By: Mrinal Devburman

Vezo Swuro, a Naga resident of Chesezu Village, Phek District, Nagaland, who met the great Indian freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose during his stay in Nagaland, is proudly wearing his Indian National Army (INA) hat on the occasion of Bose’s 123rd birth anniversary.

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Not many people know this, but the renowned freedom fighter had a memorable experience in Nagaland. “The Battle of Kohima”, one of the toughest battles of WW II, was witnessed by Nagaland and Manipur in 1944. The rest of India hardly knows about the sacrifice and pains of the tribal people.

Netaji and INA with their allied Japanese came through Jessami via Phek, Khuza, and Mutsale to Ruzazho village and Netaji established the INA camp during April-May 1944.

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The oldest living person in the village Poswuyi Swuro (around 99 years), Netaji along with his armies and Japanese reached the village at dawn and called for the general public meeting at a place called ‘Metho Chophe’.

Poswuyi said he was very handsome with a very promising persona, which attracted the Naga villagers. When the villagers gathered, Bose enquired if there were any who studied or studying. The villagers responded by mentioning Poswuyi’s name as he was the only person who passed Class III.

Poswuyi Swuro was then called by Bose to the front and was asked if he would be the DB (Dobhashi) for the surrounding area. On agreeing to the proposal, Bose wrote his name in his personal diary.

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After that, Netaji gave an opportunity to the villagers by asking who want to be the Gaon Bura (Village Head/GB). 10 villagers raised their hands. Netaji wrote their names in the diary as well. Just then, some of the Assam Regiments soldiers, who were captured and came along with Bose spotted Shri Vesuyi Swuro (elder brother of Poswuyi who was on medical leave and staying in the village) and reported to Bose saying he was also from the same battalion.

Bose called him to the front and questioned if the claim was true? Vesuyi replied positively with great fear. However, to his surprise Bose gently spoke to him in Hindi and asked him to be the interpreter. Vesuyi Swuro agreed.

The Naga villagers were given their assignments such as collection of rations, firewood, water, grass for their horses, etc. They were to report through their representatives who were just appointed by Netaji.

Netaji and his team stayed at Ruzazho village for 9 days. During their stay in the village, the Naga villagers reported that they ran out of their food grains, vegetables and domesticated animals.

Still, the villagers did not feel much pain with the hope that one day they would see their village developed as promised by Netaji. Poswuyi Swuro DB was sent to their neighboring villages like Phugi and Suthozu for rations. He and his brother Vesuyi were also given a mission to lead their INA allied Forces to Satakha via Dzulha, Kilomi and stayed at Satakha for a night. The next day on learning about the presence of British forces at Zunheboto they decided to retreat back to Ruzazho village.

While crossing Dzulha Village, the British troops ambushed them and one Sema guy was shot just in front of them and died on the spot but Poswuyi and his brother luckily escaped the attack and returned to their village. It is worth mentioning that the entire villagers including womenfolk were involved in helping Netaji and the INA soldiers.

The villagers were engaged in carrying their rations to different locations and camps and also carried their weapons, while some were engaged in building their base camps while others would help them in guiding them to different places and so on.

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