Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 20:
Two days after the West Bengal government declassified some Netaji files in its possession, Odisha-based researcher on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose today urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to divulge any secret files on Netaji and the INA veterans which might be in government possession.
In a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, eminent researcher and author of “Chalo Delhi” Anil Dhir sought release of classified information pertaining to Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and the INA Association of Odisha.
“I had gathered data that the INA Association of Odisha, which had its headquarters at Hinjilikatu, was kept under surveillance by the Orissa Police Intelligence Wing from 1948 to an unspecified period. The West Bengal government has taken a first step. I request you to please release all and any secret files that were maintained on Netaji and his INA veterans. If the government of Odisha does not have any files, let this be known to the public. As the birthplace of this great patriot, the state of Odisha owes him this much,” Dhir wrote in his letter.
Dhir had taken up the cause of Laxmi Panda, the forgotten INA veteran from Jeypore, Koraput and ensured that the President of India bestowed the Rasthriya Swantantrata Sainik Samman, the highest freedom fighter’s title, on her in 2008.
During his research on the INA, to prove Laxmi Panda’s contribution and the truth of her claims, Dhir had travelled all over the country and met more than 150 INA veterans. He had accessed many documents at the National Archives, Netaji Research Bureau, and The INA museum at Seelamgarh Fort in Delhi.
According to him, all state governments had kept tabs on the activities of the released soldiers of the disbanded INA.
“More than 1500 Odias had served in Netaji’s valiant Army. Laxmi Panda was just one of them. Many had died in the battlefield, but most of them returned home and led miserable lives of ignominy and neglect,” Dhir added.
Many INA veterans had applied for jobs at the under construction Hirakud Dam near Sambalpur. The government had refused to employ them, citing vague reasons. It was the late Biju Patnaik who intervened and got them employed. In fact, Laxmi Panda’s husband too had been employed as a driver at the dam site.
When the Orissa Military Police was formed in 1946, many INA veterans had applied, but all their applications had been turned down. In spite of their track record of military services, not one single INA Odia was taken in the new wing of the Police. However, Gorkhas were inducted in March 1948, but the INA Odias were ignored. This was a gross injustice meted out to them, Dhir said.