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Abnish Singh Chauhan
Subhash Chandra Bose (1897-1945), the dominant freedom fighter, next to Gandhi, better known as Netaji, was a magnetic and persuasive rhetor of Pre- independence Period. Frank to the extreme and fearless of criticism, he spoke like a master of language in mighty, energetic and perceptive Indian English expressions. His language was charged with political insight, social fervor and patriotism to kindle the emotions and thoughts of the Indian community, especially the freedom fighters of his times. His verbal ingenuity is admirable and carefully cultivated, which shows his command over words, freshness of ideas and richness of emotions in addressing the grave problems of Pre-independence India.
In his “Presidential Address at the Karachi Conference of All-India Naujawan Bharat Sabha” (Bose 255-257) on 27th March 1931, Subhash Chandra Bose intimately addressed the congregation as “Friends and Comrades!” (255)— two common nouns and a conjunction ‘and’ with a mark of exclamation at the end convey his deep pain on addressing a specific group. This pain rebounds when he burst: “Today we are meeting under the shadow of a great tragedy” (255). The emphasis is given on the intransitive verb ‘meeting’ in critical circumstances as the object of the preposition ‘under’ clearly reveals it. In spite of that he presided over the conference and felt “grateful” (255) to the audience.
The speech reflects his intention of making India free. For “all round and undiluted freedom” (255), he wanted to make his country a ‘Socialistic Republic’ through manhood and character building endowed with the principles of equality and justice. He was fully aware of the policies and programs of the Congress and consequently pointing out its weakness, said that it lacked radicalism and was based on adjustments— unable to achieve freedom for India. Hence, for getting freedom he set his own program— organization of peasants and workers, youth into volunteer corps, women’s associations, abolition of caste-system and eradication of social and religions superstitions, boycott of British goods and creation of new literature. He also pondered over Lahore executions and Gandhi Irwin truce— “India may have to lose more sons before she can hope to be free” (256). Though Gandhi-Irwin truce was not satisfactory, he had full hope to demolish British imperialism and to make “India free so that humanity may be saved” (257).
His thoughts are systematically organized expressing intentions, problems and solutions. They are clubbed with the repetition of ideas and the stylish use of adverbs— ‘here’, ‘also’, self-explanatory phrases— ‘to summarize’, ‘with regard to’, ‘above all’, and conjunctions— ‘and’, ‘for’, ‘that’, along with thoughtful emphasis on the burning issue— how to achieve India’s freedom? In doing so, the pathetic tone of the speaker fused with hopes and dreams exhibits his optimistic approach and persuasive technique. The discourse runs on the combined scale of exposition, narration and description.
In the speech, the language of Subhash Chandra Bose is effortless and straight. Statements are often formed in complex and compound structures, especially using coordinating conjunction— ‘and’, which is unavoidable in the speech. In the following remark, parallel statements are beautifully placed together with ‘and’:
We are concerned here with the consideration of that socio-economic structure and body politic which will help to foster manhood and develop character and the will to translate into reality the highest ideal of collective humanity (255).
His emphatic use of nouns— ‘manhood,’ ‘equality’ and ‘imperialism’, and imperative sentences— “Let us, therefore, rise to the occasion” (257), etc arouse and intensify thoughts and emotions of the audiences.
Subhash Chandra Bose’s diction endowed with memorable idioms and phrases— ‘concerned with,’ ‘bring about,’ ‘let to,’ ‘get rid of,’ ‘a great deal,’ etc, impressive tautology— “We must become fully and wholly free” (255), and requisite lexical and syntactic repetition— “We cannot get freedom, and we cannot stir up the revolutionary elements” (255) and “Which comes from the heart and goes straight to the heart” (255) illustrate lucidity and simplicity of his expressions.
The discourse can also be marked for its figures of speech. His striking inversions— “The message I have to give” (255), “What points me most is the consideration” (256), etc., thought-provoking rhetorical questions— “What is to be done at this stage” (256-257), uncomplicated metaphors— “Bhagat Singh was a symbol of the spirit of revolt” (256), and the personification of ‘India’ furnish additional effect to his forceful and realistic language.
Subhash Chandra Bose’s “Presidential Address at the 51st Session of the Congress at Haripura” (Grover 277-302) in 1938 is significant for his excellent analysis of national and international situations, comprehensible road map of India’s freedom and constructive suggestions— the need of co-operative societies, family planning, economic planning, industrialization, scientific farming, federal division of constitution, organizations of volunteer corps, future social reconstruction for the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and diseases, unifying India and its cultural autonomy, development of our lingua franca and common script, solution for the problems of minorities, release of detenues and prisoners and above all the welfare of humanity in India.
The scrutiny of this speech reveals that his thoughts are scatterbrained in the beginning having no clue of the topic in the first paragraph, but as the chain of thoughts moves the intention of the President (Bose) suffused with plans and responsibilities for making India free and reconstructive become clear and unity and coherence of ideas are achieved with the help of repetition of ideas in order to link sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph and wise use of connectors— ‘but’, ‘before’, ‘however’, ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘therefore’, ‘consequently’, ‘moreover’, ‘similarly’, ‘nevertheless’, ‘as’, ‘such’, ‘that’, and emphasis ultimately falls on “fighting not for the cause of India alone but of humanity as well. India freed means humanity saved” (302).
His thoughts in the discourse are enlivened by strong and apt similes, metaphors, rhetorical questions, repetitions, alliterations, personifications and inversions. A quotation or two of each will illustrate the nature of his figures of speech. Here is given a beautiful example of simile on the time of thanksgiving— “I am not so presumptuous as to think for one moment that I am in a way worthy of that great honour” (277) and “But I doubt if any empire in the world has practiced this policy so skillfully, systematically and ruthlessly as Great Britain” (279), which clearly communicate his tactful eloquence. His metaphors are elegant and literary— “Though the untimely death of Dr Sarat Chandra Chatterji, India has lost one of the brightest stars in her literary firmament” (278). Again, he metaphorically points out the status of Britain’s Navy thus— “Today Britain can hardly call herself the mistress of the seas” (281). Here ‘Britain’ is also personified. The speech also resonates with the effective use of alliterations. Expressing his tender feelings at the death of Swaruprani Nehru, he says: “Her suffering, sacrifice, and service in the cause of India’s freedom were such as any individual could feel proud of” (277) and “If other people are pitch-forked into seats of power which they were not responsible for capturing, they will lack that strength, confidence and idealism which is indispensable for revolutionary reconstruction” (286).
His rhetorical questions are functional and electrifying. Pondering over the transitory nature of empires from the ancient to the modern times, he asks— “Can anyone be so bold as to maintain that there is in store a different fate for the British Empire?” (278). In an exaggerated manner, he hopes and prays— “Mahatma Gandhi may be spared to our nation, for many many years to come” (302) and emphatically employs lexical repetition: “We need him to keep our people united. We need him to keep our struggle free from bitterness and hatred. We need him for the cause of our Indian Independence” (302).
Subhash Chandra Bose was meticulous about using decent and denotative terms. He was fairly attentive to the use of words and from his knowledge of history, polity, religion, current affairs and philosophy, he learned to study methods— both in the particular arrangement of his discourse and the disposition of his thoughts. Almost passionately anxious to be followed and understood, he was explicit in referring audiences to what has been said, what is to come, and what is the connection of one thing with another.
After his escape from India to Germany and from Germany to Japan, Subhash Chandra Bose became the Head of Indian National Army there. In a Military Review of the INA entitled “To Delhi, To Delhi” (Bakshi 266-270) on 5th July 1943, he directed the soldiers to march to Delhi for liberating India from the British Raj. Addressing them as “Soldiers of India’s Army of Liberation!”, he used very emphatic and appealing common nouns with preposition ‘of’ showing possession of a specific group. He also expressed his “privilege and honour” in proclaiming the formation of India’s Army of Liberation that would liberate India and thereafter make “the future national army of Free India” (267).
He reminded the soldiers that every empire in history collapsed and declined inevitably and, therefore, the fate of the British Empire would also meet the same. He forcefully said that if the soldiers followed three-fold ideals of faithfulness, duty and sacrifice with courage, fearlessness and invincibility, they could pull the British Empire to its ultimate fate to see India free. It was his firm conviction that “India shall be free and that we shall give our all to make her free” (270). K. G. Vasantha Madhava rightly observes:
When the course of the freedom movement was engulfed in gloom and despondency consequent upon the British Government’s repressive policy, Subhash Bose roused confidence among the Indians and shook the British imperialism (151).
In the discourse, the construction of the paragraphs is worth examining. The thing that strikes is the abrupt division and unusual number of paragraphs. Every statement that he wished to make prominent, falls in a paragraph by itself. In doing so, his intention was almost unanimously one— to march to Delhi with the Liberation Army for making India free, which was also made clearer and pointed with the conspicuous use of figures of speech. Here is given an example of transferred epithet in an emphatic form: “Today is the proudest day of my life” (267). In it, it is he who was proud not the day. Metaphorically, he fingered at the battle-field of Singapore thus— “This army has now been drawn up in military formation on the battlefield of Singapore, which was once the bulwark of the British Empire” (267).
His passive structures— “child is convinced” (260), personification of ‘British Empire’, ‘India’ and ‘army’, use of proverbial words— “To Paris, to Paris!”, “To Singapore, To Singapore” (268), use of simile— “We have no tradition like that of Mukdon Port Arthur […] to inspire us:” (268) also reflect the loveliness of his language.
Although the language of the discourse is not studiously varied, his compositional techniques are often agreeably fresh and charming. He always prefers common words, but he does not scruple to use the practical and historical terms. His sentences are remarkable for their constructions mostly in persistently assertive form and now and then imperative and interrogative sentence structures are used to persuade and arouse the audiences. As a rhetor he is ‘moderate’ and ‘rationalistic’ and his fairness and good intention always produce a favorable impression upon the masses.
It was the peak time for Subhash Chandra Bose to begin a big fight for India’s freedom and to form a government and its policies. Hence, in his discourse on the “Proclamation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind” (Bakshi 255-259) on 21st October 1943, Subhash Chandra Bose outlined the major tasks of the Provisional Government. Giving historical details of India and its defeat at the hands of the British, the valorous accounts of the martyrs, the emergence and actions of the Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi, the organizations of Indians abroad as a whole, the formation of India’s Army of Liberation in East Asia with the slogan aim “Onward to Delhi” (257), he undertook the task of setting up a Provisional Government of Azad Hind (Free India) to conduct “the last fight for freedom, with the help of the army of Liberation […] organized by the League” (257-258). He said that the task of the Government would be to provide religious liberty, equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens, to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and to launch and conduct endless struggle to expel the British from the motherland.
In the discourse, his techniques of presentation, narrating the past and portraying the present, are strikingly commendable. He subtly ushers the technique of repetition: “They could now speak with one voice and strive with one will for one common goal” (256). His abundant use of figurative language has also been the matter of much admiration. There is beauty and charm in his tautology— “thinking and feeling in tune” (257), deep alliterations— “lost liberty” (256), “Germany with the help of her allies has dealt” (256), “to rally round our banner” (258), etc , dignified simile— “Nevertheless, such heroes as the Rani of Jhansi, Tatia Tope, Kunwar Singh and Nana Sahab live like eternal stars in the nation’s memory to inspire us to greater deed of sacrifice and valour” (256) and passivization of statements— “the names of all these warriors are forever engraved in letters of gold (255) for the imperative effect on the audience.
The discourse clearly reveals that he uses generally a more familiar diction and his style is easily intelligible. He is invariably magniloquent, especially when he expresses those words which are taken from day-to-day life. He speaks condensed expressions enough to be called a precise orator. His excellence in pathos is also worth mentioning. It was his purpose as an orator to draw some pictures of India’s distress and the need of battle for the Independence. In doing so, he had made “an affecting appeal” to the masses.
In the hours of struggle, Subhash Chandra Bose never forgot the Father of the Nation— Mahatma Gandhi. His address to Mahatma Gandhi over the Rangoon Radio on 6th July 1944 (Bose 306-18) was remarkable for dignified and fluent speech. The address was couched in a very respectful language from the very first word “Mahatmaji” to the last “Father of our Nation!” Over the radio, Netaji briefed Mahatma Gandhi why he collaborated with the Axis Powers and formed the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. Therefore, he sought his blessings in the final holy war of India’s Independence. At this, Hugh Toye observes: “Passionately he exhorted the people at home to hold fast and fight [...], The tone of these broadcasts was much nearer to that of Bose’s own extremism than to the voice of Mr Gandhi” (70).
In the speech, his sentences are neither strikingly short, nor too long. They are balanced and pointed. Now and then the use of repetition is exciting as it reminds the significance of his thoughts. Moreover, his figures of speech fall naturally and they are influential and attractive as well. Here is given a flaming simile in a rhetorical question—“If a powerful empire like the British Empire, could go-round the world with the begging bowl what objection could there be to an enslaved, disarmed people like ourselves taking help as a loan from abroad?” (318). His use of alliteration is also quite fascinating— “We would win freedom” (310).
His mind had a natural craving for broad comprehensive views and perhaps his astonishing popularity was probably due to the bursts of his excellent oratory. Prof. Satyavta Ghosh rightly remarks: “He used to regularly broadcast over the Azad Hind Radio. His very words, beginning with ‘I am Subhash speaking’ used to electrify us in India” (11).
In his struggle for India’s freedom, Subhash Chandra Bose faced many ups and downs in his life. In spite of that he had firm conviction for India’s freedom, which was clearly expressed in his discourse “India Shall Be Free” (Bose 321), the last special message to the Indians in East Asia on 15th August 1945. In the speech, on the ground of equality and brotherhood he politely addressed the congregation as “Sisters and Brothers” in Vivekanandian style and paid his thanks to them for their patriotism and self-sacrifice. He morally encouraged them with the words— “Be of good cheer and keep up your spirit” (321) and again— “There is no power on earth that can keep India enslaved. India shall be free and before long” (321). His prophecy became true when India got freedom after two years. “His examples and his exhortations over the years will always inspire the people of India. His activities certainly hastened the downfall of the British Empire” (Ghosh 13).
In the discourse, his figurative expressions are convincing: his masterly use of alliteration— “man, money and materials” (321), personification— ‘India’, ‘Providence Government’ and ‘Posterity’, and epigrams— “Be of good cheer and keep up your spirits” (321) and “[...] never for a moment falter in your faith” (321).
The language of the discourse is simply communicative, having right choice and proper profusion of words. Sentences are straightforward and easy flowing— the occasional use of imperative sentences whets the imagination of the audience. Having a strong natural bent for the study of political and social structures of the world, he had an admirable command over Indian English and constructed his sentences to suit the motion of the productive and all-encompassing thoughts with a little musical rhythm.
Being a good rhetor, Subhash Chandra Bose had more vigor than tenderness in his speeches; however, frequently the thought of miserable condition of his motherland unnerved and threw him into the melting mood. He was not content to utter an opinion in a form comprehensible from his own points of view, but having constant desire to convince all the classes of mind, through his attractive language, he used to judge how the opinion would be received by the people of positive and opposite sentiments and communicate his statements accordingly. His was a style of patriotic mobilization that was likely to have much motivational effects on the audiences.
Bose, Sisir K. and et al., ed. A Beacon Across Asia: A Biography of Subhash Chandra Bose. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1973. Print.
Grover, Verinder. Subhash Chandra Bose: A Biography of His Vision and Ideas. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1998. Print.
Bakshi, S. R. Subhash Chandra Bose: Founder of I.N.A. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1991. Print.
Madhava, K. G. Vasantha. History of the Freedom Movement in India. New Delhi: Navrang, 1995. Print.
Toye, Hugh. Subhash Chandra Bose: The Springing Tiger. Mumbai: Jaico Publishing, 2002. Print.
Ghosh, Prof. Satyavrata. Remembering Our Revolionaries. Hyderabad: Marxist Study Forum, 1994. Print.
Chauhan, Abnish Singh. Speeches of Swami Vivekananda and Subhash Chandra Bose: A Comparative Study. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2006. Print.
“Rhetoric of Subhash Chandra Bose.” Re-Markings Special Number: ‘Bose- Immortal Legend of India’s Freedom: Contemporary Critical Orientations’ (ISSN 0972-611X). Vol.16, No.1, Jan 2017, 249-259. Print.
About the Author:
Dr Abnish Singh Chauhan (1979) is a bilingual poet, critic, translator and editor (Hindi and English). His significant books include Swami Vivekananda: Select Speeches, Speeches of Swami Vivekananda and Subhash Chandra Bose: A Comparative Study, King Lear: A Critical Study, Functional English, The Fictional World of Arun Joshi: Paradigm Shift in Values and Tukada Kagaz Ka (Hindi Lyrics). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.