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Did Subas Chandra Bose Survive the Second World War?

COMMENT: When study­ing the his­to­ry of the Sec­ond World War, it is impor­tant to remem­ber that it took place dur­ing the Age of Empire–significant amounts of ter­ri­to­ry were still offi­cial­ly colonies of Euro­pean nations.

Some anti-colo­nial activists turned to the Axis for help in oust­ing their colo­nial mas­ters.

One of those was Sub­has Chan­dra Bose, a for­mer asso­ciate of Gand­hi who advo­cat­ed vio­lent rebel­lion against the British Raj, find­ing ful­fill­ment in the war, in which he allied with both the Third Reich and the Japan­ese. (His Ger­man forces even­tu­al­ly were incor­po­rat­ed into the Waf­fen SS [1].)

Supos­ed­ly killed in a plane crash at the end of the war, many sus­pect­ed that he had faked his death in order to go under­ground.

If true, this rais­es the ques­tion of pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion between Bose and his nephew and pro­tege Sarkar. In 1955. Sarkar found­ed Anan­da Mar­ga, an inter­na­tion­al Yoga orga­ni­za­tion with a mil­lion plus fol­low­ers around the world.

Some ele­ments of the orga­ni­za­tion have been involved in vio­lent inci­dents, chiefly against the West Ben­gali gov­ern­ment and com­mu­nist ele­ments, as well as oppos­ing Indi­ra  Gand­hi.

The group’s sym­bol involves a ris­ing sun and a swasti­ka. The swasti­ka is an ancient hin­du sym­bol. The ris­ing sun, of course is a sym­bol of the Japan­ese empire. While the use of the sym­bols MAY be inno­cent, they might also indi­cate a degree of con­ti­nu­ity between some ele­ments of the Anan­da Mar­ga orga­ni­za­tion and the Axis with which Sarkar’s uncle was affil­i­at­ed.

If Bose did indeed sur­vive the war, it rais­es the ques­tion about his rela­tion­ship to Sarkar and the Anan­da Mar­ga group. Might some ele­ments have con­tin­ued Bose’s armed ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle?

Anan­da Mar­ga is dis­cussed in AFA#7 [2], at con­sid­er­able length.

Sub­has Chan­dra Bose: The After­life of Indi­a’s Fas­cist Leader” by Hugh Pur­cell; His­to­ry Today: Vol­ume 60; Issue 11. [3]

EXCERPT: . . . On Sep­tem­ber 16th, 1985, in a dilap­i­dat­ed house in Faiz­abad, for­mer­ly the cap­i­tal of Oudh province in India, a reclu­sive holy man known as Bhag­wan­ji or Gum­na­mi Baba (‘the saint with no name’) breathed his last. Locals had long sus­pect­ed that he was none oth­er than Sub­has Chan­dra Bose (1897–1945), the Indi­an qua­si-Fas­cist leader who in the 1930s had advo­cat­ed a vio­lent rev­o­lu­tion against the British Empire to gain total inde­pen­dence for India.The Sec­ond World War had enabled him to prac­tise what he preached and his Indi­an Nation­al Army had fought with the Japan­ese in Bur­ma attempt­ing to dri­ve the British out of the sub­con­ti­nent.

Although Neta­ji (Great Leader) Bose was report­ed killed in an air crash in August 1945, while try­ing to escape to the Sovi­et Union, many believed then and con­tin­ue to believe now that, helped by his Japan­ese allies, he faked his death, reached Rus­sia and returned to India many years lat­er to lead the secret life of a her­mit. Sur­pris­ing­ly for a poor sad­hu (mys­tic) the ‘saint with no name’ left behind many trunks of pos­ses­sions and in 1986, real­is­ing that these might solve the mys­tery once and for all, Bose’s niece Lali­ta obtained a high court order for an inven­to­ry to be made of their con­tents. Among the 2,673 items indexed, Lali­ta claimed she saw let­ters in her uncle’s hand­writ­ing and fam­i­ly pho­tographs. Gum­na­mi Baba’s belong­ings were re-packed in 23 box­es and sent to the Dis­trict Trea­sury. . . .

. . . In his inquiry report, com­plet­ed in 2006, Jus­tice Mukher­jee was cat­e­goric. He con­clud­ed: ‘Neta­ji Bose is dead [a safe bet as he would have been 109]. He did not die in the plane crash as alleged and the ash­es in the Japan­ese tem­ple in Tokyo [main­tained by the Indi­an gov­ern­ment since 1945] are not of Neta­ji.’ He was more nar­row­ly legal­is­tic about the Faiz­abad con­nec­tion:

In the absence of any clinch­ing evi­dence to prove that Bhagwanji/Gumnami Baba was Neta­ji the ques­tion whether he died in Faiz­abad on Sep­tem­ber 16th,1985, as tes­ti­fied by some of the wit­ness­es, need not be answered.

Nev­er­the­less, caught off guard in a TV inter­view in Jan­u­ary 2010, Mukher­jee can clear­ly be heard say­ing that he thinks Bhag­wan­ji and Bose may well be the same per­son. . . .

. . . When the sto­ry of Bose’s death in 1945 reached Viceroy Wavell he said: ‘I sus­pect it very much. It is just what should be giv­en out if he meant to go “under­ground”.’ In 1946 Gand­hi claimed that ‘inner voic­es’ were telling him ‘Sub­has is still alive and bid­ing his time some­where’. Bose cer­tain­ly had form as an escap­er. He spent his life mov­ing eas­i­ly, some­times secret­ly, from coun­try to coun­try. In 1941 he escaped from British house arrest in Cal­cut­ta and reached Afghanistan from where, aid­ed by the Ital­ian ambas­sador and dis­guised as an Ital­ian busi­ness­man ‘Orlan­do Maz­zo­ta’, he trav­elled up through cen­tral Asia to Moscow and from there to Berlin. Soon Britons and Indi­ans could hear his pro­pa­gan­da broad­casts stir­ring up revolt against the British Empire and boast­ing about his Indi­an Legion, a body of sol­diers trained by and intend­ed to fight along­side the Ger­man Wehrma­cht.

In 1943, dis­cour­aged by Hitler’s lack­lus­tre sup­port for Indi­an inde­pen­dence and aware that the the­atre of war where he need­ed to pit his troops was now the Far East, he trav­elled half-way round the world under water by first Ger­man and then Japan­ese sub­ma­rine to Japan. Admired there, he received offi­cial sup­port and set up his 50,000-strong Azad Hind Fauj or Indi­an Nation­al Army (INA), recruit­ed large­ly from Indi­an sol­diers of the British Empire Army who had been cap­tured by the Japan­ese in their suc­cess­ful offen­sive of 1942. . . .