Even after 72 years of independence, earning two meals a day is still a challenge for 93-year-old C M Pandiaraj, the sole survivor of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army.
He lives in a thatched rented house with his three daughters and two sons in Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. On asking about his time in the army as a soldier, he first wore his army uniform, saluted photo of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and said, “In 1943 when Netaji took over the Indian National Army I was living together with my mother in Malasia. On hearing Netaji’s call, I joined the Gorilla team and worked within the camp.”
In those days the INA had the assistance of Japan army. The Indians living in east Asian countries actively participated in the movement forgetting their petty difference. Some of them were Tamilians like Pandiaraj. They planned to enter India through northern states.
But when the British got to know that Pandiraj has joined the army, he was put behind bars for six months, and the plan failed. “Those were toughest days, of my life,” said Pandiaraj. After their plan failed, Netaji contacted his team with the help of Singapore radio. He addressed the army as his family declared the dilution of operation, asking soldiers to return to their families.
The government authorities are fully aware of Pandiaraj’s service to the nation. But his struggle to find a shelter continues. For the past 16 years, he has been appealing the government for his own house. But all his appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
In his appeal to the government through The Logical Indian, Pandiraj said,‘There are several freedom fighters, who struggle to meet their basic needs today due to poverty. If the government could understand our plight, it would be a relief.’