Netaji and Foreign Debts

 

Girija Mukherjee in his book mentions how concerned Netaji was on the money matters. He took every penny from the foreign powers as a borrowing, to be repayed by the Free India Government. In fact this was one of the reasons why he wanted to travel far east - to raise money from the Indians of South East Asia to fund the activities of his Free India Office and to pay back to the Germans. He wrote to the Hikari Kikan the below letter.

 CONFIDENTIAL 
UNITY- FAITH -SACRIFICE INDIAN INDEPENDENCE LEAGUE HEADQUARTERS No. 7 Chancery Lane, Syonan 
The Headquarters, Bangkok, 26th August, 1943 The Hikari Kikan, Syonan. 
Dear Sirs, 
We are grateful for the material assistance in cash and in kind that we have received from time to time and that we are going to receive in future through the Hikari Kikan from the Imperial Japanese Army Authorities. We desire very much to treat the above material assistance as a loan from a friendly power which the Government of Free India will duly honour and repay. I shall, therefore, feel obliged if the above material assistance given to us is put under one account—to be called the “Indian Account”— and the interest thereon is duly calculated. 
When the Provisional Government of Free India is formed and is recognized by the Imperial Japanese Government, the above material assistance given to the Indian Independence League, East Asia, should be debited to the Provisional Government as a loan duly incurred—which the Government of Free India will honour and repay. 
I shall be thankful if this arrangement is approved. 
Yours truly, Subhas Chandra Bose President, Indian Independence League, East Asia

Netaji and Tojo - Japan's support

After his arrival in Sabang in Sumatra, Bose had flown to Tokyo to get support from the Japanese  premier. He arrived in Tokyo on May 16, 1943. At that time Tojo did not accord priority to India's freedom, reason being Japan was getting cornered in a multipronged war, esp. with United States in the fray and with Japanese forces being on the back-foot in Pacific. Bose spent his time in meeting Sugiyama, foreign minister Shigemitsu, and other political leaders. He educated them on Indian freedom struggle. He also toured extensively the the Japanese establishments like factories, farms, hospitals and schools (His Majesty's Opponent - Prof. Sugato Bose). According to Prof. Bose, Netaji met Tojo the first time on June 10, 1943 and second time on 14th June. According to Dr. R.C Majumdar, Netaji arrived in Tokyo on June 13 and met Tojo a day later. In any case Netaji met Tojo on 14th June. Tojo had agreed to his conditions that Subhas would be forming a provisional Government which would take control of the Indian territories occupied by Japan, and that Subhas would have complete independence in structuring the Indian National Army, which would function independently and outside the Japanese war machinery. Subhas obtained an assurance from the Japanese PM that the Japanese military authorities would not interfere with the inner workings of the INA, and administration and training of INA would be with Subhas Bose and his colleagues. Subhas also wanted an unconditional support for his plan of attacking British India from Burma side, in which Indian National army would be fighting alongside the Japanese soldiers. Tojo could not give a commitment without consulting his military commanders. On June 16, Netaji was invited to attend a session of the Imperial Diet as a special guest. In this diet Tojo made the following declaration, "Japan is firmly resolved to extend all means in order to help to expel and eliminate from India the Anglo Saxon influences which are the enemy of the Indian people, and enable India to achieve full independence in the true sense of the term. "  

 

Writes Ayer, "From their very first meeting. General Tojo and Netaji took a very strong liking to each other. Each saw in the other great qualities of leadership, character, courage and statesmanship of a high order. Netaji made no secret of his unqualified admiration for Tojo whenever he had an opportunity of discussing the situation in Japan. Netaji defended Tojo's policy with particular vehemence after Tojo's resignation."

Subhas Bose takes over Indian Independence League; Graceful exit of Rashbehari Bose

On June 19, Bose addressed a public conference and spoke of the "duty to pay for our liberty with our own blood." "The freedom that we shall win, through our sacrifices and exertions, we shall be able to preserve with our own strength." (His Majesty's Opponent: Prof Sugato Bose). Netaji Subhas also spoke from Tokyo on a series of radio broadcasts. He exhorted his countrymen to continue fighting for freedom and urged all political leaders not to fall for British propaganda. He said, "if the wily, cunning and resourceful British politicians have failed to cajole or corrupt me, nobody else can do so." He thundered that, "the hour has struck  and every patriotic Indian must advance towards the field of battle. Only when the blood of freedom loving Indians begins to flow, will India attain her freedom."

A revolutionary hands over the baton to another - Enter the young Tiger, Exit the aged Lion. In Singapore on 4th of July 1943 in front of a huge gathering in Cathay Theater. Image courtesy Facebook page of Jayasree patrika

Subhas left Tokyo by end of June along with Abid Hasan and Rashbehari Bose and arrived in Singapore on July 2. He had persuaded Tokyo to replace Iwakuro with a man whom he was friendlier in terms, Yamamato, as the head of the Hikari Kikan, the liaison agency of Japan. He had already spoken over radio on his determination to launch an armed fight against the British from the Indian soil. The Indians of South East Asia were filled with delight and were awaiting him with eager anticipation. On arrival in Singapore he was given a rupturous welcome by a tumultous crowd, who knew that their leader had arrived. Indian National Army commanders J.K Bhonsle and M.Z Kiani received him at the airport and the INA soldiers gave him a guard of honour. On July 3 Netaji held a meeting with the leaders of the Azad Hind Fauz and the members of Indian Independence League from Hong Kong, Siam, Burma, Bornio etc. Netaji's knowledge on weapons and warfare took even the army men by surprise. On July 4, 1943, members of Indian Independence League had gathered in the Cathay Theater to witness a historic moment, that of handing over of leadership by one great revolutionary leader to another, younger one. Rashbehari Bose, handed over his leadership baton and whatever he had built over the past few years to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Rashbehari told the audience that he had brought a present for them, pointing to Subhas amidst thunderous applause. Subhas took over the presidentship of Indian Independent League in the presence of five thousand Indians, a small representative of the three millions of Indians across East Asia. Rashbehari described Subhas as one symbolizing all that is "best, noblest, the most daring, and the most dynamic in the youth of India." Netaji revealed to the gathering that he had decided to form a provisional government of free India and lead the Indian National Army to India. Considering the cherished unity of Hindu & Muslims who were there in large numbers and the divisive forces that had battered India, he spoke in Hindustani and prayed to Khuda to give him strength. He generated a lot of patriotic fervour when he declared his vision of holding a victory parade in Lal Qilla or the Red Fort in Delhi, which was the bastion of the erstwhile Mughal rulers. He declared that military service and loyalty to the mother country were the most essential things necessary to achieve our goal of freedom during the war. He said that any compromise with the British would be sheer loss for the Indians, and would prove detrimental to Indian interests. He said that world history bore evidence that no war of independence had been successful without outside help. He expressed his hope that the Axis Powers would win the war and help India achieve its goal. He reminded them that Japan was the first Asiatic Nation to stand up successfully to the Western powers. Japan knew that as long as Asia was in bondage their own freedom was threatened. He said that he could only offer them deprivation and sacrifice, but the end result would be the freedom of India. "When the revolution succeeds and Anglo American Imperialism is expelled from India the task of the provisional Government will be over," he said. He promised that it would then give way to the establishment of a permanent Government in India, in accordance  with the free will of the Indian people.

 

Subhas Bose takes over as the Supreme Commander of the INA - Total Mobilization for a Total War

 

The next day, on July 5, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose appeared in military uniform to address his army. The soldiers, numbering more than ten thousand, had gathered in the field adjoining Singapore Municipal Building. He gave his army the battle cry, "Chalo Delhi (On to Delhi). He said that there could be no greater pride for an enslaved soldier than to be the part of an army of liberation. He also promised that he would be with his troop under all circumstances, "in darkness and sunshine, in sorrow and joy, in suffering and in victory." Soldiers responded with Inqilab Zindabad (Long Live Revolution). His leader was candid enough to declare to them that for the moment he had to offer them "nothing except for hunger, thirst, privation, forced marches and death." But he assured them that if they followed him in life and in death, he would lead them to victory and freedom. On July 6, Japanese premier Tojo who was on a flying visit to Singapore, reviewed the INA with Bose. Netaji began to regularly attend the office at the Head quarters of the Indian Independence League at Chancery Lane and at the Head Quarters of the supreme command of the INA. He made a plan of reorganization and expansion of the League based on his goals. On 9th July Netaji invited all the civilians and military men in a huge meeting of more than sixty thousand people. The speeches were translated into Tamil since many of his audience belonged to the Tamils settled in East Asia, who later enrolled en mass in the Indian National Army as volunteers and as fighters, dispelling the myth perpetuated by the British of the distinction between martial and non martial races in India. He told the gathering that Indians in South East Asia were going to organize a fighting force that would be powerful enough to attack the British army. He assured them that when they did so, a revolution would break out in the army barracks and also among the civilian population. When the British Government would be under attack from both sides, it would collapse and India would regain liberty. He said that he had been put in the prison by the British atleast eleven times but he was always trying to organize a revolution from outside India irrespective of the consequences. He explained the reasons for his decision for indefinite fast during his last detention, his planning his great escape from India and his struggles. He said that the fact that Indians outside India had been able to organize a strong army that could defeat the British would herald a huge revolution among the Indian people who would gain confidence and strength. He gave a call for a Total Mobilization for a Total War. He also outlined his plan of developing a women's army that would be death defying. He wanted the East and South East Asians to give everything for the sake of their country's freedom. A large majority of the expatriates of Indian origin responded favourably and joined the movement. Atleast eighteen thousand Indians, mostly Tamilians joined the Indian National Army. They received military training. There were also around forty thousand regular soldiers from British Indian Army who had now joined the regrouped INA. It included people like Shah Nawaz Khan who were earlier skeptical but by now were swept off by the charismatic leadership of Netaji. 

During his submarine journey Subhas had planned for a speech for the Rani of Jhansi Regiment which he intended to form for the women fighters. On July 12 he gave that speech to the first batch of the recruits of the Ranis. The Rani of Jhansi eventually had more than thousand Indian women from Burma and Malaya. It included such illustrious names as Janaki Thevar and Lakshmi Swaminathan (later Sahgal). Captain Lakshmi was a doctor who took charge of the command of the regiment. At first the Japanese were averse to the idea of a women's regiment and refused to supply arms and ammunition. But Yellapa, head of the Indian Independence League in Singapore helped the Ranis in getting barracks and equipment. The Ranis were soon given military uniform exactly as Bose had planned during his submarine journey. They also underwent rigorous military training in their camps. Majority of them were the simple rubber plantation workers from Malaya (His Majesty's Opponent). The years with INA were the best part of their life as many of them later fondly asserted. Subhas was far ahead of his time even in this matter.

About six months of intensive training was needed before the new recruits were absorbed in INA. Part time training was given to a a number of young men to induct them as auxiliary forces. The civil side of the Provisional Government also engaged Netaji's attention and he reorganized the civil departments that were already functioning. He had General, Finance, Publicity and Propaganda, Intelligence, Recruitment and Training as departments. He now added Health and Social Welfare, Women's affairs, National education and Culture, Reconstruction, Supply, Overseas, Housing and Transport. Instructions were issued by him to improve and expand the League organizations throughout East Asia on the above lines. (Unto Him A Witness: S.A Ayer). On 25 August, 1943, Subhas assumed the role of the Supreme Commander of the Azad Hind Fauz. He told the gathering that the struggle would be long and hard, but the ideal and the goal would surely achieve success.

 

Organizing the Government and the Army: Paving the way to form a Provisional Government

Subhas made a whirlwind tour of various parts of South East Asia, like Malaya, Thailand (Siam), Indo China and Burma and appealed to the people of Indian origin to come forward and contribute to the cause. According to Janaki Thevar, people after hearing his speeches, vied with each other to give away everything they had in response to his call for Total Mobilization. Janaki herself in her first encounter gave away her gold earrings, her only possessions, and then responded to the clarion call to become part of the Ranis. Later when Lakshmi Swaminathan had been deputed to the base hospital in Maymyo, Janaki Thevar, then only 18 years old, became the commander of the RJR Burma contingent.  Malaya had a million Indians. Thailand had the pro Japanese Government under Phibul Songkhram, and it served as the base for Indian Independence League. Many prominent leaders of the League were from Bangkok. Burma was the center from where Indian army would march into India. Subhas was also invited as an honoured guest in the Burmese Independence celebration on August 1, 1943. He gave rousing speeches to the Indian expatriates. The Burmese Government under Dr. Ba Maw, with Aung San as his deputy and commander in chief and Thakin Nu as the defence minister, was friendly to Subhas. Dr. Ba Maw had met Subhas on July 6. Like Tojo, he had been favourably impressed by Subhas on his first meeting. He wrote in his memoirs that "Subhas Chandra Bose was a man you could not forget once you know him." (His Majesty's Opponent: Prof. Sugato Bose). Bose referred to his Mandalay days in prison during 1925-1927 in his speech on this occasion and his dream of an independent Burma. He offered a gift, a hefty purse, to the Burmese Government on behalf of the Indians.

By the time Bose had arrived in Singapore, the strength of INA had been diminished to only twelve thousand armed men, but an indomitable Bose wanted to raise the strength to about fifty thousand. Japanese would offer training and equipment to not more than thirty thousand. Field Marshal Count Terauchi, the commander of the Japanese forces in the South East Asia told Bose that he wanted the role of INA to be diminished to that of field propaganda units but Bose insisted that INA should lead the offensive into India. (His Majesty's Opponent: Prof. Sugato Bose). The field Marshall then agreed to the deployment of a brigade as a test of efficiency and morale before sending rest of the men to action. The first division of INA, of ten thousand soldiers, was put under M Zaman Kiani. It was divided into three regiments - Gandhi, Nehru and Azad brigades. The INA selected the best men from these regiments and formed the no. 1 Guerrilla regiment which was planned to be the first to be sent into action. In September 1943 this regiment went for training under the command of Shah Nawaz Khan. Soldiers themselves called it as Subhas brigade, though Netaji disapproved of the name. On October 2 Gandhi's birthday was celebrated and Bose addressed all the Indians in a massive gathering in Farrer Park. He heaped praises on the work and contribution of Gandhiji towards Indian independence. During August and September Bose went to other South East Asian countries and met their leaders and also the Indians living there. Bose went to Thailand and met Phibul on 4 August and developed a lot of goodwill with him. Indians everywhere contributed liberally to his war chest. In addition to the major cities, Bose held large rallies in smaller settlements like Kua Lumpur, Penang and Ipoh. Bose also sent his emissaries to Vietnam or Indo China, Indonesia and China for winning over the people there. 

In his book Unto Him a Witness, S.A Ayer writes that when he was satisfied that the INA had been thoroughly organised, and that Indians in East Asia were making a splendid response to his call for total mobilisation, Bose took the next logical step of establishing the first Provisional Government of Free India outside India, in Singapore, on the historic 21st of October, 1943, that is, less than four brief months after he took over the leadership of the Movement in East Asia, and events thereafter proceeded at a cyclonic speed.

Netaji had a great relationship with several top army men and ministers of Japan, including its premier Tojo and field Marshall Sugiyama. But he also had to face many difficulties, esp. from Hikari Kikan under Kitabe and Kagawa. From the beginning Hikari Kikan had created troubles for the Provisional Government. As per S.A ayer Netaji had sought to reduce the influence of Hikari Kikan on the Azad Hind policy decisions and possibly because of his endeavours Kitabe was replaced by General Isoda. Even Major General Yamamoto, the no. 2 of Isoda, the head of Hikari Kikan, who was a close friend of Netaji from Germany, had become not so friendly towards Bose. Ayer recalls one particularly unfriendly meeting in 1944 in Netaji's residence in which Yamamoto accused Netaji of not apprising them on forming new ministries and Netaji countering the accusation. Netaji refused to concede, in principle, that he should tell the Kikan anything about the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. At Yamamoto's and Kagawa's instigation, Isoda was against the expansion of the combatant strength of the INA by supplying more arms and equipment, despite the earlier discussions that had emphasized this point. Netaji had to threaten to withdraw from the movement. Japanese had also opposed the formation of an Azad Hind Bank. Another point of contention was that the Indo Japanese war council should have a Japanese or an Indian chairman for the occupied territories on the Indian soil. Ultimately, they agreed to leave the matter pending. A third point of contention was the employment of the Indian labourers for the construction of the Siam Burma "death railway". Netaji had protested against the forceful recruitment methods and told the Japanese to employ Indian labour only after taking necessary permission from the provisional Government of the Azad Hind and also to provide all facilities to the labourers. Netaji sent a mission to Bangkok under Brahmachari Kailasam of the Ramakrishna Mission to see that the Japanese implemented the terms agreed to and the Indian labourers were well-off. 

This tumultuous relationship with the Japanese, in which Netaji never compromised on his ideals and principles, testify to the fact that Netaji Subhas Bose was no Japanese puppet. It belies the claims of the Communists and makes their propaganda against Bose hollow and baseless.

Only when the blood of freedom loving Indians begins to flow, will India attain her freedom

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