BY SUSAN MARIA MATHEW
“Freedom of mind is the real freedom.”- Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
This day, October 21, marks the 80th anniversary of a victory in the history of India remembered not by conquest or defeat over enemies but a momentous victory in the hearts and minds of our people.
In the year 1943 , on this day, the Cathey Theatre Building in Singapore reverberated with loud and prolonged applause as thousands of people heard in pouring rain as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose for the first time declared the formation of the provincial government for free India or the ‘Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind’ and declared war on British empire. Netaji swore in loud and firm voice, the hallowed oath in the name of God to continue the sacred war of freedom till the last breath of his life.This declaration gave form to a distant dream of thousands and ignited a fire within each one of them to strive for an Independent India.
Netaji showcased true leadership as he won over the hearts of people, as reminisced by Shah Nawaz, an officer in the Indian National Army, present in the solemn function recalling his struggle to catch a glimpse of the speaker. As the whole audience heard in pin drop silence with lips tightly closed and eyes glued towards him, Netaji overcome by his struggle over emotion delivered in his solemn voice :
“I shall always be a servant of India and look after the welfare of 38 crore of Indian brothers and sisters. This shall be for me my highest duty. Even after winning freedom I will always be prepared to shed the last drop of my blood for preservation of India’s freedom.”
The Azad Hind government proclaimed authority over the Indian civilians and provided an essential impetus to India’s freedom struggle by enabling Bose to negotiate with the Japanese government. The government played a major role in mobilizing Indians to form part of the Indian National Army (INA) or Azad Hind Fauj. The INA, formed in 1943, under the leadership of Bose, by Indian and Japanese collaboration, played a crucial role in our national movement.
On this momentous day, Netaji gave the people of India a goal that they should regain a country that belongs to them. The Declaration established the duty and claimed allegiance of the Indian people to establish a provisional government of their own and launch the last struggle under its banner. Bose highlighted in his proclamation a guarantee of religious liberty, equal rights, and opportunities as well as happiness and prosperity of the whole nation transcending across all differences and boundaries.These ideals later reflected in the governing principles of Independent India as enshrined in our Constitution.
It stood out from all the endeavors prior to this day as for the first time he called upon Indian people to launch a final struggle with valor and perseverance against British and their allies in India “until the enemy is expelled from the Indian soil and the Indian people are once again a free nation.”
The proclamation was followed by declaration of war on the British and the USA .The Azad Hind Government ventured to establish its own bank, currency, civil codes, and stamps. It created a sense of consciousness among Indians and gave an international recognition to the community. Even before India gained real independence a sense of shared national identity was established over this historic symbolic declaration.
The day is fondly remembered by participants as slogans by an audience of over 50,000 Indian civilians and members of Azad Hind Fauj, filled with joy, took over the venue.Netaji asked the people to stand in their places and raise hands as an act of approval to bring about the establishment of , “a permanent National Covenant of Azad Hind in accordance with the will of the people”.This historical moment served as one of the earliest expression of democracy ,which later on became the cornerstone of Indian polity.
The proclamation read out by Netaji set forth for the first time a vision of an Independent India and the realization that it was an attainable end which was until then a far fetched aspiration for the people of India. By instilling this spirit he successfully achieved the greatest victory of winning over the confidence and aligning the interest of the Indian people as well as the attention of the nations around the globe, towards a common goal .We commemorate this day and remember the contributions of our freedom fighters, marked in the saga of India’s national movement as the beginning of a struggle that ultimately resulted in success of the vision of an Independent free India in 1947.