Monday, January 30, 2012

Netaji’s guard fighting a different battle

GURGAON: Jag Ram, 89, an Indian National Army (INA) veteran, who once was a guard of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in Rangoon, is now busy fighting a different battle. He is forced to literally fight with his tenants to collect their monthly rents from them. The veteran has to argue with tenants, mostly shopowners, at the end of every month. He went to the city administration's Republic Day function where he was offered a shawl, like other freedom fighters. "I spoke to some officials about my injured leg and the problem I am facing due to bad tenants," said Ram while sweeping the floor outside the house. Last week he met the HUDA administrator, Praveen Kumar, and the war veteran wasted no time in telling about his tenants. "I am thankful that after the administrator's intervention I got some of the pending rent but I don't know if these people will pay the rent regularly next month or not," said Ram. The INA veteran has six shops and four rooms on rent. "It is only some of them who delay paying their rent while the other tenants are fine," said Ram. Like most war veterans he clearly remembers everything about the INA, his arrest in Rangoon, then deportation to Dhaka and then Neelganj jail in West Bengal. "After being released from the jail, all the INA members were given a certificate which had a red entry meaning that 'we waged war against the King', and when I came to Gurgaon, I had to report once in a week to the local police station," said Ram. In 1946, he came to India and settled in Gurgaon, his native place. He studied in Bhondsi government school from where Ram, then an 18-year-old lad, joined the Imperial army. He clearly remembers the Imperial forces' surrender in Singapore where along with other Indian soldiers they were kept as prisoners of war. He remembered the barracks where general Mohan Singh told them about the idea of INA. "Many of us joined without giving much though because both the British and Indian soldiers were fighting the war under the same flag," said Ram. In August 1943, with other INA soldiers he reached Burma, where he for the first time met Netaji. "I was put on the guard duty first at the house in Rangoon located on Pagoda road. As his personal gunner, I used to carry a rifle while escorting Netaji. He used to hold several public meetings and give closed-door lectures to Indians living there," said Ram. He stayed in Burma till 1945, and followed Netaji ever where but seldom had any conversations. "I never had the courage to speak to Netaji because I was a mere sepoy, but I always liked his speeches in public meetings," said Ram

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