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Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: Life , Politics and Struggle. Book Review.

Author: Krishna Bose

Edited & Translated by: Sumantra Bose

Published by Picador India (An imprint of Pan Macmillan India)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Pages: 332

MRP: Rs. 699/-

Thank you @panmacmillanindia for a copy.

This book is a collection of Articles and essays written by the late Krishna Bose and published at various spans of her life. It’s edited by her son Sumantra Bose. Krishna Bose was the wife of Netaji’s nephew, Sisir Kumar Bose, who helped Netaji flee the country in 1941. A point the editor does not let the reader forget and keeps on emphasizing.

One thing you should know before reading this review further and making a purchase decision on the book. There are various conflicts within the Bose family itself when it come to many matters such as Netaji’s demise. While the author and editor of this book believe that Netaji had indeed died in a plane crash in 1945, others in the family such as Chitra Ghosh, Netaji’s other niece and even his wife, who the author has a dedicated article in the book about and claimed to have a very good relations with. To quote Chitra Ghosh, “Sisir, his wife Krishna and their son Sugata, toes the Congress line on Netaji because of the crores the Netaji Research Bureau had received from the successive Congress Governments”. And after doing quite a bit on Netaji and reading books on him from Anuj Dhar and Chandrachur Ghose, I on a personal level believe in other versions of the story rather than the author and translator of this books. Now does that completely negate the book completely? Not necessarily, no!

Featuring 95 images and letters from family albums and Netaji Research Bureau archives, the book contains intriguing accounts of his personal relationships as well as those with his key political contemporaries – from Nehru and Gandhi to Tojo and Hitler.

While I disagree with the author on certain things, I can’t deny that many of the articles curated here have been brilliantly written. Especially the ones on his relationship with the other great revolutionary from Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore and with the Irish leader Eamon de Valera have been a revelation! Though the latter chapter felt like reading about his relation with the country Ireland but regardless.). Netaji ultimately believed that the Gandhi’s non-violence to remove the British was bull-crap and much preffered the Irish way. This particular article about this was very fascinating.(

There’s a dedicated article about his relation and singular visit with Adolf Hitler. The author (unlike several others) does not try and defend Netaji’s stance to visit Hitler and even comments about his stance on Indians , about whom he wrote in his autobiography, Mein Kampf. The article references the official transcript of the said meeting in Berlin, which was of course published by the NRB. The substantive points of discussion were three, and Hitler did most of the speaking.

  1. The first matter was the public declaration of support for India’s independence by the Axis Powers, which Netaji had been trying to secure for over a year

  2. The second topic was the urgent necessity of Netaji’s travel to East Asia. Here Hitler was in agreement that Netaji should go there as soon as possible and take help of the Japanese. However, he advised Netaji against an air journey as too dangerous. Instead, he suggested, Netaji should make the journey by submarine, and offered to place a German submarine at his disposal.

  3. The third matter Netaji brought up concerned the adverse remarks Hitler had made against Indians in Mein Kampf and on other occasions, which, Netaji said, ‘had been greatly distorted by British propaganda and were being used for propaganda against Germany’. He requested the Fuehrer to say something clarifying Germany’s attitude towards India at a suitable opportunity as this would clear things up as far as the Indian Nation was concerned. Hitler was in no mood to oblige and gave a convoluted and evasive response. But it showed something to Netaji’s mettle- that he was prepared to raise the matter with the arch-racist.

The book also villainizes some other people like Sardar Patel. The author talks about one particular incident where Vithalbhai Patel made a will in which he left a large sum of money, entrusted to Netaji, to support the work of the Indian-Irish Independence League and similar organizations in other European countries. “Unfortunately”Vallabhbhai Patel disputed the will and Netaji never got the money to carry out what was apparently Vitthalbhai’s last wish. What would you as a reader have done in Vallabhbhai’s place? Netaji was also very opposed to the way of the biggies of the Indian struggle like Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. As mentioned earlier , he was very much open to violence as a means to get independence, opposed to the Gandhian way. “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe Azadi dunga” was the infamous slogan by him.(You give me blood, and ill get you independence).

As this is a collection of essays and articles written over multiple years, certain sets of information does stend to repeat itself in almost every article, but that is the problem with most books which are a collection of articles by the same person. But this one could have been perhaps edited more tightly, as for one time I actually read a complete passage which seemed to be copy-pasted from a few chapters before. While information about the date of publication of some articles are provided in between the content randomly, such information about every article would have been nice at the end of every article, or perhaps a dedicated section referencing the same. As with the citations of the book, the citations are provided in an index format, which can get a little tiring while trying to fact check things. Perhaps adding a detailed citations section would have helped.

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