“I was a fighter, one fight more, the last and the best.”
Rashbehari Bose was the founder of the Indian Independence League and one of the key architects of the Indo German conspiracy of 1914. While studying in Dupleix College in Chandannagar Bose came in contact with the Charu Chandra Roy who was the principal of the college. Charu Chandra inspired the young Bose with the spirit of love for the nation. He realized that independence from an oppressive brutal ruthless foreign regime was the only path that had to be adopted and for that extreme sacrifice is needed. The ground was fertile and the seeds were sown. Now Bose had to take up a Government job as a means of livelihood and was staying in Himalayan foothills of the North. However he was influenced and inspired by Aurobindo Ghose and Jatindranath Bannerjee, and secretly worked under the guidance of the later. He came into prominence through the famous incidence where a major conspiracy was hatched to kill Hardinge, the newly appointed viceroy after transferring the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi.
It was a general established belief among the Government circles and also among some of the Indians that Rashbehari was a spy. In fact after Hardinge was severely injured Rashbehari went back to Dehradun and organized a meeting to condemn the incident. But the police and authorities discovered much later to their consternation and chagrin that the “spy” was actually a mastermind of a huge conspiracy to overthrow the British Empire.
The entire plan of attacking the Viceroy was hatched in Chandannagar and Shreesh Chandra Ghose, a noted revolutionary was the proponent. The reason was simple and clear – it was to teach the British Government that India did not consider them as legitimate rulers and they had no business spending lavishly Indian money to establish their superiority over India. Rashbehari agreed to implement the plot with the help of some daredevil associates. One of them was a sixteen year old boy named Basanta Biswas. On 23rd December 1912 a huge celebration was planned on the occasion of the coronation of George the 5th. A huge procession ala Mughals were taken out by the British Raj on the roads of Delhi with Hardinge on an elephant like an emperor. The procession came near the Punjab National Bank in the clock tower. Suddenly there was a major bomb blast and Hardinge was grievously injured. In the cacophont nobody knew who threw the bomb and Basanta who was disguised as a beautiful young lady, escaped. So did Rashbehari. Rashbehari and Basanta had extensively practiced in Dehradun in order to hurl the bomb properly. Hardinge escaped death but no one could be arrested in the incident. However a year later police was able to obtain a major breakthrough and arrested almost all the masterminds like Ameerchand and Awadh Behari of Delhi, Basanta Biswas and others. British Police’s retribution was swift and the revolutionaries were hanged. And then entire India came to know the mastermind, the chief architect of the plan. But by then he had escaped by taking various subterfuges. Sometimes he was a common Oriya servant or sometimes he was an Anglo Indian violin player. Sometimes he was a fakir and at other times a cleaner of toilets. Every time he escaped the British police net. His escapades remind us of a famous character of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel Pather Dabi – the revolutionary Sabysachi.
By then the First World War was imminent and Rashbehari thought that it was a great opportunity to strike the British. He began to work on a pan India operation, enlisting help from different revolutionary organizations across India, in North Indian provinces and in Punjab where he was already well known. The Indians settled in Europe, America and Canada responded to the call. Among them the most prominent were Kartar Singh of Ghadar party and Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, the fiery Maharashtra youth who met Bose in Benaras. Atleast four thousand revolutionaries, mostly from Ghadar party, pledged support. The local revolutionaries like Sachin Sanyal & Damodar Swaroop were not far behind. In Bengal Rashbehari got support from one of the greatest leaders – Bagha Jatin and his associates, and also from prominent members of the Anushilon Samity. The plans were made for an international uprising with a mutiny in the army ranks in different parts of Asia and in barracks in India. Discussions were held with German leaders to send consignment of arms. Berlin Committee was formed in Germany to help the discussions. Rashbehari was the mastermind behind the idea of mutiny in the barracks. Different leaders took the responsibility of different cantonments to spread the message of a coordinated revolution in the army ranks. Head Quarter was in Lahore which came under Rashbehari. Minutest details were taken care of and everything was organized by the indefatigable spirit and planning capacity of Rashbehari who would be on whirlwind tours to oversee every details of the operation. Trainings were organized in different districts for the young revolutionaries. Support was enlisted from Indian army personnel and communities in Burma, Singapore and other Asian colonies. 21st February 1915 was to be the target date.
But it was all in vain! Two traitors divulged the entire plan to British intelligence. The revolution failed and British police and army swooped down on the mutineers. The arms consignment did not reach Balasore because of an international espionage and Bagha Jatin and his associates died fighting. Every revolutionary was caught, a huge cache of arms and ammunitions were discovered by simultaneous raids across India, mutineers were either court martialed or gunned down in the barracks of India. Only Rashbehari and Pingle escaped. In Singapore Indian army had successfully mutinied and had driven out the British but only to retreat when they heard the failure of the plan, after Russia and Japan joined the British to flush out the mutineers. The army men who were part of the conspiracy were mercilessly killed.
Pingle was caught while trying to enlist the support of Meerut Regiment. Lahore conspiracy case was launched and the chief perpetrators including Kartar Singh and Pingle were awarded death penalty. Ghadar party became dysfunctional as almost all its leaders were apprehended and mercilessly dealt with by the ruthless administration. Only Rashbehari could not be caught. In ingenious move he left for Japan by collecting passport from the very British officers who were literally hunting for him. He disguised himself as Raja P.N Tagore, a distant relative of Rabindranath Tagore and boarded the ship to Japan. He met Sun Yat Sen in China. He tried sending some arms consignment from China but they were caught by the British. Then he arrived in Japan as a fugitive. He was joined by Heramba Gupta from America.
British government soon got information and sent a strong note to Japanese Government to deport and handover Rahsbehari and Heramba. Japanese Government which was friendly to British had agreed for the extradition. Rashbehari took help of Mitusuru Toyama, a nationalist leader and founder of Genyosha secret society. They called for a press conference to help Rashbehari seek refuge in Japan. In the meanwhile a certain Mr. Soma who owned the Nakamuraya bakery had consented to take Rashbehari as a guest. Later Rashbehari married their daughter Toshiko and had to spend seven years in concealment to escape deportation. He got citizenship in Japan in 1923. Toshiko passed away in 1924. Rashbehari never married again and spent his remaining days as a journalist and writer.
At the beginning of the Second World War the hero came out of his hiding. He had spent his best years, was aged and lonely but still a lion was a lion. He sensed opportunity and used his connection with the Japanese authorities to ensure better treatment of Indian prisoners of war and Indian families living in South East Asian nations captured by the Japanese. Thanks his tremendous influence on Japanese Government no Indian soldier was mistreated by Japanese army and no Indian family suffered from the atrocities. He gave the clarion call, “Asia is for Asians, White supremacists leave Asia”, which was echoed across Asia. Mainly because of Rashbehari’s efforts Japan formally accepted that India is for Indians and the prime minister Tojo made a public declaration on the same. In every South East Asian Nation the Indian prisoners of war were gathered and brought under the leadership of Mohan Singh. In every country like Burma, Thailand, Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Indo China, Shanghai, Korea, Manchuria organizations were established under the supreme leadership of Rashbehari. From Tokyo Radio he reached out to India and announced his plan of freeing India with help from Japanese help. He reached out to every Indian leader – Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah, Savarkar, Abul Kalam Azad, Rajgopalachari, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan to appeal for creating a united front against British. He convened a conference in Tokyo in March 1942 to establish the Indian Independence League. He called for a second conference in June 1942 and a resolution was adopted to invite Subhas Chandra Bose to East Asia and hand over to him the responsibilities of leading the Indian Independence League. He requested India to reject Cripps Mission. Rashbehari was a superior organizer and planner as was evident in 1914. His Indian Independence league formed an army of Indian prisoners of war which later became known as Indian National Army. He formed the government departments, established his headquarters in Bangkok. Azad Hind was formed and Rashbehari formally handed over the flag to Netaji Subhas Bose.
The tireless worker of Indian independence did not covet any leadership. His only dream was to see India free. However that was not destined to be. He passed away suffering from tuberculosis in January 1945. The Japanese Government honoured him with the Order of the Rising Sun and the emperor sent his imperial coach to carry his dead body to be buried beside Toshiko.
And historians have conveniently forgotten him or even went to the extent of pursuing their colonial masters’ line of terming him as a conspirator and a Japanese stooge.