75 Years Since: PM to Rename Three Popular Islands in Andaman and Nicobar
Netaji, the Japanese, and Andaman and Nicobar
PORT BLAIR: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the Azad Hind Force are in news once again, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be hoisting the national flag in Port Blair on December 30 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the tricolour’s being hoisted by Bose while the Andaman and Nicobar islands were under Japanese occupation.
The Prime Minister will also rename three popular tourism destination islands – Havelock, Neil and Ross – as Swaraj Dweep, Shaheed Dweep and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep respectively.
According to new data released by the Andaman and Nicobar administration there are more than 600 islands here including islets and rocks, and only 150 of them have names. There was a proposal to name the unnamed islands and the local administration sought suggestions from the public for new names. However, dumping the proposal, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the names of these three islands itself.
There is scant regard by the present dispensation for the sentiments of the islanders. 1942-1945 was one of the most horrifying and torturous periods in the history of the foreign occupation of Andaman and Nicobar. Thousands were massacred by the Japanese in a short span of three years.
Looking back at Bose through his extraordinarily precise speeches, one sees him trying his best to convince not just Indians living in Southeast Asia, but Mahatma Gandhi too, that Indians outside India and at home are convinced that Indian independence will be won only through the historic method of struggle. Despite his high regard for Gandhiji, Bose warns him about the plans being hatched in London for crushing the nationalist movement in India, once for all.
Blood Bath is a collection of selected speeches of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose delivered between July 4 and 10, 1944.
The book is a carefully chosen compilation of a number of clarion calls given by Netaji, as the Supreme Leader of the Azad Hind Revolution, in the course of organising the final assault during the Second World War against British imperialists in occupation of his motherland. Launching the war of Indian liberation after his arrival in Southeast Asia from Germany after meeting Adolf Hitler, Netaji outlines his 10 achievements, in which he claims to have set up their Own Government, the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, and obtained recognition from nine friendly powers including Germany and Japan. He further states, “We have acquired our first plot of Free Territory in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.”
In a speech directly addressed to Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose spoke about his decision to get the help of foreign powers to oust the British from the country. Excerpts from the speech show how ignorant Netaji was about Japan and its imperialistic intentions:
“There is no Indian, whether at home or abroad, who would not be happy if India’s freedom could be won through the method that you have advocated all your life and without shedding human blood. But things being what they are, I am convinced that if we do desire freedom we must be prepared to wade through blood.”
“I had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to organise an armed resistance in the country without some help from outside – help from our countrymen abroad, as well as from some foreign power or powers. Prior to the outbreak of the present war, it was exceedingly difficult to get help from a foreign power, or even from Indians abroad. But the outbreak of the present war threw open the possibility of obtaining aid – both political and military – from the enemies of the British Empire.
“Before I could expect any help from them, however, I had first to find out what their attitude was towards India’s demand for freedom. British propagandists for a number of years, had been telling the world that the Axis Powers were the enemies of Freedom and, therefore, of India’s freedom. Was that a fact? I asked myself. Consequently I had to leave India in order to find out the truth myself and as to whether the Axis Powers would be prepared to give us help and assistance in our fight for freedom.”
“Before I finally made up my mind to leave home and homeland I had to decide whether it was right for me to take help from abroad. I had previously studied the history of revolutions all over the world, in order to discover the methods which had enabled other nations to obtain freedom. But I had not found a single instance in which an enslaved people had won freedom without foreign help of some sort. In 1940, I read my history once again, and once again, I came to the conclusion that history did not furnish a single instance where freedom had been won without help of some sort from abroad.”
“Last but not least, before forming an opinion about the attitude of the Axis Powers, I established close personal contact with important leaders and personalities in the Axis countries, who are responsible for their national affairs.”
“Mahatmaji, since the beginning of the war in East Asia, our enemies have been carrying on a raging and tearing campaign against Japan. I shall, therefore, say something about Japan – particularly because at the present moment, I am working in closest co-operation with the Government, Army and people of Japan. There was a time Japan had an alliance with our enemy. I did not come to Japan, so long as there was an Anglo-Japanese alliance. I did not come to Japan, so long as normal diplomatic relations obtained between the two countries.
“A new consciousness – has seized the souls of the people of Japan. That change explains Japan’s present attitude towards the Philippines, Burma and India. After my visit to Japan and after establishing close contacts with the present day leaders of the country, I was fully satisfied that Japan’s present policy towards Asia was no bluff but was rooted in sincerity.”
“Coming to India, I must say that Japan has proven her sincerity by her deeds. There was a time when people used to say that Japan had selfish intentions regarding India. If she had them why should she recognize the Provisional Government of Free India? Why should she decide to hand over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government of Free India? Why should there now be an Indian Chief Commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands stationed at Port Blair? Last but not least, why should Japan unconditionally help the Indian people in East Asia in their struggle for their Independence?”
The Japanese, who occupied the Andaman Islands on March 23 1942, ruled them till their surrender to the Allied Forces on October 7 1945. The three years of terror still reverberate in the minds of the Islanders, as 2000 Islanders were brutally killed and many more drowned and shot. On false charges of spying, hundreds were rounded up and massacred. According to accounts noted in Bishop Richardson’s diary, when the Japanese landed on the Nicobar Islands on July 4 1942, thousands were forced to work as coolies and around 105 Nicobaris were murdered.
On December 29 1943, political control of the islands was passed to the Azad Hind government of Subhas Chandra Bose. Bose visited Port Blair to raise the tricolour flag of the Indian National Army. During this, his only visit to the Andamans, he was kept carefully screened from the local population by the Japanese authorities. Various attempts were made to inform him of the sufferings of the people of the Andamans, and the fact that many local Indian nationalists were at the time being tortured in the Cellular Jail.
Bose does not seem to have been aware of this, and the judgment of some is that he "failed his people" as he turned blind towards their complaints.
In fact the Japanese had instated a dummy government, with Major General AD Loganathan of the Azad Hind Fauj as the chief commissioner without any powers. He himself felt ashamed as he couldn’t exercise any powers and was always on the radar of the Japanese commander. Finally, due to differences, he relinquished authority and moved to Burma.
The fact that when the Allied forces landed at Port Blair after the fall of the Japanese, the Islanders lined up on the shore to welcome them, shows what a relief it was for the people in the Islands to be rid of the Japanese, whom Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had justified to be the right ally to fight the British.
The current move of glorifying and celebrating events which contradict reality and overlook people’s horrendous memories, will only add to the scars.
A little bit of history of the Islands will help put things in perspective.
As far as the Islanders are concerned, by renaming a few Islands the government is only trying to erase one colonial past with another.
Zubair Ahmed is a journalist and researcher based in Andaman and Nicobar.