1945 Nilganj Massacre of 2000+ INA Soldiers by British; Await Recognition

Nilganj Massacre

Not many of us have heard about the Nilganj massacre of 1945 that involved mass genocide of 2000 plus Azad Hind Fauz soldiers in detention camps by British. One day I suddenly came across an exhaustive Facebook post by Atish Basak that also had videos of Sh Shiv Shankar Ghosh, a retired school teacher, who had actually seen dead bodies of Azad Hind Fauj soldiers being carried away in trucks, with blood oozing out, with his own eyes – shattered my spirits. I asked Atish Basak about documentary evidence of the incident, so that something can be done, but he had none.

 

I then decided to contact Madhuchhanda Kanji as she was a local in Kolkata. She told me to contact Dr Jayanta Choudhuri. Once I spoke to him, he told me that he had been working on the Jhikorgacchha camp. He said he had visited the Nilganj camp, on which now a Jute Research Institute of Govt. of India, named CRIJAF (Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibres), under ICAR ( Min. of Agriculture) stood. He told me that he had taken photos inside the institute with great difficulty as the institute people are never keen on let people probe about its buried history. I asked him whether he has any documents on Nilganj massacre. He had none. He referred to some writings in books, but to move the govt to do something on Nilganj, we needed solid govt documents on Nilganj.

 

So my hunt for the documents began. I decided to visit the National Archives. On the first day, I entered the Archives without any pass and when I reached the general section (Ground floor), I was asked by the gentleman there to first register. I did. I asked him about documents on Azad Hind Fauj. He told me that they can be found in the Private Archives (PA), on the 3rd floor. I had to again register at PA and they handed me over a list (hard copy book) of 995 or 997 files and asked me to locate my file on that. I presumed that I needed at least 3-4 visits to locate the file, if any. I asked them, if they had the list electronically. They said that they don’t have the list, but they have all the files, in scanned form, on the computers. Then my real hunt began. I searched with keywords like “Nilganj”, “Nilgunj”, “Neelganj” “Neelgunj” with difference in spellings. I got none. Yes I landed on a few files by the above names, but they were useless. For example, one was a file by one Naik Girwar Singh requesting to return his Rs.70/- which was confiscated from him when he was incarcerated in Nilganj, upon his release. I knew these were useless.

 

Surfing for months, at last I landed on one letter by one unnamed Major General of HQ 303 L of G Area dated 12/10/1945 addressed to GS branch, DMI (Directorate of Military Intelligence), GHQ, Delhi detailing about the incident. In this he stated that on the intervening night of 25-26 September, 1945, Captain E.R.R. Menon of 26/3 Madras Regiment (which was guarding the Nilganj camp) entered the cage of PoWs and ordered them for roll call at about 2200 hours, which they refused. He then came out, sounded the alarm at QG (Quarter Guard) and re-entered the cage with a loaded Tommy Gun, with his company following him. Bricks and bamboos were thrown at him and his company men shouted, “Our Company Commander is finished”.

Nilganj Massacre 1

After this, as per the British version, the OC Menon said his company men fired and the company men said that the OC fired and I believe all of them fired indiscriminately, throughout the night, to kill all the PoWs there. The residents of the surrounding area (it was then a deserted place ) heard gunshots throughout the night (two of the witnesses are still alive) and next morning they saw bodies being ferried on in truckloads, with blood oozing out of them on the street. They were either buried, or dumped in Nowai canal. Some bodies were dug out from below the seven palm trees in the campus. (Copy of report attached). I got the whole file xeroxed from National Archives.

Nilganj Massacre Archives

Interestingly, there was an ordinance, promulgated just three days before the massacre that any person of or above the rank of Captain, can use force on any person who refuses to stop being ordered by a sentry or is damaging or intends to damage any property, to the extent of ‘causing death’. (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1942) (Ordinance XLI of 1942) (COPY included).

Nilganj Massacre Archives 1

The British were definitely not keen on putting up these thousands of PoWs kept in the detention camps (Technically called ECDC – Eastern Command Detention Centres ), for trial at Red Fort, just to avoid a tsunami of revolt across the country. Coupled with their restlessness to vacate the camp post the massacre (documents prove this), deserted nature of the area, British domination of press and Indian leaders – all adds up that the British had actually committed a “PLANNED GENOCIDE OF INA PoWs” and completely suppressed the matter.

Nilganj Massacre Archives 2

I decided that something needs to be done immediately. I contacted Rahul Sinha of Zee News and we met at Zee news at Sector 15 Noida. I showed him all the documents. Previously also, we had discussed the idea, but he demanded documents. After seeing the documents he said ‘Sir, they say only 5 are dead’ . I replied ‘ If u commit a murder of a single person, would you keep document to get caught or would you destroy all documents and when this is a planned genocide of more than 2000 people and the legendary Col G.S. Dhillon had written about it in his own diary, what more do you need to do a story’ Reluctantly, he told his reporter at Kolkata to start working on it. She recorded the interview of Dr Jayanta Choudhuri. I requested her to record the statements of the eye witnesses, who are still living near Nilganj, but she said that she needed a clearance from Rahul Sinha, which he never gave her. And the Zee News reporting on the Nilganj massacre did not happen.

 

Dr Jayanta Choudhuri told me that he had a file containing names of 1580 persons killed that night, but he could neither locate the file, nor could I have it from him. Then I contacted Sh Bijoy Nag as in one of the Facebook posts of Joyshree magazine, which he published, it was mentioned that 1580 people had died. He told me to contact Sh Madhusudan Pal. He told me that in the Archives, there is one file named Jhikorgachha, which had names of 1580 soldiers INCARCERATED AT THAT TIME AND NOT THE LIST OF THOSE KILLED. I knew that I was chasing a mirage. None of these had any definite information on the personnel massacred. So I stopped searching for it.

Nilganj Massacre Archives 3

I wrote a detailed letter to the Hon’ble PM, with all the data available with me. I requested him to kindly direct the institute CRIJAF, Nilganj to hold a commemoration function inside the campus. I gave copies to the Agriculture Minister and the Director of CRIJAF.

 

Meanwhile I had contacted the organization in Nilganj named Netaji Subhas Chandra Mission, which has been tirelessly working since long on this and holding annual functions outside the institute to commemorate the day. I also contacted the local MP and his PA. I told them about the significance of the proposed function. I also told them that I was trying to invite Sh Narendra Singh Tomar, Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture to the function. It did not materialize.

 

Sh Supriyoranjan Basu, Secretary of the organization went to the institute, alongwith Arup Ghosh. They met the PA of Director. They told him that they are ‘taking action on my letter’.

 

He gave me the number of some AAI of CRIJAF and told me that he is also a Netaji follower. When I called him up, coincidentally he was in Varanasi. I asked him what action they are taking on the letter. He told me that they are writing to ICAR. The Chief Administrative Officer of the institute told me that such function should be held and that they have written to the ICAR for permission.

 

Pursuing the matter further, I met a concerned bureaucrat at ICAR HQ at Krishi Bhawan, Delhi. I told him that many Azad Hind Fauj Soldiers were from his home state also. Unfazed and holding on to the elan of his bureaucratic indifference, he called for the letter which had arrived from CRIJAF. I glanced upon the letter. It was a simple forwarding letter, stating that they had received a ‘self explanatory proposal from me’, which is enclosed for further necessary action. To top it all, they had not enclosed anything with the letter and it was a single piece of paper. I immediately made him talk to the concerned person who said he will mail the attachments the next day. There was a delay from several ends from the various offices and the proposed function was on 25th September, 2019.

 

On 20/9/2019, I decided to go to ICAR myself and I met the concerned official. I learnt that the file got caught in red-tape and there was o chance of the permission forthcoming before the 25th of September. I had personally met Sh Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister for Agriculture and apprised him of the complete facts and invited him for the proposed function as Chief Guest. He expressed his inability to attend as he was busy with Haryana elections but said he’ll get us the required permission. But nothing happened. I knew that the chance to hold the function there had finished.  So I told Sh Supriyoronjon Babu to hold their usual function and they did hold that on 25/9/2019, albeit outside the institute.

INA Memorial

INA Memorial in honor of the Azad Hind Fauz martyrs of Nilganj set up by Netaji fans outside the CRIJAF (Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibres).

Are we still free of foreign domination?? No, because we are still carrying the same ‘system’ on our heads, against which Netaji revolted and struggled all his life. Persons in power care a fig about our martyrs and their sacrifices.

 

INA trials in Red Fort triggered unrest among Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army. They rose in revolt, ultimately forcing the British to leave India. Col G.S.DHILLON was one of the legendary INA officers, who were tried in Red Fort by the British. Col Dhillon had mentioned about the Nilganj massacre in his diary, in his own handwriting (according to him 2300 INA soldiers were massacred):

Col Dhillon's diary

Col Dhillon’s diary note that mentions about massacre of 2300 INA soldiers in Nilganj. Image courtesy: Shubham Sharma.

Except media reports by Amar Ujala as well as research posts by Atish Basak and Dr Jayanta Choudhuri, there are hardly any information available on Nilganj massacre.

 

It seems the motto of the people is: ‘Let nobody be concerned with the thousands reportedly buried under the institute. So what if they came and died to liberate us?? Let us enjoy our life, while we have it.’

 

But these souls are calling us. We have a duty to do, we will not be liberated unless we have paid for their sacrifice. At least a recognition.

 

Jalianwala Bagh has received wide recognition worldwide, but this shameful history is still buried. There are many more massacres in India that are still buried. We, the citizens of India, will be waiting for proper recognition being given to the incident and place, by the govt and thus bestow it with the respect it deserves.

 

In my deliberations during this period, I need to emphasize that Madhuchhanda Kanji and Biplab Sarkar of Siliguri are two persons, who are working tirelessly for the cause of Netaji, without being armchair activists pulling out one fig of paper from some old dump and claiming it to be the most relevant one and so on. Apart from research, we also need to work on ground to establish the cause, which may soon be lost. Also, my big salute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Mission, Supriyoronjon Bose and Arup Ghosh.

 

The word ‘Nilganj’ had kept repeatedly ringing in my mind. The first time I heard the name, was in 2017 February, when while in Varanasi, it struck to me that to IMMORTALIZE the deeds of Netaji and Azad Hind Fauj, something “tangible” was needed and I immediately reached the conclusion that it could only be a MUSEUM of AZAD HIND FAUJ . Immediately, I was writing to the PM, requesting him to construct a museum of Azad Hind Fauj in Delhi, so that the heroic deeds and memories of Azad Hind Fauj are frozen in time and doesn’t wither away. Tapanda (Tapan Kr Ghosh of Varanasi) asked me to write about the genocides of Azad Hind Fauj Soldiers in detention camps at Nilganj and Jhikorgaachha (the names were totally unknown to me then). I included them, but comfortably forgot them thereafter. I kept working towards the cause of the museum till 2018 June or so, in which I met Dr Mahesh Sharma, Min for Culture and then Sh Manish Sisodia, Dy CM, Delhi, held several rounds of meetings with Secretary, Archaeology, Delhi Govt and Head, Archaeology, Delhi Govt and ultimately on a proposal from Delhi Govt to shift the existing museum of Azad Hind Fauj from Salimgarh fort to one colonial building near Diwan-e-aam, Red Fort, Delhi, it was done and it was inaugurated by PM himself, in January, 2019.For this one and four months, I was running around for this museum and entangled in various other intricacies of family.

 

In the meanwhile, I had joined duty at Silchar (Assam) and came back to Varanasi and then to Delhi. Here I met Vekho Swuro from Nagaland and he informed me that he was from the village Ruzazho in Nagaland and that it was the first village on Indian soil to be administered by Azad Hind Govt and that his 99 year old father Sh Poswuyi Swuro was appointed interpretor by Netaji himself who stayed in the village for nine days in 1944 and that the village was in shambles and something was needed to be done. So I met Sh Suresh Chavhanke, owner of Sudarshan News, whom I knew and requested him to use his contacts in the govt for the upliftment of the village. He immediately said that he’ll adopt the village !!! It was something that I didn’t expect. So then it had to be arranged. I visited Ruzazho in December, 2018 and on way I also met my IGP in Shillong, who was then in Guwahati, as I was ordered to meet him to consider my appeal. The formal adoption function took place on 23rd January, 2019 at Ruzazho, Nagaland in which, the village was formally adopted by Sudarshan Rashtranirman for its all round development, which they are yet to start though. I repeatedly liaised with the BSNL bosses at Dimapur to install a mobile tower at the village . PMO had directed DoT on my letter on the matter. Land was ultimately allocated by a villager and survey was done. The thing is at an advanced stage. For the village road, I met Sh Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Roads and Surface Transport, the Secretary, MoRTH and Addl. Secy, MoRTH and then the Joint Secretary, DoNER for several times.But that thing is not progressing. I had also written to Sh Azim Premji of WIPRO to open a good college at Chozuba or Ruzazho, but sadly got no response from him. All this I did without the help of a single penny from govt or private.

 

Featured image (for representation purpose only) sources (clickable links): ati and battlefields.org.

 

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Tamal Sanyal

Tamal Sanyal

Tamal Sanyal works for the CRPF. He is a History enthusiast.

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