On January 19, 1940, Subhas Chandra Bose, one of the most dynamic leaders of the Indian independence movement, escaped from British India.
In 1939 Bose formed the Forward Bloc within the Congress party as an umbrella organisation for the left forces within the Congress. Mahatma Gandhi and his supporters accused him of breach of party discipline and drafted a resolution seeking to remove him from the Congress Working Committee and restrained him from holding any office for three years.
The Forward Bloc progressively became militant and by April 1940, most of its senior members were arrested. Bose was convinced that the only way he could bring about India’s independence was by leaving the country and fighting from foreign territories. He made contact with radical Punjab and Pathan activists, who in turn had contacts in Afghanistan and Russia, to organise a militia.
When Bose came to know about the war between Britain and Germany, he discussed an idea of launching an underground struggle against the British with members of the Forward Bloc. He advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest the then Viceroy’s decision to declare war on India’s behalf without consulting the Congress leadership. He organised mass protests in this regard.
When Bose planned to hold a procession to unify Hindu and Muslim nationalists, the British Government interceded and imprisoned him in the Presidency Jail in 1940. But following a seven-day hunger strike he was released. However, his house in Calcutta was kept under severe surveillance and he was not allowed to leave the country with two court cases pending against him. This and his belief that foreign assistance was a must to free India from British rule, forced Bose to flee India.
A few days before his escape he avoided meeting British guards stationed around his house. He grew a beard to avoid identification. On the night of January 19, 1941, disguised as a Pathan or a Maulavi, Bose escaped from under British surveillance around his house. Accompanied by his nephew Sisir K Bose, he made his escape in a car which is now on display at his Calcutta home. He made his way to Afghanistan. A week later he began his journey to Russia. Later, he procured an Italian passport and fled to Berlin. He sought the assistance of Germany, Italy and Japan as they were enemies of Britain and thus felt that they would be natural allies. He died in a plane crash in 1945 while travelling from Japan to Southeast Asia after Japan surrendered in World War II.