(The story of two Indian National Army Soldiers, and Prisoners of War, who are from Gurugram and have been felicitated time and again for their contribution in India’s freedom struggle)
Swiftly placing the rifle of 0.303 calibre on his neck, Jagram had to muster the courage to pull the trigger. While he was using all the rationale to convince himself, an Indian soldier at a distance looked at him and shouted, “in war either you live or die but do not commit suicide”. His words were like a sudden end to Jagram’s imaginings of quitting the world. The incident dates back to 1942 when Jagram was in the British Army to fight against Japan in Singapore.
On August 9 this year, 97-year-old Jagram was invited to the Rashtrapati Bhawan for the reception held in the honour of freedom fighters who are alive.
The impressions of his long journey from Singapore to the then Burma (now Myanmar), Nagaland, Assam, Kolkata and finally to his home town Badshahpur in Gurugram have still not faded from the mind. Currently, Jagram lives in Sector 15 with his son and daughter-in-law.
He says it was the turning point of his life when he decided to join the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army). “I was sure of not serving the British Army, a regime that was ruling my country,” said Jagram, who in 1942 was in the British Army to fight against Japan in Singapore, but was captured by the Japanese.
He reminisces the dark soot left in the sky when Japanese aircraft attacked the British Army base in Singapore. “There were more than 20 aircraft in the sky that approached our base and attacked us. The constant bombing took place. In front of me were only dead bodies,” said Jagram, who was also wounded in the left leg. He showed the leg with calf muscle almost missing.
“It was not the end. Two people took me to the hospital. The vehicle we took had blood floating in it. On the third day, the hospital was attacked too. We ran from there and hid in a drain. But then there was a constant shooting, and two bullets hit the left side of the abdomen,” said Jagram, showing the injury marks on his body.
“I find it very hilarious now, but when all this was happening in front of my eyes, I was thinking about how I would go home now,” said Jagram. Having an injured leg and a bullet in the abdomen, was when Jagram decided to shoot himself. “The Jamadar (soldier) who shouted to stop me from pulling the trigger took me to the nearby army base where I got the medical treatment,” said Jagram, who later surrendered as POW (Prisoners of War).
“It was a realization that fighting and to die for our country was important than fighting for a foreign regime that was ruling over our country. We decided to rebel against the British Army, which was defeated in Singapore, and joined INA that got help from Japan,” he said.
The INA was established in 1942 with the assistance of Japan. In Singapore after facing the defeat, the British army surrendered. Indian troops too surrendered as POW but later they were encouraged by Japanese to join the INA to liberate India. In 1943, Subhash Chandra Bose was invited by the Japanese to lead the nationalist movement.
“Netaji met the soldiers where he raised the slogan ‘Tum Mujhe Khoon Do, Mein Tumhe Azadi Doonga’ (Give me blood and I will give you freedom). Once we were an army under Bose’s leadership, we walked from Singapore to Burma. It took us three months, a long journey it was. In between we fought with the British army and demolished their base,” said Jagram, claiming to clearly remember some of the major episodes of his INA days.
He reminisces Bose took his team on a mountain top and showed them the Indian boundary and said, we have to die there. In 1943, crossing Burma the INA reached Nagaland and Assam. “I clearly remember staying with Netaji for 13 months,” said Jagram, who was Bose’s one of the bodyguards.
But with the arrest of few people from the INA and Japan’s surrender in 1945, the army was dissolved. Jagram managed to reach Howrah, where he was rusticated from the British Army.
With Rs 45, Jagram travelled 1,500km to reach his home in Badshahpur, where he said, Jai Hind. “It was surprising no one in the village had ever heard of it,” he said.
Corroborating to it, Suraj Bhan Bhardwaj , principal , Moti Lal Nehru College, Delhi, and also a historian, said that it (from 1944 to 1947) was the period of communal tension in Gurugram and Mewat region. “There was hardly any information about INA in the southern part of Haryana, so people could not relate to Jai Hind,” said Bhardwaj.
Though Jagram has been felicitated by state and central governments, he believes nothing has changed even after 70 years of Independence. “Our country is still not independent because people are still fighting to get justice. In a country, where culprits can easily evade from law and order, anybody can do anything and for justice people have to wait for so many years, then I believe we are still not independent,” said Jagram, holding an old photo frame having a cutting of Subhash Chandra Bose’s picture from a newspaper.
Aug 15, 2019 10:54 IST