The Andaman and Nicobar islands , an archipelago of islands situated in the middle of the Bay of Bengal is more than 700 kms away from the Indian Mainland but still it holds great significance in our independence struggle. Before independence these islands , especially Andaman was just a penal colony with the dreaded prison Kalapani or Cellular jail at its midst. The infamous cellular jail was a place for inhuman torture and confinement of freedom fighters from mainland India and as such this jail became a symbol of colonial oppression. Ironically this island of oppression was the first part of Indian land to be liberated. It was in this island that the tricolor of the nation was hoisted for the first time upon Freed Indian land by Liberated Indians. This article is about that time when the Tricolor flew high up in the air in the free islands of Shaheed and Swaraj.
The year was 1942. The world war 2 was raging on. In Asia an aggressive and resurgent Imperial Japan was dislodging the old imperial colonial powers of Europe and was creating its own Greater East Asian sphere of influence. The Fortress of Singapore, the pride of British Empire, had fallen to the Japanese and the Imperial Japanese Navy was making deep inroads into the Eastern Indian Ocean. The fall of Singapore and the subsequent invasion of British occupied Burma brought the Axis forces within Striking distance of British India. It was during these turbulent times that Subhas Chandra Bose made the famous a submarine journey from Germany to Singapore. The Indian National Army was formed in Singapore and the Azad Hind Government was formed. But the Azad Hind Government remained only a Government in Exile with few Division strong volunteer Army. It had no Indian lands under its control. Subhas Chandra Bose had promised the Indian people in Singapore that by 1943 they would be hoisting Indian flag on Indian soil.
A Japanese Naval force captured the Andaman Island unopposed by the British Indian Garrison on the Island. The British garrison surrendered without a fight and all the Indian soldiers were interned and were given a choice of joining the Indian National Army, which many accepted. All the Political Prisoners were released from Kalapani jail and the British soldiers and officers were jailed or sent to Burma.
The capture of Andaman and Nicobar Islands by the Japanese was an important event for the Azad Hind Government as these islands were the first Indian land to be captured by the Axis Forces. The Azad Hind Government was able to convince the Japanese leaders in handing over the Andaman and Nicobar islands to the Azad Hind Government. In 1943 Subhas Chandra Bose landed at Port Blair aerodrome and met the Japanese Military Commander of the island. Bose, on 30th December, hoisted the Tricolour in Andaman Island, thereby fulfilling his promise of hoisting the national flag on Indian soil by 1943. Bose named Andaman Island as Shaheed and Nicobar Island as Swaraj and appointed INA General A. D. Loganathan as the governor of the Islands. Azad Hind Government was not merely a Government in Exile anymore but had its own land, own currency, civil code and stamps; it was a fully fledged government of a Country which was yet to be liberated from foreign yoke and in that sense the Azad Hind Government had become a National entity. Thus Andaman and Nicobar Islands became the first plot of Indian land to be liberated from British Rule and played an important part in the saga of our independence struggle.
Today the cellular jail in Andaman stands as a Museum. The walls of the jails bear testimony to the horrors that were perpetrated by the British colonial authority on Indian Political prisoners. The uncomfortable silence in the preserved jail compound still reminds one of the brutality and oppression that were committed here. The island which was a British penal colony was transformed into a beacon for Indian Freedom struggle with the hoisting of the National flag by Subhas Chandra Bose and the formation of Azad Hind Government with Port Blair as its provisional Capital. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands remained under the rule of Azad Hind Hukumat till the end of the war when the Japanese Forces surrendered and with that the Azad Hind Fauj and the Azad Hind Government were dissolved. The British would rule only for 2 years more as largescale pan indian protestations and mutinies, which erupted after the Indian Public became aware of the sacrifices and exploits of the Azad Hind Forces, forced the British to decide on leaving India by 1947.It was the legacy of the Azad Hind that precipitate the End of British Rule in India and that Legacy started, hundreds of miles away from Indian Mainland, in Andaman and Nicobar Islands or, shall I take the liberty to call them, Shaheed and Swaraj Islands.
By Avinandan Choudhury
Kala Pani. History of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands with a study of India’s Freedom Struggle by L.P. Mathur
His Majesty’s Opponent BY Sugata Bose
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