proceeded by car to Gomoh.
Subhas himself writes about his "mahabhinishkraman" or the great escape, "After his release, the writer was at home for about forty days and did not leave his bedroom. During this period, he surveyed the whole war-situation and came to the conclusion that Indian freedom-fighters should have first-hand information as to what was happening abroad and should join the fight against Britain and thereby contribute to the break-up of the British Empire. After considering the different means whereby this could be done, he found no other alternative but to travel abroad himself. Towards the end of January, 1941, he quietly left his home one night at a late hour. Though he was always closely watched by the Secret Police, he managed to dodge them and after an adventurous journey, managed to cross the Indian frontier. It was the biggest political sensation that had happened in India for a long time."
Md. Zia-ud-Din was treated as a visitor in Asoke Nath's house in order to deceive the servants. Late at night Sisir, Asoke and his wife set out in Sisir's wanderer car and they picked up Mohd. Zia-ud-Din from the roadside and dropped him in the Gomoh Station from where Zia-ud-Din boarded the Delhi Kalka Mail. The train reached Peshawar cantonment on 19th January. Mian Akbar Shah led the Muslim Insurance agent to a Tonga which took him to the Taj Mahal Hotel. He stayed for sometime in the house of Abad Khan and then transformed himself to a deaf mute Pathan (since he didn't speak Pushtu, the local dialect). Mian Akbar had chosen Bhagat Ram Talwar as the escort to Kabul. Bhagat Ram would be taking his elder relative Zia-ud-Din to Adda Sharif for a possible miracle to cure him.
In the meanwhile the date of next hearing for Subhas's case was fixed on Jan 27. Jan 26 was celebrated across India as Congress had taken a pledge of Purna Swaraj on the same day in 1930. On January 26,1941, Subhas and his associate Bhagat Ram had formally crossed the border of the British Indian empire and was travelling along the rugged and dangerous terrains of tribal lands beyond the North West Frontier. Subhas's disappearance, when discovered, naturally caused a sensation like never before. British intelligence was embarrassed. News hit the headlines across India. Rabindranath Tagore wrote, "Deeply concerned over Subhas's disappearance." The police swooped down on the house and interrogated the family members. But Prabhavati Devi turned the table on them when she demanded angrily what had they done with her son, to which the police had no answer. A clever story was concocted by some that Subhas had renounced the world, which the police obviously did not believe. The search continued but no trace of Subhas was found. Viceroy Linlithgow was enraged with Governor Herbert who had suggested that it was not a bad development at all if the no. 1 enemy of British Government had left India. Janvrin, the deputy commissioner of police in Calcutta guessed that Subhas had gone abroad to seek help for his country's freedom.
On the political arena at this time Gandhi was carrying on an individual civil disobedience which did not resonate with his countrymen. In Subhas's own words, "During the year 1941, the Civil Disobedience Movement continued — but without much enthusiasm on the part of Gandhi and his followers. The Mahatma had calculated that by following a mild policy, he would ultimately open the door towards a compromise — but in this, he was disappointed. His goodness was mistaken for weakness and the British Government went on exploiting India for war-purposes to the best of its ability. The Government also exploited to the fullest extent such agents, as the erstwhile Communist leader, M. N. Roy, who were prepared to sell themselves to Britain." Government was exploiting India for the war purpose and in this attempt they were helped by the Communists. Jawaharlal Nehru, who did not have the guts to oppose Gandhiji was also a reluctant participant in the individual civil disobedience movement. Gandhi himself had mentioned, "Pandit Jawaharlal has agreed to abide by all the conditions imposed by me. It was only when he agreed and conveyed his acceptance that I allowed him to be the second Satyagrahi."
In the meanwhile Bhagat Ram Talwar aka Rahmat Khan and his uncle Zia-ud-Din aka Subhas Bose had traveled to Kabul. This journey of 200 miles was extremely ardous and often made on foot, often devoid of any proper food and rest. In Kabul he had to wait for an indefinite period. They had at first taken up accommodation in a dingy sarai near the Lahori Gate upon reaching Kabul on 31st January. At first Rahamat Khan tried to establish contacts with the Soviet ambassador but it proved futile. Subhas Chandra Bose had been keen on seeking help from Russia because Russia and Germany had signed a non aggression pact - Molotov Ribbentrop pact in 1939, and both were common enemies of Britain and also because he believed that Russia could sympathize with the India's armed struggle for independence. However Bhagat Ram could not achieve any breakthrough in the first week. Getting impatient by the delays, Subhas himself went to the German Embassy and met Hans Pilger, the German minister in Kabul. Pilger advised Bose to "keep himself hidden amongst the Indian friends in the bazaar", and contacted the Russian Ambassador on Bose's behalf. The Russian Envoy had suspected that there was a hidden British plot in Bose's wish to travel through Russia. This suspicion might have been planted by the Communist Party of India who by then had become active British agents and were not exactly friends of Subhas. Pilger wanted Berlin to take the matter up with Moscow and informed German foreign ministry in Berlin. Contact was established with the Italian Embassy. Prof. Sugato Bose writes, that in Berlin, the Italian consulate had spoken with Ernst Woermann of German foreign ministry offering Italy's help to facilitate Bose's journey to Berlin via Russia. German ministry asked the Italian Ambassador to get in charge with Count Schulenburg, the German Ambassador in Moscow. Until clearance was obtained at the highest level from Berlin and Moscow, Subhas was to stay in touch with Germans in Kabul through Herr Thomas of Siemens Company. In the meanwhile the life in the serai was becoming dangerous as they did not have any passport or other documents. An Afghan policeman who had become suspicious was after them and he had to be bribed, first by giving Rs 10, and then by giving up the gold wristwatch of Subhas Bose, which was a gift from his father. Bose had also suffered from illness while living in that extremely unhealthy environment and had to be quickly accommodated in some better place. In the second week of February, Bhagat Ram sought out Uttam Chand Malhotra, who ran a shop of repairing radios in the Indian neighbourhood. Uttam Chand had provided shelter to Bose, but a prying neighbour had almost ruined the plan as he discovered the presence of Bose. Bose was temporarily shifted out but brought in again for rest and to recuperate from his ill health. Subhas was now getting desperate. At this moment a signal came from Herr Thomas that Bose should meet the Italian Ambassador Pietro Quaroni. Bose and Bhagat Ram arrived in the Italian embassy on the afternoon of 22nd February 1941. According to Prof. Bose, Quaroni was deeply impressed by Subhas Bose and considered him to be "intelligent, able, full of passion, and without doubt the most realistic, the only realist among Indian nationalist leaders." They met several times over the next few weeks and discussed possible alternatives for Bose to travel out of Afghanistan. Subhas in the meanwhile had written two articles - "Gandhism in the light of Hegelian Dialectic" and "A message to My Countrymen" for passing on to Calcutta through Bhagat Ram.
The great escape, in the own words of Subhas as narrated to Uttamchand Malhotra is provided in this blog post.
On February 27, 1941, the British had intercepted and decoded an Italian telegram that suggested that Bose might be in Kabul. Also The British Special Operations group had informed their representatives in the middle East that Bose was to travel from Afghanistan to Germany via Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Irish historian Prof Eunan O'Halpin of Trinity College Dublin had made a sensational claim quoting from British intelligence documents declassified in 2004, that Britain actually ordered the assassination of Bose on March 7, 1941 to its operatives in the Middle East.
The dynamics of international political relationship was taking shape rapidly. On March 3, Count Schulenburg had cabled Berlin from Moscow informing that Russia was ready to give Subhas Bose the transit visa to travel to Germany. On March 10, Mrs. Quaroni, the Russian wife of the Italian Ambassador herself came to Uttam Chand's shop with a message for Subhas to get photographed. That photograph would find its place in the passport of an Italian diplomat Orlando Mazzotta. Bose handed over his political thesis addressed to his countrymen "from somewhere in Europe" and a letter addressed to his brother Sarat, to Bhagat Ram for handing over personally. According to the memoirs of Uttamchand Malhotra, Subhas Chandra Bose was to go to leave Kabul on March 18 and had to reach the house of Signora Quaroni by March 17. He set off from Kabul by a car along with two Germans and one Italian, traveled through the mountainous passes of Hindu Kush range and reached Samarkand. From there he and his companions boarded a train to Moscow. On 31st March Bose reached Moscow and on 2nd April he reached Berlin. One of the Germans who had accompanied Bose was called Dr. Weller who had escorted him to Berlin. As per Uttamchand, Bose had reached Moscow on March 27, stayed there for a night and reached Berlin by air on 28th March.
Before we continue on Bose's journey it will be interesting to know something about Rahamat Khan, aka Bhagat Ram Talwar. In his book Indian Spy, Mihir Bose writes that Bhagat Ram, a communist, whose brother Harikishen was hanged by the British Government in Lahore, actually worked for the British once Russia joined the allied camp. He was code named as Silver. He acted as a spy for the Italians, the Germans and the Russians and also briefly for the Japanese. He was therefore the only quintuple agent in the second world war. Bhagat Ram took a lot of money from the Axis powers, particularly Italy and Germany. Germans awarded him the iron cross for his service to the Reich. Bhagat Ram's contribution in the second world war is extremely nebulous. But it is true that he helped Subhas during the most critical moments which shaped the history of India to a large extent.
After Subhas found his way to safety, Bhagat Ram went to Lahore to meet acting President of Forward Bloc Shardul Singh Kavishwar and provided him the letter of Subhas. He then went to Calcutta to meet Sarat Bose and gave him the articles and the message of Subhas. He also met the revolutionaries of Bengal Volunteers for acting on Subhas's plan of fomenting a rebellion with the tribal leaders in the North West. For this he got unstinting support and help from the Italian Embassy. Shantimoy Ganguli of Bengal Volunteers had gone with him to Kabul for meeting the tribal leaders and they all agreed to help. But the plan could not materialize. Kirti Kishan Party backed out of the plan since Germany had invaded Russia. But the next developments were unexpected. All the Bengal Volunteer revolutionaries including Shantimoy, Satya Ranjan Bakshi, Jyotish Guha among the stalwarts were arrested by British Police. Uttam Chand was caught and was expelled from Kabul. Only exception was Bhagat Ram. He was never caught. And the reason is now crystal clear. Only Bhagat Ram knew the B.V leaders, he knew of the entire plan of organizing a rebellion with the tribal leaders, he knew about Uttam Chand. Everybody who was involved with him was caught and British came to know of the entire plan. This can only be explained in the light of the activities of Silver - a trusted British spy who betrayed the revolutionaries and their activities for the sake of his narrow, dogmatic political belief. And nobody knew about his betrayal until recently when the classified intelligence documents were available. As an after effect Satya Ranjan Bakshi and Jyotish Guha were tortured by the British military in Red fort. Jyotish died and Satya Bakshi emerged from the ordeal as a broken man.
Subhas Chandra Bose left Kabul as Orlando Mazzotta, an Italian Diplomat, by the help of Italian ambassador Pietro Quaroni. Bose was already known to Mussolini. Bose traveled to Berlin as Mazzotta and remained for sometime until his revealing of his own identity to the world through a radio broadcast in Feb 1942
Bhagat Ram Talwar, aka Rahmat Khan, aka Silver was a Communist agent and a master spy who helped Bose or Md. Zia ud Din to leave India via NWFP and Kabul. It was through Rahmat's help and guidance Bose could travel from Peshawar to Kabul largely by foot and finally sought refuge with Italian and German Embassies. It is alleged that Bhagat Ram later betrayed the cause of Netaji when Germany declared war ion Soviet Russia.
Subhas Chandra Bose left Calcutta in the dead of night on 17th Jan with the help of his nephew Sisir Bose who drove him to Berari, the house of Dr. Asokenath Bose. He caught the Delhi Kalka mail from Gomoh station on the night of 18th January. Later Bose as Md Zia ud Din, traveled to Peshawar. In Peshawar Cantt he met Mian Akbar Shah who connected him to Bhagat Ram Talwar. Bose had enacted one of the most thrilling escape stories.
Bose in Germany: collaboration with Foreign Office
In the meanwhile Subhas Chandra Bose was being looked after by the German Foreign Office under Dr. Adam Von Trott, assisted by Dr. Alexander Werth. Adam Von Trott was not a Nazi. In fact he was involved later in the conspiracy of assassinating Hitler in 1944. Von Trott helped Bose in getting a rank and position and also sheltered him from the hard liner Nazis. He was well aware of India and her problems, unlike Hitler who was in favour of forging solidarity among the Nordic races and possessed a biased view about Indians, coloured by racial prejudice. Bose had his initial headquarter established in Hotel Excelsior. Subhas Bose's plan of action in Kabul had been to initiate a revolution by establishing a Government of Free India in Europe and large scale sabotage activities by the Indian revolutionaries to impede Britain's war effort. He had discussed with Quaroni about this plan. This had resonated well with the "Operation Tiger", Germany's plan to foment a rebellion in Kabul and thus unsettle British rule in India. On April 9, Bose sent a detailed report to the German Government with a vision of the work required to be done in Europe, Afghanistan, Tribal territories and India. He also outlined the geopolitical activities that are needed in order to effectively work out the plan - for instance the material support from Japan in the last stages, destruction of Singapore base of Britain, agreement between Soviet Union and Japan and a settlement with China to enable Japan to move against Britain in South East Asia. However his meeting with Ribbentrop on April 29 in the Imperial Hotel in Vienna was a disappointment. German Government informed him that his plan could not be accepted as yet. Bose wanted the Indian prisoners of wars captured by Rommel's force in the North Africa to be organized into an effective fighting machinery against the British. But Ribbentrop declined to act on the same and refused to give a statement in favour of Indian independence. On 3rd May, Bose submitted a supplementary memorandum in which he had asked the Axis powers to clearly declare their policy regarding the freedom of India and the Middle Eastern countries like Iraq. He favoured opening up of a channel between Germany and India through Russia and Afghanistan. He had thought of a possible invasion of an Indian Legion from the North West, with the active help and support of the tribal leaders in that belt. Subhas had demanded an unequivocal recognition of India's right to independence by the Axis powers. However German and Italian Government put up a lame excuse that India was supposed to be within Russian sphere of influence and therefore they could not come up with a statement regarding her future. The works proposed to be done by him were - Setting up of a propaganda mechanism in the form of a Free India radio station, that would broadcast to the Indian people for rising against the British, establishing a Free India Government, Legations of the Free India Government to be established in friendly countries, and an Indian Legion consisting of the prisoners of wars of Indian origin to be set up for the purpose of marching into India at the head of the Axis forces to wrest control from British Army. The necessary finance for all the work mentioned above was to be provided by the Axis Powers in the form of loan to the Free India government in Europe with clear understanding that it would be repaid in full when an independent Government is set up in India.
Bose had opined in his memorandum that in order for his plan to be successful, it was desirable that the status quo between Germany and Soviet Union was maintained. However he was on a visit to Rome when he received the news that on June 22, 1941, Operation Barbarossa had been launched. This was a bolt from the blue as this action severely dented his own plan. Bose did some plain speaking to the German Foreign Office. He warned Ribbentrop that the "march of the German troops towards the East will be regarded as the approach not of a friend, but of an enemy." Even though the higher echelons of the German Government realized the material value of Bose's memorandum, it took them long time to understand its strategic importance and to galvanize it into action. Hitler had allowed setting up of a Free India Centre. Germany also allowed Bose to raise a Legion from the Indian soldiers captured as PoW. German Government cooperated by establishing a special Department, India that helped Bose in realizing his objectives.
In April 1941 Bose had asked his erstwhile secretary Fraulein Emilie Schenkl to join his work in Berlin. He had also gathered around him Indian students and professionals who had the urge to work for India's freedom. They included A.C.N Nambiar, Abid Hasan Safrani who was to become his secretary and a fellow traveler to the far East, N.G Swamy, who was to head his secret service, N.G. Ganpuley, Pramode Sengupta, Habibur Rahman, M.R Vyas, and Girija Mukherjee. Nambiar was an old friend who he had met in 1933. He had relocated to Prague and had helped in cementing the Indo Czech ties. He was in France when Bose tracked him down. In January 1942, Nambiar came to Berlin and took over the Free India Center as Bose's deputy. This circle of Indians, Bose's close aides in Germany, interacted with the Special India group of German foreign Office under Legationsrat Adam Von Trott zu Solz and his colleagues Alexander Werth and F.J Furtwaengler. They shielded the Indians from the Nazi Government officials and party leaders. It was in Germany that Bose was offered the coveted title of Netaji by the soldiers whom he personally and passionately called for fighting against the British. Dr. R. C Majumdar in his History of Freedom Movement of India writes about Bose's effort to mobilize support among Indian PoW. "Bose proposed to raise an Indian legion of three Infantry Battalions and a Company of Irregulars which would form part of the German Fifth Column Organization. He was confident of German victory and visualised the triumphal progress of German army across Russia to Central Asia, when his own legions accompanying it would invade India; he hoped that the Indian soldiers of the British Government would fraternise with them and turn against their own masters. Buoyed up with these ideas Bose asked for all Indian prisoners of war in North Africa to be brought to Germany at once. But at first disappointment awaited him. Although British officers and other loyalist influences among the prisoners had been removed, the Indian soldiers showed marked hostility to Bose when he visited their camp, and his speech was interrupted. Bose persisted in his endeavour, but changed his plan. He privately interviewed individual prisoners and made such a good impression upon them that recruits began to pour in steadily and two units were formed in January, 1942." Writes Rudolf Hartog, who was an interpreter in the Indian Legion, in his book "The Sign of the Tiger", Bose with the help of Foreign Office, "set up the extensive propaganda broadcasts to India over the strongest short wave stations available. These broadcasts were transmitted daily in several Indian language from Hilversum in Netherlands and Podiebrad (Czechoslovakia) short wave transmitters. It was the foreign office that provided the money to finance these activities - according to an estimate one million Reichmarks for the broadcasts alone - as well as the expenses of both Bose and his staff at the "Free India centre". All these very extensive activities were only based on agreements between Bose and the foreign office, with the compliance of the German High Command. There was never a special order from Hitler, although the Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop did inform him."
The German Government's attitude towards the usefulness of Bose as a possible ally had changed by 1942. After waging war against Russia, Hitler was free of the obligation of including India under Russian sphere of influence and therefore turned his attention to a possible invasion of India, esp. with Erwin Rommel's triumphant march in North Africa. Thus Bose, as the leader of the Free India Centre, began to get the status of the world leader, with an army under his command and having resources to mobilize for the Axis forces in the war effort.