Two Revolutionaries, Rashbehari and Subhas – A Meeting of Minds Part 1

Concept of freedom and how to achieve it - as visioned by Rashbehari and Subhas

Concept of freedom and how to achieve it - as visioned by Rashbehari and Subhas
Concept of freedom and how to achieve it - as visioned by Rashbehari and Subhas

This article has been co-authored by Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh and Dikgaj


The great Indian revolutionary, Rashbehari Bose, is primarily known for forming the Indian Independence League (IIL) and handing over the Indian National Army (INA) in Japan to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and subsequently walking into his sunset. By any account, this is one of the most selfless acts of Indian history as every bit of IIL stood over Rashbehari’s toils in Japan spanning almost 3 decades, from 1915, when he arrived there penniless and knowing not more than 4 Japanese words. And Rashbehari had never  met Subhas, when he became a willing party to handing over the baton to Subhas. How could this extraordinary sacrifice be accomplished? This is the story that we start today.

First, the two Boses had much more in common, than the least common denominator of their last names or their ethnicities. They had a meeting of minds before ever sharing the same physical space. Delving into little known correspondences between the duo, we show that they echoed each other, independently of each other too, on almost every crucial political issue. The views of both were in sharp contrast to those of the other pole of the Indian polity, Mohandas Gandhi. The only issue on which they had diverged somewhat was on their tactics on the contemporary mainstream political leaders like Gandhi and Nehru. Having never met them in person, due to his long exile, Rashbehari may have nursed rosy illusions about them, while close contact of about two decades enabled Subhas to see through their compromises.  The two Boses had also shared some key personal traits. It was this prior meeting of mind as also similarity of temperament that enabled Rashbehari to cede his leadership of the Indian Independence Movement in the East to Subhas. Rashbehari’s lifelong friend, protector and Guru in Japan, Mitsuru Toyama, had told the two Boses “You both have the same surname. But I think that you both have by now one soul. Hence you both should fight for the freedom of India” p. 317 [24]. And they did.

We refer to the Boses by their first names, rather than the customary last, to distinguish between them.

Section A: What is Freedom?

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]oth the Boses considered freedom as complete severance of political domination by the British, and sought to reach their cherished goal through any means. Gandhi not only differed with them on the path to freedom, but  surprisingly enough, on what the concept represented.

Rashbehari had written in a letter (dated September 21, 1922) that appeared in Young India on November 23, 1922: “For a free and full growth, complete freedom is absolutely essential not only for human beings but also for animals and plants even. The domination of one by another is unnatural and contrary to the highest impulse of human nature. No people on Earth can consent to be governed by another people. It is an anomaly and except in English political literature this phraseology, ie, to maintain foreign rule with the consent of the governed, cannot be found anywhere else in the world. There can be either freedom or the opposite of it -Slavery.  There is no midway. Australia and Canada can have real freedom within the Empire for the sole reason that they are peopled by the same British race and have the same custom, manners, traditions, reli and language. They are quite right and logical when they claim the empire as their own. But the case of India is quite different. She is a conquered country inhabited by people of completely different customs, traditions, religion and language. For India to desire to remain within the Empire is to acknowledge herself as a slave. Freedom and slavery cannot go together. If India wants freedom, she must completely sever all connections with Britain. Of course, she will be at liberty to conclude a friendly alliance with England but that should be done as between equals, between two sovereign states. If she wants Home Rule or status of equal partnership within the Empire, it cannot mean anything else than that she desires to perpetuate her serf hood.”

Subhash  had championed complete independence throughout his political sojourn in India, he had argued for independence on similar grounds as Rashbehari Bose. On June 10, 1933, in his Presidential Speech at the third Indian political conference held in London, he said:   “1)There is no social kinship between the two countries. 2) There is hardly anything in common between the cultures of India and of Britain. 3) From the economic standpoint, India is to Britain a supplier of raw materials and a consumer of British manufactures. On the other hand, India aspires to be a manufacturing country, so that she could become self-contained in the matter of manufactured goods as well. 4) India is at present one of the biggest markets for Great Britain. The industrial progress of India therefore is against Britain’s economic interests. 5)India affords employment at present to young Britishers in the army and in the civil administration in India. But this is against India’s interests and India wants her own children to occupy all these posts. 6)India is sufficiently strong and has enough resources to be able to stand on her own legs without the help or patronage of Great Britain. In this respect the position of India is quite different from that of the dominions. 7) India has so long been exploited and dominated by Britain that there is a genuine apprehension that in the event of a political compromise between the two countries, India will stand to lose and Britain will stand to gain. Moreover, India has developed an “inferiority complex’’ as a result of her long servitude, and this “inferiority complex’’  will remain as long as India is not completely independent of Britain. 8)India wants the status of a free country, with her own flag, her own army, navy and defence force, and with her own ambassadors in the capitals of free countries. Without this invigorating and life-giving freedom, Indians will never be able to rise to the full stature of their manhood. Independence is to India a psychological, ethical, cultural, economic and political necessity. It is an essential condition of the new awakening in India. Independence, which India aspires after today, is not “Dominion Home Rule’’, as we find in Canada or Australia, but full national sovereignty as obtains in the United States of America or in France. 9) As long as India remains within the British Empire she will not be able to safeguard the interests of other Indians who have settled in other parts of the Empire. The weight of Great Britain has always been, and always will be, thrown on the side of white races-as against the Indians. An independent India, on the other hand, will be able to secure better treatment for her children who have settled in different parts of the British Empire’’  The Anti-Imperialist Struggle and Samyavada, Presidential Address at the Third Indian Political Conference, London, 10 June, 1933, pp. 249-250, [18].

In stark contrast to the two Boses, Gandhi frequently equivocated on the concept of freedom itself. In 1908, from South Africa, Gandhi had identified Spiritual Swaraj to be his goal, which would allow the English to rule (“police’’ in his words), if they follow Indian civilization in India, which he understood as one that relies on articles produced and manufactured at home, and does not have railways, European cloths, military, modern schools, law courts, machinery, hospitals, medicines and contraceptives [17]. During the first world war, and subsequently,  he verbally advocated Dominion Status with membership in the British Commonwealth most of the time, without, however, revoking his articulation of the spiritual Swaraj [17]. Intense pressure was mounted on Gandhi from multiple revolutionaries, eg, Rashbehari Bose, Sachindranath Sanyal,  through public debates, to call for complete independence; this was force multiplied by the nationalist wing of the Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru (who would shortly defect to Gandhi’s coterie) and Subhas (who would remain steadfast in his opposition to colonial occupiers). Gandhi was therefore forced to demand completely independence in 1930, only to recant it in effect in a few months. Subsequently, during 1930-1942, none of the mass movements he led demanded freedom, and none of the treaties he signed mentioned even a Congress demand for dominion status let alone freedom. In 1942, influenced by his assessment that the British were then losing the second war, Gandhi launched the Quite India movement which demanded that the British leave India. He resumed his collaboration with the British as soon as the tides of the second world war turned irretrievably. Even after the transfer of power in 1947, Gandhi campaigned for including the Union Jack as part of India’s national flag, while his confidant business magnet G D Birla negotiated on using the British national anthem as the Indian one.

Section B: How India shall be liberated?

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]s to the means to attain freedom, both the Boses clearly had no compunction  in seeking to emancipate their country through war if they considered that option to be viable. Rashbehari Bose had formed  India’s first army, Indian National Army, and Subhas led it towards India during the second world war. Before forming the Indian National Army, Rashbehari Bose also repeatedly sought to initiate armed rebellion in India against  the British. Neither ever professed their sole commitment to non-violence ever [23], [19]. We learn from Nedyam Raghavan, who had closely interacted with him in 1942:  “He [Rashbehari] was, I am sorry to say, no believer in non-violence, and on more occasions than one he reiterated his conviction that violence and non-violence should go hand in hand in the liberation of our country. To him, both were legitimate means to achieve a legitimate end.’’ p. 438, [10].

An Indian Nationalist in Japan, Anand Mohan Sahay, who has observed Rashbehari from close quarters in Japan has written, “My relations with Rash Bihari Bose was also very close and whenever I visited Tokyo, I invariably stayed with him….Being active in secret societies revolutionary movements, he did not have the opportunity to work in a mass struggle and could not imagine how the peaceful and non-violent movement of Mahatma Gandhi could be helpful in driving the powerful British Raj from India. Naturally, he did not support the N.C.O. [non-cooperation] movement of the Indian National Congress.’’ p. 359, [25] Sahay has gone on to say “In August 1926, some prominent Japanese politicians in cooperation with Rash Bihari Bose and myself, organized an Asian Youth Conference in Nagasaki, Southern Japan…..At Nagasaki Conference important secret plans were prepared to organize the youth of enslaved Asian countries for revolt. It was decided that, as I held a valid passport for East Asian countries, I undertake a tour of these countries and meet nationalist youth and establish contact for further activities. ‘’ Towards that end,  Sahay subsequently traveled in East Asia and India. He met Subhas and informed him of the real purpose of his tour, and “He (Subhas) expressed great satisfaction at my plan and asked me to keep in touch with him and keep him informed about our efforts’’ p. 361, [25]. He returned to Japan in 1927: “Back in Japan, I met Rash Bihari Babu and the Japanese leaders and reported the result of the tour. I also told them about my meeting with Subhas Chandra Bose in Calcutta and other leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad, who had directed me to establish a Congress branch in Japan. I set about organizing the Congress Committee. But in this I did not receive any co-operation either from Rash Behari Bose or from those Japanese leaders who had helped and sponsored the Nagasaki Conference. They were rather opposed to the propagation of the ideals of non-violent NCO (non-co-operation).’’ p. 361, [25]

Rashbehari becomes unequivocal in a letter that he had written to Subhas  on 25.1.38 from Tokyo. In this letter that was not meant for public consumption, he ridiculed the fetish for non-violence expressed through self-deceiving sanctimonious phrases, and emphasized the import of developing military prowess. Ironically, the letter never made it to Subhas, as it was intercepted by the British intelligence pp. 253-257, [1] [11]: “At present the Congress is passing through a crisis. It is now a constitutional organization and cooperating with the government. In a subject country no constitutional and legal organization can ever secure freedom, because the constitution or law is framed by the rulers for their own benefit and interest. Only unconstitutional or illegal organisations from the British point of view can lead the country to independence. The Congress became an unconstitutional body at the time of civil disobedience movement and hence it could do immense work. At present it has reverted to its past position of a harmless body. There is practically speaking no difference between the Congress and Moderate parties. I do not understand why Congressmen in the past criticized Sir Surendranath Banerji when he accepted office. Congressmen at present are doing exactly what Sir Surendranath Banerji and other Moderates did at the time of the last so-called Reforms. Rather, credit should be given to the Moderates of that time for their demand for a general amnesty  to all political prisoners. Now only a limited number of political prisoners have been released, at that time all the political prisoners were immediately pardoned and released. What is now wanted for the Congress to lead the country correctly is to have a revolutionary mentality. It is now an evolutionary body. It must be made a pure revolutionary body. When the whole body is poisoned, applying medicine on certain parts will be of no use.

The fetish of non-violence should be discarded, and the creed should be changed. Let us attain our goal through `all possible means: violence or non-violence’. The non-violence atmosphere is simply making Indians womanly men. No nation in the present world should think of non-violence, if it wants to exist as a self-respecting member of the world. Our difficulty had been the `other worldliness’ dinned into our ears for such a long period. The idea should be completely removed. Instead of `other worldliness’ we should have `this worldliness’ first as Swami Vivekananda preached. Daridra Narayans should be fed, clothed and sheltered first. Let them have the enjoyment of the world first. Then we can talk of heaven. ….The Congress should devote attention to only one aspect, ie, military preparedness. Might is still the right. This we must remember. Its no use deceiving ourselves by sanctimonious phrases. The Congress should agitate for control of the army first, all branches of the army. Education, sanitation, etc., can never make us free. Strength is the real need. You should concentrate your whole energy on this point. I think, Dr. Moonje has done much more than the Congress by establishing his military school. Indians should first of all be the masters of the army. They must secure the right to bear arms…..I again stress the point “Let us have control over the army, navy and air-force and let British rule India in other Departments.”

Much earlier, during his flight from India, when Rashbehari’s ship had halted at Singapore, he had gone to tour the city along with a Japanese fellow-traveler. In his memoirs, he has described how his fellow-traveler took pride in pointing to him the Japanese warship that was then guarding Singapore. The humiliation of slavery was then reinforced in Rashbehari’s psyche – tears rolled down his cheeks realizing that India did not have a single warship of her own due to 160 years of subjection to imperial rule. p. 23, [4].

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]E[/dropcap]ven after the outbreak of the European component of the second world war (but before Japan entered the war), Rashbehari sought to send arms to India for starting an armed revolution. The Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Center (CSDIC (I)) has reported that “On one occasion Bose suggested to H/1459 (Anand Mohan Sahay) that they should obtain arms from the Japanese and send them to India. H/1459 did not agree because he did not think that arms would serve any useful purpose under the conditions which existed in India and in absence of any organized nation-wide revolutionary party. He argued that Congress was the only organized national body in India and that it could never welcome such a move. He told R.B. Bose that if Japan was prepared to help India with arms there must be some ulterior motive, but agreed that provided Japan had no territorial or selfish design on India, and that India was in a position to sustain a nation-wide armed revolution, the proposal would bear consideration. Bose suggested that he had friends in India with whom he could communicate and whom he could interest in project. He claimed that the Japanese authorities might also agree to give an undertaking that they had no ulterior motives in helping India. Bose refused to divulge the names of his friends in India and Japan through whom he hoped to secure all this.’’ p. 394, [25] The Indian political groups in Japan could not agree on this proposal p. 394, [25], so likely it did not move ahead any further. We can make educated guesses as to who Rashbehari’s friends in India were, he had corresponded with his close revolutionary comrade Sachindranath Sanyal in 1922, pp. 132-133, [22], Sanyal was outside prison between 1937 and 1939, until the start of the second world war. In 1920-21, Rashbehari had written to close friend and revolutionary comrade, Srish Chandra Ghose, p. 576, [10] and an ongoing contact between them is also mentioned in a British note dated 11 March, 1933 p. 32, [21]. After the start of the second world war, Rashbehari had written to Srish, urging that the Indian revolutionaries send an important leader to Japan, preferably Subhas, p. 160, [6].  One can easily see why Rashbehari would not reveal the names of his contacts to Sahay, who was closely connected to the Congress. The Hindu-German conspiracy that Rashbehari led was powered by the Ghadar revolutionaries inspired by Lala Hardayal then residing in U.S. He died six months before the second world war, on March 4, 1939. His friend Lala  Hanamant Sahay suspected it to be poisoning p. 452, [16]. His daughter Shanti Narain also believed that there was foul play – she said: “it was all so sudden – he was alright when he went to bed but was found dead in the morning’’ p. 271, [12]   Despite Rashbehari’s  caution, Britain likely got wind of his plans, the information that he was trying to send arms through his friends in India would be enough to warn them.  Right  after the start of the second world war, in 1939, Sachindranath  Sanyal was arrested on the charge of attempting armed revolution in India and conspiring with Japan to bring in arms towards that end (editor’s note, [22]). Sanyal contracted tuberculosis in Dewali jail and died in Gorakhpur jail on 7th February, 1942 (incidentally, it is quite simple to deliberately infect prisoners with tuberculosis in jail, confining them in the same cell with another patient usually accomplishes that end given how contagious the disease is). Srish passed away on 2nd May 1941, again in the period in which Rashbehari was seeking to send arms, reportedly he committed suicide by consuming opium p. 55, [4].

As to Subhas’  views on the path to freedom, British Intelligence reports Subhas’ interview in Bucharest on May 9, 1934, as: “Asked whether the Nationalist Movement considered that all means, even Revolutionary means, would be justified in the achievement of its objectives, Mr. Bose replied Yes, all methods for getting rid of the English are justified, even revolution and violence. Of course, a revolutionary uprising would not serve the purpose today. At the moment we believe that we shall achieve a great deal of what we want by parliamentary methods’’ ‘’p. 35, [7].  As per British Intelligence, in Subhas’  interview in the Dimineatsa newspaper of Romania on May 15, 1934, “when asked whether his [Bose’s]  party advocated violent action, he replied that every method was good, even force, which led to freeing India from British rule; though for the moment he thought that improvements would be obtained by Parliamentary action’’ p. 39, [7].

Like Rashbehari, Subhas   was also acutely conscious of the role the  armed forces play in the political growth of a nation. In his Presidential address in February, 1938,  “he had spoken as follows: Her [Britain’s] phenomenal rise in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries was the result of her sea power. Her decline as an empire in the twentieth century will be the outcome of the emergence of a new factor in world history-Air Force. It was due to this new factor, Air Force, that an impudent Italy could successfully challenge a fully mobilised British Navy in the Mediterranean. Britain can rearm on land, sea and air, up to the utmost limit. Battleships may still stand up to bombing from the air, but air force as a powerful element in modern warfare has come to stay. Distances have been obliterated, and despite all anti-aircraft defences, London lies at the mercy of any bombing squadron from a continental centre, In short, air force has revolutionised modern warfare, destroyed the insularity of Great Britain and rudely disturbed the balance of power in world politics. The clay feet of a gigantic empire now stand exposed as these have never been before’’ p. 8, [1] .   

Gandhi had  also expressed his dogmatic insistence on non-violence as follows:  “My love for non-violence is superior to every other thing mundane or supermundane. It is equaled only by my love for truth which is to me synonymous with non-violence through which and which alone I can see and reach Truth.’’ p. 125, [20]. He added “ If India makes violence her creed, and I have survived, I would not care to live in India. She will cease to evoke any pride in me. My patriotism is subservient to my religion. I cling to India like a child to its mother’s breast, because I feel that she gives me the spiritual nourishment I need.’’ p.139, [20]. Then, on 9-6-20, “I do not believe in armed risings. They are a remedy worse than the disease sought to be cured. They are a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. The method of violence cannot do good in the long run.’’ pp. 391-392, [27]  Even while paying tribute to Bhagat Singh and his comrades, after their martyrdom, Gandhi was categorical: “This country must not be liberated through bloodshed.’’  pp. 292-293, [9].  His confidant G. D. Birla had communicated to the Home member, Sir Henry Craik, on 30th June, 1935, that “Swaraj attained through violence is no good to him [Gandhi]. He attaches more importance to non-violence than even to Swaraj. His nearest lieutenants believe in his policy.’’  pp. 132-133, [2]. (It is of course another matter that in contrast to what he said above Gandhi had no doctrinaire opposition to violence as he had supported the Khilafat agitation with the full knowledge that they had not eschewed violence and he had also recruited soldiers for the British during the first world war. He insisted on non-violence only by the Hindus and in their freedom struggle against the British or defense against violence perpetrated by Islamist rioters [5]).

Gandhi’s views on the role of military were also in stark contrast to the two Boses. He had expressed his views in his book `Indian Home Rule’ in form of a conversation between a reader and an editor, the latter being Gandhi himself  p.3, [13].  We provide relevant extracts:

EDITOR [Gandhi]: Supposing we get Self-Government similar to what the Canadians and the South Africans have, will it be good enough?

READER: That question also is useless. We may get it when we have the same powers; we shall then hoist our own flag. As is Japan, so must India be. We must own our navy, our army, and we must have our own splendour, and then will India’s voice ring through the world.

EDITOR [Gandhi]:You have drawn the picture well. In effect it means this: that we want English rule without the Englishman. You want the tiger’s nature, but not the tiger; that is to say, you would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan but Englistan. This is not the Swaraj that I want. pp. 255, [14], pp.3, [13].

So Gandhi did not want a Swaraj where India would have her own navy and army.

In an interview with the Daily Express  on 15/09/1921, he said,

Q: Are you anxious to take over the whole control of the Army at once, or would you make an exception of that subject?

A: I think we are entirely ready to take up the whole control of the Army which means practically disbanding three-fourths of it. I would keep just enough to police India. 

Q: If the Army were reduced to that extent, do you not apprehend anything aggressive from the frontier territories?

A: No.

Q: My information derived from military sources, is that there are over half-a-million armed men on the frontier?

A: You are right, I agree.  These tribes have frequently attacked India hitherto.

Q: Why hitherto? Why do you think they will refrain from doing so when India possesses Home Rule?

A: In the first instance, the world’s views have changed and secondly the preparations that are now made in Afghanistan are really in support of the Khilafat. But when the Khilafat question is out of the way, then the Afghan people will not have any design on India. The warrior tribes who live on loot and plunder are given lakhs of rupees as subsidy. I would also give them a little subsidy. When the charkha comes into force in India, I would introduce the spinning-wheel among the Afghan tribes also and thus prevent them from attacking the Indian territories. I feel that the tribesmen are in their own way God-fearing people.” pp. 231-232, [8]

As may be seen from the above ideas, Gandhi believed it was possible to pacify raiding tribes with his spinning wheels.

Justifiably indignant on Gandhi’s views on military, Subhas   had written on 31.10.1940 to his brother, Sarat Bose, from Presidency jail, that: “Gandhism will land free India in a ditch-if free India, is sought to be rebuilt on Gandhian, non-violent principles. India will then be offering standing invitation to all predatory powers.’’  p. 160, [15]. Rashbehari’s castigation of “fetish of non-violence’’, “other-worldliness’’, “deception through sanctimonious phrases’’ appear a direct criticism of Gandhi’s irrationality on non-violence and denunciation of military as a whole.

Section C: Freedom shall not arrive through social work

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]oth the Boses were certain that freedom can be attained through a combination of political and military struggle, and social work had little role to play in freedom fight, which stood in contrast to Gandhi’s stated position.

Rashbehari unequivocally stated in a letter that he had written to Subhas   on 25.1.38 from Tokyo that “Education, sanitation, etc., can never make us free.’’ pp. 253-257 [1]

Gandhi had on the other hand repeatedly professed  his faith on the intricate link between Swaraj (a fuzzy notion which mostly vacillated between Spiritual Swaraj, Dominion Status) and social work, or rather attaining Swaraj through social service rather than revolution: “I contend that the revolutionary method cannot succeed in India. …Warfare may give us another rule for the English rule, but not self-rule in terms of the masses.  The pilgrimage to Swaraj is a painful climb. It requires attention to details. It means vast organizing ability, it means penetration into the villages solely for the service of the villagers. In other words, it means national education i.e. education of the masses. It means an awakening of national consciousness among the masses….A bloody revolution will never perform the trick (21.5.1925) ’’ p. 372, [29] . On 28.6.28, he said “The sooner it is recognized that many of our social evils impede our march towards Swaraj, the greater will be our progress towards our cherished goal. To postpone social reform till after the attainment of Swaraj is not to know the meaning of Swaraj.’’ p. 182, [26]. On 25.5.21, he said: “we can never reach Swaraj, with the poison of untouchability corroding the Hindu part of the national body. Swaraj is a meaningless term, if we desire to keep a fifth of India under perpetual subjection, and deliberately deny to them the fruits of national culture.’’ p. 191, [28]. He had also conducted multiple fasts with the sole goal of removing untouchability. Notwithstanding his stated position on the import of education, he had called upon students to quit their educational institutions to strive for his ill-defined Swaraj in 1921. B. R. Ambedkar has also shown how Gandhi had materially substantially harmed the untouchables [26]; the sanctimony of his above priority may well have been directed towards defusing the demand for independence as also diverting resources from the freedom struggle towards innocuous social service.

Similar to Rashbehari, and before him, Subhas  had advocated single-minded focus on freedom struggle, and had in effect denounced the dilution of the movement for national liberation through digression towards social work. While assessing  the impact of Gandhi’s fast leading to Poona Pact and Gandhi’s  anti-untouchability campaign,  he said “While the Mahatma’s fast (in September 1932) had a remarkable effect on his countrymen, in the international sphere it did not prove to be an unmixed blessing. It served to advertise to a disproportionate degree the issue of the depressed classes. Hitherto the world had known only one issue relating to India – the political issue – India’s grievance against England. Now the leader of the Nationalist movement himself announced to the world that there was another issue – the internal issue – of such vital importance to India that he was prepared to stake his life for it. And British propagandists were not slow to take advantage of the opportunity. In September 1932, the whole of Europe was told that the Mahatma was fasting because he was against granting certain rights to the untouchables. Ever since then the European public have been constantly fed with stories that India is a land full of internal dissensions where not only Hindus and Moslems, but Hindus themselves, are perpetually fighting with one another and only the strong hand of Britain is able to maintain peace and order.

The fast had another unfortunate effect which proved to be more serious. It served to sidetrack a political movement at a time when all possible attention should have been devoted to it. If with termination of the fast the Mahatma had handed over the anti-untouchability work to friends outside, the effect of the fast would not have been so harmful. But when the leader himself began to conduct the anti-untouchability campaign from behind the prison-walls, what could his followers do ?….To make matters worse, when questions were put to him at this time as to whether political work should be done or social work, he gave replies that were rather confusing or he did not reply at all, which led people to think that he preferred social work to political. This lead of the Mahatma was naturally followed more by his blind followers and by those who were tried of repeated suffering and imprisonment and wanted a convenient excuse for giving up the political fight.

…One feels inclined to think that this sidetracking of the civil-disobedience movement was the result of that subjectism which seizes him at times and makes him utterly blind to and oblivious of objective realities. Ever since the Round Table Conference, he had begun to ponder so deeply over the depressed classes problem that the other problems receded to the background for the time being. Whatever the real explanation may be, there is no doubt that the fast served to sidetrack the civil-disobedience movement and cause a diversion of men, money and public enthusiasm to the anti-untouchability (or ‘Harijan’) campaign at a time when the position of the  Congress, vis-a-vis the Government, was none too strong. The effect was the same as it would be if in the middle of a battle a general gave the order to his troops to start excavating a canal in order to supply water to the thirsty people of the countryside.’’ pp. 276-277 [3]


[1] Subhas Chandra Bose, Congress President, Speeches, Articles, and Letters January 1938-May 1939 , Collected Works of Netaji, Vol. 9, edited by Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugato Bose

[2] G D Birla, “ In the Shadow of the Mahatma’’

[3] Subhas Chandra Bose “Indian Struggle’’

[4] Rashbeharir Atma-katha O dushprapya Rachana, edited by Amal Kumar Mitra

[5] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, and Dikgaj, “Did Mahatma Gandhi really oppose violence?’’

[6] Uma Mukherjee, “Two Great Indian Revolutionaries – Rash Behari Bose and Jyotindra Nath Mukherjee’’

[7] Nanda Mookherjee: Subhas Chandra Bose: The British Press, Intelligence and Parliament

[8] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Interview to `Daily Express’, 15/09/1921.

[9] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh’s Condolence speech,

[10] Rash Behari Basu – His Struggle for India’s Independence, Editor in chief, Radhanath Rath, Editor Sabitri Prasanna Chatterjee, Biplabi Mahanayak Rash Behari Basu Smarak Samiti

[11] Appendix to `Two Revolutionaries, Rashbehari and Subhas – A Meeting of Minds,

[12] Emily Brown, “Lala Hardayal, Indian Rationalist and Revolutionary’’

[13] Sir C. Sankaran Nair, “Gandhi and Anarchy”, 1922.

[14] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Home Rule,

[15] Subhas Chandra Bose, The Alternate Leadership, Speeches, Articles, Statements and Letters, June 1939-1941, Netaji Collected Works, Vol. 10

[16] M. L. Verma, “Swadhinta Sangram Ke Krantikari Sahitya Ka Itihas, Vol. 2’’

[17] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, “Netaji’s Modernism Versus Gandhi’s Spiritual Swaraj’’

[18] Subhas Chandra Bose, India’s Spokesman Abroad, Netaji Collected Works, Vol. 8, Letters, Articles, Speeches and Statements, 1933-1937,    pp. 240-263

[19] Jeck Joy, Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj “The legend of Rashbehari Bose and the forgotten Hindu-German conspiracy’’

[20] All men are Brothers, Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as Told in his Own Words, Compiled and Edited by Krishna Kripalani,  Introduction by Sarvepelli Radhakrishnan

[21] Sailendra Nath Sen “Chandernagore – From Bondage to Freedom,’’ 1900-1955

[22] Sachindranath Sanyal, “Bandi Jiban’’

[23] Saswati Sarkar, Jeck Joy, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, “Rashbehari Bose’s second war from East Asia – battleground Japan and Singapore’’

[24] T. R. Sareen, “Indian National Army – A documentary study,’’ Volume 4,   1944-45

[25] T. R. Sareen, “Indian National Army – A documentary study,’’ Volume 5,   1944-45

[26] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, THE DOOM OF PURDAH,


[28] ibid, THE SIMLA VISIT,



Saswati Sarkar is a professor in the electrical and systems engineering department of the University of Pennsylvania. She authors articles on socio-politics and history of India. Her articles on topics other than those related to her professional expertise are expressed in personal capacity.

Shanmukh is an engineering academic in North America, focussing on time frequency analysis, medical image analysis & computer vision.His hobby interests include modern Indian history, Sanskrit and demographics.

Dikgaj is an academic mathematician with research interests in game theory, computer science and quantitative applications in humanities, and blogs on history of subcontinent and politics of religion, imperialism, current affairs.
Saswati Sarkar and others


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