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Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

Historical Visit to Singapore


By Chandra Kumar Bose

It was my privilege to be a member of a delegation under the auspices of Netaji Subhas Kranti Manch, to visit Singapore to commemorate the formation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind.

We landed at Singapore in the morning on 20th October 2012. An impressive city with one of the highest GDP per capita (purchasing power parity), at $ 60500 US dollars.( Source- CIA World Fact book as on 1st January 2012). After checking into the hotel, we marched off to the National Archives to see the documents kept there on the Indian National Army. To our surprise, we found four volumes arranged in a chronological order for us to study. There were some rare documents on which more research should be done. It was decided by the delegates that a research team may visit later on, specifically, to study the documents kept in the National Archives in Singapore. In the afternoon, the delegates were invited to the Global Indian International School, for their Annual Day Celebration. The performances of the students were brilliant and we noticed that the school, though, situated in Singapore- ensured Indian heritage and tradition were inculcated among the students. In the evening, an interactive session with Indian residents was arranged at Bayshore Condominium by Mr. Sayantan Dasgupta, Member of Mission Netaji based in Singapore. The delegates had an opportunity to interact and discuss issues related to the freedom struggle launched by the Azad Hind Fauj (INA).

The next day on 21st October 2012, a historic day, we visited the Cathay Hall in Singapore, accompanied by Lt. Girish V. Kothari, of the Indian National Army, where almost seven decades ago (69 years ago) on 21st October 1943, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose formed the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, the Government of Free India in exile to launch the final struggle for Indian independence. In the presence of over a thousand delegates and Indians living in East and South East Asia, Netaji as the head of the Government declared:

Now that the dawn of freedom is at hand, it is the duty of the Indian people to set up a Provisional Government of their own, and launch the last struggle under the banner of that Government. But with all the Indian leaders in prison (in India) and the people at home totally disarmed - it is not possible to set up a Provisional Government within India or to launch an armed struggle under the aegis of that Government. It is, therefore, the duty of the Indian Independence League in East Asia, supported by all patriotic Indians at home and abroad, to undertake this task - the task of setting up a Provisional Government of Azad Hind (Free India), and of conducting the last fight for freedom, with the help of the Army of Liberation (that is, the Azad Hind Fauj or the Indian National Army) organised by the League.

The Provisional Government is entitled to, and herby claims, the allegiance of every Indian. It guarantees religious liberty as well as equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens. It declares its firm resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation equally and transcending all the differences cunningly fostered by an alien government in the past. In the name of God, in the name of bygone generations who have welded the Indian people into one nation and in the name of the dead heroes who have bequeathed to us a tradition of heroism and self-sacrifice - we call upon them to launch the final struggle against the British and all their allies in India and to prosecute that struggle with valour, perseverance and full faith in final victory - until the enemy is expelled from Indian soil and the Indian people are once again a Free Nation.


(Proclamation of the Provisional Government of Free India, 21st October 1943)

Our delegation comprising of 22 members from North, South, East and West of India came to Singapore to commemorate the final battle for our Independence which was launched from Singapore soil by the Provisional Government of Free India and the Indian National Army under its Supreme Commander Subhas Chandra Bose. The delegation went to Singapore to salute and pay homage to the people who served the INA for their country in Malaysia, Penang, Bangkok and Myanmar. Here our brothers and sisters dreamt of a Free India and from where they marched on to India with the words 'Chalo Delhi' on their lips. It was also in this region that the local Indian communities gave up all in terms of their people, money and resources to the Provisional Government to conduct the Indian War of Independence.

The Indian National Army, the Army of Liberation of India, or as it is popularly known, the INA fought on the Indo- Burma front, and finally entered India in early 1944. In March 1944, the INA was able to cross the frontier of India and finally fight with the enemy on Indian soil. The thrust was towards the north- eastern gateway of India towards Imphal and Kohima. The high point came when the INA raised the Indian Tri-colour on Indian soil in Moirang in Manipur in the north-east of India on 14th April 1944, when their march to Delhi was halted. The superior military might of the British, the joint Anglo-American forces and the torrential monsoons turned the tide against the Indian National Army and they had to beat a retreat.

In the military defeat of the Indian National Army lay the seed of their ultimate victory over British Imperialism. As Netaji had predicted - once the news of the heroic exploits of the INA men and women with their ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of India would reach India, it would galvanise the people to rise against the British Raj. This miscalculation on the part of the British authorities helped it to happen in no small measure. With Japan's surrender on 14th August 1945, came the end of the war and the British began to repatriate the INA soldiers and officers to India. The British refused to give them the status of 'prisoners of war' and labelled them as traitors and deserters.Thousands of returning INA soldiers began to tell their story about their leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. While the British authorities considered how and when to put these men on trial, popular adoration, respect and support spread like wild-fire and the demand for the release of the INA men and women increased rapidly. Bose was the man of the hour and his dream and strategy unfolded dramatically even in his absence. When the three officers of the INA - Captain Shah Nawaz Khan, Captain P.K. Sehgal and Lieutenant G.S. Dhillon were put on trial at the Red Fort - the British did not take long to realise that their game was over. The Officers were released and they were hailed by their countrymen as heroes.

India finally attained independence on 15th August 1947, and there is no doubt about the role that the Indian National Army and its leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose played in this ultimate triumph of Freedom over Bondage. Netaji's dream had been finally realised, but it was only a pale reflection of his dream - his dream was of a united, vibrant and prosperous India where there would be no discrimination for caste, creed or religion and everyone would enjoy equality of opportunities. His dream is yet to be realised.

 

After Cathay Hall, the delegation visited the INA War Memorial at Esplanade Park, Singapore, near Padang. Floral tributes were given. On 8th July 1945, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose laid the foundation stone of the INA War Memorial to commemorate the 'Unknown Warrior' of the INA. The words inscribed upon the War Memorial were the motto of the INA: Unity (Ittefaq), Faith (Etmad) and Sacrifice (Kurbani). While paying homage to the martyrs of the INA, Netaji had said- 'The future generation of Indians who will be born not as slaves, but as free men, because of your colossal sacrifice, will bless your names and proudly proclaim to the world that you, their fore bearers, fought and suffered reverses in the battle of Manipur, Assam and Burma. But, through temporary failure they paved the way to ultimate success and glory. After its foundation by Netaji, the Japanese built the Memorial within a month. When the British returned to Singapore later in 1945, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Head of Southeast Asia Command of the British, ordered the INA Memorial to be destroyed. Mountbatten's intention was to remove all traces of rebellion against British imperial authority. In 1995, the site where the INA Memorial once stood was marked by the National Heritage Board as a historical site and subsequently with financial donations from the Indian Community in Singapore a new monument commemorating the original was erected by the Singapore Government.

The Memorial was rebuilt by the Singapore Government to honour the INA soldiers who gave up their lives to liberate India from the clutches of British imperialism.

 

On 22nd October 2012, the delegates were invited by the Global Indian International School, for a Seminar on our freedom struggle. The students spoke on revolutionaries and freedom fighters, like Subhas Chandra Bose, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Mahatma Gandhi and others. Prof. Ved Prakash Saini, Dr. Dwarka Nath Bose and I spoke at the seminar. There was an interactive session with the students. It was observed by the delegates that the students were highly knowledgeable about the freedom movement. The programme was well organised and I must state that Mr Sayantan Dasgupta, of Mission Netaji, was instrumental in organising this event.

The delegates were invited to a reception hosted by His Excellency, Dr.TCA. Raghavan, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore. The reception was attended by dignitaries like Ambassador K. Kesavapani, INA veteran Lt. Girish Kothari, son of Mrs Janaki Thevar, INA, Ms. Nilanjana Sengupta, historian and many other distinguished persons residing at Singapore. During the discussions some of the delegates requested His Excellency, Dr. Raghavan, to kindly take up the issue of installing a statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Singapore. His Excellency, Dr. Raghavan, mentioned that whatever has been done so far in terms of constructing a Memorial for the Azad Hind Fauj (INA), in Singapore was due to the initiative taken by resident Indians including INA soldiers, and their relatives based in Singapore. It was not necessary for the Government of India, or the Indian High Commission to take up the issue with the Government of Singapore. He felt that the Indian Community in Singapore would take up the issue of installing a statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The High Commission would be glad to extend all support and assistance.

Jai Hind!
Chandra Kumar Bose
Director, Bose Information Technology Pvt.Ltd., (Manpower and Software Consultants),
General Secretary, Indian Socialist Democratic Forum, (involved with Human Rights and RTI Act cases),
Member, All India Forward Bloc,
Member of Netaji Subhas Foundation, Kolkata and London.
Son of Amiya Nath Bose, grandson of Sarat Chandra Bose and grandnephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

 

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