Umesh Chandra Devchoudhury, who joined the Indian National Army (also known as Azad Hind Fauj) in 1943 and fought many battles under Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s command for the motherland of India, was paid rich tributes by his admirers recently. In a formal meeting held at Guwahati Press Club on January 11, distinguished speakers highlighted the spirit of patriotism shown by Devchoudhury and his INA colleagues under the able leadership of the patriot of patriots. Organised by the Assam branch of All India Patriotic Forum, the memorial meeting was started with the floral tributes to Devchoudhury, who passed away on December 11, 2013 and also reciting of two patriotic songs Vande Mataram and O Mor Aponar Desh by the participants.
Probably the last INA soldier from Assam, Devchoudhury maintained an active life till his demise at the age of 97 in his native village of Patacharkuchi in western Assam. A Lieutenant of INA, Devchoudhury led eventful struggles in various battlefields of south-east Asian places like Singapore, Rangoon, Arakan Front, etc. against the British imperial forces. With his sincerity and unparallel commitment to INA, Devchoudhury could elevate himself to the rank of a lieutenant in the spirited forces. Speakers including freedom fighters Jatin Goswami and Ganesh Chandra Das, Prof Rabin Devchoudhury, Ajay Dutta, Jaharlal Saha, Umakanta Bhattacharya, Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Hiten Mahanta, KN Devch-oudhury, Pramod Kalita, etc paid their heartiest tributes to the departed warrior, who led his troop on the Indo-Burma (Myanmar) border in 1944 to make India an independent nation.
“To liberate the Indian soil from the clutches of the British Empire the INA soldiers fought courageously in the hills and plains of Nagaland, Manipur and some parts of greater Assam. Imphal, Palel, Kohima, Bishenpur and many frontier areas witnessed great valour, patriotism and sacrifice of the INA soldiers, which still inspire present generation of the Indian youth,” said Rupam Barua, the president of Assam Patriotic Forum.
An expert in India’s freedom movement, Barua also added that the INA soldiers even liberated Moirang of Manipur on April 14, 1944 and hoisted Indian tricolour there replacing the British Union Jack. Thus it was a part of the then greater Assam that was cleared of the British domination for the first time by Netaji’s army. About 1,500 square miles of territory in this eastern tip of India remained in possession of INA for about six months. At Kohima in Nagaland also the soldiers of INA planted the tricolour on top of the mountains around the town, Barua added. Many brave and patriotic youths from various communities like Meitei, Naga, Mizo, Kuki, Khasi joined the INA to fight against the British. Besides Devchoudhury, Assamese soldiers like Jalaluddin Ahmed, Chittaranjan Debnath, Sridam Chandra Mahanta, S Rahman, Laurat Singh, Harendra Nath Mech fought for India’s liberation under the INA flag. As a consistent soldier of INA, Devchoudhury was attached to Netaji’s office in Rangoon for some time and was engaged in preparing a map covering various important locations in north-east India. Devchoudhury maintained an active life in his native place till his demise. He also penned a book titled Sei Ranangan (meaning: That Battlefield) narrating his first hand experiences of the freedom struggle.