Title: Bose: An Indian Samurai; Author: Maj Gen G.D. Bakshi; Publisher: Knowledge World; Pages: 384; Price: Rs.980.
As an iconic figure, Netaji Bose has a few parallels or peers anywhere. He continues to exercise such a mesmeric hold on the collective psyche of the nation that the air crash which allegedly killed him might have never happened.
But the latest take on the popular leader, “Bose: An Indian Samurai,” authored by Maj Gen G.D. Bakshi, debunks the theory and assesses his role as a military leader, based on 10 years of exhaustive research.
Enough has been said and written about Bose as a political stalwart and as a radical. But it is only in the fitness of things that an experienced military commander like Gen Bakshi undertakes the task of highlighting the strategic role played by the Indian National Army (INA) in our independence.
In bitterly fought campaigns across Burma, Imphal and Kohima, the INA performed creditably and under tremendous odds with their Japanese counterparts. These two theatres have been described as the most significant of the historic World War II battles fought by the British, matching Stalingrad in sheer scale and ferocity.
Gen Bakshi attributes Bose’s exemplary leadership with inspiring a fierce loyalty and patriotic fervour among his military cadres; so much so that they rose above their religious and linguistic identities to act as a single entity, motivated by national pride and a spirit of sacrifice.
A contention seconded by none other than one of Bose’s closest military aides and later envoy to Canada, the late Colonel Mahoob Ahmed, in an interview with “The Illustrated Weekly of India”. He emphatically declared that had he had 100 lives, he would have willingly sacrificed each of them for the sake of his beloved leader.
“An Indian Samurai” makes a number of startling revelations. Even with the stakes heavily loaded against the Japanese-INA forces in terms of numbers, firepower, logistics and supplies, they mounted attack after attack on the British, which unnerved them. These formations displayed extraordinary levels of battlefield resilience and morale. Though virtually decimated, these units suffered “no mass surrenders . . . no crumbling of morale,” the author observes.
What is more, they retained their combat cohesion and managed to retreat to the Chindwin, only to undergo a twin assault from disease and starvation, which took a heavy toll.
In the viciously fought campaigns with the British, the INA lost 26,000 men out of its strength of 60,000. These martyrs became the role models for more than two million conscripts, who practically hailed from the same villages and formed the backbone of the British Army. Their loyalty could now no longer be taken for granted and became a decisive factor in the British quitting India.
Even though the Japanese reported that Bose had died in an air crash on August 18, 1945, the latest lot of declassified files released in March 2016 indicate that he had indeed made three radio broadcasts long after the date of his alleged crash, namely, on December 26, 1945, January 1, 1946 and in February 1946.
“The air crash theory is full of gaping holes, yet the Nehruvian government went to inordinate lengths to prove that Bose had indeed died in that air crash,” writes Gen Bakshi.
(Shudip Talukdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)