Was Jayaprakash Narayan a commander of Subhas Chandra Bose in India?

In the areas where war is waged or which the Japanese occupy or where they infiltrate, the foreigner’s civil rule will weaken or come to an end. In these areas we must establish a Swaraj Government. In the name of this Government we must appeal to retreating units of the Indian Army to stay behind and become the people’s army.

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Subhas Chandra Bose left India during the Second World War and allied with the Axis Powers to liberate India. He formed an Indian Legion in Germany and then moved to command the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army or INA) and Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind (The Provisional Government of Free India) in South-East Asia with the help of Japan. The British media called him a Fascist and all news regarding Bose were censored in India.

Indians were told that the INA was nothing but a Japanese force and Bose was helping Japan to colonise India for Japan. The propaganda was so severe that Jawaharlal Nehru, and almost the whole Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India and several other organisations dubbed Bose a traitor. 

The pro-INA news was later spread by the Forward Bloc people with support of Jamiat Ulema and such organisations. Under censorship, the first Indian attempt to counter anti Subhas Chandra Bose propaganda was, to my best knowledge, made by Jayaprakash Narayan. 

Jayaprakash was a socialist of Congress and had ties with revolutionaries. He was lodged in Hazaribagh Jail during the Quit India Movement, from which he fled with the help of revolutionary leader, Yogendra Shukla. The idea was to run an underground campaign against the British. In September, 1943, Jayaprakash wrote a letter to the nation on how to deal with British imperialism during the War.

Prof. Kapil Kumar, a historian with a particular interest on Subhas Chandra Bose, has already argued that Jayaprakash Narayan was a member of a secret organisation, called M, formed by Bose. This letter from 1 September 1943 points towards a similar conclusion that Jayaprakash had more knowledge of Bose’s plans and how the people in India should help Azad Hind Fauj.

Jayaprakash wrote,

“You probably know that Shri Subhas Chandra Bose has formed a Free Provisional Indian National Government at Shonan (Singapore) which has been recognised by the Japanese Government. He has also organized an Indian National Army which is said to be growing rapidly. These events have some significance for us. Parenthetically I may add for your information that one of the first acts of the Subhas Government has been to offer to send us as much rice as may be required to feed the starving people of Bengal, but the British Government prefers to let the native vermin die.

Subhas Chandra Bose as Commander of INA

It is easy to denounce Subhas as a Quisling. Those who are themselves quislings of Britain find it easiest to denounce him. But nationalist India knows him as a fervent patriot and as one who has always been in the forefront of his country’s fight for freedom. It is inconceivable that he should ever be ready to sell his country. No doubt it is true that all the necessary resources of money and equipment that he has, have been supplied to him by the Axis Powers. But in the first place the men he has in his Government and the National Army are Indians who hate British rule and burn with a desire to free their Motherland.

In the second place, it is well to remember that the resources of all the fugitive Governments of Europe which bask in the patronage of the United Nations come from those Nations. Thirdly, no one can tell what concessions the requirements of global strategy may force a great power to make to a weak and prostrate nation. The conferment of “independence” upon Burma by the Japanese has received some advertisement and a report says that the Soviet Government has been so much impressed as to congratulate the Tojo Government upon their act of generosity. Be that as it may, there seems to be no doubt that the Burmese today enjoy much more freedom under the overlordship of a fascist state than they did under British “Democracy”.

Why did Subhas Chandra Bose feel the need to acknowledge Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar?

Turning to Shri Subhas Bose, it is clear that he has permitted himself to accept aid from enemies in accordance with an age-old political maxim — older than Machiavelli and older than Kautilya. In thus accepting help from a third party he may be deceived in the end, but there can be no question as to the honesty of his purpose and the scale of his resourcefulness. His success or failure in assisting his country to achieve her freedom will depend on the course of events over which neither her nor any other political leader of any country has much control.

Recognising the importance of the Shonan Indian Government and the National Army, I must emphasise that our freedom largely depends upon our own strength and resources. Hopeless inaction which feeds upon the hope of outside help is suicidal politics. No outside help by itself can free us. It is fantastic to believe that Subhas’ army, no matter how large, can defeat the Allied Armies in India. If any army can defeat them it may possibly be the Japanese. But, if the Japanese defeat the British in India, they would not quietly hand over India to us—whatever the understanding between Tojo and Subhas. We must be ready in the event of an Axis-Allied clash in India to seize power ourselves. Only if we are ready to make this attempt can outside help, such as Subhas’ National Army be of value to us and Tojo be prevented from annexing India. It is difficult to say how far Subhas himself is conscious of this aspect of India’s national strategy.

This brings me to the question, what should we do when the war enters our doors. British policy has made the average Indian so anti-British that he is prepared if not to welcome the Japanese, at least to remain indifferent to the Anglo-Japanese conflict. This indifference will be our death. We must endeavour to remove it and in its place develop a positive policy of action. In the areas where war is waged or which the Japanese occupy or where they infiltrate, the foreigner’s civil rule will weaken or come to an end. So In these areas we must establish a Swaraj Government. In the name of this Government we must appeal to retreating units of the Indian Army to stay behind and become the people’s army. From this day we must prepare to establish such a Government in the Eastern Province which in the course of time might embrace the entire nation. This preparatory work raises many questions which cannot be discussed here. It is sufficient to point out the broad policy and invite the attention of fighters to it as well as of the people generally.”   

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