Recollections and reflections

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>>

Azad Hind Diwas Celebrations in Singapore

 

I have the pleasure of being in Singapore, the 'karambhoomi' of my beloved leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, for the last 10 months or so now. Whatever time I have been able to take out after my official work has mostly gone into meeting up the Indian National Army veterans and discovering places connected to Netaji and the INA.

 

I was naturally delighted when Mr V.P. Saini, president of Netaji Subhas Kranti Manch, an organisation committed to the ideals of Netaji, approached me with the desire to commemorate the proclamation of the foundation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind on 21 October 1943. Mr Saini wanted to organise a visit to Cathay Hall, the venue of the historic event, with a 20 member delegation comprising representatives from the INA and Netaji's family. Apart from celebrating the Azad Hind Diwas, the delegation was to visit the numerous memorials connected with the INA and Netaji in Singapore. They also wanted totour Malaysia to meet INA men and spots connected with the INA in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang before ending their visit in Bangkok, where Netaji has shifted his base towards the end of the war.

This is how Mr. Saini and others wanted to recall the sacrifices of the INA, salutethe lands from where the movement of Azad Hind started and express theirgratitude to the people and the countries which hosted and supported Netaji during the most crucial and decisive period of India's freedom struggle.

And while I devoted myself towards making this visit a reality, I realised how slippery the Indians and the PIOs in Singapore were. One by one they made themselves unavailable using one pretext or another. Just to give you an instance, even a letter from the high priest of the Golden Temple could not convince the Singapore Central Gurudwara to hold a simple Aardas at the venue. This was the first time I saw the Sikhs behaving in such odd manner over a matter concerning Netaji. The response of the Bengali Association of Singapore was on the expected lines as they too denied the permission to hold a Netaji related event during the Puja's. Anyhow, eventually precious help came from the Global Indian International School, Ambassador Kesavapany, Nilanjana Sengupta, and few new friends at the Bay Shore Park and above all the High Commissioner of India to Singapore.

After finalising the Singapore plan, I left for Malaysia to touch base with the dignitaries whom the visitors could meet on their visit. And I found the peopleof Malaysia to be much more receptive and open to the idea. Within a day, I could meet up with Dato Dominic Puduchary, Mrs. Janaki Thevar, Mrs. Bhalappan and Capt. Gandhinathan. They all whole heartedly agreed to welcome the visitors and charged up just like their INA days. In fact they even agreed to make efforts to erect a statue of Netaji in Kuala Lumpur.

         

While most of the Netaji admirers from India arrived in Singapore on the 19th evening the family members, Mr. D. N. Bose and Mr. Chandra Kumar Bose, landed on the early morning on   the 20th October. Two other prominent members of the group were Ms. Purnima Dhillon, the daughter-in-law of legendary Red Fort trial hero Colonel G.S. Dhillon and Mr. A Prabhakar Das, son of the sister of Mr. A Yellapa, the founder of the Azad Hind Bank.

 

The programme of the group was as follows:

Day 1: 20 October 2012 10:30 am to 1:00 pm:

  We all assembled at the National Archives of Singapore to go through the four folders consisting of documents on Netaji and INA which were especially created and kept ready for us. We spent nearly two and a half hours going through the various documents. Just as I discovered during my first trip to the Singapore Archive, the delegates too found the documents to be of immense value to any researcher and they could not stop praising the authorities who had taken this painstaking work to gather all those and kept them all intact for people to study.

 

2:00 pm to 4:30 pm:
The visitors were invited as chief guests for 'Rhapsody 2012' -- the Annual day programme at the Global Indian International School. It felt a bit odd to occupy the 30 odd reserved seats right in the front row of a packed auditorium. I could see the stares of the standing parents turn into looks of admiration when it was announced that the school was proud to have the family members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and INA amongst them for the occasion. The delegates loved the performances of the students from classes 3-8 and in their own words this was probably one of the best annual day celebration ever attended by them.

     

5:00pm to 7:00pm:

After the pomp and show of the GIIS students it was time for the meet and greet session of the delegates with the Indian families residing at the Bayshore Park. The delegates made full use of this session to educate the Indian expats about the contribution of Netaji and the INA in the Indian Independence struggle. Though not many questions were thrown at the delegates but since that day many have approached me to get themselves more aware of the subject and an inspired few have also borrowed books from me to know more about Netaji.

Day 2, 21 October 2012
10:15 am to 11:00 am:

We all gathered at the Cathay Hall where on this auspicious day (in 1943) at 10:30am Netaji and his Cabinet of ministers had gathered there nearly seven decades ago, and where Netaji had proclaimed the formation of the Provisional Azad Hind Government. This government was recognised by 7 countries.      

Netaji as the head of the Government had declared in a voice choked with emotion: "In the name of God, I take this sacred oath - that I will liberate India and the 38 crores of my countrymen, I Subhas Chandra Bose, will continue this sacred war of freedom till the last breath of my life".

 

A passage from that historic declaration is worth recalling:

"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 aProvisional 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 wellas 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 governmentin 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 theirallies in India and to prosecute that struggle with valour and perseverance and with full faith in final victory - until the enemy is expelled from Indian soil and the Indian people are once again a Free Nation."

We paid homage to Netaji and hailed our motherland from this very spot at 10:30 am. We also visited the basement area and had tea from a stall which now stands right beneath the spot where Netaji had stood while reading out the proclamation.

11:30 am to 12:30 pm:

The delegation then proceeded towards the Padang where Netaji stood on an elevated platform at the City Hall and had addressed the INA and the Indians staying in Singapore who had gathered at the Padang, for the first time. This is also the spot where the I. N. A. memorial was built following Netaji's orders and was later demolished by the British at the end of the war. The Singapore Government has been kind enough to have a marker placed in the same spot where the original memorial once stood. On the way we saw the SMU where the Rani Jhansi Regiment barracks used to be located.

 

 

 

1:00 pm to 1:30 pm:

The delegation moved to 61 Meyer Road which was once the residence of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose while he was in Singapore. Though the original bungalow has now been demolished to make way for The Atria, a posh condo, but atleast we could identify the place and gathered there to pay our respects and collected soil from there.

2:30 pm to 4:00 pm:

Netaji's family members along with Mrs. Poornima Dhillon visited the Durga Puja celebrations for blessings from Maa Durga and also had bhog there.

 

Day 3, 22ndOctober'2012

11:15 am to 2:00 pm : Special programme on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

 

Time Name of the item & scope of work Duration
11:15 Welcoming of the guests -
11:30 Flag hoisting 1 min
11:31 Leading the guests to the auditorium 5 mins
11:36 Welcoming the guests at the venue by the compeering team. 1 min
11:37 Power point presentation on Netaji and Bhagat Singh 6 mins
11:43 Poems on Subhash Chandra Bose & Bhagat Singh 2 mins
11:45 Music presentation (Medley of 2 songs) 3 mins
11:48 2 speeches by students on Netaji & Bhagat Singh 5 mins
11:53 Guest speakers to be honored by handing over art work & card on stage by student volunteers. 2 mins
11:55 Guest speakers' address 10 mins
12:05 Q & A session 15 mins
12:20 Vote of thanks 1 min
12:22 National anthems of Singapore & India 2 mins
12:25 Refreshments for the guests in the canteen 55 mins

 

This programme was mesmerizing to say the least and was attended by a jam packedauditorium with students, who were all involved with the programme. It was a spirited performance by the students who took the stage one after the other followed by the guest speakers charging them up. The slogans of "Jai Hind" and "Inquelab zindabad" filled the air and for every one present there it was a moment which we will not be able to forget. After the programme was over we were literally chasedby students for autographs and a slightly enlarged session of the Q & A session. My heartiest thanks to every one of the students and teachers involved to make this special programme a grand success.

 

   

   

 

 

 

 

 

5:30 am to 7:00 pm

It was very nice of the High Commissioner of India to Singapore, Dr. T.C.A.Raghavan, to consider my request and host a reception at his residence in honorof the delegation from India. It was also attend by INA veteran Girish Kothari, Ambassador K. Kesavapany, Mrs. Janaki's son, Nilanjan Sengupta, Rinku and other dignitaries. On our repeated requests for making efforts to educate the peopleof Singapore about Netaji and thus making sure that his memories are alive herein Singapore both Dr. Raghavan and Ambassador Kesavapany emphasised the continued attempts of the Indian community in Singapore to keep Netaji's memories alive in this part of the world. It was also announced that a bust of Netaji will be installed in the upcoming Indian Heritage Center along with areplica of the destroyed INA memorial.

The delegation left for Malaysia the following day from where they would be visiting Thailand.

 

Author: 
Sayantan Dasgupta