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Rash Bihari Bose biography

Rash Bihari Bose

(1880-1945)

biography

Rash Bihari was one of those freedom fighters and revolutionaries who spent a major part of their lives in self-exile working for the freedom of the country from distant lands, braving innumerable sufferings and privations. Some such forgotten heroes are Ajit Singh (uncle of Sardar Bhagat Singh), Madam Cama, Raja Mahendra Pratap and Shyamji Krishna Varma. Among all these freedom fighters the name of Rash Bihari stands out as the founder of the Indian
Independence League and the Indian National Army, which later under the leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose, fought the British army and shook the foundations of the British Empire, forcing them to leave India in a hurry.
Rash Bihari Bose
Rash Bihari Bose

Rash Bihari was born in 1886 in Subaldaha, Burdwan district. His parents, Binode Bihari Bose and Bhavaneshwari Devi, formed an average middle-class family. His father was employed in Government Press, Shimla, as assistant. His mother died when Rash Bihari was barely two. Binode Bihari remarried soon after, but Rash Bihari seems to have good relations with his stepmother, who often came to his help whenever he was in difficulty. He had his early education at Subaldaha under the guidance of his grandfather Kalicharan. Later, he joined Dupleix College at Chandernagore, a French enclave. But Rash Bihari was not interested in studies and stopped going to school after class II. He was more interested in physical culture. As Bengalis were debarred from joining the army, he tried to enlist in the army under a false name; was detected and punished. Seeing the Waywardness of his son, his father Binode Behari took him t0 Shimla and somehow got him a job as a copyholder in the press. There he learnt English as well as typewriting. But soon he returned to Chandernagore, leaving Shimla and his job. There for the first time he came in Contact with the revolutionaries of the Jugantar Party operating in Chandernagore, and decided to devote his life for the emancipation of the country. But soon after, he left Chandernagore and went back to Shimla. With the help of his father’s acquaintances, he got a clerical job at the Pasteur Institute, Kasauli and later at the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun. In spite of being a government servant, Rash Behari started taking active part in revolutionary activities. He was in touch with the members of the Anushilan Samiti of Bengal and had formed a small group of devoted revolutionaries under his leadership. The first daring act of this group was throwing of a bomb on the procession of Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy, on 23 December 1912, on the occasion of his state entry into Delhi riding on an elephant. The bomb was thrown by Basanta Kumar Biswas from the Punjab National Bank building in Chandni Chowk at the signal of Rash Behari Bose. The entire planning was done by Rash Behari. Lord Hardinge was badly wounded, the man holding his umbrella was killed, and another servant was seriously injured. Most of the members of this group were caught after the incident. Avadh Behari, Bal Mukand and Master Amir Chand (who used to give shelter to the revolutionaries) were executed in Delhi jail and Basanta Kumar Biswas was hanged in Ambala jail. But Rash Behari escaped because he had mastered the art of disguise to conceal his identity. Undaunted by the setback, Rash Behari continued his revolutionary activities, enlisting the support of several other revolutionaries from Punjab, Bengal and other parts of India. He felt that stray incidents of daredevilry were not of much help in weakening the hold of foreign power on the country. He felt that an attempt should be made to plan a general uprising by the Indian army on the lines of the uprising. Rash Behari started working towards that end. By that time he had formed a larger group of revolutionaries under his leadership. The First World War, which started in July 1914, provided them an opportunity to execute their plan. “Rash Behari directed his main attention to propaganda work among the Indian soldiers with a view to inducing them to join in the general rebellion against the British, which was planned to take place simultaneously all over North India”.1 Rash Behari sent his most trusted lieutenants to Work among soldiers in the various cantonments: Allahabad, Ramnagar, Banaras, Ambala, Ferozepur, Jalandhar, Lahore, Meerut and as far as Rawalpindi. According to the plan, sepoys were to revolt on a particular day overpowering or killing the English troops, whose number had been considerably reduced due to the War in Europe and the Middle East. The date of the uprising was fixed as 21 February 1915 throughout north India. But a police informer, Kirpal Singh, who had managed to enrol as a member of the Rash Behari group, conveyed the information to the authorities who took adequate measures to defeat the plan. Many revolutionaries were arrested and executed. So also many soldiers. Rash Behari once again escaped. As the police was after him, he decided to leave India. He applied for a passport under the assumed name of Raja PN.Thakur. The declared purpose was to make arrangements for Rabindranath Tagore’s ensuing visit to Japan. It is believed that Tagore had come to know about the impersonation but he kept quiet. The famous Bengali writer Sarat Chandra Chatterjee is believed to have contributed money for Rash Behari’s passage to Japan. Rash Behari left for Japan on 12 May 1915 by S.S. Saunki Maru, reaching the port of Kobe on 5 June. From there he travelled to Tokyo. From various sources the British secret agents in Japan learnt that PN. Thakur was actually Rash Behari Bose who was wanted in India for attempt to murder the Viceroy Lord Hardinge. Once the identity was established, the British would apply for his extradition. In 1915, Britain and Japan had very friendly relations and there would not have been any difficulty in getting him back in India as he was declared as the ‘most dangerous criminal’. As Rash Behari suspected that the British secret police was after him he continuously changed his residence to avoid arrest. One Japanese family couple, Mr. and Mrs. Soma, moved by Rash Behari’s hardships and deprivations let him stay in their house for sometime, which ended with Rash Behari marrying their daughter, Tosiko, in july, 1918. Still the sufferings of the couple did not end. They continued to change their residence at short intervals. Rash Behari became a naturalized Japanese citizen in July 1923. Consequently, he could not be deported. However, the health of his wife deteriorated due to the hardships she had to bear. She died in March 1925, at the age of twenty-eight, leaving behind a son Masahide (who was killed fighting the British during the War) and a daughter Tetuke.
Rash Behari kept himself` busy playing host to revolutionaries, especially of the Gadar party who came to Japan from Canada and America. He had established a dormitory (Centre of Asia) for the convenience of visitors. In 1933 he established ‘Villa Asians’ in Tokyo for Asian students, which he managed till 1941. He also formed an ‘Indo-Japanese Friends Society’ and undertook extensive tour in Japan explaining the Indian viewpoint, He could speak Japanese fluently. In 1924, he had formed the Indian Independence League, which played an important role during the War, especially its military wing, Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj).
While in Japan, Rash Behari wrote several books. He also started a journal New Asia with himself` as editor. Because of its attacks on the Britishpolicy, its entry into India was banned. He was also on the stall of the Asian Review.
The entry of Japan in the Second World War ignited in Rash Behari the revolutionary instinct which was lying dormant all these years and he organised a conference in Tokyo on 28 March 1942, under the auspices of the Indian Independence League with himself in the chair. General Tojo sent a message to the conference saying that, “The Japanese government is fully sympathetic towards your efforts and will not hesitate to render all possible help in this respect". But no formal declaration by the government of Japan was made, which created some consternation in the Indian camp. The conference passed several resolutions including the one requesting the Japanese authorities to declare their full support for the Indian cause and clarify their stand on the issue without delay. The conference also resolved to have an elected Council of Action and appointed Rash Behari Bose as interim president. These resolutions were to be ratified by a conference of the League representatives from all over east Asia to be held at Bangkok. The Bangkok conference was held for a week from 15 June 1942 in which delegates from various countries of east Asia participated. The Bangkok Conference ratified all the resolutions passed by the Tokyo Conference. The council was invested with powers of control over the Indian Independence League in all the territories and over the Indian National Army. It also invited Subhas Chandra Bose, who was in Germany to come to East Asia.
Immediately after the Bangkok conference, both the League organization and the INA plunged into action, with Bangkok as headquarters of the Council of Action and Singapore as headquarters of the INA. Over twenty thousand Indian Prisoners of War had deserted by this time and joined the Indian National Army headed by Gen. Mohan Singh.
An unfortunate development occurred when the Japanese replaced the popular Fujiwara as liaison officer with Iwakuro, who was not as understanding and sympathetic to the Indian cause as the former. The fact that the Japanese government was not committing anything officially undermined the position of Rash Behari as the president of the Council of Action. Doubts were being expressed about his ability to lead the movement. His thirty years stay in Japan, his advancing age, frail health and mild manners made some Indians doubt whether he could withstand the strain of an uncompromising stand vis-a-vis the Japanese. The schism between the Council of Action, the INA headed by Gen.Mohan Singh and the Japanese widened. Members of the Council of Action barring its president, resigned. Gen. Singh was peeved at the interference by the Japanese, who were issuing orders of movements to the INA troops without consulting the Council of Action or their commander. Gen. Singh protested and was arrested on 29 December 1942 in Singapore and was released only after the War was over. With the arrest of Gen. Singh, the INA ceased to exist, leaving Rash Behari as president of the Council of Action in quandary. Six months of mounting suspicion, distrust, misgivings, tactlessness and lack of faith in Japanese sincerity culminated in the dissolution of the Council of Action and disbandonment of the first INA. Chaos and confusion prevailed for some time.
Rash Behari then set about the task of rebuilding the League as well as the INA. Dr. Lakshumiyah joined him on the civil side and Lt.Col. J. Bhonsle on the military side i.e. INA. He shifted the headquarters of the League from Bangkok to Singapore in March 1943 and tried to build up the two organizations, working day and night to the amazement of his colleagues. Rash Behari knew that it was a matter of time before Subhas Chandra Bose reached East Asia and assumed leadership of the movement.
Rash Behari called another conference of Indians in Singapore from 27-30 April 1943 and passed the resolution that the Indian National Army is the army of the Indian Independence League and all officers and men of the INA as well as all members of the I.I.L shall owe allegiance to the League. The constitution of the League was amended by another resolution investing Rash Behari with almost dictatorial powers." Rash Behari had saved the IIL and the INA from an ignominious end with his foresight and devotion to the national cause. After resurrecting both the organizations to his satisfaction, he left for Tokyo in June 1943.
Subhas Chandra Boses journey from Germany to East Asia in a submarine is a part of the romantic saga in the annals of the freedom movement. He reached Tokyo on 16 May 1943. The Japanese authorities gave assurance of full support to Subhas Bose. Even before Subhas Bose was brought to East Asia, the Japanese were concerned about the presence of the two Boses, who may not work in tandem and thus create problems. But when General Arisue of the Intelligence Bureau broached this question, Rash Behari’s categorical reply, I will step down" relieved the anxiety of the Japanese. Rash Behari Bose, accompanied by Subhas Bose, landed at the Sambawant aerodrome, Singapore, from Tokyo on the morning of 2 July 1943. Two days later on 4 July, before an enthusiastic gathering of five thousand Indians at the Cathey Cinema Hall, Rash Behari handed over the leadership to the younger and dynamic hands of Subhas. Rash Behari voluntarily receded to the background as adviser, and let Subhas lead the INA, and left for Japan.
Rash Behari died in Tokyo on 21 January 1945. The news was announced by a Royal proclamation over the radio and his body was carried to the Yojoji Temple the next morning by the decorated Imperial bier sent from the Imperial Palace, for last rites. Hours before his death, the Japanese emperor decorated him with the Second Order-of-Merit of the Rising Sun. However, no honour has been bestowed on him by our country for the emancipication of which he worked throughout his life and suffered.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the article! It is worth a read, to understand how RasBehari Bose had toiled selflessly for the Independence of our country!

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