The year was 1941 and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had arrived in Berlin to ask for Hitler’s help in freeing India from the tyranny of the British rule. Guided by his belief that only an armed uprising could help India become independent, the charismatic freedom fighter began setting his plan in motion.
Netaji’s plan had two objectives: the first, to set up an Indian government-in-exile, and the second, to create the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army or Legion Freies Indien) — a force of 50,000 troops, consisting mainly from Indian prisoners-of-war captured by Rommel’s Afrika Korps.
Netaji wanted INA to be an elite fighting force, trained to the highest standards of the German army, in which every man would fight shoulder-to-shoulder with his fellow soldier for the sole cause of Indian Independence. For this to happen, it was essential that the army behaved as a cohesive and completely integrated unit.
This was where Netaji faced a problem as Indian soldiers tended to restrict themselves to clusters of their own ethnicity and religion. This was because, historically, Indian soldiers had been organised into regiments according to ethnicity and religion (eg. the Rajputs, the Madras Sappers, the Baluchis, the Gorkhas, the Sikhs etc.)
To tackle this complex issue, Netaji decided to replace the specific religion-based salutations (like “Ram Ram” for Hindus, “Sat Sri Akal” for Sikhs and “Salaam Alaikum” for Muslims) of the soldiers with a common greeting that would break barriers and help them bond with each other. He found his rallying cry in the rousing words, “Jai Hind!”
And the man who gave this iconic phrase was Abid Hasan Safrani, the man from Hyderabad who was Netaji’s trusted aide, an INA Major, and later, one of independent India’s earliest diplomats.
Soon after, during the training sessions of the INA, Netaji conferred with his closest associates on a salutation that would break ethnic barriers and encourage integration within the army. It was Abid who then coined the succinct yet impactful phrase — “Jai Hind” — that got the leader’s approval.
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