Updated: December 30, 2019 7:17:42 pm
On December 29, 1943, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, for a three-day visit. During the visit, he would hoist the Indian Tricolour at the Gymkhana Ground — today’s Netaji Stadium — at Port Blair.
The Islands were under Japanese occupation during World War II for three years (1942-45), and were formally handed over to Bose’s Azad Hind government on this day, although effective control remained with Japan.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategically located in the Indian Ocean between the Indian mainland, Myanmar, and Indonesia, and are close to important maritime routes.
The islands were first controlled by the Dutch, then by the British, and were taken over by the advancing Japanese military during World War II.
Bose, who had allied with the Japanese during the War, declared at a public meeting in August 1943 that the Azad Hind Fauj would be on Indian soil before the end of that year.
On October 24, Bose reiterated his promise before a gathering of 50,000 Indians in Singapore, where he said he would be “on the holy soil of India before the end of this year”.
The Azad Hind government was able to obtain de jure control of the islands from the Japanese by the end of 1943, and Bose arrived in Port Blair on December 29.
In His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire, the Harvard historian Sugata Bose wrote: “Bose redeemed his rash promise of setting foot on Indian soil before the year’s end by arriving in Port Blair on December 29 for a three-day visit to these islands. As usual, his visit was steeped in symbolism. The British had imprisoned some of India’s greatest revolutionaries in the notorious Cellular Jail on Andaman Island, where many had spent harsh life sentences and not a few had been sent to the gallows. Netaji paid tribute to the revolutionaries who had suffered there, and likened the opening of the gates of Cellular Jail to the liberation of the Bastille.
“He hoisted the Indian Tricolour at the Gymkhana grounds in Port Blair while a chorus sang the national anthem. Before his departure, he renamed Andaman as Shaheed (“Martyrs”) Island, and Nicobar as Swaraj (“Freedom”) Island.”
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