About the Book
This is the English edition of a trilingual biography of Subhas Chandra Bose, the German and Japanese editions being the other two. Its six parts deal with his experiences in India, Germany and Japan and have been co-authored by people who either worked with, or were close associates of his during his stay in their respective countries.
The aim of the biography is to place Subhas Chandra Bose in a correct historical perspective with regard to his much publicised revolutionary activities, and to provide an understanding of an extremely complex man, much maligned by Britain and greatly misunderstood by her allies.
Bose's encounters with leaders in Germany, first in 1933-36 and later during World War 11; the beginnings of his revolutionary activities there and his single-mindedness in pursuit of them; his early realisation that Hitler's concept of a "world struggle" was quite different from that of an oppressed people; and the evolution of his political convictions in India, reveal the energy, foresight and commitment of a man fired by idealism and a sense of justice.
It is relevant on this context to speculate on where India would be had Bose formed and led the first independent Government of India, or lived to realise his ideals.
About the Author
Dr. Alexander Werth, author of the European episode, was politically active during World War II with Adam von Trott zu Solz in the German Foreign Office and eventually in the Special Division for India.
Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose, Editor-in-Chief of this work is the FounderDirector of the Netaji Research Bureau and has been editing the Collected works of Netaji, nine volumes of which have already been published.
At the invitation of the Netaji Research Bureau, Dr. Alexander Werth delivered the ceremonial Netaji Oration in Calcutta in 1969 on the occasion of the 72nd birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. In the course of his oration, Dr. Werth referred on the one hand to the vacuum in European literature regarding Netaji and on the other, to a distorted image of the leader prevalent in many circles. Unfortunately, such lack of information or a wrong view of his role in the history of our times affected intellectuals and historians as well as lay people. It was clear that Netaji's activities during the Second World War and the exigencies of war-time propaganda about him in Britain and all countries allied to Britain were responsible for this state of affairs. This contrasted sharply with Netaji's current status and image in India where he ranks as a national leader with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and where his war-time contribution is widely regarded as the determining factor in India's final liberation from foreign rule. Dr. Werth proposed that German and Japanese friends of Netaji, who had the privilege of working with him or in support of the Indian independence movement abroad during the war, should join hands with competent Indian writers and produce a biography of Netaji for the international community. The biography would seek to present the image of Subhas Chandra Bose in full conformity with his true historical role and personal performance.
In the course of the year the idea developed and took shape.
Dr. Lothar Frank visited India and Japan on behalf of Dr. Werth and a plan to publish a trilingual biography by a team of German, Japanese and Indian authors was drawn up. The Netaji Research Bureau in Calcutta decided to co-operate in the undertaking which was to be in the nature of a joint cultural project of the three countries. A team of writers, translators and editors was organised to carry the project forward. On Netaji's birthday in 1970 Dr. Frank announced the plan in Calcutta. The biography was to have a common team of contributors for the three language editions. The chief editors of three editions, German, Japanese and English, were to be a German, a Japanese and an Indian respectively. The task of writing on Netaji's life and activities in India was entrusted to Mr. N.G. Jog, who was to be assisted by Mr. S.A. Ayer. Dr. Alexander Werth and Or. Lothar Frank were to be responsible for the chapters dealing with his life and work in Europe while Mr. Fred Saito and Mr. Tatsuo Hayashida would take charge of the part dealing with his activities in Asia.
The authors started their work early in 1970. Manuscripts were exchanged and translated for the purpose of the three language editions. The Japanese and German editions, edited by Mr. Fred Saito and Or. Alexander Werth respectively, were published in 1971.
The sponsors of this biography are of the view that no proper understanding of contemporary Indian or Asian history is possible without an adequate understanding of Subhas Chandra Bose. A prodigious child of Indian Renaissance, Netaji grew up in the midst of profound social and political changes that transformed the face of India and Asia during the first half of this century. Since his early youth he identified himself completely and unreservedly with the fate of his country. His experiences thus truly reflect the evolutionary and revolutionary changes in Indian society during this period. In order to correctly interpret the more spectacular and the rather controversial activities of his later years, it is necessary to understand his origin, the fundamentals of his faith and idealism and the evolution of his personality through a life of relentless struggle:
Like some other well-known freedom fighters and national revolutionaries, Netaji ultimately reached a position when he was no longer able to further the struggle for his country's freedom with the means and methods available inside the country. He therefore undertook a daring and adventurous journey out of India in January 1941, reached Kabul, then Moscow and finally Berlin in April 1941. It was only logical that as a militant national revolutionary he should seek the help of the opponents of Britain in the final struggle against Britain and resort to means other than merely political, viz. agitation, negotiations and. civil resistance.
The history of the last hundred years furnishes several instances of such or similar decisions and deeds. Garibaldi worked for the freedom of Italy from Austria. Sun Yat Sen operated from Japan to free China from the yoke of imperial rule. Eamon de Valera for a time conducted Ireland's fight for freedom from abroad and took American aid for the purpose. Masaryk campaigned in Britain for the establishment of the independent state of Czechoslovakia. Subhas Chandra Bose carried on his struggle against British rule in India from Europe and East Asia with the assistance of the then enemies of the British Empire, viz. Germany, Italy and Japan.
One example of how the distorted war-time official British view of Netaji very largely colours even the more recent English literature is his portrayal in the otherwise brilliant biography of Adam von Trott zu Solz by Christopher Sykes. The familiar but ill-informed and historically untenable opinions about him are repeated by Sykes in his book. The same applies to literature emanating from several European states, regardless of whether they are bourgeois or socialist. Some of the exceptions also deserve to be mentioned. The Springing Tiger by Hugh Toye, formerly of the British Intelligence Service, is probably the most significant British work expressing opinions in deviation from the official view. Another important observation on the decisive role of Netaji's Indian National Army in the final phase of India's struggle for freedom has been made by the English writer Alastair Lamb:
The agitation against their trial when the war was over, together with the 1946 mutiny in the Indian Navy, seemed to suggest that the British could not rely much longer on the Indian forces to keep India under British rule. This realisation, more than anything else, probably enabled British minds to accept the inevitability of Indian independence.
The British, it seemed, gave in only when by so doing they gave themselves more security than they would have obtained had they continued to resist.
Yet another British commentary on Netaji's role in the achievement of Indian freedom has been given by Michael Edwardes, a noted historian, in his work The Last Years of British India:
Only one outstanding personality took a different and violent path, and, in a sense, India owes more to him than to any other man even though he seemed to be a failure.
West German, French and Italian literature have so far hardly. concerned themselves with Netaji. It is, however, a good augury that a beginning has been made in Eastern Europe. In the book Tiger und Schakal by the writer from GDR, Reimund Schnabel, published in 1958, a historical assessment of Netaji has been attempted. The author, after a careful examination of copious documentary material, comes to the conclusion that Netaji in his unsuccessful struggle for India's independence has been frank and free from egoistical artifice. He says: One can proceed on the assumption that Bose, of whom prominent fighters for Indian freedom have spoken in words of the highest recognition as a patriot, did not act out of opportunism. The assumption is also justified that he viewed the Nazi ideology sceptically and was no stooge of Hitler or Mussolini. Bose believed in functioning in accordance with political realism.
Schnabel also cites from Weltgeschichte issued in 1967 in Berlin by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (Volume 9, p. 137) where Netaji, together with Jawaharlal Nehru is given the credit for the manifestation of a new impulse in the national emancipation movement, the concrete expression of which was the creation of a left wing of the National Congress.
As we welcome such evidence of a healthy change in attitude towards Netaji, we have to admit that the changes have been rather peripheral and have not yet produced the desired echo in most European countries, irrespective of their political character. A vacuum in real information and a lack of proper interpretation of the man and his work have persisted.
What is true of the West is largely applicable to the Asian continent as well, although, maybe, for different reasons. This is all the more unfortunate because Netaji's war-time struggle in East Asia had a direct historical relationship with subsequent developments in all the countries of South Asia.
Apart from Netaji's role in the achievement of India's political independence, the question may well be raised as to his legacy for the Indian and Asian peoples in terms of their present problems and the future. It will be relevant therefore to speculate where India would be today if Subhas Chandra Bose could have formed and led the first independent Government of India on Indian soil. There is no doubt that Netaji's political ideas were based on and shaped by a clear recognition of the common interests of the broad masses of his country, unhampered by the distinctions and divisions fostered by an alien imperialism and indigenous vested interests. He would certainly not have reconciled himself to the partition of India on religious basis as Britain's price for India's independence. He would have prevented the furtherance of communal and regional considerations threatening the unification of India and the emergence of a united national Indian state. He would not have accepted the British forms of state organisation as models, as was done in India, more or less, after independence. He would have promoted, with his usual courage and zeal, planned socialist reconstruction of lndian society in accordance with clearly set priorities and plan of action.
Many in India believe that Subhas Chandra Bose's importance to India has grown rather than diminished with the achievement of independence. Thus, Netaji for India and Asia, is not merely a historical hero and a legend but a prophet of the future. This book, we hope, will make some contribution to the establishment of this total image of Netaji in the world at large.
Readers will appreciate the problems of putting together a biographical work with contributions from different areas of the world in three different languages and varying in approach and style in many important respects. Nevertheless, there has been commendable team spirit in processing this work. No effort has been made to smother the individual characteristics, opinions and manner of the different authors for the sake of uniformity, subject of course to the editorial responsibility and right to minimise elements of discord and maintain a reasonable continuity of thought and events. After all, this book may well be the first experiment of its kind.
As to the authors, Mr. N.G. Jog, who had already published a highly rated biography of Netaji, made further extensive studies at the Netaji Research Bureau for the purpose of this work. Dr. Lothar Frank, who had known Netaji in Berlin in the thirties', went round the world examining papers and meeting people in Delhi, Calcutta, Tokyo, Berlin, Bonn and London. Dr. Alexander Werth drew from his personal experiences with and recollections of Netaji in 1941-43 and the Free India Centre, Berlin, in 1941-45. Mr. A. C. N. Nambiar gave great assistance to both Dr. Frank and Dr. Werth in the preparation of their accounts of Netaji's work in Europe in the 'thirties and the forties'. Material regarding Netaji's life and activities in East Asia was provided by a group of Japanese officers who had the opportunity of dealing with Netaji directly or with the Provisional Government or the INA. The material was compiled by Mr. Tatsuo Hayashida and the account written by Mr. Fred Saito.
The following institutions and their staff have given wholehearted assistance to the authors and editors of the biography with data and documents: Department of Political Archives and Historical Records in the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn, National Archives of India in New Delhi, Historical Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India in New Delhi, India House Library of the High Commission of India in London, India Office Library and Records, Royal Institute of International Affairs, Press Library and the Library of Imperial War Museum, London, and the Netaji Research Bureau, Netaji Bhawan, Calcutta.
Preparation of the manuscript for the English edition has been the responsibility of Mr. Kartic Chakrabarty, assisted by Mr. Sankar Nath Chatterjee, both of Netaji Research Bureau. Messrs Orient Longman Limited have given us every possible co-operation at all stages of the publication.
To all friends and institutions, including those not mentioned here, who have assisted us in this unusual, difficult but extremely important undertaking, we wish to record our very sincere thanks.
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