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Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – Early Life of the Fearless Socialist Authoritarian

Read about Netaji's leadership of the Indian National Army or the Azad Hind Fauj here.

Subhash Chandra Bose, popularly referred to as Netaji (Respected Leader), was one of the prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement.  He led a national political and military force against the British powers during World War II.

He was born on January 23, 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa to Janakinath Bose and Prabhabati Devi, a Bengali family. He was the ninth child of a total of fourteen siblings. His early education was in an Anglo Indian school in Cuttack, followed by Ravenshaw Collegiate School and Presidency College, which he attended briefly. His nationalistic temperament came to light when he was expelled for assaulting Professor Oaten for his anti-India comments. Bose later topped the matriculation examination of Calcutta province in 1911 and passed his B.A. in 1918 in philosophy from the Scottish Church College under University of Calcutta.

Subhash Chandra Bose left India in 1919 for England with a promise to his father that he would appear in the Indian Civil Services Examination. He was selected in his first attempt, but he did not want to work under an alien rule. So he resigned and returned to India.  He studied in Fitzwilliam Hall of the University of Cambridge, and matriculated. He was later a non-collegiate student and studied Philosoe newspaper Swaraj. At that time he took charge of publicity for the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee. His mentor was Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das who was a spokesman for aggressive nationalism in Bengal. In the year 1923, he was elected the President of All India Youth Congress and also the Secretary of Bengal State Congress. He was also Editor of the newspaper "Forward", founded by Deshbandhu. Bose worked as the CEO of the municipal corporation of Calcutta for Das when the latter was elected mayor of Calcutta in 1924. In a roundup of nationalists in 1925, Bose was arrested and sent to prison in Mandalay.

In 1927, after being released from prison, Bose became general secretary of the Congress party and worked with Jawaharlal Nehru towards India’s independence. Bose was arrested and jailed again for civil disobedience. But upon his release, he emerged to become Mayor of Calcutta in 1930. During the mid-1930s Bose travelled to Europe, visiting Indian students and European politicians, including Mussolini. He observed party organization and saw communism and fascism in action. By 1938 he had become a leader of national stature and agreed to accept nomination as Congress president.

Netaji advocated complete unconditional independence (Purna Swaraj) for India, whereas the All-India Congress Committee wanted it in phases, through Dominion status. He was in favor of using force against the British. This meant a confrontation with Gandhiji and his ideals of non-violence. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi opposed Bose's presidency, splitting the Indian National Congress party. Bose appeared at the 1939 Congress meeting on a stretcher. He was elected president again over Gandhi's preferred candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. However, due to the politics of the Gandhi-led clique in the Congress Working Committee, Bose had to resign from the Congress presidency. His uncompromising stand finally cut him off from the mainstream of Indian nationalism. After that, Subhash Chandra Bose organized the Forward Bloc, aimed at consolidating the political left.

Despite his clear dislike for British subjugation of India, Bose was deeply impressed by their methodical and systematic approach and their steadfastly disciplinarian outlook towards life. In England, he exchanged ideas on the future of India with British Labour Party leaders and political thinkers. He came to believe that a free India needed socialist authoritarianism, on the lines of Turkey's Kemal Atatürk, for at least two decades. But Bose was refused permission by the British authorities to meet Mr. Atatürk at Ankara for political reasons.

With the outbreak of the second World War, Bose advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest against the British government’s decision to involve India in the war, without consulting the Congress leadership. He was once again sent to prison, but was released following a seven-day hunger strike. Bose's house in Calcutta was kept under surveillance by the British but he successfully escaped to Germany, leaving behind two pending court cases. A few days before his escape, he sought solitude and on this pretext avoided meeting British guards and grew a beard and on the night of his escape he dressed as a Pathan to avoid being identified. On January 19, 1941, Bose escaped from under British surveillance, accompanied by his nephew Sisir K. Bose in a car that is now at display at his Calcutta home.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – Early Life of the Fearless Socialist Authoritarian