Netaji's aide Trilok Singh Chawla waits to hand over 'legacy' to India


New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS):

Eighty-nine-year-old Trilok Singh Chawla, a close aide of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, has a wish before he breathes his last - to return to India two pistols belonging to the freedom fighter - and has sent his son from Thailand to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Seth Trilok Singh Chawla, a close associate of Netaji, with the pistols given to him by the freedom fighter a few days before he is believed to have died in an air crash in August 1945. IANSThe octogenarian, who worships the two pistols every day, said Netaji had handed them to him before the freedom fighter left Bangkok for the last time saying: "See you in the Red Fort soon."

The Colt .32 and FN .635 are still lying with Chawla, who was Netaji's secretary in Thailand, and he is keen to see that the legacy is back with the country he fought for. Netaji left them with Chawla a week before he was announced dead in a plane crash in August 1945.

Chawla's son has been camping in Delhi for the past two weeks to meet the prime minister and apprise him of the two pistols. Jan 23 is Netaji's 113th birth anniversary.
"He wanted me to return the pistols to him at Red Fort after independence. However, eight days later he was announced dead in a plane crash in Taiwan. I still don't believe he died then and I am still waiting for him. But with increasing age I think it is his legacy and should be with the country he fought for," Chawla said over phone from Bangkok.

His youngest son, Santokh Singh Chawla, arrived in India Jan 10 to see to it that his father's wish is fulfilled, though he is not carrying the pistols with him.
"I am on a mission; my father's duty will be over once these pistols come to India, the country of Netaji's origin and get the deserving honour. We feel the people of India should not be deprived of the right to see them," said Santokh Singh, a realtor in Thailand and president of the Indo-Thai Friendship Association.

According to Santokh Singh, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Afairs has shown interest in the matter. Indian Ambassador to Thailand Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty has also asked Chawla to meet him to facilitate the return of the pistols.
"I know mystery and controversy still shroud Netaji's death but he was our hero in the freedom struggle. India should give all honour and respect to his legacy," said Santokh Singh.

"It is unfortunate that Netaji is only being remembered in India through the controversial story of the plane crash and differences in opinion with Mahatma Gandhi. I feel that he should be remembered through these pistols, which are his personal belongings and deserve to be among the people of his country and placed with honour and dignity," he said.
According to Chawla, the Indian government looks reluctant to accept the pistols for reasons not known to him.
"We want the Indian government to approach the Thailand government to take them back. The Thai government has no problem in handing over Netaji's legacy to India. When India can bring back Gandhiji's belongings from an auction, why can't Netaji's? After all both of them fought for the country's independence," Chawla said.
In the 1970s, then prime minister Indira Gandhi asked Chawla during a visit to Thailand to give the pistols to the National Museum in Delhi.
"But my father did not agree because he was not willing to part with them for sentimental reasons. He still thinks Netaji will come back," said Santokh Singh.
Indians in Thailand had played a crucial role in assisting Netaji Bose when he was garnering support in Southeast Asia for India' freedom.
After World War II broke out, Netaji fled from India and travelled to Japan, Germany and the Soviet Union, seeking an alliance with the aim of attacking the British in India.
With Japanese assistance, he reorganised and later led the Indian National Army from Indian prisoners of war and plantation workers from Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia against the British forces. He is believed to have died Aug 18, 1945, in a plane crash over Taiwan.
Many theories float about his death, with some believing he was indeed killed that day and others, like Chawla, still hoping that he will return.

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