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REFLECTIONS : NETAJI DID IT THERE,MUCH BEFORE NEHRU COULD DO IT HERE

REFLECTIONS : NETAJI DID IT THERE,MUCH BEFORE NEHRU COULD DO IT HERE

Andamans, Nicobar islands had their brush with Independence in 1943 when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose unfurled the national flag, much before Bharat had its first taste on August 15, 1947

Prof Jagdish Mukhi

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands is closely associated with the freedom struggle of India. Before Independence, Andaman was a penal colony with the dreaded prison Cellular Jail at its midst. The deportation to Andamans began with the arrival of first batch of freedom fighters of First War of Independence on March 10, 1858. Later, the Cellular Jail, a massive colossal structure was built during 1893-1906 for the solitary confinement of political prisoners with the unique design to crush India’s freedom for Independence. Spread in seven spokes of a bicycle wheel this unique three storied structure was the first of its kind in India. In the jail, 693 cells were specially built for solitary confinement of prisoners. At the centre of the seven wings was sealed off by an iron grill door. Thus a single guard on duty could supervise all the seven wings from his vantage position. Another unique feature of this jail was the total absence of communication between prisoners staying in different wings.
The cellular jail, now a National Memorial, is witness to the glorious contribution of revolutionary patriots in the history of Indian Freedom Movement. Many charismatic personalities were imprisoned here. Veer Savarkar, Barindra Kumar Ghosh, Ullaskar Dutt, Indu Bhushan Roy, Prithvi Singh Azad, Trailokyanath Chakravarthy, Mahavir Singh among others. Group of revolutionaries involved in Nasik Conspiracy Case, Chittagong Armoury Raid Case, Lahore Conspiracy Case and others were brought to the jail with long terms of imprisonment. Torture and flogging were frequently resorted to on iron triangular frame, gunny bag uniforms, invalid diet and fetters and chains were other deterrents for those who refused to submit to the brutal warders. Working on grinding mill was even more terrible and caused many deaths.

The Cellular Jail is not only sanctified by the feet of this rare class of political prisoners, but it also has the privilege of a visit by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, one of the greatest freedom fighters in the history of modern India and the Supreme Commander of Indian National Army (INA) during the Second World War when the Islands were under the occupation of Japanese Imperial Force from March 1943 to October 1945.

Earlier, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had taken over the direct command of the Indian National Army (INA) in August 1943. He exhorted his companions with the words “Comrades, Officers and Men, with your unstinted support and unflinching loyalty, Azad Hind Fauj, will become the instrument of India’s liberation with the slogan …onwards to Delhi on our lips, let us continue to fight till our national flag flies over the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi…”.
Netaji’s outstanding organisational ability and charismatic leadership aroused the Indian community spread all over East Asia to a new sense of national identity and patriotism. The Provisional Government of Azad Hind in the islands was formed on October 21, 1943. A Proclamation was issued under the signature of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as Head of State, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs who took the oath of allegiance to India in the following words,” In the name of God, I take this sacred oath that to liberate India and the thirty-eight crores of my countrymen, I Subhash Chandra Bose, will continue this sacred war of freedom till the last breath of my life…”. This was the time when the Japanese Prime Minister Tojo made a historic declaration at the Assembly of Greater East Asiatic Nations in Tokyo on November 7, 1943, that the Andaman & Nicobar Islands would be transferred to the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. Soon after the Japanese Government’s decisions to transfer the A&N Islands to the Provisional Government, Netaji declared: “For the Indians, the liberation and return of Andamans from the British represent the first Indian Territory to be liberated from the British yoke. By the acquisition of this territory, the Provisional Government has now become a national entity in fact as well as in name.”

This was followed by his historic visit to the Andamans as the head of Provisional Government, which made a symbolic fulfilment of his promise that INA would stand on the Indian soil by the end of 1943. Netaji was accorded a warm reception by the Japanese Authorities and the Islanders on his arrival at Port Blair on December 29. He visited Cellular Jail and paid tributes to the sacrifices of the Indian Patriots. On the following day, i.e December 30, 1943, the National Flag was hoisted by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on the
liberated Indian Soil, a first of its kind act in the history of British rule in India, declaring the Islands the first Indian Territory to be freed from the colonial rule. Netaji renamed Andamans as Shaheed in memory of the martyrs and Nicobar as Swaraj.

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A Memorial with a Flag Post has been erected at the historic site of December 30 where every year a commemorative function is organised to commemorate the day.
The 73rd anniversary of the historic event of the first hoisting of the National Flag was celebrated in a grand manner for the first time where I hoisted the National Tri-Colour amidst a large gathering of people from all walks of life, including the members of Forum for Awareness on National Security). The Union Minister of State for MSME Shri Giriraj Singh,representatives from all political parties and a host of dignitaries from Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, A&N Police and A&N Administration also graced this historic occasion.

This historic site of First Flag Hoisting on an Indian Soil before Independence at Port Blair serves as a beacon light to many generations inspiring them to dedicate themselves to this nation in order to give a new meaning and content to our freedom.

(The writer is Lt. Governor, Andamans & Nicobar Islands)

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