New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani: Colonel Nizamudin, 115 years old, can rewrite India's history. The once-driver and bodyguard of Subhas Chandra Bose has a wealth of information on Netaji.
Talking to dna on phone from his village near Mubarakpur in Azamgarh, UP, he confirmed that the Bose family was indeed under close surveillance during Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's time. "Nehruji had spread a web of spies around Netaji and his aides," he said.
In fact, Nizamudin himself was questioned by the CID. It was 1950. Upon returning to India, he went to what was then Calcutta. While loitering around Bose's residence, he was detained by plainclothes CID personnel.
"I told them I am a beggar. I don't know anything about Netaji or his army. After questioning me for an hour or so, they asked me to leave," he said.
Nizamudin is confident that the police had kept relatives of Bose under close surveillance, as, according to an agreement with British, the Indian government was supposed to detain all those who had militarily helped Germans during the War against the British.
With equal confidence, he also says that the widely-held belief, supported by two government commissions, that Netaji died in an air crash in 1945, is a flat lie.
"Till 1947, I was with my leader," says he. Nizamudin, who now lives in Dhakwa village in Mubarakpur tehsil, remained Bose's shadow for 10 long years.
"The War had ended. Japan had laid down arms. We were 5,000-strong. Along with many Japanese soldiers, we were fighting the British in the East using gorilla hit-and-run tactics," he said.
Also, Netaji used to travel by submarines, since the British forces were always on lookout for him, he says.
Nizamudin had travelled extensively with Bose – to Berlin to enlist the support of German dictator Adolf Hitler – and also to Toko, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and Singapore.
When he talks, there will be words from English, Japanese and Malay and soon he returns to Hindi.
Born in 1900, Nizamudin recollects that at the age of 23, he left his home to meet his father Sheikh Imam Ali, who was running a hotel in Singapore.
"I reached Calcutta and then Singapore, paying a fare of Rs 25. In Singapore, after working with my father for some time, I joined the Indian National Army (INA). Many Indians were enrolling themselves in Netaji's Army. I was given the rank of colonel. But one day, when Netaji saw me, he elevated me to his bodyguard and driver in 1937. I was his shadow for 10 years," he claims.
"When India attained independence, we all bursted in joy in Myanmar (then Burma). Netaji addressed us on the banks of the Stang River. He insisted that all of us should leave now for India and live like good citizens. He left in a steamer before instructing me to destroy all military records. Soon he left, but the British bombarded the shore, and my vehicle was destroyed. With great difficulty, I saved my life and reached Yangon (then Rangoon), to live with my in-laws," recollects Nizamudin.
Nizamudin's original name was Saifudin. "I had to change my name and choose an alias, when I was shifted to work in the intelligence wing of the INA," he says.
And then he moves to contemporary history. During his election campaign in Varanasi, Narendra Modi invited him there. Though Modi touched his feet in Varanasi, Nizamudin is still awaiting recognition as a freedom fighter.