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Subhas Chandra Bose's escape from Calcutta - Reminiscences of Uttamchand Malhotra

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

According to the memoirs of Uttamchand Malhotra, who gave refuge to Subhas in Kabul, Uattamchand met Subhas through Rahamat Khan aka Bhagatram, in February 1941, near the banks of the Kabul river. Subhas as Ziauddin and Bhagatram, were staying in a sarai or inn in the Lahori Darwaza area. The sarai was filthy and the food was bad. Moreover a CID man of the Afghan police has started shadowing them and also extracted money. He even took the wrist watch of Subhas which his father gave to him. While Rahamat went to bring the luggage from the sarai, Subhas narrated his story to Uttamchand. He said that he left Peshawar on 19th January and reached Kabul in 3 days. On 15 of January, 1941, Subhas set out of his house at midnight in the guise of a Maulvi, got into a car and caught the mail from a station 40 miles away from Calcutta. He reached Peshawar at 9 PM on 17th January. An already waiting car drove him to the appointed place. On January 19, he drove out of Peshawar en route to Jamrud. He stayed the night in a little village called Gurhi. The next day, he and Rahamat Khan started on foot to Kabul. From Gurhi he pretended that he was deaf and dumb. Next morning they crossed the Indian border and spent the night in the famous shrine of the Addah Sharif as the guests of the Pir. They reached Lalpura in the evening and were guests of a very influential Khan of the place. They left Lalpura with a very important letter of introduction from the Chief. The letter mentioned that they were going on a pilgrimage to the Sukhi Saheb's shrine and they should not be harassed as they were inhabitants of the tribal area. After a few miles from Lalpura they reached the Kabul river. They had to avoid the usual road between Dukka and Peshawar as on this road passports were checked at three places. They caught a lorry with great difficulty. Snow was falling and they had no warm clothes. They had to sit on the top of the lorry. The next day they reached Buttkhak. There passports were checked and Rahamat Khan produced the Lalpura Khan's certificate. After taking tea they got into the lorry and reached Kabul between 4 PM and 5 PM in the afternoon.

It is to be noted that there are certain differences in what Uttamchand had reported as Netaji's version of the great escape and what Netaji's nephews had written much later. But it is likely that Subhas Bose did not disclose all the details of his escape to Uttamchand as he knew that there was a strong possibility that Uttamchand would be caught and then whoever were involved in the great escape, would be in danger. So he kept his story vague and broad and deliberately missed the details. There are also differences in dates. That is again because of the same reason, to ensure safety of the helpers, as they would have good alibi on any other dates than the date on which he actually escaped. So British police would not be able to track down those who had helped him.

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