Congress's most inglorious chapter - Tripuri Congress, Subhas resigns and forms Forward Bloc, arrested

Tripuri Congress and its Aftermath - Resignation of Bose from Congress

Throughout 1938, Bose worked ceaselessly for implementing the plan of action formulated in Haripura. He convened in Bombay a conference of heads of the Congress provincial ministries. They discussed on National reconstruction in the lines of industrialization, resources, coordination among Congress ruled states and advocated special focus on poverty eradication through better healthcare and education by restructuring the municipal corporations. He asked them to do their best for the underprivileged sections. He also had meetings with the scientific fraternity and was particularly close to Dr. Meghnad Saha, the renowned physicist. On October 2, in a meeting convened with the industries ministries of Congress ruled provinces, Bose set a goal to see that every man, woman and child was better clothed, better educated and had sufficient time for recreation and culture. He assured Gandhians that he was supportive of their desire to develop cottage industries, but not at the cost of industrialization. The first meeting of National Planning committee was held in Bombay on December 17, 1938. Bose also tried resettling the Hindu-Muslim unity issue by calling for a meeting with Jinnah in May, 1938. But the equation had become complicated when Nehru in 1937 had questioned the very basis of the Muslim League. After a series of discussions, Subhas had to abort the attempt. Despite his obvious leanings, Bose tried to be fair in his dealing with left and the right wing and wanted to take everybody along. In September 1938 a crisis emerged when the members of the Congress socialist party staged a workout over a difference with the conservatives. Bose sided with the Gandhians. He also sided with Gandhi in dealing with a crisis in the Central provinces when he and CWC had to dismiss Dr. Khare, the Congress prime minister of that province. Subhas also played a major role in ousting the Muslim League ministry in Assam and installing the Nationalist leader Gopinath Bordoloi. In 1938 Subhas and Sarat Bose also initiated a programme of formation of a broad based coalition Government in Bengal with both Hindus and Muslims. It needed the support of Gandhi which never came. Instead Gandhi, in presence of G.D Birla and Nalini Sarkar (the latter being a part of the original problem), rejected the proposal and idea. Bose thought that it was not pragmatic of Gandhi to come to a conclusion without even understanding the problem as Bengal was at a cross road. He thought that the rejection would be suicidal for Bengal in the long run and later events proved him right. Subhas Bose also alienated the old guards of the Congress by his proposal to launch an inquiry into the conduct of the Congress ministries, as he thought that they were getting addicted to power and the lure of money. 

As Congress president Bose was far sighted enough in encouraging sending cultural troupes to Europe and America such as that of Uday Shankar's. He had also eyes on the international political affairs, esp. the situation in Europe. He understood that the possibility of a war was looming large and therefore wanted to reap the full benefits by cornering the British who would be engulfed in that war. By the end of the year 1938 he was strongly of opinion that the international situation called for launching another mass movement which would take the British off guard and here was a wonderful opportunity. He did not lose his spiritual goals. After becoming president Subhas Chandra Bose paid a visit to an ailing Swami Abhedananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and a powerful orator. Embracing Subhas, Swami Abhedananda blessed him with the words, “Be thou victorious”, thus putting his stamp of approval on Subhas's actions for freeing India. However Sri Aurobindo in his conversations seemed to have somewhat an ambivalent attitude towards Subhas. He did not support Gandhi either, but he could not wholeheartedly accept Subhas's leaning towards leftism and esp. his collaboration with the Axis forces whom he considered to be greater evil than the British. After India achieved freedom Aurobindo seemed to have somewhat changed his opinion about Subhas Chandra Bose and leaned to the positive side. It is to be noted that Subhas's close friend Dilip Kumar Roy was a staunch associate of Aurobindo and in his correspondences with Subhas he had disagreements with Subhas on the methods and means adopted by him. On January 21, 1939, Bose visited Shantiniketan. Rabindranath Tagore's worldview about Subhas had undergone a huge transformation from 1937 onwards and he regarded Subhas as a Deshnayak and the only hope for Bengal.

It is difficult to understand why Gandhiji supported Subhas's nomination as Congress president. Perhaps he thought that like Jawaharlal he can also bring Subhas under his ideological fold, thereby vanquishing the burgeoning left wing within Congress, esp. the Socialists. But Subhas proved to be of different temperament. His ascendancy brought a positive change within Congress and raised the hopes of people. Bose's vision of an industrialized economy through planning commission was in direct confrontation with Gandhian ideal of village economics based on Khadi and small scale industries. Also in matters of policy decisions Gandhian coterie was opposed to any idea of confrontation with the British Government, while Subhas advocated taking full advantage of the war like situation in Europe. When Subhas sought a reelection to presidentship, as he thought that one year was not sufficient to implement all his plans and programmes, the Gandhi wing of Congress opposed it and proposed the name of Pattabhi Sitaramayya as the president. Initially they had also proposed the name of Abul Kalam Azad, who eventually stepped down in favour of Sitaramayya. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad issued a certificate of good character in favour of Pattabhi Sitaramayya and hoped that his election would be unanimous. Congress Working Committee wanted Gandhiji to nominate president while Subhas had forced them to go for an election. Working committee members Vallabh Bhai Patel, Acharya Kripalani, Bhulabhai Desai, Rajendra Prasad, all Gandhi loyalists and staunch anti Subhas, became supporters of Sitaramayya. As a rule they should not have done the same. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai protested against this unrighteousness. Objections came from Meher Ali, socialist leaders Narendra Dev, Sardar Shardul Singh and other socialist leaders against the behavior of the CWC.  However when the election results came out Subhas had won by over 200 votes. Gandhi clan was decimated in the one and only one real election in the entire history of the Congress. Throughout this battle Subhas had avoided all personal references and also had refrained from publicly proclaiming himself as superior to his rival. His arguments were based on political considerations. He fought on the basis of ideas and principles. 

Then came the twist. Gandhiji gave a public statement that Sitaramayya's defeat was his own defeat. As an afterthought he had mentioned that Subhas babu was not an enemy of the country, he had suffered for it. Even Dr. Pattavi must have been surprised by this statement. Subhas was not elated by this victory. He knew that a conflict was imminent. With a desire to work out a compromise Subhas went to Sevagram, but came back disappointed. Gandhi refused to participate in the disagreement between CWC and Subhas. However in 1936 the same Gandhiji had taken initiative to resolve the disagreement between CWC and his poster boy Jawaharlal Nehru. On 22nd February the CWC meeting was supposed to begin in Wardha but Bose fell ill. Dr. Nilratan Sarkar advised against travel. Subhas appealed for a deferment of the session. But nobody paid any heed. The entire CWC had resigned, except Nehru and Sarat Bose. Nehru gave a small statement that whatever the CWC members did were in sync with democratic norms. Gandhi clan had also resigned from the parliamentary board, so battle lines were drawn. Subhas had pneumonia in both the lungs and yet, despite all warnings of his doctors, he started for the Tripuri session of Congress. He traveled by train to Jabbalpur, from where he was taken by a stretcher to an ambulance and was carried to the Congress venue. His political opponents, the Gandhi wing, had propagated that Subhas was feigning illness. But the doctors found him to be genuinely ill. His address, which was much shorter than the one at Haripura, was read by mejda Sarat Bose. He asked for an ultimatum to the British Government and wanted to launch a Civil Disobedience if no response was coming from the Government's side. He had sensed that British would now be in trouble because of the impending war in Europe and this was the God sent opportunity to go for a direct fight. Gandhi did not come to Tripuri. He had gone to a small princely state of Rajkot. Gandhi clan now played hard ball. Govind Ballabh Panth, Congress premier of United Province brought a resolution that the Congress Working Committee must be according to the wishes of Gandhiji. Congress left wing opposed but still the resolution passed through because Socialist Party betrayed and abstained from voting.  It left the Congress president tied to the wishes of Gandhi. Subhas was thoroughly disgusted. One of the Congress leaders did not hesitate to even compare Gandhi's popularity with that of Hitler's and Mussolini's. British author MIchael Edwardes observed that, "Gandhi now turned the technique of non cooperation, not against the British, but against Congress's own president." Let us see what Subhas himself felt about the whole affair. He writes in Indian Struggle, "In March, 1939, at the annual session of the Congress, the writer who presided made a clear proposal that the Indian National Congress should immediately send an ultimatum to the British Government demanding Independence within six months and should simultaneously prepare for a national struggle. This proposal was opposed by the Gandhi Wing and by Nehru and was thrown out. Thus a situation arose in which though the writer was the President of the Congress, his lead was not accepted by that body. Moreover, it was seen that on every conceivable occasion, the Gandhi Wing was opposing the President with a view to making it impossible for him to function. A complete deadlock within the Congress was the result. There were two ways of removing this deadlock — either the Gandhi Wing should give up its obstructionist policy, or the President should submit to the Gandhi Wing. With a view to finding a possible compromise, direct negotiations between Mahatma Gandhi and the writer took place, but they proved to be abortive. Under the constitution of the Congress, the President was entitled to appoint the Executive (Working Committee) for the coming year, but it was clear that the Gandhi Wing would continue to obstruct, if the Executive was not appointed according to its choice. And the position of the Gandhi Wing within the Congress was such that determined obstruction on its part would render it virtually impossible for the President to function in an independent manner. The Gandhi Wing was determined neither to accept the lead of the writer, nor to allow him to control the machinery of the Congress, and it would tolerate him only as a puppet President. The Gandhi Wing had, moreover, this tactical advantage that it was the only organised party within the Congress, acting under a centralised leadership. The Left Wing or radical elements in the Congress who were responsible for the writer's re-election as President in January, 1939, were numerically in a majority — but they were at a disadvantage, because they were not organised under one leadership, as the Gandhi Wing was."

Rabindranath Tagore was thoroughly aghast. He came out openly in support of Subhas Chandra Bose and expressed his anxiety for his health and well being. Tagore wrote to Gandhi on March 29, "Some rude hands have deeply hurt Bengal with an ungracious persistence. Please apply without delay balm to the wound with your kind hands and prevent it from festering." On April 3 he wrote a letter to Subhas, "the whole country is waiting for you - if you lose this favourable chance through hesitation you will never get it back." He again sent a cable to Gandhi, "I earnestly appeal to you to arrange meeting immediately with Subhas and save situation from tragic disaster." In May 1939 Rabindranath wrote a historic letter to Subhas where he addressed Subhas as Deshnayak, leader of the Nation. The letter is translated and reproduced from original Bengali in this blog post ( Rabindranath's letter to Subhas - Deshnayak).

Jawaharlal Nehru did not hesitate in putting the blame at Subhas's doorstep. Subhas wrote a frank letter to him on March 28, 1939 that ran to twenty seven pages. He reproached Nehru severely. "When a crisis comes, you often do not succeed in making up your mind one way or the other." Nehru's doublespeak was thoroughly exposed in that letter.  Subhas was disdainful about Nehru's foreign policy. "Frothy sentiments and pious platitudes do not make foreign policy", he said. He said that Patel and others would let Nehru talk and talk and in the end ask him to draft their resolution. Subhas had reasons to be peeved, Nehru had not only let him down, he deliberately betrayed him. Nehru replied about the misgivings of Subhas that "I plead guilty to them." He also expressed his view that Gandhi should accept Subhas as the president. He was clearly riding two horses as Subhas had charged him to do. 

Tripuri Congress was clearly the worst episode of the Indian freedom movement, where all rules of dharma were side stepped. It was like the reenactment of the Chakra Vyuha episode where the Kauravas had all gathered together to kill a young boy named Abhimanyu, with whom they won't be able to fight individually. Sugato Bose writes in His Majesty's Opponent, "Bose was comprehensively outwitted and outmaneuvered by Gandhi in Congress politics during the spring of 1939. Tripuri and its aftermath clearly represented a defeat for Bose who notwithstanding his personal popularity - was temperamentally and organizationally incapable of matching the political cunning of Gandhi and his lieutenants. Yet Gandhi emerged from the tussle of 1939 with his aura tarnished. He had appeared petty and vindictive." There was, consequently, no other alternative for Bose but to resign the Presidentship. This Subhas did on the 29th April, 1939 and "he immediately proceeded to form a radical and progressive party within the Congress, with a view to rallying the entire Left Wing under one banner." Bose had reached out to Gandhi and had couple of rounds of talks with him. Gandhi continued his non cooperation and refused to suggest names for the members of the Working committee. An impasse was reached and Bose resigned as president at the meeting of the All India Congress Committee in Calcutta on April 29, 1939. Nehru tried for a settlement but it was not to be effective. Rajendra Prasad became the interim president. A large crowd had gathered in support of Subhas Bose and Bose had to save his colleagues from the ire of the public and escort them out. An unusual healing touch came from Rabindranath Tagore. He sent the following message to Bose on his resignation, "The dignity and forbearance which you have shown in the midst of a most aggravating situation has won my admiration and confidence in your leadership." Subhas Chandra Bose, during his illness, also experienced a huge outpouring of love and blessings from people across the country. Within months of his resignation from presidentship, Subhas floated a new outfit, Forward Bloc, reminiscent of the Forward magazine of the Swarajists edited by him. Writes Girija Mukherjee,  "The new organisation set up by Subhas Bose was meant to win the support of the youth and the Left wing in his favour and also to combat the Right wing influence inside and outside the Congress which, it appeared, wanted to put a brake to the boiling enthusiasm of the people for a fresh struggle against the British for the attainment of independence." Subhas was the first president of the Bloc which was supposed to be an integral part of Indian National Congress and would be providing an alternative leadership at the National Level. Vice-President was Sardar Sardul Singh Kavishwar of Punjab. At first Subhas at hoped to win over the support of all the leftists and bring them under a common umbrella but that was not to be. The Congress Socialists under Jayaprakash Narayan and Minoo Masani, Manabendra Nath (M.N) Roy of the Radicals and Communists as the National Front, all kept their distinct identities. Subhas writes, "In organising the Forward Bloc, the writer had two-expectations. Firstly, in the event of a future conflict with the Gandhi Wing, he would be able to fight more effectively; and further, he could hope to win the entire Congress over to his point of view one day. Secondly, even if he failed to win over the entire Congress to his point of view, he could, in any major crisis, act on his own, even if the Gandhi Wing failed to rise to the occasion. Future developments fulfilled the expectations of the founder of the Forward Bloc to a remarkable degree. As soon as the Forward Bloc was launched, the full wrath of the Gandhi Wing fell on it. Since the death of Deshbandhu C. R. Das in 1925, this was the first serious challenge to Gandhi's leadership and could not be tolerated by him or by his followers. While facing the frowns of the Gandhi Wing, the Forward Bloc had simultaneously to put up with persecution and harassment at the hands of the British Government, because for the latter, the Forward Bloc was politically much more dangerous than the Gandhi Wing was."

Subhas had neither forgiven nor forgotten the duplicity of Jawaharlal. He continues,  "In this internal crisis the man who was inconvenienced most was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Up till now, he had, with great skill and ingenuity, been able to ride two horses at the same time and had thereby been able to secure the support of the Gandhi Wing, while being a friend or patron of the Left. Challenged by the Forward Bloc, he had to make his choice and he began to move towards the Right — the Gandhi Wing. And as the relations between the Gandhi Wing and the Forward Bloc became strained, Nehru rallied more and more to the support of the Mahatma."

Subhas started reaching out to the masses. He toured Dhaka district first and then from May to July 1939 he went for a tour of the United Provinces, Punjab, NWFP, Central Provinces, Bombay and Karnataka. He had his lieutenants ready, Sardar Shardul Singh Kavishwar in Punjab, Akbar Shah in frontier Provinces, Nariman, who had been ousted earlier by Gandhiji from Congress and Hari Vishnu Kamath, a staunch Subhas loyalist and Forward Bloc leader in Bombay. He received the support of the peasant leaders (including Swami Sahajanand Saraswati) and in Bengal, the former revolutionary leaders like Anil Roy and Leela (Nag) Roy joined him. In South he had the unstinted support of Muthuramalingam Thevar who was known as the Bose of South. Subhas had the support of the Bengal Volunteer revolutionaries under Hemchandra Ghosh, Satyaranjan Bakshi and Major Satya Gupta with him. In July 1939 the High Command of Congress forbade any Congress member from performing satyagraha without permission of the top brass (read Gandhi). This was a clear violation of the intra party democracy and Subhas protested. The CWC charged him with violating party discipline and banned him for three years from holding any elective office in Congress. Bose had been the acting president of the Bengal Provincial Congress. Now two of his opponents from Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy and Gandhian Prafulla Chandra Ghosh were appointed as members of CWC. The High command started a parallel organization in Bengal with an alternative committee headed by Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. This caused a split within Congress in Bengal. Sarat Chandra Bose was now the leader of the Subhas Bose's group in the Bengal Legislative Assembly, while the other faction was led by Kiran Shankar Roy. Disciplinary action was also taken against Sarat Bose by CWC. 

At the All India Forward Bloc conference in Bombay in June, 1939, Subhas Chandra Bose was the President. The constitution and the program of Forward Bloc was adopted. The constitution made it clear that it was an organization within the Indian National Congress which was to serve as a common platform for all Leftists within the Congress. Only primary members of Congress were eligible for the membership of Forward Bloc. Jaiprakash Narayan of the Congress socialists, condemned the decision of Subhas to form Forward Bloc. Forward Bloc aimed to fight provincialism and communalism, corruption and influence of vested interests prevalent within Congress. Congress passed a resolution prohibiting the discussions of the differences between Congress ministries in the provinces and the provincial Congress committees. Subhas Chandra Bose and Swami Sahajananda criticized the resolution and called for a protest meeting. Rajendra Prasad as Congress President took exception and asked for the protest meeting to be called off. CWC passed a resolution on August 11, expelling Subhas Bose from Congress for a period of three years. 

On 3rd September 1939, war broke out in Europe. Subhas writes, "On the same day that Britain declared war on Germany, the Viceroy declared India a belligerent and issued an ordinance containing the most stringent powers for the suppression of internal disorder. On September 11, he announced that the inauguration of the federal constitution under the Act of 1935 was postponed for the duration of the war. On the 6th September, Mahatma Gandhi, after meeting the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, issued a press statement saying that in spite of the differences between India and Britain on the question on Indian independence, India should cooperate with Britain in her hour of danger. This statement came as a bombshell to the Indian people, who since 1927, had been taught by the Congress leaders to regard the next war as a unique opportunity for winning freedom. Following the above statement of Gandhi, many leaders belonging to the Gandhi Wing began to make public declarations to the effect that though they demanded freedom for India, they wanted Britain to win the war. As this sort of propaganda was likely to have a very unfortunate effect on Indian public opinion, the Forward Bloc, which was by now an All-India organisation, commenced counter propaganda on a large scale." Subhas also toured the country extensively during this period and addressed about a thousand meetings in ten months. The propaganda found an echo all over India. British Government put to jail many of its leaders. 

Subhas again exposes Nehru's duplicity, "More strange even than Gandhi's attitude was the attitude of Nehru. From 1927 to 1938, he had figured prominently in all the anti-war resolutions of the Congress. Consequently, when the war broke out, people naturally expected him to take the lead in an anti-war policy. According to the previous resolutions of the Congress, the party should have immediately non-cooperated with Britain's war-effort in September, 1939 and if after that, the Government had exploited India for the war — the Congress party should have actively resisted the British Government. Not only did Nehru not adopt this policy, but he used all his influence in order to prevent the Congress from embarrassing the British Government while the war was on." On 14 September Congress passed a resolution to the effect of supporting the war initiatives of Britain in the hope that Britain would reciprocate. Subhas asked Congress to launch a mass movement to wrest the freedom of India from Britain, but Congress leadership was clearly in no mood to do the same. Subhas observed in Indian struggle, "if the Congress as a whole had taken up a bold and unequivocal attitude of determined opposition to the war from the very outset — Britain's war-production in India would have been seriously affected and it would not have been easy for the British Government to send Indian troops on active service to different theaters of war, far away from India. Consequently, in his view, by postponing a final decision on the war-issue — Gandhi, Nehru and their followers helped the British Government indirectly. It is but natural that when the Congress did not give a clear lead to the country, the propaganda carried on by the agents of British Imperialism in India should partially succeed in winning the cooperation of certain sections of the Indian people." 

On October 17 Viceroy Linlithgow responded to the Congress's resolution where he reaffirmed the question of Dominion Status at some future date, the constitution of 1935 was suspended, all powers were concentrated in the hands of the Viceroy and in several parts of India, severe restrictions on personal liberty, like rights to hold meetings and demonstrations, imprisonment without trial, were imposed. On October 29, Congress Working Committee ordered the eight ministries to resign from office. But they did not start any movement. Moreover, British liberal politicians like Sir Stafford Cripps visited India and influenced Congress leaders to support in the war effort. Forward Bloc alone carried out public demonstrations. In October 1939, an anti Imperialist Conference was held in Nagpur. In 1940 Subhas planned for the construction of Mahajati Sadan, a building dedicated to the Nation, with Rabindranath Tagore laying the foundation. The event is provided in greater detail in the blog post Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahajati Sadan.

In March 1940 he organized a huge demonstration in Ramgarh called anti Compromise Conference, together with Kishan Sabha. He also reached out to the students through the various student conferences. Congress had met for its annual session in Ramgarh and Subhas, together with Sahajananda Saraswati held a parallel session there. The anti Compromise Conference was a greater success than Congress's session. Subhas said that the age of Imperialism was nearing closure and an era of freedom, democracy and socialism was coming up. India stood at the crossroads of history. He launched a scathing attack on the indecisiveness of the National leaders. He also emphasized on forging unity among the religious communities. Subhas also decided to launch a struggle against the British between April 6 to 13.  In Calcutta he launched the campaign of Civil Disobedience by holding a huge meeting in Sraddhananda Park. Leftist leaders like Bankim Mukherjee participated in that meeting. But soon within a year the Communists deserted Subhas and turned pro British. Subhas reached out to both Jinnah of Muslim League and V.D Savarkar of Hindu Mahasabha. Lahore resolution of Muslim League wanted to have independent states for the Muslim majority provinces. Bose recalled that not so long ago the so called communal parties had their leaders as part of Congress as well. For instance Lala Lajpat Rai was a member of Congress and Hindu Mahasabha. Ali Brothers had been members of Congress and the League. Subhas took a tactical measure of aligning with Muslim League in the Calcutta Corporation. Bose also met Jinnah in Bombay but the meeting was abortive as the Muslim League leader told Subhas that Subhas needed to take up the leadership of Congress before attempting a Hindu Muslim unity pact. Forward Bloc commenced its campaigns of Civil Disobedience across the country and its prominent leaders were put into prison. A few days before he was sent to prison, Subhas met Gandhiji and his coterie for one last time. Gandhiji was loathe to start a new Civil Disobedience. In response to Rabindranath Tagore's appeal Gandhiji told to C.F. Andrews that, "Subhas is behaving like a spoilt child." Subhas's assessment was that the Congress veterans, still oblivious of the international situation, were hoping to get a Dominion Status from the British.

Subhas Bose resigned from Congress in April 1939 as he was suspended by CWC for 3 years under the directive of Gandhiji. Panth resolution prevented Subhas from discharging his presidential duties. Gandhiji started non cooperation against Subhas Chandra Bose. Image courtesy Jayasree Facebook page
Rabindranath Tagore stood firmly with Subhas, entreating and pleading on his behalf with Gandhi. Rabindranath gave 'deshnayak' title to Subhas and identified him as the best hope for the country.
Only Subhas had the farsight to see the opportunities offered by World War 2 to India. After resigning from congress, Subhas set to work tenaciously to build a new party, Forward Bloc by pulling together all his loyalists from different parts of India, toured India extensively and met Jinnah and Savarkar to build consensus. But Government sent him to prison in July 1940 and kept him interned until his great escape. The escape plan was formulated.

The Arrest, the Fast, the Escape Plan

 

In the Calcutta Corporation election Subhas and Forward Bloc entered into an agreement with Muslim League and won. Mr. Siddiqi of Muslim League became the Mayor. Subhas declared in a public meeting, that to cater to the golden opportunity of driving out British he was ready to enter into a pact with Congress, or Hindu Mahasabha or Muslim League. A lot has been said about Subhas based on this incident. Some have labeled him as an appeaser of communal elements among Muslims while others saw it as definite proof that Subhas was secular leftist. Years later a great man, while explaining the move said that it was a tactics solely with the intention of gaining India's independence first by uniting all forces, rather than indulging in communal politics. Nation comes first over ideology or politics. That had been his motto throughout. We have no reason to disbelieve him. If situation so demanded he would not have batted an eyelid to sever the connection with Muslim League in a moment's notice, unlike today's secular politicians. Subhas had earlier met Savarkar on 22nd June, 1940. As per Uma Mukherjee, in her Two Great Indian revolutionaries, Savarkar had shown Subhas the letter of Rashbehari Bose who had requested Subhas to come to the East to strike the Empire with an army. Savarkar concurred with Rashbehari in terms of a need to build an army and strike at the roots of British imperialism (Ami Subhas Bolchi - Shailesh De). A special session of the Bengal Provincial Conference was held in Dhaka on 25th and 26th of May, 1940. The direction of the Provincial Conference was struggle against Imperialism and forging unity. The rallying cry was 'All Power to the Indian people.'

Subhas also tried to contact the Axis powers - Germany, Italy and Japan, in 1939. He opened negotiations with Soviet Union. Negotiations with Japan was carried out with the help of Dr. Asit Mukherjee who was then working in the Consulate General of Calcutta. Dr. Mukherjee and his Greek wife Savitri Devi (who had embraced Hinduism), conveyed the message from Japanese Consulate in secrecy. Subhas sent Lala Shankarlal, General Secretary of the All India Forward Bloc, to Japan on a false passport, to establish direct contact with the rulers. Subhas's nephew Dwijen Bose made necessary arrangements for Shankarlal's trip to Japan. His other nephew Aurobindo also undertook similar tasks with utmost secrecy. Amiya Nath Bose was sent to England to provide a message to an emissary of the Soviet Union, at great personal risk ( source: "My Uncle Netaji" by Dr. Asoke Nath Bose).

 

On July 3, 1940 Bose decided to observe Siraj-ud-Daulah day in memory of the last independent Nawab of Bengal who was defeated in the battle of Palashi in 1757. He also proposed a movement for the removal of the Holwell monument in the Dalhousie Square. The monument was a testimony by the British historians to the legend that British soldiers were allegedly killed by Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah in Calcutta in what is known as Black Hole of Calcutta. This issue was connected to the sentiments of the Bengalis, esp. the Muslims.  Thousands of Muslim youths joined this movement spontaneously.  Subhas was put in the prison on July 3 on the charge of writing a seditious article called "Day of Reckoning" under Defense of India rules. But the movement had forced British  government to dismantle the monument  and remove it from public view. Subhas was to stay in the Presidency Jail for the next 6 months and his days as a free man in British India ended for ever. 

Subhas now came up with an idea. He realized that it would be foolishness for him to remain in the jail during the period of world war when he could go out of India and secure cooperation from the other countries who were at odds with Britain. To secure his release he started a hunger strike in the prison, challenging the Government. He said that he would do a "Prayopabeshan" or fast unto death if he was not released. Before commencing the fast he sent a letter to the Governor of Bengal on 26 November, 1940 referring to all the injustices perpetrated on him. To quote Subhas, "He (Subhas) then explored the possibility of being released in a legal manner, but found that there was none, because the British Government was determined to keep him locked up, so long as the war lasted. Thereupon, he sent an ultimatum to the Government pointing out that there was no moral or legal justification for detaining him in jail and that if he was not released forthwith, he would fast unto death. He was determined to get out of prison, whether dead or alive." He described the letter as his political testament. He asked that his letter be carefully preserved in the archives of the Government, so that it would be available to those of his country men who would succeed the British Government in future. His letter read, "In this mortal world, everything perishes and will perish - but ideas, ideals and dreams do not. One individual may die for an idea - but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheels of evolution moves on and the ideas, ideals and dreams of one generation are bequeathed to the next. No idea has ever fulfilled itself in this world except through an ordeal of suffering and sacrifice. What greater solace can there be than the feeling that one has lived and died for a principle? What higher satisfaction can a man possess than the knowledge that his spirit will beget kindred spirits to carry on his unfinished task? what better reward can a soul desire than the certainty that his message will be wafted over hills and dales and over the broad plains to every corner of his land and across the seas to the distant lands? What higher consummation can life attain than peaceful self immolation at the altar of this Cause? Hence it is evident that nobody can lose through suffering and sacrifice."

 

He asked the Government not to interfere with his fast and refrain from force feeding and told them in clear terms that he would fast unto death unless he was released. About this incident Subhas writes, "The Government laughed at the ultimatum and did not reply. At the last moment, the Home Minister requested his brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, Leader of the Congress Party in the Provincial Parliament, to inform the writer that it was a mad project and that Government could do nothing. Late at night, he was visited in his prison-cell by his brother who conveyed the Minister's message to him and informed him, further, that the attitude of the Government was very hostile. The next morning the fast began as already announced. Seven days later, the authorities suddenly got frightened, lest the writer should die in prison. A secret conference of high officials was hurriedly held and it was decided to release him, with the intention of re-arresting him after a month or so, when his health improved."  On 5 Dec, Subhas was released but put under house arrest. His health was in a bad state but the spirit was willing to soar for India's freedom. He was exploring ways to go outside India and now he had the opportunity. Subhas started planning actively and engaged with his trusted colleagues. Now began the greatest journey of his life - the perilous journey that resulted in the assumption of  the glorious title of "Netaji" and achieved the liberation of India.

Ideas will work out their own destiny, and we who are but clods of clay encasing sparks of the Divine Fire have only got to consecrate ourselves to these ideas

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