When Netaji Fled To Peshawar And Beyond: Some Memories Of Subhas Chandra Bose

When Netaji Fled To Peshawar And Beyond: Some Memories Of Subhas Chandra Bose
It was around 1939-40. Subhas was the head of Congress Party, but a serious conflict arose and a new group formed around him: they argued that non-violence is not the solution and that it would take a bloody revolution to oust the British from the Subcontinent. At that time, M.K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Abdul Kalam Azad and Bacha Khan stood against Subhas and his idea of violent revolution. Subhas decided that he was going abroad, to take aid from hostile countries and thus destroy the British Empire.

Akbar Shah ran the revolutionary movement in the North West Frontier Province (NWPF, now KP) and he was informed about the decision of Subhas. My father had smuggled many such revolutionists to Afghanistan is his vehicles, using diverse disguises.

Any stranger who wished to go to Afghanistan, Turkey or even the Soviet Union had to cross this area – and my father [Ibad Khan] used to guide them for the journey. The foremost task was to change their identity. The passenger was then sent along with my father's companions to the border and even they were not informed about the true identity of their charge.

The house in Kohati Gate, Peshawar, where Subhas Chandra Bose stayed for two months

One day, Akbar Shah came to my father and said, “You have to send a great personality across the border.” Meanwhile, Subhas was being kept strictly hidden in his home in Calcutta. Eventually, Akbar Shah, Mian Muhammad Shah(from Pabbi), and Bagat Ram (from Mardan) arrived to talk to my father and told him that Subhas was insisting to proceed with his journey.

My father criticised them for coming to meet him together, reminding them that the principles of the revolutionary party mandated that only one member ought to meet another at one time, so as to protect the clandestine structure from surveillance or infiltration. “That one person ought to have been you!”

Akbar Shah and my father exchanged angry words. But my father clearly said, “I am not a passport officer to send people abroad. Everyone knows that it is an illegal business!”

Nevertheless, the plan was to proceed.

Akbar Shah asked Subhas to leave his Calcutta home silently. Travelling across colonial India, Subhas somehow reached here in the north-west. And I still remember the house in which he stayed and the vehicle in which he was dropped here.

Akbar Shah picked Subhas from the Peshawar Railway Station in two horse carts. In one of these, Subhas himself was carried, and Akbar Shah followed him in the other. This arrangement was meant to allay any suspicions that a prominent figure was sitting with Akbar Shah.

Grave of revolutionary Ibad Khan, who at one point helped Subhas Chandra Bose escape the British Empire

Subhas stayed in the Taj Mahal Hotel in room number 6, and the next day, Akbar Shah told my father, “The guests have reached us. Please visit the hotel, introduce yourself and instruct him about further steps.

In the morning, my father knocked the door of the room, greeted Subhas warmly, and said, “I am Ibad Khan.”

After breakfast, my father told the hotel manager that he want to take the guest with him, and that later he (my father) would pay for his stay.

My father had three extra homes on rent: he often used to keep revolutionaries in these. He instructed Subhas to follow him silently and they reached the home where he was to stay.

As a host, my father told him, “This home completely belongs to you, you may live here freely.” In a word, my father fed and sheltered Subhas. The great revolutionary was living there alone: he only read newspapers (in English) and the main door of his home used to be locked from the outside, so that no one might suspect that someone lived inside.

Siraj Khan

My father taught him prayers (namaz) and guided him about the social, cultural and ethical norms of the tribal areas. For instance, if an elder or older person comes to you, then you have to stand up in honour of them, offer them the head side of the charpoy, answer the salaam of everyone benevolently, and also say ‘Assalamu Alaikum” to everyone. My father also taught him the sacred expressions of creed (kalimas) for Muslims in those 5-6 days.

For helping him learn these cultural and religious aspects, and helping him blend in better for his journey through Muslim lands, Subhas was profusely grateful to my father.