Recent allegations about a newly independent India under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru snooping on the kin of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is what conspiracy theorists and spin doctors needed to push their agenda — that Netaji was a greater patriot than Pandit Nehru. The “see-I-told-you” band of people, some of them public intellectuals, have kept the media and political circles abuzz with all sorts of activity ever since.
Every day, someone or the other claims to know what really happened to Bose and blames Pandit Nehru and the Congress for it. Any narrative or opinion that runs contrary to this new perception is immediately denounced as a work of traitors. However, Bose’s admirers conveniently ignore his Faustian treaty with Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan.
Netaji Bose, by his own admission in his book, “Indian Struggle” (published in 1935 in London), believed India needed a political system that was a mix of fascism and communism — something that he called samyavad. Netaji made a special trip to Rome in 1935 to present a copy of his book to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, whom he greatly admired and whose ideals he would follow for the rest of his life. Bose’s reactionary views naturally brought him into conflict with the pacifist leaders of Congress, most notably Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. But the friction didn’t happen in 1935, it happened much earlier.
Bose had organized the annual session of the Indian National Congress in 1928 in Calcutta. There, he organized a guard of honour in full military style—over 2,000 volunteers were drilled in military fashion and organized into battalions; half of them wore military uniforms with “officers” wearing metal epaulettes. For himself, Bose got a senior British military officer’s dress tailored by Calcutta-based British firm, Harman’s, complemented by an aiguillette and a field marshal’s baton; he also assumed the title of general officer commanding, much to the chagrin of Gandhi, who described the whole thing as ‘Bertram Mills circus’. But Bose’s love for militarism continued just like his love for a good show.
In 1938, at the 51st session of the Congress at Haripura, Bose was the president. He organized for himself a grand ceremony that was no less than a victory march of a triumphant ancient Indian king returning from digvijaya. He supposedly entered the venue in a chariot drawn by 51 bullocks, accompanied by 51 girls in saffron saris, after a two-hour procession through 51 gates that also had 51 brass bands playing. He would do similar shows in Southeast Asia when he came to the helm of Indian National Army and Indian Independence League.
In October 1943, Bose announced the formation of the Provisional Government of Free India (Arzi Hukumat-i-Azad Hind). He arbitrarily assumed the titles of head of state, prime minister, and minister for war and foreign affairs — the first he intended to keep when India was liberated. He demanded total submission and fealty from Indians everywhere; anybody who opposed him, his army or government could be executed (some accounts suggest many were indeed tortured or executed on orders of Bose or with his knowledge).
The INA’s proclamation put this into writing: “If any person fails to understand the intentions of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and the Indian National Army, or of our Ally, the Nippon Army, and dares to commit such acts as are itemized hereunder which would hamper the sacred task of emancipating India, he shall be executed or severely punished in accordance with the Criminal Law of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and the Indian National Army or with the Martial Law of the Nippon Army.”