Indian independence hero Subhas Chandra Bose stirs controversy for collaborating with Nazi Germany – Copyright AFP Money SHARMA
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday unveiled a statue of an independence hero who is revered for taking up arms against the British but is controversial for his collaboration with Nazi Germany’s war machine.
Subhas Chandra Bose was a charismatic and popular contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi but broke with the pacifist leader to forge alliances with Germany and Japan during World War II when he sought to overthrow the colonial regime in India.
He broadcast propaganda from Berlin urging Indians to fight alongside the Axis—he once met Adolf Hitler—and assembled an anti-British legion from captured Indian prisoners of war before sailing by submarine to Japan.
A statue of “Netaji” – or “the leader” as Bose is commonly referred to – has been installed near the India Gate war memorial in New Delhi and replaces a statue of Britain’s King George V that was demolished almost half a century ago.
This is part of a long and expensive reconstruction of the capital’s administrative district, timed to coincide with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of independence this year.
“Today we are leaving the past behind,” Modi said at the inauguration ceremony on Thursday.
“Today, the country erected a monument to Netaji in the same place and gave impetus to a modern, independent and self-confident India,” he added.
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party maintains a strong Hindu nationalism that supports historical figures who opposed outside influence and domination.
The BJP hailed Bose as an anti-colonial hero while downplaying the influence of Gandhi and the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, two men whose legacy is closely linked to India’s main opposition party.
In 2019, Modi opened the Bose Museum at Delhi’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Red Fort and earlier this year called him a “great hero of independence”.
Bose’s courtship of fascist powers has tarnished his image elsewhere, but he is still widely respected at home for his role in the struggle for independence – and for the subject of conspiracy theories over his untimely death.
He died when the Japanese bomber he was flying crashed in Taiwan at the end of the war in 1945.
But many Indians at the time thought the crash was staged to help Bose go underground as the British authorities were looking for him as a war criminal.
In the decades that followed, many insisted that Bose was still alive, and several alternative theories emerged to explain his whereabouts, including being captured and imprisoned in a Soviet gulag or anonymously returning to India for a quiet life.