Recollections and reflections

Author: Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.’ Mahatma Gandhi was in jail and the leaders outside were not able to come to an agreement. Deshabandhu Chittaranjan Das, Pundit Motilal Nehru, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Mr. Vithalbhai Patel led one section which advocated a change in the tactics and entrance to the legislature. And the other led by Mr. C. Rajagopalachari, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Ansari and Sardar Patel stood for the old policy. Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. He was a young enthusiast who had one overpowering aim — liberation of the country from foreign yoke. And that aim was the only motive that guided all his steps.

We who were young at that time and had joined the struggle either after giving up our college studies or after just completing it looked to him for inspiration and guidance. And usually the young were impatient of the cautious and calculated steps of our leaders and looked up to him to influence the leaders to our view.

Deshabandhu's attachment to him was surprising and often through him he was able to influence the decision of the party.

At the time of Das Babu's death, Subhas Babu was in jail and the leadership of Bengal was assumed by Mr. Sengupta who succeeded Deshabandhu as President, Bengal Provincial Congress Committee, leader of the Swaraj Party in the Bengal Legislative Council and a Mayor of the Calcutta Corporation. Young men who were very much attached to Subhas Babu did not approve the choice, but had no alternative as their leader and idol was in jail. But as soon as he came out they clamoured for his installation in place of his Guru. And they succeeded. Subhas Babu was elected Mayor and President of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee.

Subhas Babu's influence was not confined to Bengal. Young men all over the country were inspired by his earnestness and by his sacrifices. And soon he came to occupy a unique position in the Congress organisation.

Subhas Babu's politics did not appeal to orthodox Congressmen. They were under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi's ethical code and looked with abhorrence on anything deviating from the code of conduct laid down by him.

Subhas Babu was not bound by any ethical code. He stuck to his aim and anything that came in its way he discarded.

The politics of the orthodox Congressmen and Subhas Babu was bound to come in conflict and it came into conflict soon.

Subhas Babu's adventures in new lines soon gathered around him and behind him a large collaborators and followers and a day came when he increased his own strength and came out victorious as President of the Tripura Session of the Congress.

Subhas Babu realised that the method adopted in 1920 for driving out the alien rulers had become stale and ineffective. New tactics were needed. And he boldly adopted them.

The Tripuri Session of the Congress brought a definite break between him and the old guard. The old guard was strong enough to drive him out of the Congress and to crush him.

This severance of connection from the Congress was a blow to him, but it also freed him from the restrictions that the great organisation imposed on its members. He was free to work on his own lines and although in the short time that he had had after his break from the Congress and before he left the country, he was not able to build up a strong organisation in the country, he had won sufficient young adherents to make his voice in the politics of the country effective and to influence indirectly the decision of the Congress.

Suhhas Babu's flight from the country, his journey to Germany and back to Japan, and his leadership of the Indian National Army have captured the imagination of the masses of the country. Today he is a national hero. Everyone points to him and his activities with emotion and pride.

The devotion of the INA both collectively and individually, to their Netaji is inspiring. I have seen many of them — both officers and soldiers — weep at the very mention of his name.

No one can say with definiteness whether he is alive or dead today. If he is alive and ever returns to the country, he will receive a welcome no one in the country has received so far. And people will expect him to take up their leadership to guide them to peace and prosperity.

From Netaji: His Life and Work, edited by Shri Ram Sharma, published in 1948 by Shiva Lal Agarwala & Co. Ltd., Agra