Kolkata, March 22


here may not be any official records regarding Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's incarceration within Fort William - the present headquarters of the Indian Army's Eastern Command in Kolkata - but the cell continues to attract visitors.

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The latest among those who visited the Netaji Cell were West Bengal Governor C.V. Ananda Bose and his wife L.S. Lakshmi. The Army has taken a lot of effort to preserve the cell on the ground floor of the historic Dalhousie Barracks, next to the quarter guard's office.

The only changes that have been made are displays of photographs and documents related to the great leader. Even scratch marks on a wall, apparently made by Netaji in a bid to escape, have been left intact.

The first couple of West Bengal were moved when they were accompanied to the small cell by Lt Gen R.P. Kalita, GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, on Tuesday.

"We have no official documents regarding his imprisonment at Fort William. All we know is that he spent some time here after his arrest in 1940. Successive garrison battalions take care of the cell and it is an inspiration for the troops. The Indian Army reveres Netaji," an official said.

'Kadam Kadam Badhaya Ja', the marching song of Netaji's Azad Hind Fauj or the Indian National Army, is today the Indian Army's official regimental quick march.

While no official documents are available on Netaji's incarceration at Fort William, it is a fact that he was arrested by the British in July 1940 for organising protests against the Hollwell Monument in Kolkata (then Calcutta).

The Hollwell Memorial was built in the memory of those killed in the 'purported' Black Hole of Calcutta and the British soldiers who died trying to defend the original Fort William in the city (where the GPO now stands) against Siraj-ud-Daulah's forces.

Siraj-ud-Daulah, the then Nawab of Bengal, had ransacked the Fort in 1756. The British, including John Zephaniah Hollwell, claimed that 123 soldiers and civilians died of suffocation inside a cell within the dungeon of the Fort. This was called the Black Hole.

Netaji had, however, seen through this lie and demanded removal of the Hollwell Monument. He maintained that this was an attempt to show Siraj-ud-Daulah in poor light. Netaji also demanded that all mention of the incident be removed from school text books. This had infuriated the British who arrested him in 1940. At a much later date, historians confirmed that merely a handful of people had died inside the cell that night. The figures could be as less as 18.

Historians have no clue as to how Netaji landed up at Fort William (the new one that was built) after his arrest in 1940. Some believe that he was taken there as the British felt that his presence at Presidency Jail would stir an unrest among freedom fighters already housed there. Others feel that Netaji was taken to Fort William as a makeshift arrangement while the British decided what to do next.

It is a known fact though that Netaji was ultimately moved to the Presidency Jail where he resorted to a fast before being released on medical grounds in December 1940. In 1941, Netaji escaped to Europe via Kabul. The rest is history.

The Hollwell Monument was, however, demolished by the British following his agitation.

Netaji's cell at Fort William in Kolkata continues to attract visitors

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