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Friday, January 22, 2010

Netaji’s visit to Silchar in 1938 and 1939 recalled

SILCHAR, Jan 22: During the freedom movement of the country, Barak Valley in Assam played a significant role. A galaxy of freedom fighters and revolutionaries of this valley carried forward the historic nationwide mass movement of Gandhi and Nehru. Quite significantly, the valley came under the influence of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his political as well as military wings – Forward Block and Indian National Army.
Bose’s assertion was for political consolidation and use of force to end the colonial British rule. Netaji was aware of the people’s support for his way of struggle, different from that of Gandhi and Nehru. In order to respect their sentiments and emotions and their passion for liberation, the great revolutionary and freedom fighter visited Silchar twice in 1938 and 1939.

His first visit to this town was as the Congress president. He came by train all the way from Calcutta to Silchar via Kullora and stayed in the house of prominent freedom fighter Arun Kumar Chanda at Ukilpatty. The then Silchar Municipal Board chairman Rukhini Das accorded him a warm civic reception and felicitation. The whole town wore a festive look as a large number of people lined up on both sides of the roads from the railway station to the central market place to welcome Netaji.

Surma and Saptak –– the two leading weeklies of the time –– brought out special supplements on the historic visit of Netaji. His public meeting was attended by a good number of Europeans as well who were mostly planters. The then Cachar district Congress president Arun Chanda presided over the public meeting which began with a Nazrul song. It was sung by the then Cachar district Students’ Association president Sushil Ranjan Chakraborty. Netaji, while attending the function, spoke to the students, “work for the present, but prepare for tomorrow. The duties of today have to be performed. Young man and woman have to prepare for the future that awaits them.”

The following year, Netaji came to this town as the president of Forward Block which was an organization within the Congress like the Swaraj Dal of his political guru Chitta Ranjan Das. Netaji was on a campaign to drum up support for his party. His speech at a public meeting at Gandhi Bag was so inspiring that leading citizens of this town who included Mata Das Roy, Moulavi Golam Sabir Khan, Debendra Purkayastha, Sukhamoy Singh, Hiranmoy Singh and others joined the Forward Block.

Before Netaji’s historic exit in 1941,the Forward Block had little influence in the political arena of Assam outside Cachar. The organizers in Assam in Silchar involved Moulvi Asraf Uddin Ahmed Choudhury, secretary of Bengal provincial committee, who presided over the Surma Valley Forward Block conference held on March 3, 1940. News of Netaji’s campaign against the British in the Burma-Assam-Arakan Front spread in Cachar by the end of November 1943 with the arrival of the war evacuees of the Chin Hills. But the local officials tried their best to prevent the news from circulating to other parts of the province.

Indian National Army dropped some pamphlets from aircrafts in North Lushai Hills written in Hindi, Urdu and Bengali with a picture of Netaji in INA uniform and some Punjabi soldiers on march to Delhi. This had its impact in Cachar and in consequence the government made house to house searches in suspected areas to root out supporters of INA. Late Saukat Ali Choudhury of Sonai Road did make record of the events in his diary.

Between February and May 1944, the INA had crossed into Indian soil in the Arakan sector and Bishanpur in the Imphal sector. On February 10, 1944 Lt Col Shah Nowaz Khan who was commanding the second and third battalion of INA received orders from Lt Gen Mudaguchi of Japan commanding officer of the Imphal campaign to prevent the Lushai-Aizwal Brigade of the British from advancing as it would pose threat to the main supply line of the Japanese forces operating in Tiddim-Tamu and to carry out the offensive operation on the Haka-Falom front in the direction of Lunglei with the aim of deceiving the British as regards the exact point of attack.

Netaji’s high spirit and supreme sacrifice for the cause of motherland stirred the hearts and minds of people of Cachar. In 1946, INA volunteers group was formed at Silchar. Many joined the group. Women were inspired to form Jhansi Brigade. Hena Chanda was head the of this brigade. Azad Hind Volunteer Corps in the meantime could mobilize support to the campaign of Netaji. In 1946, the Corps appealed for holding rally at Gandhi Bag, but the British administration refused permission on the ground that “this Gandhi Bag is to be used for recreation purpose only.”  THE SENTINEL

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