SEPTEMBER 2011
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Books


Book Reviews By NITISH S. RELE,
Editor@khaasbaat.com

His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s struggle against Empire”; by Sugata Bose; published by Belknap Harvard; 388 pages; $35.

India’s greatest “lost” leader was controversial and enigmatic but revered for spearheading the freedom struggle against the British. Sugata Bose admits that the freedom fighter allied with the Nazis and Japanese in the 1940s. But with only one purpose: India’s independence from British colonial rule.

The author traces the birth of Netaji in Cuttack, Orissa on Jan. 23, 1897; the influence of Swami Vivekananda on Netaji, the teenager; years spent in Calcutta and at Cambridge; several meetings with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and poet Rabindranath Tagore; prison in Burma; and exile in Vienna where he met his wife, Emilie.

As president of the Indian National Congress (1938-39), Netaji was often at odds with Gandhiji. “Bose was comprehensively outwitted and outmaneuvered by Gandhi in Congress politics during the spring of 1939,” notes the author. “Tripuri and its aftermath clearly represented a defeat for Bose, who – notwithstanding his personal popularity – was temperamentally and organizationally incapable of matching the political cunning of Gandhi and his lieutenants …”

In 1941, Netaji escaped from India to lead the Indian National Army against Allies Forces during World War II. All his life, the Indian nationalist struggled to liberate his country from British rule till his untimely death in a plane crash on Aug. 18, 1945 in Taipei. Even today, rumors circulate about his death, which the author puts to rest. “Stories of his being spotted in various places after that date lie in the domain of rumor and speculation, if not willful fabrication.”

The author also takes a look at Netaji’s efforts in uniting Hindus and Muslims, pointing out his many admirers passionately believed that, had their leader been on the scene, India would not have been partitioned along religious lines. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that on Aug. 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, when the voices of Gandhi, Nehru and Bose were played in India’s Parliament, Netaji’s voice received the loudest and longest applause.

‘His Majesty’s Opponent,’ whose appeal cut across religious, linguistic and national lines, was a giant who strode through India and the world. Kudos go to the author, Netaji’s very own grand nephew, who has done great justice in honoring “George Washington of India” with a well-researched tribute.

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