Freedom came at a very big price. Only those who fought for it knew its value. Some were remembered. Some were forgotten. World applauds Gandhi’s thoughts and actions but hardly pay any heed to the heroes who never got the due they deserved. The soldiers of Azad Hind Fauj were the ill-fated heroes who though struggled for independence were labeled as traitors. There were no medals, honors or appreciation. The Azad Hind Fauj started by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a big leap in freedom struggle. Though short-lived, the soldiers of Azad Hind army made their presence felt. One such forgotten patriot was Saraswati Rajamani, a young spy from INA (Indian National Army) formed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. A 2020 web series on Amazon Prime: The Forgotten Army was inspired by her life and actions. The female protagonist ‘Maya’ in the web series was modelled on her. Born in a rich family in Burma, Rajamani was heavily influenced by teachings of Gandhiji until the news of execution of Bhagat Singh changed her ideologies towards freedom struggle. An armed revolution was also essential to gain independence. Only one man believed in armed revolution: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Bose left Congress to form his own army – Indian National Army to fight against the British Empire.
Netaji’s speech inspired a whole nation to enroll in INA. Several young men and women got inducted in the army formed by Netaji. Rajamani was one of them. It was Netaji who gave Rajamani a new name: Saraswati. Rajamani had donated her jewellery to Netaji so that it could be used for freedom struggle. Though initially Netaji was reluctant to enroll Rajamani in his army, but her persistence, determination compelled Netaji to change his thoughts. Thus, Rajamani became a part of INA. Rajamani earlier worked in medical section of INA as a nurse. While working as a nurse, she also took on role as a spy to keep watch on British army. Her brilliance as a spy impressed Netaji. Later she worked as a full-time spy to report on each and every movement of British army. There was a danger lurking at every moment. If a spy was caught, he was likely to be executed. Even under life threatening situations, Rajamani continued her work for cause of nation. At one point Saraswati and her friend Durga were caught by the British authorities. Despite being hit by bullet, Saraswati helped Durga escape from the British Cantonment. Saraswati was one of the youngest spies to work in INA. She joined INA when she was only 16 years old. The death of Netaji Bose in air crash still remains a mystery. After the death of Bose, the INA was disbanded. Saraswati never got her due as a patriot. The soldiers of INA were branded as traitors and never received any official recognition as patriots. Saraswati donated her entire wealth for cause of India’s independence. It is such an irony that Saraswati had to struggle a lot to get her monthly pension and accommodation till Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha arranged accommodation for her.
She died unsung on January 13th, 2018. There was no tribute or words of praise in her memory. Did we betray Netaji’s efforts and his unsung army?