Shaking hands with the devil

Any list of prominent Indian freedom fighters would aways have one name — Subhash Chandra Bose, also popularly known as Netaji (‘Respected Leader’). His courage, charisma and determination made him a legend in the history of India. Bose — a militant nationalist and revolutionary – was at loggerheads with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s opposition led him to resign from the INC and eventually to form an independent party. In 1941, Bose escaped house arrest in India and made his way to Germany. In Germany, he set up the Free India Legion and Azad Hind Radio. The Free India Legion was largely composed of Indian PoW captured in N. Africa. The Indian Legion was attached to the allied German forces (Wehrmacht). The oath that was taken by these recruits:

“I swear by God this holy oath that I will obey the leader of the German race and state, Adolf Hitler, as the commander of the German armed forces in the fight for India, whose leader is Subhas Chandra Bose.”

Hmm..obey Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a man who was responsible for eliminating 6.1 million Jews. Does the end always justify the means? Moreover, did Bose think that Hitler’s love for the Aryan race would prevent him for making India a state within the Third Reich? Even, Bose knew that he had committed an error of judgment by placing his trust in Hitler. When he met Hitler in May 1942, he realized that he was merely being used as a pawn and eventually fled to South-East Asia. But why shake hands with the devil at first place? Now, more than 60 years later in a free democratic India, probably it is hard to fully comprehend the mindset of our grandfather and great grandfathers.

I came across an article in BBC in which the correspondent tracks down one of the recruits in Bose’s army, Lieutenant Barwant Singh. Personally, I feel that such interviews would shed new light on the history of freedom struggle and the impact the struggle had on the lives of everybody. A friend of mine once decided to interview not only the freedom fighters, but also the ordinary citizens who lived through the entire struggle. A brilliant idea, but never took off. Perhaps, we need an equivalent of PBS in India and we need it soon. Very few of these people are alive and probably do not have too many years left. A loss of knowledge of experiences of those times would be sad.

BBC – Article – Hitler’s secret Indian army

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