Andaman and Nicobar Islands were known for the Kalapani, in human torture and imprisonment, for freedom fighters. 75 Years ago, on the historic day of December 30, 1943, Netaji Bose hoisted the National Flag there and gave the first taste of Swaraj. Organiser revisits this glorious history of liberation movement on the occasion of renaming the three islands as Subhash, Shaheed and Swaraj by the Union Government
Responding to a long standing demand and obvious expression of Swaraj (Self-Rule), the Union Government has decided to rename the three popular islands of Andaman and Nicobar — Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island as Subhash Island, Shaheed Island and Swaraj Island. Not long back, on November 11, 2018, Chandra Bose, a grand-nephew urged the Government that Netaji "as the first Prime Minister of United Free India" had hoisted the national flag at Port Blair on December 30, 1943, thus establishing the Azad Hind Government and had renamed Andaman & Nicobar Islands to Shaheed & Swaraj Islands. There has been a demand from the people of our great nation that the Government of India, rename—Andaman & Nicobar Islands as Shaheed & Swaraj Islands as named by Netaji. The Government responded positively. Is it just a change of name? Why this name changing is so important for the nation?
INA and the Liberation
While delivering his address in Singapore to the representatives of the Indian communities in East Asia on July 4, 1943, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose said, “Not content with a civil disobedience campaign, Indian people are now morally prepared to employ other means for achieving their liberation. The time has therefore come to pass on to the next stage of our campaign. All organizations whether inside India or outside, must now transform themselves into a disciplined fighting organisation under one leadership. The aim and purpose of this organisation should be to take up arms against British imperialism when the time is ripe and signal is given”.
His government was officially proclaimed in Singapore at a mass rally on October 21, 1943 where Netaji was unanimously elected as the Head of the State and The Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army. While taking the oath he said, “In the name of God, I take this sacred oath that to liberate India and the three hundred eighty million of my countrymen, I Subhas Chandra Bose, will continue the sacred war of freedom till the last breath of my life. I shall remain always a servant of India, and to look after the welfare of three hundred eighty million of Indian brothers and sisters shall be for me my highest duty. Even after winning freedom, I will always be prepared to shed even the last drop of my blood for the preservation of India's freedom”.
Toward the end of October, Netaji went to Tokyo again to meet Tojo and to attend the greater East Asia Conference and participated there as an observer. In his impressive speech at the conference, stressing the creation of a new Asia where all vestiges of colonialism and imperialism would be eliminated.
By then, the Japanese navy had captured the Andaman and Nicober islands in the Bay of Bengal during the early months of war. With the pursuance from Netaji, Prime Minister Tojo announced at the conference that Japan had decided to place the two islands under the jurisdiction of the Provisional Government of Free India, thereby giving it its first sovereignty over a territory. The ceremonial transfer took place in December.
On December 29, 1943, Netaji accompanied by Shri Anand Mohan Sahay, Captain Rawat - ADC and Col. DS Raju, the personal physician of Netaji, landed at the Port Blair aerodrome in the Andamans. He was received by the Japanese admiral at Port Blair. The enthusiastic Bharatiya and Burmese people also accorded a warm reception to him.
Bose named Andaman Island as Shaheed and Nicobar Island as Swaraj and appointed INA General AD Loganathan as the governor of the Islands. Azad Hind Government was not merely a Government in Exile anymore but had its own land, own currency, civil codeand stamps. By hoisting the Azad Hind flag, Bose, the head of Provisional Government of Azad Hind also fulfilled his promise that INA would stand on the Indian soil by the end of 1943.
The Independence Struggle of Bharat cannot be complete without the historic role played by Subhash Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army (INA).
“It is recognition to glorious Chapter of Indian History”
Patron of the Forum for Awareness of National Security Shri Indresh Kumar, who was instrumental in starting Shaheed Swaraj Dweep Samooh Naman Yatra in 2012 to apprise the countrymen of the forgotten chapter of India’s glorious history, is happy with the decision of the Government of India renaming Andamans as Shaheed Swaraj Dweep Samooh. He thanked Prime Minister Shri Modi for this decision. Organiser Chief News Coordinator Dr Pramod Kumar spoke to Shri Indresh Kumar to know various aspects of this decision. Excerpts:
What is the significance of December 30, 1943 in the history of Andamans?
It is a red letter day in our history. On this day the Azad Hind Government, the first government of independent India, headed by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and recognised by nine countries of the world, formally took over. Being head of independent Bharat, Netaji was also army chief (Sar Senapati) of the armed forces. Netaji had reached Port Blair on December 29, 1943 and on December 30, 1943 hoisted the flag of Azad Hind Government at Gymkhana Club. That government issued currency, had a flag, was recognised by nine countries of the world and also appointed Ambassadors in some countries. After hoisting the flag in Port Blair, Netaji had made three major announcements. First was about renaming Andamans & Nicobar Islands as “Shaheed Swaraj Dweep Samooh” in order to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the motherland. The second announcement was about declaring all persons jailed there as “freedom fighters”. In the third announcement, he amended his slogan of “Dilli Chalo” to “Dilli Ab Door Nahin”. After the disappearance of Netaji, the ‘Shaheed Swaraj Dweep Samooh’ again went into the hands of Britishers.
What was the objective of Shaheed Swaraj Dweep Samooh Naman Yatra started by Forum for Awareness of National Security (FANS) under your guidance?
The prime objective was to apprise the countrymen of this glorious history. The incident displays the self-respect of our nation. We started the Yatra in 2012. It has been a three-day affair beginning on December 29 and culminating on January 1. In 2012, UPA government was at the Centre. We spoke to the Lt Governor and local administration in Andamans. Before that, a closed-door flag hoisting ceremony was conducted on December 30 without involving the public. But, we involved public in this Yatra. The Congress, perhaps, did not recognise this historic day fearing that it would be accepting Netaji’s role in Independence. Rather, the truth about Netaji was suppressed. FANS took up the challenge of apprising the countrymen of the truth. On our persuasion, the local administration first declared December 30 as Restricted Holiday. Later, when Prof Jagdish Mukhi became Lt Governor of Andamans he also allowed public participation in the celebration. We have tried to ensure that this day should be celebrated with fanfare as the nation celebrates Independence Day and Republic Day.
What are the other activities conducted the Yatra?
We ensure felicitation of the family members of the martyrs. At the same time, we also raised the demand to rename the Islands as ‘Shaheed Swaraj Dweep Samooh’. We pressed upon the demand to change the names of the islands which have been named after atrocious British officers. Andamans is strategically a very significant region and can emerge as an important centre of trading through sea route.
Now since the Government of India has renamed the Islands, how do you feel?
Recognising the Azad Hind Sarkar in the 75th year of its formation, the Government of India headed by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has enhanced the self-respect of the country, the martyrs and also the freedom fighters. In this connection, the first ceremony was held on October 21, 2018 at Red Fort in Delhi. Prime Minister Shri Modi himself hoisted the flag. Now, he is joining the second ceremony on December 30 in Port Blair. We congratulate the Government of India for taking this bold step. This moment enhances the glory of the countrymen. It is a tribute to the freedom fighters and the martyrs. Nehru divided the country, while Netaji granted us full independence. It is a memorable day which should be celebrated with fanfare.
The Strategic Significance
Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of a chain 572 islands, of which only 37 are inhabited. Stretching over a length of 720 Kms, they provide a vast coast line of 1920 Kms and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximate six lakh Square Kilometres. They are thus vital for our economic and strategic needs. They are located over 1200 Km east of Indian mainland, constitutes less than 1 per cent of its landmass but provides for over 30 per cent of Indian EEZ with tremendous potential for seabed resources. Located closer to a large number of littorals (160 Km from Indonesia, 450 Km from Thailand and 600 Km from Malaysia and Mayanmar), they sit astride the strategic sea lane leading to the Malacca straits. They offer India a strategic view over the shipping traffic between the gulf and the Malacca straits transporting nearly 17 million tons of oil every day (300 ships daily) to growing economics of Southeast Asia nations, China, Japan, and Korea etc. Military power is an important component of any Nation’s Comprehensive National Power. Given the geo-strategic importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands an assessment from military point of view is also in order.
Historically, Rajendra Chola I of Chola dynasty was first ruler to colonise these islands and use them as a strategic naval base to launch an expedition against the Sriwijaya Empire (Indonesia). Later on again it was under rule of some rulers having control of it until European colonization of these islands which started with Danish East India Company. Denmark, Austria & British all had conflicts but still it was under Danish rule till 1868. In 1869 these islands were purchased by British and made them part of British India. Before independence, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was just a penal colony with the symbol of inhuman torture and confinement of freedom fighters, Thanks to the efforts of Netaji and his Indian National Army, these islands became a part of India through the Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind. As Air Marshall PK Roy who was first head of the joint command of the Army, Navy and Air-Force told to Organiser, “An increased awareness of our unique maritime position in terms of geo-strategy and
geo-economics will be a key to our ability to be able to play a meaningful role in contributing to security and stability in the Indian Ocean Region. Andaman and Nicobar Islands hold the key to this centrality. This renaming will not just connect us to the history but also open the doors for the future.”