Valourisation of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Col Satish Singh Lalotra

As the first PM of the undivided but free India (a small part though– Andaman & Nicobar had been
liberated by then) Netaji had gone to these islands and hoisted the tricolor on 30th December 1943.

‘Valour consists in the power of self-discovery’—-
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
World over humanity is in a constant state of change, wrought upon by changes in fortunes, places, circumstances etc. Change though inevitable and not desired by people, may be forced by circumstances. Most of the changes that impinge upon the human race in a positive manner are often the end results of few iconic individuals who had themight to shape generations of population after them.
Goaded by their personal acts of sacrifice, valour and the like these icons of humanity should be branded in the psyche of general populace by the ruling dispensation in myriad ways of which there is no dearth of. One such novel way of branding the acts of valorous deeds and sacrifice of the countrymen is pitchforking its armed forces towards that goal that remain under the shadows in a democratic set up. Taking a cue of the above facet, our PM in a recent act last month decided to rename 21 islands of Andaman &Nicobar with the names of 21 PVC awardees.
The ‘Parakram Divas’ (valour day) i.e the birth anniversary of NetajiSubash Chandra Bosehas been immortalized by the Modi government by this renaming exercise of 21 islands of the archipelago for posterity. The largest group of islands has been named after the first PVC awardee, the second largest after the second awardee and so on. The Andaman &Nicobar group of islands had a crucial role to play in our independence history. It was here that the national flag was unfurled for the first time, leading to the establishment of the first national government. These islands were made by the British government as a place of exile(kalapani) for the freedom fighters of our independence movement to stymie the voice of freedom from the yolk of British oppression. At the center of such incarceration was the symbolic ‘Cellular jail’ which had the freedom fighters of the league of Veer Savarkar in its recesses all chained and riveted to their cells. However hardships never deterred them from their paths of righteousness and in fact strengthened their resolve on the contrary. It was this historical fact of significance and association of this group of islands that prompted the GOI to name ‘Ross island’ as ‘NetajiSubhas Chandra Bose’ island way back in 2018. The other two islands namely ‘Neil Island and ‘Havelock Island’ were named as ‘ShaheedDweep’ and ‘SwarajDweep’ respectively. Way back in 2018, a section of Netaji’s family felt that while the center renamed 3 islands of Ross, Neil and Havelock it didn’t resonate Netaji’s desire and decision to rename the entire archipelago as such.
As the first PM of the undivided but free India (a small part though– Andaman & Nicobar had been liberated by then) Netaji had gone to these islands and hoisted the tricolor on 30th December 1943. Hence this region became part of a much larger idea for a free India few years later. But still the family of Netaji felt that the GOI should have renamed the entire cluster of islands in 2018 itself. Hence the decision of the present dispensation to rename the major islands of this archipelago after the PVC awardees of the armed forces. The importance of attaching a physical entity to an important personality, event or a place has the mesmerizing effect of galvanizing the population of a nation to action. It goes without saying that public participation in an event of national importance has to be equally gargantuan in nature with the later having such USP to its credit that it unhinges the national mood to that of a national euphoria. Readers may well agree with me that such actions of renaming of islands will goad us to the path of self-discovery. Till date these islands carried the names of British people that carried no sentimental value, separated as it is by the vast expanse of Bay of Bengal /Indian Ocean from the mainland.
But with the present action of Modi Government a sense of closure and nearness will be developed between the mainland and the archipelago. With names like Banaisland, Salaria island, Dhansingh island, Shaitansingh island etc a tourist landing from mainland India will immediately get connected to his roots thus dispelling the notion of time and space wrought about by the oceanic waters of Bay of Bengal and the Indian ocean.
This renaming exercise may be termed by the opposition parties as a publicity stunt to garner public support and playing to the gallery. Be that as it may, these opposition entities forget to turn the leaves of history and take their minds back to the world history when in the summer of 1940 ,I,e 22 june 1940 to be precise after the fall of France Adolf Hitler made the French sign the ‘Armistice treaty/surrender treatyin the famous railway wagon ‘Compiegne wagon’ at Paris. It was the same rail wagon which the French had used to make the Germans sign the humiliating treaty of surrender after the 1WW. It goes without saying that though symbolic in nature, the renaming exercise is too on the same lines, primarily goading us Indians to a path of self-discovery. As has been said by the famous American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson— ‘Valour consists in the path of self-discovery. These renamed islands are a path of self -discovery for us Indians for here was the sun which shone for the first time on the terra firma of a free India acting as a beacon of hope for the rest of the country.
(The writer is a retired army officer)