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Celebrating Netaji's 'Parakram' On His Birth Anniversary, And For Life

Gajanan Khergamker | Kolkata

"I have to spread Netaji's message," says a 95-year-old Rama Khandwala, seated in her trademark posture on a sofa in her house in South Mumbai as she spoke at length about how Netaji's Aage Badho message was relevant to one and all, even today. A recently-procured foot injury didn't keep her down as she sat up on an afternoon speaking with a team of The Draft, of the years of yore even as her servant, years younger, enjoyed an afternoon snooze. After all, she had to pass on Netaji's message to Generation Next. And she's at it, with a determination rare to find these days.

TOWERING: PM Modi paying tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Kolkata's
iconic National Library on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary
True to her wont, Netaji's Rani, as the female soldiers of the Indian Army's Rani of Jhansi Regiment were known, has battled a spate of physical injuries, falls, a heart attack, a fracture and a retinal detachment in an eye, didn't dampen her spirit. Rama is a fighter and how. She went on to write a book on Netaji, with just one eye at a time when most wouldn't even be able to reach till her age.

And, Rama's tryst with Netaji in a hospital is etched in her mind as she spoke exuberantly about it as if it happened yesterday. "Not in the wildest of my dreams did I imagine that falling into a ditch would put me face-to-face with Netaji who I admired all my life. He came to my camp and on hearing about my accident. He actually met me in person!" she said.

RANI RAMA THEN: Rama Khandwala when she was a member of the
Azad Hind Fauj (Photo Credit: Rama Khandwala)
"My mother was a recruiting officer of the Indian Independence League and would collect donations for the Azad Hind Fauj. She enrolled my sister and I into the Indian National Army (INA)," recalls Rama, who joined the armed forces at age 17 in Rangoon (present day Yangon) in Burma (present day Myanmar) in 1943. "We underwent military training and were also trained as nurses," she says. "The training was tough and at times my sister and I would cry but ultimately learnt how to enjoy training," added Rama.

...AND NOW: 95-year-old Rama Khandwala at her home fondly recalls her time with Netaji
That there are unending controversies surrounding the death of Subhas Chandra Bose, his survival despite a deadly plane crash, even after developing third-degree burns, conspiracy theories, reveal the single-most powerful truth about India's greatest freedom patriot - that he continues to live in the hearts of millions even today. Millions refuse to believe, despite the Central government, in response to an RTI (Right To Information) query in 2017, confirming that he died in a Japanese plane crash in Taipei on 18 August 1945, that he is dead.

And he isn't. Not for the 1.37 billion Indians today as they embark upon a year-long celebration, starting today, 125 years since his birth to Indian lawyer Janakinath Bose and Prabhabati Devi in Cuttack, Odisha on 23 January 1887, to laud his life and works. It was during his stay in Calcutta, that Netaji's father Janakinath Bose came in contact with leaders of the Brahmo Samaj and got deeply influenced. In 1885, he joined the bar and started practice in the court of Cuttack and went on to become an advocate. His career as an advocate made him come in contact with various religious and political personalities of India's independence movement. He passed many of his ideals and values to his ninth son, Subhas, at a very young age.

It may be recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, released digital copies of 100 secret files related to Subhas Chandra Bose, on the freedom fighter’s 119th birth anniversary after meeting his family members. And, for the first time ever, the files were put in the public domain, while the National Archives of India released 25 classified documents on Bose on 23 January 2016.

GLORIOUS PAST: A Projection Mapping shown at Victoria Memorial in Kolkata celebrating Netaji's 125th birthday
Since then, the files brought several twists in Netaji's tale, including the revelation that Jawaharlal Nehru could not give any proof of Bose's death. The material also revealed that Mahatma Gandhi did not believe Bose died in the air crash and that Netaji's wife refused any stipends from the Congress government.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's brother Sarat Bose studied in Presidency College, Scottish Church College, then affiliated with the University of Calcutta before he went to England in 1911 to become a barrister. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn. He began a successful legal practice upon his return to India, but later abandoned it to join the Indian independence movement.

It may be recalled that the honorific Netaji meaning 'respected leader' was first applied in early 1942 to Bose in Germany by the Indian soldiers of the Indische Legion and by the German and Indian officials in the Special Bureau for India in Berlin before being later used widely throughout India.

It was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who proposed complete freedom for India with a classless society and state socialism at the earliest whereas most of the Congress Committee wanted it in phases, through a Dominion status, that put him at loggerheads with the then Congress.

The relationship between Gandhiji and Netaji was based on mutual affection and respect. They had a serious difference in opinion in 1939, but again came closer in their aims and ideology from 1942 onward. Bose was considered a patriot even by some of his staunchest rivals in the Congress. Why, Gandhi himself wrote that Bose's "... patriotism is second to none" and went on to proclaim after Bose's death that he was a "prince among patriots" - a reference, in particular, to Bose's achievement in integrating women and men from all the regions and religions of India in the INA.

For the entire year, starting today, and beyond, remember that each time you say 'Jai Hind,' the slogan was coined by Netaji, the man who gallantly fought for an undivided and independent India. India is free from British rule but the job of making India truly undivided by caste, creed, gender, race and religion rests upon her 1.37 billion people. And, only then will India be said to have become the Independent India as conceived by Netaji.

The Centre, for starters, has decided to observe 23 January as Parakram Diwas every year to mark the birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose, popularly known as Netaji.

'Unsung - The Film' captures the selfless dedication of those Indians whose contributions during COVID-19 times, would otherwise go ... unsung. The film was created by DraftCraft Films in conjunction with The Draft. Team Unsung spread across 20 States, 5 Union Territories and over 100 Cities and Villages in India, to document stories of hope, hard work and dedication of thousands, in the time of COVID-19. Watch the film here.

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