Flying the Flag of Revolution, The Indian Struggle for Independence

Flying the Flag of Revolution, Part 4 – Why Did India Lose in 1857?

In the early stages of the 1857  uprising, the British forces had only three garrisons stationed around Delhi. They came very close to being overtaken, and for a brief moment it seemed that the Indian soldiers would be victorious. However, British reinforcements soon came flooding in and the ambitious movement was suppressed. Bahadur Shah, who had been installed as king of India in Delhi, was eventually imprisoned, and his sons were sentenced to death by firing squad.

In the years that followed, historians speculated about the reasons for the failed uprising.

Some have written that the great efforts of the Indian forces were unsuccessful due to a lack of communication among the rulers of the various regions in India. They have furthermore stated that the frontlines were too spread out, making the exchange of information difficult. These have been acknowledged as core factors in the defeat of the Indian soldiers.

Some historians have also said that the British army was in an advantageous position from the very start. They had superior weapons and had established plenty of routes through which they could receive backup supplies and reinforcements. The Indian forces, on the other hand, had insufficient and outdated weapons, with no means of restocking.

The War of Independence ended unsuccessfully in 1858, twenty-eight years before I was born. It was soon followed by an onslaught of unspeakable horrors at the hands of the British forces.

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Flying the Flag of Revolution, The Indian Struggle for Independence

Flying the Flag of Revolution, Part 3 – Fighting Against British Rule

The uprising that had begun at Awadh soon spread to Meerut, and before long the effort was blazing throughout northern and central India. British authorities initially believed that the disturbance could be easily suppressed, but the movement proved to be far greater than they had anticipated.

According to British history books, this incident is known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857. However, such a name gives an inaccurate portrayal of these events. In reality, what unfolded here was a brave and valiant battle against British rule, and a fight to end their relentless control over India.

During this time, Hindus and Muslims did not work in isolation to free themselves from the evil grip of the British East India Company, but rather, all the citizens of India came together as one. As united compatriots with a common goal, they took up arms and fought side by side against the British. It was a truly magnificent event that to this very day gleams like a jewel, ornamenting the pages of Indian history.

In the early stages of the battle, the Indian mercenaries completely annihilated the British officers, and on the 11th, three mercenary units went on to occupy Meerut. All involved fought with great vigour, and their spirits soared so high that they could touch the clouds.

The units that took Meerut installed Bahadur Shah at Delhi as the king of India, and his sons as the commanders-in-chief of his forces. The struggle continued on in this manner for some months, with fierce battles being fought in various locations.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 5 – Against My Parents’ Wishes

Despite numerous setbacks, I continued to pursue my goal of joining the army and fighting for India’s independence. Against my father’s warning, I had determinedly sent out one more application, fully prepared to yet again be met with silence. However, my dedication had paid off and at long last I received a response.

Naturally, I was faced with one final obstacle, as the letter ended up in the hands of my father. Upon opening the envelope and seeing that I had gone against his word, he gripped the paper firmly in his hand as he came to confront me.

“I have made my position very clear. I have told you the path that you ought to follow, and explained to you every reason why you must abandon this childish dream. And yet, you still insist on becoming a soldier!”

He reprimanded me harshly.

Our conversation dragged on, with each of us attempting to assert our thoughts on the matter, but no matter how much my father scolded me, I held fast to my convictions. There was not a single moment when I let my mind falter, or allowed his stern words to sway me from my goals.

In the end, I did not enter the army, but nevertheless I responded to my calling to fight for India. Even at the young age of thirteen I had already thrown myself headfirst into the Indian revolution effort, and within the coming years I  soon found myself in the midst of plans to launch a large-scale revolution in the north.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 4 – Father Discourages Me From Joining the Army

I had been forced to abandon my attempts to become a soldier, and was sent back to my school in Chandannagar. Day in and day out, I whiled away my time in the classroom for what felt like an eternity, eagerly awaiting my chance to get back on the road in search of an army that would accept me. Even as I sat at my desk trying to listen to the teacher lecturing at the front of the room, my mind was consumed with dreams of launching a revolution that would lead India to freedom.

Eventually, I could wait no longer and decided to pay a visit to my father in the hopes of convincing him to let me pursue my dreams of joining the independence effort. I stood squarely in front of him and presented my argument, but he merely dismissed my plans as the transient whims of a young boy. The only advice he gave was that I dedicate myself to my schooling and graduate as soon as possible so that I could build up a successful professional career.

He tried all manner of method to discourage me from my goal, at first scolding me harshly and then attempting to persuade me through reason. My heart went out to him, but as much as I wanted to honour his words, no amount of urging could convince me to abandon my plans.

After our conversation, I secretly mailed out yet another application to the commanding officer of an army corps. After so many rejections and non-responses, fate was fulfilled and I finally received a reply. However, I was not around when the letter arrived, and it ended up in the hands of my father. Discovering that I had gone behind his back despite his repeated appeals, his reaction was severe.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 3 – Postponing My Dreams of Joining the Army

In between my clerical duties at Fort William, I spent each free moment writing up applications and sending them out indiscriminately to every possible army. As long as I would be on Indian soil fighting for our independence, it did not matter where in the country I ended up serving.

After sending out numerous applications and getting nowhere, I decided to take matters into my own hands and left my post at Fort William in search of some army that would have me. It seemed that each place was either rejecting Bengalis, or was no longer recruiting. If they would not acknowledge me in writing, I was determined to travel in person to each and every cantonment across India until I was admitted.

My ambitions, however, were once again cut short. As luck would have it, one of my relatives caught wind of my plans and set out in search of me. I was intercepted midway through my travels and admonished harshly, being told that it was outrageous for me to abandon my schooling with fanciful thoughts of joining the army. In great frustration, I was forced to put my plans on hold for the time being while he transported me back to my home in Chandannagar.

I returned to the school that I had once abandoned in pursuit of my dreams, and there I wasted away my time sitting idly by while my mind was consumed with thoughts of the struggle for freedom that was being bravely fought at that very moment.

I stayed on for some time and graduated to the following grade, but even then I was not able to concentrate on my studies. Constantly assailed with heroic imaginings of raising a powerful and fearless army that would launch the revolution, I decided to pay a visit to my father and convince him to let me pursue my dreams of becoming a soldier.

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INA, The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 2 – Rejected by the Army

I waited on the edge of my seat, anxious to hear back about my application to the army, but when the reply finally came, I was met with rejection. In the envelope, there was only a brief note informing me that they would not be accepting applications from Bengalis at the present time. I considered this no more than a minor obstacle, however, and brushed it aside determined not to let it deter me from my goal.

With my heart set on dedicating myself to the independence effort at all costs, I immediately changed my approach. If Fort William would not accept me, I would apply to the French forces at Pondicherry.

Knowing that if I simply mailed in another letter I would be forced to sit around agonizingly waiting for their reply, I instead traveled to Pondicherry to request admittance in person.

Upon my arrival, without a moment’s delay I went directly to the admissions officer and spoke with great determination,

“I am here to volunteer as a soldier.”

“There are no openings at the moment,” I was told. “Once a position opens up, we will contact you.”

That was all.

There was no way of knowing if and when I would receive word, and it was imperative that I become a soldier as soon as possible. The sooner I joined the force, the sooner India would be free.

I would not stand passively by and wait for the opportunity to come to me. For the time being, I took on employment as a clerk at Fort William with the intention of changing posts as soon as the chance arose. Meanwhile, I randomly sent out application after application to every cantonment I knew of, hoping that even just one would accept me. It did not matter where in India it was, as long as I was working for the achievement of free India.

I eagerly awaited their replies, but none came. Eventually, I could wait no longer and set out in search of some army that would accept me.

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Author's Comments

Introduction: The Indian Revolutionary in Japan

When you hear the name Bose, who do you think of?

When people ask me about my research interests and I mention Bose, most simply shrug their shoulders. Among those who do have some vague familiarity with this name, it is Subhas Chandra Bose who tends to come to mind, and they briefly describe him as the man credited with launching the Imphal Campaign and the leading of India to independence.

Among those who I have talked to, there are only a very small handful who have heard of Rash Behari Bose, and even then, it is not uncommon for them to overlap him with Subhas – a man of no familial relation who coincidentally happened to share the same last name. Unable to definitively separate the two historical figures in their minds, many cannot explain with any certainty just who exactly Rash Behari Bose was.

This is an astonishing reality in light of the fact that if not for the efforts of Rash Behari Bose, India and Japan (and by extension perhaps the entire world at large) would not be as they are today. This is the great extent to which Rash Behari Bose’s contributions have impacted us, and it is for this very reason that the present situation is highly regrettable.

Follow along on this blog as the words of Rash Behari Bose are brought back to life, in English, for the very first time in history.

I am embarrassed to say that until November of 2016, even I could not clearly differentiate between the two. But as fate would have it, I was fortunate enough at that time to encounter the literary collections of Rash Behari Bose. I dedicatedly worked my way through his publications, and found myself becoming captivated not only by his life story and depictions of historical events, but also by the universally applicable human truths that are clearly laid out in his writings.

I was astonished to find the range of invaluable knowledge that lay buried in the pages of his books, spanning across vast realms of human history and culture including philosophy, religion, psychology, ethics, and sociology. His words are not a thing of the past. They are not limited to days gone by, only to be rendered irrelevant in the present day. Rather, they describe universal human truths that were as applicable a thousand years ago as they are today, laying out clear solutions to problems that we face even in our modern lives, and to the future struggles that will undoubtedly be tackled by our children and grandchildren to come.

With this realization coursing through my mind, I came to feel that it would be a shame for Bose’s works to continue to lie dormant – unread, unknown, and inaccessible to the majority of the population. You see, although Rash Behari Bose was born and raised in India, he had fled to Japan in 1915 to escape persecution by the British authorities. It is for this reason that his vast collection of publications exist only in the Japanese language. Not only this, but to complicate matters further, they are written in an old style of Japanese that is no longer in use, making his books a challenge even for modern Japanese readers to decipher.

I decided to dedicate myself to working through each of his texts, accurately rewriting his old language, word for word, into modern Japanese, and then translating them into English. On this blog, I will continue to post the contents of his books while I work my way through them. I will write in the first person as though Bose himself is speaking directly to you.

Please note that while these blog posts remain faithful to the contents of the actual books, they are not the complete, detailed and accurate translations that will appear in the finalized publication.

Once all my transcriptions and translations are complete, I will be publishing them in a series of books. But until then, please follow along on this blog as the words of Rash Behari Bose are brought back to life, in English, for the very first time in history.

Copyright © 2017All written materials are the sole property of the owner.  No portion of the text may be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the author.

 

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