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Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Written by Alternate Historian

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January 23

In 1897, on this day "Respected Leader" Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Cuttack, Orissa British India.

Birth of Subhas Chandra BoseHe was one of the most prominent Indian nationalist leaders who gained India's independence from British rule by force during the waning years of World War II with the help of the Axis powers.

Bose, who had been ousted from the Indian National Congress in 1939 following differences with the more conservative high command, and subsequently placed under house arrest by the British, escaped from India in early 1941. He turned to the Axis powers for help in gaining India's independence by force. With Japanese support, he organised the Indian National Army, composed largely of Indian soldiers of the British Indian army who had been captured in the Battle of Singapore by the Japanese.

At the age of forty-five, he raised the flag of Indian independence at Calcutta. The Provisional Government of Azad Hind, presided by Bose became the successor to the bankrupt British Raj, looking into an exhilarating new future with a shiny new confidence for the second half of the twentieth century. An installment from the Quit India thread

December 26

In 1941, on this day British Prime Minister Winston Churchill suffered a fatal heart attack.

Quit India, Part #1
The Death of Churchill
But a few hours before, Churchill had addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress, asking of Germany and Japan, "What kind of people do they think we are? Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?". Click to watch the address to Joint Session Of Congress

That evening as a guest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House, Churchill rose to open a window sash, and experienced a tremour from his heart through his left arm.

In public, he had seemed to epitomize the bulldog fighting spirit but in private, the strain was taking its toll. And that strain had become intolerable since the events of 10th December. The killer blow was unwittingly delivered by telephone to Churchill's bedside by Sir Dudley Pound, the First Sea Lord - so distressed that the Prime Minister had great difficulty to discerning his message.

Pound: Prime Minister, I have to report to you that the Indomitable, Prince of Wales and the Repulse have been sunk by the Japanese - we think by aircraft. [a trusted friend of Churchill, British Admiral] Tom Phillips is drowned.
Churchill: Are you sure it's true?
Pound: There is no doubt at all.

"In all the war, I never received a more direct shock... As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor, who were hastening back to California. Over all this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme, and we everywhere were weak and naked".

The news of Churchill's death would have profound implications for Mohandas K. Gandhi, who ironically enough had been described by the Prime Minister as a half-naked fakir. By December of 1941, the view of the Indian National Congress had changed sharply - British would probably not lose the war. Unable to rely upon the Axis Powers to force the British to "Quit India" Gandhi devised a new proposal. Click to watch the video. Whilst British forces might remain in India, their Government should depart. The key opponent of this proposal was now dead; Churchill had denied that the Atlantic Charter principle that the "right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live" applied to (his words and those of the Daily Mail) "the darker races". In a final act of irony, the successful defence of India would build a new multi-faith nation, subduing the calls for a breakaway Muslim state.

December 30

In 1942, on this day Subhas Chandra Bose raised the flag of Indian independence at Calcutta.

Quit India, Part #2
Return of the Leaping Tiger, by Ed & Scott Palter
An unstoppable Japanese drive through Burma had made the occupation of the former Imperial Capital possible, if not quite inevitable due to logistical constraints and rivalry in the Imperial Japanese Army. And even though the rebel Indian National Army (INA) never completed their "March to Delhi", the fatal blow to British prestige had been struck. Because the Axis partition of the Raj would forever change the destiny of the Indian subcontinent. One that even Bose himself could never have imagined.

Of course the Fall of Calcutta transformed the fates of all engaged parties. After the fatal heart attack of Winston Churchill on 26th December 1941, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden had wisely re-focused the Government on sustainable war objectives that would not bankcrupt the home nation. A younger, less sentimental man than Churchill, he had no interest in British punching above its weight for a few short years only to become as impoverished as a defeated nation. Whereas Churchill had sought to ensure that the British Empire be "preserved for a few more generations in all its splendour", a phrase that surely excluded the famine in Bengal. And so Eden now downgraded the Far Eastern Campaign to a lower priority (with a restated future-proof objective of the defence of Australia and New Zealand). He called for the Allies to concentrate resources in Western Europe and North Africa, bringing forward an amphibious invasion of Normandy to 1943. And this decision would usher in the Fall of Vichy France, which ironically was one of the two Axis Puppet Governments that promised to send ambassadors to Calcutta.

But of course the largest consequence would be for the India people themselves. The door to this dramatically altered future had been opened by the revocation of a single, faulty command decision: to bypass the heavily defended town of Kohima. This encirclement forced the British commander Field Marshal William Slim to abandon the strategic towns of Dimapur and Imphal. The British withdrawal to positions on the western bank of the river Brahmaputra abandoned a huge area of Eastern Indian that would eventually become the territory of the two Muslim successor states.

This altered reality forced the imprisoned leadership of the Indian National Congress to suspend the non-violence campaign. And because they never actually endorsed an armed rebellion, Nehru and Gandhi unwittingly placed more power in the hands of the iconic figure of Bose, and also strengthened the arm of the Muslim separatists led by Jinnah. In short, sub-contintental belligerence received a welcome shot in the arm, which despite the widespread perception otherwise, had always been present throughout two centuries of British occupation.

Of course the headquartering of the Azad Hind government in Calcutta was fleeting. As the Japanese War Effort started to collapse, Bose was forced to retreat to Burma and face a horrible moment of truth. However his willingness to peacefully disband the INA saved him from being hung from a British noose. By mutual agreement, he withdrew to Port Blair, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean.

But five years later, he was recalled by an Indian Government unable to resist an invasion from its northern Muslim neighbour. Ironically, the man who had done most to integrate the ethnicities in the INA was being asked to rescue the Hindu successor state from destruction. Finally, he would complete his March to Delhi.

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© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.