21 January 1945: Rashbehari Bose, Indian revolutionary, died

Rashbehari Bose, a revolutionary Indian leader who sought Japanese help in fighting against the British and was instrumental in establishing the Indian National Army, was born on May 25, 1886. He died on January 21, 1945.

Bose, known as a “master of disguises”, was born in Subaldaha, a village in Burdwan, Bengal. He studied in Chandannagar.

He participated in revolutionary activities in Bengal as a young man. 

On April 30, 1908 the revolutionaries Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki attempted to kill Magistrate Kingsford, but the bomb missed his horse carriage and instead killed two British women.

 The trial which followed was called the Alipore bomb case trial in 1908. To dodge the trial Rashbehari left Bengal and joined the Forest Research Institute at Dehradun as a head clerk. There, with the help of people like Amarendra Chatterjee, he developed links with revolutionaries in Bengal. He also met like-minded freedom fighters in Punjab and the United Provinces (present-day Uttar Pradesh).   

In 1912 Rashbehari and others hatched a plan to assassinate Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy of India. On December 23, 1912 a bomb was hurled by the revolutionary Vasant Kumar Vishwas into the Viceroys’s Howdah while the ceremonial procession was moving in Delhi. The assassination attempt, however, failed. 

The police stepped up their search for Rashbehari who managed to give them the slip. Returning to Dehradun by train at night, he joined work the next day without raising suspicions. He even organised a protest to slam the attack on the viceroy. Eventually he escaped to Japan in 1915, starting a new phase in his life.

In Japan, he found common cause with radical Pan-Asian groups. Initially he had to change his addresses and identities as the British were putting pressure on Japan to extradite him. In 1918 he married the daughter of a restaurant owner in Tokyo and five years later became a Japanese citizen. Besides working as a journalist and writer, he had a role to play in introducing Tokyo to the taste of Indian curry.

He lobbied with the Japanese government to extend support to Indian nationalists. After World War 2 started, he saw the opportunity to fight the British. In March 1942 at a conference called by Rashbehari in Tokyo, the Indian Independence League was established. It is here that he proposed to raise an army to liberate India.

At the second conference of the Indian Independence League in Bangkok in June 1942, a resolution to invite the Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose to join the League and become its president was passed.

Subhas Chandra Bose had set up the Free India Centre in Berlin, Germany in 1941 but in the early months of 1942 he sought to move to southeast Asia where Japan was doing well militarily.

Though Rashbehari Bose played an integral role in forming the Indian National Army, the Japanese military leadership reportedly expelled him a leadership position in the newly-formed INA as Subhas Chandra Bose took charge.

Rashbehari Bose was killed during the end of World War 2.

Rashbehari’s long stay outside India and his close links with Japanese ultra-nationalists make for a complex legacy. The means to fight the mighty British for those in the revolutionary mode were rather limited and occasionally led to unconventional decisions.

According to the book ‘Pan Asianism: A Documentary History, 1850-1920’, Rashbehari’s view that “the liberation of India and other Asian nations would arise from Japan’s wartime programme, in retrospect, was hopelessly misguided. But this does not explain why [Rashbehari] Bose should have been so attracted to Japan’s Pan-Asianism….The most remarkable aspect of the remarkable life of Rashbehari Bose then was the symbiotic relationship that he had with Japan’s pan-Asianists”.

Also on this day:

1924 — Madhu Dandavate, union finance minister, was born

1968 — Sundar C, South Indian film director and actor, was born  

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