The Forgotten Army – Do we remember them or what they fought for?

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Our great nation just celebrated its seventieth Republic Day. As dutiful, patriotic citizens, we did our duty as armchair patriots. We circulated inspiring posts and became mushy in our tributes to the freedom architects of our great nation.

But, do we really remember those who gave their blood and sweat to see our country free? Barring a few known names, we hardly recall the tens of thousands of ground soldiers who fought the intimidating British army with unrelenting passion and courage. 

Kabir Khan’s series on Amazon Prime brings back the focus on the soldiers of the Indian National Army (or Azad Hind Fauj), set up by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, with prisoners of war fighting on behalf of the British. 

And what a fight these soldiers gave to the mighty British army! With all resources depleted, barring their own determination and steely resolve, they marched up to Imphal and gave a tremendous reality shake to the British. 

Netaji had stirred the patriotic fervour with such impact in Indians living in Japan, Singapore, Burma and other South-East Asian countries, that even those who hadn’t ever been to India in their lives became ready to suffer the worst travails for the sake of making India free. And all without a murmur of protest or complaint at the raw deal they were getting both from the British, as well as their own countrymen.

The irony is that Netaji was soon given a controversial burial, and the INA died a natural death from the neglect and callousness of free India.

The Ultimate Sacrifice by The INA Soldier

This web series is a timely reminder of the sacrifices made by these unknown men and women, who gave up their lives for an ideal – the ideal of free India. Khan livens up the drama by creating the lively characters of Colonel Sodhi, Colonel Arshad, Maya, and Rasamma. The series interestingly follows Col. Sodhi’s life to his later years, when he finds attacks on freedom happening again in Myanmar.

An important inference can be drawn from the struggles shown here – Freedom is not only to be earned and got, it also has to be treasured and preserved.

These tens of thousands of nameless soldiers who struggled through war, disease, devastation, to fight a losing battle with the Empire’s army, deserve our utmost respect and tribute. But, as the series informs us, they got neither.

Denied Glory

They were declared traitors by the British, thrown into cells, and tried in court, for the only dream they had – of freeing India. And when India got her well-deserved independence the night of August 1947, what did these battered soldiers get? Not even an acknowledgement of their sacrifices! They weren’t recruited to independent India’s army as they were declared “traitors”. And generations to come forgot about them, fed as they were on the history textbooks glorifying Gandhiji and the INC. 

My head hangs in shame for our ignorance of these valiant heroes of the motherland who fought without hope of victory, and laid down their lives only so that we could breathe in free India. The India where we cherish our freedom, where no person is oppressed because of gender, caste, religion, ideology, where the “mind is (supposed to be) without fear and the head is held high”.

Where do We Stand Now?

What have we done with that freedom earned with the blood and tears of these brave men and women? Intolerance, hatred, suspicion, distrust between our own religions and communities? Banishing our people to miserable lives based on caste? Killing people because of their food habits? Hounding and labelling women, raping them for the clothes they wear? Curtailing the freedom to speak one’s mind, arresting people for social media posts, jailing activists for raising voices?

I am raising a rhetorical question that is undoubtedly still relevant – Is this the country for which our brave hearts gave their everything?

Thank you, Kabir Khan for the timely nudge to our conscience. Your moving ode to the martyrs couldn’t have come too soon!

Featured Image: Amazon

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