Renaming islands in Andamans obscures
complex loyalties, horrific memories
Mains Paper 3: Indian History
Prelims level: INA
Mains level: Post independence India
- On December 30, 2018, three islands of the Andaman group were
renamed. The Ross Island as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep, Neil Island as
Shaheed Dweep and Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep.
- The renaming commemorates Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s visit to
the Andamans as the commander of the Azad Hind Fauj (INA) in December 1943.
- This was during World War II when the Japanese had occupied the
Islands as allies of INA.
- They had wrested control from the British who had colonised the
Islands in 1858. Although mistakenly assumed to be a consequence of the
Revolt of 1857.
- The colonisation of the Andamans was an outcome of the oceanic
politics of the Raj and its need for a strategic foothold in the Bay of
- Historical evidence points in the direction of Bose’s visit having
been stage managed by the Japanese generals stationed on the Andamans.
However, what could Bose have done had he known?
- Was he really in a position to challenge the only allies he had?
- After all, the loss of lives of the local Andamanese was small
compared to the INA soldiers who were willingly laying down their lives for
- I had met local people who would have liked to see Neil and
Havelock islands renamed (not Ross Island as it was named after Sir Ronald
Ross, the discoverer of mosquito transmission of malaria”) because they were
named after two British officers James Neil and Henry Havelock who were
infamous for their role in the Revolt of 1857. But I am not sure if they had
wished them to be changed to commemorate Netaji.
- The Andaman Islands became part of the Indian Republic with
- Mountbatten handed them to Nehru, despite Jinnah’s repeated
claims, because in his view the Republic of India was the inheritor of the
legacy of nationalist struggle and thereby of the Andamans, which were a
sacred symbol of this struggle.
- It’s a different matter that Mountbatten had hoped to use the
Islands’ as a British naval base.
- The inclusion of the Andamans in the Indian Union was thus the
culmination of a century-long process, beginning with its colonisation in
1858 and then with imprisonment of the Indian revolutionaries in the
Cellular Jail from 1910 onwards.
- The experiences of the revolutionaries, who were numerically
minuscule in comparison to the settlers, forged and immortalised a
monochromatic image of the Islands as a muktitirth, sacred site of
- This image shrouded the history of the indigenous Andamanese, the
ordinary convicts, their descendants, and settler communities who made it
- This image continues to be reproduced with the naming of the Port
Blair airport after Savarkar and the installation of his statue inside the
Cellular Jail by the Vajpayee government and now with the renamings.
- The irony is the more we rename the more we erase; and what gets
swept away is not the Mughal or the British master’s history, but our own
Q.1) Consider the following statements about the views of Subhash Chandra
1. Bose considered industrialization as a potent factor in making India
strong and self-sufficient.
2. Bose did not share Gandhian ideal of “Ahmisa”.
Which of the above is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
Q.1) The irony is the more we rename the more we erase; and what gets
swept away is not the Mughal or the British master’s history, but our own past.
Briefly examine the statement.