Rahul Gandhi to visit historic Netaji memorial in Singapore on March 8

Rahul Gandhi will visit the historic INA Memorial in Singapore on Thursday to pay homage and respects to Netaji, the brave soldiers of the INA and fearless heroines of Rani Jhansi Women’s Regiment

NH photo
NH photo
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CR Kesavan

Netaji Subhas Bose was one of India’s foremost patriots and fearless sentinels of the Indian Independence movement. He was twice President of the Indian National Congress, which was at the vanguard of India’s freedom struggle.

From July 1943 to August 1945, Netaji Subhas Bose valiantly led the Indian Independence movement in eastern Asia. His unflinching determination and resolute courage inspired and united the pan-Indian diaspora in their endeavour to free India from British rule. Droves of spirited young Indian men and women were captivated and drawn into the independence struggle in Singapore by Netaji’s charisma and towering leadership.

Netaji arrived at the Kallang aerodrome in Singapore on July 2, 1943. Two days later on July 4 at the Greater East Asia Theatre, in the presence of Indian National Army (INA) officers, Independence League (IIL) delegates and others, he assumed the mantle of the Indian Independence movement in the region.

Reviewing INA troops on July 5 in Padang, he exhorted young men and women, thundering, “Tum mujhe khoon do, mein tumhe azadi doonga (You give me blood, and I promise you freedom ).” It was during the course of this speech that he famously proclaimed, “Dilli Chalo! (Onwards to Delhi!)“.

Netaji Subhas Bose’s first public address in Singapore was on July 9 in Padang, where reportedly more than 60,000 patriotic Indians gathered to listen to him. During his historic speech on this occasion titled “Why I left Home and Homeland,” Netaji gave a hitherto unprecedented historic clarion call saying, “I also want a unit of brave Indian women to form a death-defying regiment who will wield the sword, which the brave Rani of Jhansi wielded in India’s First War of Independence in 1857.”

This heralded the birth of probably the first ever all-women regiment in Asia—the historic Rani Jhansi Regiment of the Indian National Army. Women from all walks of life came forward with zeal and fervor to join the INA and serve in combat.

INA War Memorial

On July 8, 1945, Netaji laid the foundation for a monument to commemorate the "Unknown Warrior" of the Indian National Army about 500 metres from the place where he had fervently spoken about the creation of INA’s all-women regiment. The words inscribed on the war memorial were its motto, which is Unity (Ittefaq), Faith (Etmad) and Sacrifice (Kurbani).

Shortly after the British recaptured Singapore, the memorial was razed in the same year. In 1946, when Jawaharlal Nehru visited Singapore, he expressed his wish to pay tributes at the memorial site. Despite being advised by Lord Mountbatten not to visit, Nehru went to the INA memorial and paid floral tributes.

In 1995, Singapore’s National Heritage Board marked the place as a historical site and subsequently with support from the Indian community in Singapore, a new monument honouring the earlier memorial has been established in the same place.

The President of the Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi, is to visit the historic INA Memorial in Singapore on Thursday, March 8 to pay homage and respects to Netaji Subhas Bose, the brave soldiers of the INA and the fearless heroines of the Rani Jhansi Women’s Regiment. It is indeed befitting that this day happens to be International Women’s Day.

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