Netaji Subhas Precipitated British Departure
The freedom struggle was initiated by lawye and others who had faith in a constitutional path. Argue, oppose, debate and persuade until the British rulers conceded some power to Indians. M.A. Jinnah, long before he became a separatist Muslim leader, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale epitomized this parliamentry approach which helped to bring about the Government of India Act of 1909 and later that of 1919.
M.K. Gandhi introduced satyagraha and took the agitation to the streets whether of cities, towns or villages. It was a unique innovation and attracted a great deal of public attention. Subhas Bose was impatient and eventually preferred to treat the enemy's enemy as a friend, namely Japan. A fourth approach was through the medium of communal rioting which Jinnah, in his new avatar, called Direct Action of 1946.
A comparison between Gandhi and Bose is especially interesting. Who did what and did how much to make the British quit India? Their equation was essentially adversarial. British author Michael Brecher has criticised the practitioner of
satyagraha for having pushed out the exponent of freedom by any means. To quote : of all the participants only Gandhi had a clear and consistent object � to oust Bose.
(Nehru: A political Biography, page 245). Historian Michael Edwardes wrote that Gandhi whom so many in India and abroad believed to be only sweetness and light, had by the use of his overwhelming prestige and the sort of intrigue one would expect from the Tammany Hall, succeeded in disposing of only real opposition to his leadership.
(The Last Years of British India, page 67).
Bose's radical agenda did not suit Gandhi who opposed him for seeking reelection as president of the Congress in 1939. Nevertheless, in the polls that followed, Gandhi's candidate, Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya, was defeated. The Mahatma could not stomach his candidate's defeat.
In his book, The Springing Tiger, historian Hugh Toye has written: Bose's popular mandate as president of the Congress in 1939 was denied by intrigue, intrigue not only against him but against the very democracy which had elected him.
There is no doubt that but for Gandhi the masses of India might not have become aware, for many more years, about the importance of independence. His genius at mass contact was unprecedented. When he started his movement, there were comparatively few highways and long distance land travel was confined to railways. there was no radio until 1927. In any case, the influential media was in the hands of the British. Yet, with the help of charkha and khadi, he was able to communicate with even the illiterate villagers what freedom could bring for them. In a matter of a few years, he was able to electrify the atmosphere with the need for
So far, so good. However, Gandhi's contribution in precipitating the departure of the British was very limited. The British evidently understood the barrister's ways, however unconventional they were. They knew how to deal with his agitation and keep him at bay without taking any harsh measures. In any case, Gandhi himself was not in any undue hurry. His concern for early independence was not as great as his anxiety to outwit Qaid-e-Azam and prevent the partition. This is evident from the fifteen day talks that he had held with Jinnah at Malabar Hill, Bombay, during September 1944. The talks between the two leaders have been recorded by their correspondence which has been published.
The Quit India call of August 1942 and the incarceration of leaders in its aftermath consisted of the last phase of the Congress agitation against the British. On the other hand, the impact of the Indian National Army, or the
Azad Hind Fauj, founded and led by Bose had a telling effect on the psyche of the British rulers; not because the INA had proved to be a substantial military threat but because it was a living proof that soldiers who had sworn loyalty to the Crown could go back on their vow. The secret of the British rule had been that only about a hundred thousand expatriates could control and direct the 40 crore people empire. The rest of the officials were Indian. What Netaji's INA did was to shake the British confidence in the continuing loyalty of not only the defence forces but also the civilian machinery. The British fears were confirmed when men of the Indian Navy mutinied at Bombay in 1946.
Netaji Subhas's action thus hit the Achilles, heel of the foreign rulers. They took it as a clear message that it was time to pack their bags and go home.
So then, Gandhi awake ended the Indian masses to the value of being free and stirred their souls to demand independence. But it was Netaji Bose who precipitated the British departure. This achievement of the springing tiger has not enjoyed the highlight it deserves. True, as mentioned above, Gandhi had gone out of his way to disapprove of both his revolutionary methods and his philosophy that ends justify the means. Nevertheless, Jawaharlal Nehru fear that Bose might not have been killed in the reported air crash at Taipeh on 17 August, 1945. Perhaps the Bengal Tiger return to compete for his power and popularity. In the bargain, Nehru made it his party's as well as government's policy to underplay the legend of
Independence not only meant a great deal to India but it also set off a chain of decolonisation across Asia as well as Africa. In the wake of their decision to quit India, the British rulers evidently carried the policy of withdrawal to most of their other colonial possessions. Be it Ceylon in the south to Ghana in the west. The trend of decolonisation soon spread to other European imperialists, namely the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in West Africa, Belgians in Congo and, in due course, Portugese gave up Angola and Mozambique. In all, 42 countries became independent after India became free in 1947.