The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence

By Anthony Read; David Fisher | Go to book overview
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'The Two Great Mountains have Met
and not even a Ridiculous Mouse has Emerged'

Frustrated and disillusioned after nearly two years in Germany, Subhas Chandra Bose sailed from Kiel in a U-boat on 8 February 1943. His government in exile remained little more than a fantasy, and his efforts to create an Indian Legion from prisoners of war had so far produced a mere dozen men: by the end of the war, it would claim to have swelled to 2,500, but even so was too insignificant to leave any mark on history. All that Bose had to show for his efforts was a number of broadcasts, which had at least kept his name alive in India. The German defeat at Stalingrad finally convinced him that Germany was going to lose the war, and that he would be better off with Britain's other enemy, Japan. In any case, there were far more Indians in South-east Asia than there were in Europe, including 60,000 prisoners of war, and Rash Behari Basu's Indian Independence League appeared to be flourishing.

The U-boat made rendezvous with the Japanese submarine 1-29 in the Mozambique Channel off Portuguese East Africa on 26 April. The following day Bose and his faithful assistant Abid Hasan transferred to it for the rest of their epic 93-day voyage to Singapore. From there, they were flown to Tokyo, where Bose met Prime Minister Tojo on 10 June. The meeting was astonishingly successful, so successful that Tojo called another four days later, impressed by Bose's passionate conviction as he urged him to liberate India. On 18 June, Bose watched in the Japanese Parliament as Tojo pledged his country's support for the Indian freedom struggle. The following day, Bose spoke to over 60 Japanese and foreign newsmen, declaring in typically melodramatic mixed metaphors: 'The enemy that has drawn the sword must be fought with the sword. Civil disobedience must develop into armed struggle. Only when the Indian people receive the baptism of fire on a large scale will they qualify for their freedom.' 1

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