125th Anniversary of a Hero Netaji, from Kolkata to Canberra

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Ipsita Ganguli

In the summer night of 1980s, I heard about Subash Chandra Bose. The story teller was no one other than Gajomoti Halder, matriarch of our large patrilineal joint family and my grand mother. She lived in West Bengal. She believed in one and only son of the soil: Subash Chandra Bose or SC Bose, also known as Netaji. For her, he was a true warrior. A warrior who fought for the ‘united states’ of India and her freedom but couldn’t stop the structured killings, bloodiest communal violence and torturing of women in mid-October of 1946.  She loved how Subash Chandra Bose never sent apologies to British Raj for his courageous endeavour in attaining  freedom.

During this time, the word freedom did not have much relevance for British Raj who was busy extracting many trillions of dollars from India just like past foreign invaders who came, ruled, stayed or left India.

Who was  Subash Chandra Bose?

In 1938, Kolkata was the Indian city, where  Indian Chamber of Commerce had the privilege of hosting an afternoon party. It was a very special event. It was for a special guest and his name was with Subash Chandra Bose. His pioneering thoughts for freedom of India, still echo through the corridors of Indian Chamber of Commerce.

In 1942, Subash Chandra Bose was know to Australia, according to Dr Peter Stanley who wrote about Indian National Army on “Great in adversity”: Indian prisoners of war in New Guinea. Just as  S. Woodburn Kirby’s British official history, “The war against Japan”, highlighted Indian National Army with details of Indians  held in Hong Kong, Burma, Singapore, Malaya, Sumatra and British and Dutch Borneo. At the end of the war nearly 6,000 Indians were recovered in Australian New Guinea too. And I cannot be more proud of Australia’s role in looking after those Indian soldiers before they headed home.

On 4th November, 1943, Subash Chandra Bose met the Japanese Emperor as royal guest at the palace where representatives from China, Manchuria, Thailand, Philippines and Burma were also present.  Subash Chandra Bose wrote an article titled ‘Free India and her Problems’ which was first published in the German periodical Wille und Macht in August 1942 and reprinted in Azad Hind, the official publication of the Free India Centre in Berlin.

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He was a top left-winger in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s All-India National Congress, twice Party President and persistent threat to Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership. He was sentenced eleven times to British jails but escaped British India. He was  supported  by the Axis powers of Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, the Italian Social Republic, and their allies.

Being considered the  first Prime Minister of India, when the provisional government was also formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, Subash Chandra Bose was the commander of Indian National Army( INA) which comprised prisoners of war and formed on foreign soil fight for India’s freedom. He also formed  Azad Hind Government and the Azad Hind Bank. Incorporated women in Indian National Army which included Captain Lakshmi headed the women’s organisation and S A Ayer headed of publicity wing.

Celebration Continues

In early 2021, after a long silence on the contributions of  Subash Chandra Bose, Indian President Kovind unveiled his portrait at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi to mark the beginning of a year-long celebrations to commemorate his 125th birth anniversary. At the same time Indian Prime Minister (PM) Modi visited the legend’s home city of Kolkata to pay his respect. Indian Union Ministry of Culture had also decided to rename Subhash Chandra Bose Jayanti as ‘Parakram Diwas’ that was celebrated on January 23. Continuing the government’s effort to revive the legacy of Subash Chandra Bose, Prime Minister Modi said , “The India of today will not forget the people who in the name of writing history have done a disservice to the people who (Subhash Chandra Bose) shaped history. India of today is making the amendments now.”

In the Indian city of Kolkata, cyclists celebrated the day as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Legend Great Escape Route Ride – Parakram Day Ride which included Rash Behari Avenue, Netaji Bhawan in Elgin Road, Harission Road and  Central Avenue.

Netaji’s epic life is celebrated by author Sugata Bose in his book His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire as a giant in world history. According to Ramesh Thakur, The Australian, “Those wishing to learn about the life and times of Netaji will finish the book with their curiosity deeply satisfied.”

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Indian High Commission, Canberra, Australia  also paid tributes  to revolutionary founder of Azad Hind Fauj & charismatic freedom fighter Netaji Subash Chandra Bose on social media.

According to Perth based Supria Guha’s Facebook update , on 23/01,  NRI Rising Club celebrated India’s jackbooted hero Subash Chandra Bose’s birthday in Kings Park War Memorial Garden in Western Australia . They picked up this special occasion as their first celebration since their incorporation. This is the very first time, I have ever heard about any Australian celebrations of this great man. In Halder Bari, Sydney, Australia,  we celebrated 125th Anniversary of Netaji  with prayers, while others  celebrated the great Hero with social media updates from across the globe.

“Give me Compassion

And I will give you Freedom”

They have gone, you know

Those you fought against

They are now far away

75 years till this day

We live with Freedom now

Our borders defined

Our flag flying high

Our National pride

And yet

For those whom you laid your life

Your Bharat Mata

You worshiped Her ,and so do I

I wonder does She still cry?

To see her own children

Kill one another

How does She feel, O Mother?

Does She feel chained

When She sees the disdain

Blatant distortions and lies

And personal arrogance reign!

And although they have gone

And We remain

Have We in our carelessness

Our own goodness undone?

Satyam Shivam Sunderam

In a country that worships truth

What exactly is our vision

What are we leaving for our youth?

O Netaji, brave leader

You fought for a cause

Now we are left with Freedom

The Freedom, that was

The Freedom that we must build

The Freedom that transcends

The Freedom from hunger

The Freedom from disdain

The Freedom from narrow lies

And aggrandisement et all

The Freedom of knowledge

The Freedom to breakdown walls

In this Nation of a million creeds

Of races, castes and proceeds

May everyone be truly free

From pettiness and misery

May our Freedom bring us your spirit

The spirit to stand tall

United in our actions

With Compassion as our Freedom call