Subhas Chandra Bose

Indian nationalist leader and politician (1897–1945)

Subhas Chandra Bose (23 January 1897 – 18 August 1945) was an Indian nationalist whose defiant patriotism made him a hero in India, but whose attempt during World War II to rid India of British rule with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan left an ambivalent legacy.

Men, money and materials cannot by themselves bring victory or freedom. We must have the motive-power that will inspire us to brave deeds and heroic exploits.


One individual may die for an idea, but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives.
  • Reality is, after all, too big for our frail understanding to fully comprehend. Nevertheless, we have to build our life on the theory which contains the maximum truth. We cannot sit still because we cannot, or do not , know the Absolute Truth.
    • As quoted in An Indian pilgrim: an unfinished autobiography (1997) by himself, Sisir Kumar Bose, and Sugata Bose, p. 124
  • You will readily understand my mental condition as I stand on the threshold of what the man-in-the-street would call a promising career. There is much to be said favour of such a service. It solves once for all what is paramount problem for each of us—the problem of bread and butter. One has not to go face life with risk or uncertainty as to success or failure. But for a man of my temperament who has been feeding on ideas which might be called eccentric — the line of least resistance is not the best to follow. Life loses half its interest if there is no struggle — if there are no risks to be taken. The uncertainties of life are not appalling to one who has not, at heart, worldly ambitions. Moreover , it is not possible to serve one's country in the best and fullest manner if one is chained to the Civil Service . In short , national and spiritual aspirations are not compatible with obedience to Civil Service Examinations.
    • In a letter to his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose on 22 September 1920, as quoted in Life and times of Subhas Chandra Bose, as told in his own words (1978) by himself, p. 83
  • It is only on the basis of undiluted Nationalism and of perfect justice and impartiality that the Indian Army of Liberation can be built up.
    • In his address to the Indian National Army on becoming its Supreme Commander on 26 August 1943, as quoted in India Calling (1946) by himself and R. I. Paul, p. 52
  • One of the dreams that have inspired me and given a purpose to my life is that of a great and undivided Bengal … a Bengal that is above all sects and groups and is the home alike of the Muslim, the Hindu, the Christian and the Buddhist.
    • Nearly a decade before he formed the Indian National Army (INA), Netaji wrote this passionate message to his fellow Bengalis. [1]
  • When we stand, the Azad Hind Fauz has to be like a wall of granite; when we march, the Azad Hind Fauz has to be like a steamroller.
    • In his address to the Indian National Army on becoming its Supreme Commander on 26 August 1943, as quoted in Formation and growth of the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) (1946) by Durlab Singh, p. 25
  • Nobody would be more happy than ourselves if by any chance our countrymen at home should succeed in liberating themselves through their own efforts or by any chance, the British Government accepts your `Quit India’ resolution and gives effect to it. We are, however proceeding on the assumption that neither of the above is possible and that a struggle is inevitable. Father of our Nation in this holy war for India’s liberation, we ask for your blessings and good wishes.
  • Gird up your loins for the task that now lies ahead. I had asked you for men, money and materials. I have got them in generous measure. Now I demand more of you. Men, money and materials cannot by themselves bring victory or freedom. We must have the motive-power that will inspire us to brave deeds and heroic exploits.
  • It is blood alone that can pay the price of freedom. Give me blood and I will give you freedom!
    • Speech in Burma (July 1944) as quoted in The Great Speeches of Modern India (2011) by Rudrangshu Mukherjee
  • India is calling. Blood is calling to blood. Get up, we have no time to lose. Take up your arms ! we shall carve our way through the enemy's ranks, or if God wills, we shall die a martyr's death. And in our last sleep we shall kiss the road that will bring our Army to Delhi. The road to Delhi is the road to Freedom. Chalo Delhi (March to Delhi)."
    • As quoted in India Calling (1946) by himself and R. I. Paul, p. 5
  • The slogan coined by him in early 1939 was - "Britain's difficulty is India's opportunity".
  • [National-Socialism is] not only narrow and selfish but arrogant [with a] very weak scientific foundation [for its racial philosophy].
    • quoted in Leonard Gordon, Bengal The Nationalist Movement, p 260, and in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 959
  • The recent speech of Herr Hitler in Munich gives the essence of Nazi philosophy … The new racial philosophy which has very weak foundation stands for the glorification of the white races in general and the German race in particular. Herr Hitler has talked of the destiny of the white races to rule over the rest of the world … Apart from this new racial philosophy and selfish nationalism, there is another factor which affects us even more. Germany, in her desire to curry favour with Great Britain, finds it convenient to attack India and the Indian people.
    • Subhas Chandra Bose, letter written in March 1936, in Sitanshu Das, Subhas: A Political Biography, Rupa Publications India, 2001. quoted from Sanjeev Sanyal - Revolutionaries, The Other Story of How India Won Its Freedom-HarperCollins India (2023)

Quotes about Bose

  • The Japanese encountered resistance from some indigenous peoples, to be sure, and not only from those ethnic groups and elites that had done relatively well under Western colonial rule. The overwhelming majority of Indians showed no interest in the kind of liberation the Japanese had in mind for them. In the Philippines the peasant Hukbalahap movement waged a guerrilla war against them; in Burma the Karen and Kachin hill tribes also resisted Japanese rule. Nevertheless, the Japanese had no difficulty in finding collaborators among both anti-European nationalists and opportunists. Indian nationalists had not forgotten the 1919 Amritsar Massacre; it was in March 1940 that Udham Singh assassinated Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who had been Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab at that time. Though the majority of Congress leaders eschewed collaboration with the Japanese - in practice, 'Quit India' meant neutrality, albeit with a great deal of circumlocution - Subhas Chandra Bose enthusiastically hailed 'the end of the British Empire' and called on Indians to join the Axis side. Around 3,500 answered the initial call from Berlin of the self-proclaimed Netaji ('leader') to form an Indian Army of Liberation, most of them Indians who had been taken prisoner by the Germans in North Africa. When he reached Asia - having travelled by U-boat from Kiel to Sumatra - Bose was able to recruit a further 45,000 men (again mostly prisoners from Singapore and elsewhere) to his Indian National Army and the Axis cause.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 500-501
  • "Subhash Bose is a prince among patriots…."
    • Mahatma Gandhi, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Ahmedabad: The Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, Navajivan Trust, 1972–78), Volume LXXXIII, p. 135
  • "Netaji Subhas gave India the confidence to achieve an independent and prosperous country. He was the person who established the first independent government on Indian soil."
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