Bose, the Archetypal Warrior
by Gagandeep Bakshi on 13 Feb 2017 5 Comments

The purpose of this book is not so much to focus on Bose as a political leader but more specifically as an innovative military leader and Supreme Commander of the INA - in fact India‘s first Supreme Commander. Bose had very little formal military training. What is noteworthy is his high risk-taking ability, his outstanding courage in the face of certain death, displayed not just once but time and again in the course of his amazingly adventurous life which reads like a racy thriller.


Each time he suffered a major setback, Bose simply picked up the pieces, bounced back and started all over again. Fierce fighting races like the Germans and the Japanese could not be fooled by outer pretence. They instinctively saw in Bose a great warrior spirit with incredible courage and amazing tenacity. The Japanese however, paid him the ultimate compliment, they called him the “Indian Samurai”.


Bose was a voracious reader and read avidly about geo-politics and matters military and had developed an intuitive grasp of the subject. No wonder, he could hold his own subsequently during discussions with warlords like Hitler, Ribbentrop, Mussolini and the German General Staff. Subsequently, he greatly impressed the Japanese with his intense nationalism and grasp of the military idiom. The Japanese found in him a true Samurai – brave and fearless – who would always chose the path of danger and death over safety and self-preservation and was so utterly and so transparently committed to his country. In his life and deeds, he exemplified the spirit of the Samurai and lived according to the code of the Bushido.


Bose therefore, was clearly an archetypal scholar-warrior, more in the tradition of self-taught military leaders of the East like Mao Zedong, Vo Nguyen Giap and Van Tien Dung. In Bose’s case, destiny had catapulted him directly to the Supreme Commander of the INA and in that role as strategist and inspirational leader he was remarkably successful and prescient. His analysis of the geo-political situation was proved to be spot on in hind-sight. Even then, like Mao and Giap, he proved to be a brilliant strategist.


He was a highly charismatic figure and a great orator and spell-binding speaker. He exemplified Ann Arbors’ concept of the “spell binder” which she has used to analyse charismatic leadership. His speeches were simply mesmerising because he spoke from an essential synergy, a harmonisation of mind-body and soul towards a common purpose, imbued with burning idealism. It evoked strong emotions in his audience. Bose therefore was a military leader in that new oriental mould which had emerged in the early part of the 20th century, to overthrow the yoke of western imperialism in Asia.


Bose as a charismatic military figure inspired intense devotion and personal loyalty. He had displayed his sterling leadership qualities when raising the Indische Legion out of the Indian prisoners of war held with Germany. He had turned this Legion into a credible military outfit and zealously guarded its nationalist credentials. The force was raised to three battalion strength and formed the Indische Legion. These forces, he said, would only fight for Indian freedom and not be exploited by others for their own wars and purposes. When the first INA, initially led by General Mohan Singh, was in dire straits, the INA rank and file had unanimously wanted Bose to lead them. Only he had the charisma and international stature, they felt, to weld the force together and gain the respect of the Japanese.


Many of the motivational techniques he pioneered and the marching songs and slogans he devised have become an inseparable part of free India’s Army. Thus, the salutation ‘Jai Hind’ comes from the INA and the cadets of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) and the recruits in the Regimental Centres today pass out to the strains of “Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa – Khushi ke Geet Gaye Jaa”, an iconic marching song of the INA. It was the genius of Bose that converted the national anthem “Jana Gana Mana” into a military band tune. That tune has now been re-appropriated by Independent India as our National Anthem that is played on all ceremonial occasions.


The Radicalisation of Bose


The radicalisation of Bose had begun in 1927, when for the first time he openly questioned the Gandhian philosophy and methods at the Madras Convention of the Congress Party. Bose was then the General Secretary. The arrival of the Simon Commission had created national outrage, especially after the death of Lala Lajpat Rai in the police assault. The early 1930s saw him undergo many spells in British jails where he was beaten up badly. His health deteriorated and he was later freed to go to Europe to recuperate. The British were very happy to see him out of India, as they viewed him as a significant trouble creator. From February 1933 onwards, he travelled all over Europe and visited Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Italy and Ireland.


Bose wrote the book The Indian Struggle 1924-34. The book was banned in India but received good reviews in Britain. Bose returned to India in 1936 and was promptly put back in prison. At the Haripura Congress Session in 1938 Bose was elected President of the Congress. In his speech, Bose spoke of the need of national planning, family planning and an end to religious intolerance. Bose staged a protest at the Memorial of the Black Hole in Kolkata and on July 02, 1940 he was put under arrest. It is noteworthy that Bose had begun moves to establish links with the Soviet Union as early as July 1939.


The Great Escape


In prison, Bose went on a fast unto death for India’s Freedom. His health deteriorated rapidly and he was shifted to house arrest at his Elgin Road residence. It was a meticulously planned escape. Bose was to go to the court on January 26, 1941 for trial under a sedition case of secret meeting with the Germans in India. On January 16, 1941, Sisir drove his Buick car to Elgin Road and parked it in the usual place. At 0100 hrs that night, Bose went out with him, dressed as a Muslim. They drove along the Grand Trunk Road to Bararee near Dhanbad. They stayed at a relatives’ home for the night and then set out to Gomoh railway station. Here Bose left Sisir and caught the train to Peshawar.


SOE, Orders For Assassination Of Bose


Sitanshu Kar writes that in March 1941, Churchill had issued orders to the Special Operations Executive to assassinate Bose. The SOE was a 13,000 strong covert group, set up to execute special tasks like subversion of the enemy, espionage, sabotage, special reconnaissance, and assassination of select targets. The plan was to finish him off in Istanbul. However, as we know, Bose took a different route to reach Berlin and the SOE could not carry out the order. After Bose reached Berlin the SOE personnel in Istanbul queried whether the orders to assassinate Bose still stood. The British Foreign Office confirmed that it did.


The German Interlude, Sonderferrat Indien


On April 03, 1941 just a day after he landed in Berlin, Bose arrived at the Whilhelmstrasse where he was received by the Under Secretary of State, Ernst Woermann. Bose made a detailed presentation of his plans and Woermann was struck by the meticulous details he had gone into. Bose was clear that he wanted to liberate India from British suzerainty.


Admiral Von Trott was the head of the Indian Referat in the GFO. Subsequently, a Sonderferrat Indien (Special Indian Bureau) was established in the GFO to deal with Bose.


On April 09, 1941, Bose had put forth a detailed proposal that suggested that the Axis Powers would sign a treaty with the Free India Government in Exile guaranteeing India’s independence once World War Two was won.


Final Appraisal, the Indesche Legion


Though Bose had planned for an ultimate strength of some 10,000 men, the Indesche Legion had attained a full Brigade strength by 1942. It had three Battalions and had already established a distinct, Indian corporate culture. Though it comprised Indian POWs entirely, and they came from the British ethnicity-based, racially organised regiments, Bose insisted that the new units would be All India and All Class in composition. This was a bold and path breaking step, well ahead of its time. For the first time in history, mixed Indian units of Sikhs, Rajputs, Marathas, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were raised and all served happily together.


The militarisation of the national anthem had been done by Bose. Many Congress leaders after independence wanted Bande Mataram to be the national anthem. This was where the Bose inspired military band rendition of Jana-Gana-Mana easily qualified to be a soul stirring National Anthem of the Republic of India. Such rituals, symbols, customs and usage are a vital part of nation building and the impetus for most of these had come from the highly imaginative Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The experience of raising and training the Legion, however, was to stand Bose in excellent stead with the reconstitution and expansion of the INA. The first thing that Bose ensured was that the INA was led entirely by Indians.


Excerpted from Chapter 2

Bose: An Indian Samurai. Netaji and the INA: A Military Assessment

Maj Gen (Dr) G D Bakshi SM, VSM (Retd)

KW Publishers

ISBN: 9789386288394

Price: Rs 620/-        

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