Some rarely discussed episodes of Indian History

By Dipok Sarma

After the second world war broke out in Europe, in India an influential Bengali learder of Indian National Congress , Subhas Chandra Bose, was in house arrest in his home at Calcutta. In 1940 he deceived the British imperialist police and fled from India to Germany. The British colonial government were dismayed.

Subhas Bose travelled to the border of India and Afghanistan. Then he fled to Kabul where he contacted the German Embassy and from there he flew to Germany in a German plane. Bose was a courageous patriot. He thought my enemy's enemy was my friend. Although this thought had a logic, it was premature for him to know the character of Nazi Germany. He started broadcasting from Berlin radio in a programme called' I Subhas speaking". Many in India surreptitiously listened to his broadcasts, because listening to Berlin radio was illegal in India.

When Japan entered the war and became an ally of the Axis power, Subhas Bose was sent to Japan in a German submarine. Subhas Bose organised an Indian National Army of the surrendred army officials and army units of British Indian army. British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill hated the Bengalis so much to a large degree because of Subhas Bose. In1943, Bose with the help of his loyal Muslim League ministry in Bengal, intervened in a man made famine in Bengal. Although an enemy of Churchill, Bose then offered hundreds tons of rice to the famine starved people of his land. But Churchill refused. Then the Canadian Prime Minister offered food help to the people of Bengal. Churchill again declined.

In that famine of 1943 approximately three million people died. In Europe today people talk about six million Jew was murdered. But nobody talks about three million Bengali/Indian died from the famine in 1943.

In 1944, Subhas Bose's Indian National Army came to Indo-Burmese border and fought the British. But the atom bomb shortened the war. Japan had to surrender. It then became known that Subhas Bose died in a plane crash at that time. This is history. Notwithstanding his great patriotic act Subhas Bose chose the wrong side. That's what I think. On the other hand, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had the sagacity. When Hitler attacked Soviet Russia, in spite of all his differences with Stalin, Churchill supported the latter. Because he was farsighted and so he could realize that it would be the great advantage of Britain if Hitler's army bogged down in Russia.

I think Subhas Bose's patriotic call to fight the British confused India's national leaders. Therefore, being so mesmerised by Bose, they passed the disastrous 'Quit India' resolution in 1942. It was really not right at that moment when Hitler occupied a large part of Europe and in Asia his ally Japan was a dominating power, to ask British to leave India. Indeed, it was a dangerous idea.

I think Indian National Congress made a grave mistake. They should have supported the British war effort in India actively like Md Ali Zinna's Muslim League or Indian Communists. It was proper for a politician to support the allied power because they represented democracy. In August 1942 Indian National Congress leaders started their non-violent 'Quit India' movement and went to prison. It was really not right of the Congress leaders to spend their time in jail instead of remaining with the people during a critical period. I think that they made an unforgivable blunder.

Had they supported the British, the latter would have been grateful to Indian National Congress and would not have accepted the division of the country. But the former National leader and a patriot, Mohammed Ali Zinna, was a very clever lawyer and on the basis of his false two nation theory, i.e. Hindus and Muslims in India are two different nations , India was divided. But in reality they are the same people, they speak the same language and share a common culture; they only belong to two different religions. But for his party Muslim League 's active support to the British during the war enable Mohammed Ali Zinna to get British support.

Being grateful to the Muslim League, the British government tilted in favour of Zinna´s stance. In other words, in favour of the division of India and the creation of two states, India and Pakistan. Gandhi's last minute effort to keep India united went in vain. Two states, India and Pakistan, were created at a heavy cost. Millions of people became uprooted and died. Even long before independence, Hindu-Muslim riots took thousands of lives in the then undivided India. *

• 1. Poets, Poloitics & The People by V G Kiernan
• 2.The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen