Subhas Chandra Bose
"To my countrymen I say, forget not that the greatest curse for man is to remain a slave. Forget not that the grossest crime is to compromise with injustice and wrong. Remember the eternal law - you must give life, if you want to get it. And remember that the highest virtue is to battle against inequity, no matter what the cost may be."
Born on 23rd January 1897 in Cuttack in the federal state Orisa, Subhas Chandra Bose became one of the most controversial figures in Indian history during the 20th century.
The biggest impact Bose's dream of a Free India (AZAD HIND) had on philately were stamps never issued. They were designed by Axter Heudtlass, a renowned German artist, and produced in photo gravure by The German Printing House in Berlin. They were intended as charity labels for the benefit of the Indian Legion.
Bose disagreed strongly with Mahatma Ghandi about the latter's passive resistance policy, which Bose felt did not lead to the ultimate goal of expelling the British from India. As a result of his political standpoint he turned to more treacherous methods and until 1940 the British Government in India often imprisoned him. After a hunger-strike in 1941 he was finally released and left in secrecy for Kabul in Afghanistan from where he hoped to be able to go to Germany and obtain Hitler's support for India's liberation. The Nazis, welcoming any opportunity to create problems for England, negotiated with Stalin for permission to let the Indian rebel pass through the Soviet Union on his way to Germany -- this happened during the summer 1941 before the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Once in Germany Bose was granted permission to visit the POWs and was able to recruit a considerable number of men to form an Indian legion, the basis for the Indian National Army (INA). Neither Hitler nor Mussolini were prepared to support Bose in his work for liberating India, but gave him all the same their moral support. However, at this moment of history Hitler had an unclear agreement with Churchill that the latter could maintain "his" British Empire against giving Hitler free hands in Europe, so in reality Hitler put Bose off with talking.
The Indian leader had no wish to stay put in Germany, so with the dramatic change in the general situation caused by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the invasion of the Philippines and Malaya, he grabbed the opportunity and addressed the military attache in Berlin, major Yamamoto, with a wish to be transferred to The Far East, and he left Germany on 8th February 1943 onboard a submarine bound for Asia. Three months later, in The Indian Ocean, he was transferred to another submarine heading for Sumatra, and from there he was brought to Tokyo on an air plane.
In Japan Bose was warmly welcomed by the Japanese Minister for War, general Tojo, and was granted an unconditional support, including a declaration from the Japanese Parliament concerning the Japanese support for the liberation of India -- that is after a due time under Japanese administration! Bose happily accepted these conditions. On their hand the Japanese proposed Bose as President-to-be of the Indian Liberation Movement, and in August 1943 he was promoted as Commander General of the re-organized and strongly enlarged INA, having most of its manpower from the 45,000 privates captured when Singapore fell.
Despite the fact that INA's military equipment was provided by Japan, Bose insisted that INA should be a fully independent military force, paid by Indian communities in South East Asia.
On 21 October 1943 Japan acknowledged and supported him as President for ARZI Hukumat-e-Hind (The Provisional Government of a Free India), and this was no formal gesture.
In 1968 the 25th anniversary of AZAD HIND was commemorated by a 20 np stamp depicting Bose while reading the Declaration of Independence, and on 31st December 1993 the 50th anniversary of INA was commemorated.
This article first appeared in the Danish philatelic magazine "The Stamp Collector" No. 1/2003, excerpted from an article in the British "Stamp Magazine". Amended with more stamps, further descriptions and links by the webmaster. Sources and links:
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Revised 22 jun 2007