Each one of us has a hero whom we cherish in our heart of hearts, whom we seek to emulate and look upon as our ideal guide. Some idolise the victorious general; some worship the man of action—the statesman, some the social reformer, some admire the poet. There are many Youngman who seek to imitate a Don Bradman or a Marco Polo or Tensing Norkey. Ideals vary, altitudes differ.
My hero is the great Indian, the patriot of patriots — Subhas Chandra Bose. For me he embodies the highest qualities that a man might possess. He effectively combined in him the noblest ideals with vigorous zeal for planned action and reconstruction. A review of his career reads like a legend; it seems unbelievable that a man so adventurous, so regardless of consequences, so much dedicated and yet so intensely practical, should have arisen in this beloved land of ours. "The elements" were —
So mixed in him that feature might stand up.
And say to all the world, This was a man'.
Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Cuttack on January 23, 1897—younger son of well-to-do parents. Subhas's father sent his children to be educated at the local European School. Though he liked the school, his mind was too Indian to be comfortable there. Soon he obtained a transfer to the Indian School,—the Ravenshaw School from where he matriculated in 1913, and standing second in order of merit in Calcutta University.
But even when a student of Calcutta Presidency College, he once managed to escape from his home, and wandered over northern India in quest of spiritual illumination or answer the call of the Himalayas. On his return home he was sent back to the Presidency College of Calcutta to complete his studies.
A clash with an arrogant European teacher, Prof Oaten, led to his expulsion from the college. However, he graduated with First Class Honours in Philosophy in 1919, and was sent to England to qualify for the Indian Civil Service. Subhas stood fourth at the ICS examination, scoring highest marks in English. But by that time the Non-Co-Operation Movement under Gandhiji's leadership, started. Subhas's burning patriotism did not allow him to take service. He reported himself to Gandhiji for instructions. Gandhi sent him to Deshbandhu.
C. R. Das cast his spell on Subhas almost immediately. He entered the Non-Co-Operation Movement heart and soul. For the few years that C. R. Das lived, Subhas was his right-hand man. He suffered imprisonment. On his release, Deshbandhu, as Mayor of Calcutta Corporation, appointed Subhas the Chief Executive Officer.
Subhas displayed his administrative capacity and wonderful organising ability. But by now he had formed connections with the secret revolutionary societies and for the next three years he was in detention without trial in Mandalay Jail. He was the leader most dreaded by the British Government. It was he who, in opposition to Gandhiji, openly declared in 1928 that India's goal should be independence.
In those days, Jawaharlal Nehru and he usually worked together as the young leaders of the left-wing group in the Congress. In 1938 he became President of the Congress at Haripura and warned the leaders of the impending war in Europe. He was the old Irish-ery — 'England's difficulty was our opportunity.' He also initiated schemes of National Planning for modernising India's economic life. To Gandhi this step was not congenial for this rural economy scheme. So Gandhiji next year opposed Subhas's re-election. But such was Subhas's popularity that he was re-elected Congress President. The other Congress leaders, the old guards, however, non-co-operated with him and he had to resign the President ship of the Congress in April-May, 1939.
Subhas Bose now formed a party, the Forward Bloc, to combat the moderate policy and programme of the Congress. He headed a successful movement for the removal of the Black Hole Monument of Holwell in Calcutta, in 1940. He was imprisoned but after a few months was released, following his hungerstrike in the Presidency Jail, on parole, in January, 1941 on grounds of ill-health. And then the world war started by the news that Subhas Bose had escaped. It was subsequently revealed that disguised as a Pathan he made his way to Kabul and from Kabul he went to Germany via Russia.
In Germany, Subhash set about organizing an armed revolt in India. From Germany he was, transported to Japan in a submarine. From Japan he went to Singapore and soon got into touch with the Indian officers and soldiers who had been taken prisoners by the Japanese after the humiliating retreat by the British army. Aided and inspired by Raahbehari Bose, the great revolutionary, Subhas organized these prisoners of war into a disciplined national army, to enter India and led an armed revolt against the British.
The Japanese possibly could not give Netaji Subhas, then Head of the Azad Hind Army, all the help that he needed. Subhas was able to penetrate only up to the hills of Manipur and hoisted the National Flag of India at Mairang field in April, 1944. He had expected national help and uprising as soon as he set his foot on Indian soil but the British kept Subhas' activities a well-guarded secret. Very soon want of food and weapons compelled Netaji to withdraw. Subhas left Singapore in a Japanese plane on August 16, 1945. Two days later, on August 18, India was stunned to learn that the plane had crashed at Taihaku in Formosa (Tiwan) and Subhas was dead. Since then, years have passed, the mystery of the air-crash has not been satisfactorily explained even by the two Committees appointed by the Union Government. The balance of evidence inclines to the belief that the air-crash was a hoax.
So ended the meteoric career of one of our countrymen unanimously 'Netaji — the Leader. Those last years of his life made him immortal. He showed the qualities of leadership and flair for organization that he possessed. He was the leader not of the Hindus or Muslims, but of Indians. Gandhiji regarded Subhas as the prince patriot and asked all to emulate his principle of communal harmony. It has been acknowledged by all that Netaji's Azad Hind Army might have failed in the battlefield and yet hastened the independence of India by stimulating the Indian army under the British with burning patriotism. It is also felt our country would not have been divided had Subhas returned. That is why he is my most favourite hero.
It was he who looked forward to a Pan-Asiatic unity as the need of the hour. Finally, Netaji was the first to show what frightened the British most, since the Sepoy Mutiny (1857), what an Indian Army, led by Indian officers, could do. All these have left their mark in history and indelibly on my mind.