Thursday, September 29, 2022

Remembering Maj. Durga Malla, the noble son of India

Countless Gorkhas have fought and made sacrifices for our beloved nation. From the freedom struggle to the heights of Kargil, Gorkhas have always been at the forefront in the defence of our country. Shaheed Durga Malla belongs to the front rank of Gorkha heroes martyred for the cause of our country’s freedom. He epitomized the fighting spirit and ardent patriotism of Indian Gorkhas. The Gorkha community for long has been associated with the military history of our country. Major Durga Malla stands out, as he sacrificed his life for our nation at the young age of 31. Here I bring you the story of Major Durga Malla on his 78th Dead Anniversary.
Born on 1 July 1913 in a small village called Doiwala in Dehradun (Uttarakhand), to Ganga Ram Malla who was a jamadar (present-day naib subedar) in the Gorkha Rifles in the military, Durga Malla was a laborious, dedicated, and bright student in his childhood. Durga Malla was the eldest of the four sons of Parwati Devi and Ganga Ram Malla. Over time, this family was blessed with three more sons and three daughters. Since his childhood, Durga Malla was different in nature from other children of his age. Besides having a keen interest in sports, particularly football, Durga Malla has a great fascination for literary and social activities. He was very good at studies. But due to the absence of proper educational facilities in Doiwala area, he had to join Gorkha Military Middle School, at present Gorkha Military Inter College, near Dehradun.
He was greatly inspired by the prominent Gandhian freedom fighters of Dehradun like Thakur Chandan Singh, Veer Khadagabahadur Singh Bisht, Pandit Ishwaranand Gorkha and Amar Singh Thapa. The Dandi March of Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 to violate ‘salt rule’ started generating patriotic sentiments in the heart of Durga Malla, motivating him to take part in the freedom struggle. He could see the vision of the freedom of India under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He would often enter the Gorkha battalion area at night with his friends to stick posters of the freedom struggle and also took part in processions of the freedom fighters. Gandhi’s vision infused in him patriotic sentiments and he began to envision a free India.
Durga Malla was in his youth in 1930. He always remained worried and restless at the plight of the Gorkha society. In 1931, when he was only 18, he joined the 2/1 battalion of the Gorkha Rifles. Seeing his excellent performance in the training, he was quickly promoted to the post of Signal Hawaldar. In 1941, during World War II, when the Japanese aggression had intensified, the 2/1 battalion of Gorkha Rifles were ordered to advance towards the war field Just three days after his marriage Durga Malla got an emergent call from his unit. He was called back for war by the Army even before his newly married bride Sharda Devi could get acquainted with him. Being a true patriot, Durga Malla did not get upset while leaving his newly married bride alone back at home. He marched for war with utmost courage.
The formation of the Indian National Army represented a milestone in the history of India’s freedom struggle. Durga Malla was one of those who played an important role in the formation of the Indian National Army. In 1942, he not only joined this Army with a patriotic zeal but also inspired his fellow men to join it. Initially, Durga Malla was given the responsibility to mobilize volunteers for the Indian National Army from different Gorkha battalions.
Later, by virtue of his patriotic feelings, his sense of duty towards his country, and his valor, he earned a promotion to the rank of Major. When after the formation of the Provisional Azad Hind Government under the supreme command of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose war was declared against the Allied Forces on 25 October 1943, soldiers of different branches of the Indian National Army were deployed on the fronts. Durga Malla was posted in the Intelligence Branch. Durga Malla was also deeply concerned about the subjugation of India and the pathetic condition of the country. Therefore, he joined the freedom struggle to free the country from the shackles of slavery. This was the time when the police in Dehradun was frantically arresting freedom fighters. As a result, freedom fighters started migrating to other places from Dehradun. To dodge the police, Durga Malla, who was a young student, went away to the house of a relative at Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.
However, the Allied forces were routed by the Japanese army in South East Asia and it was then that a group of Indian soldiers became convinced that they served no purpose fighting for the British. Posted in the Intelligence Branch he often had to go on secret missions to gather information about areas of strategic importance in the hilly tracts across the Burma border. He, along with some other fellow soldiers entered the hilly area of the then greater Assam across Burma & Nagaland border.
There he used to collect and send important information regarding matters of strategic importance to the headquarters of Indian National Army in Rangoon despite the shortage of supplies, ammunition and weapons and adverse geographical conditions. On 27 March 1944, when Durga Malla was on a mission to collect information of the enemy camps, he was captured by the soldiers of the enemy side at Ukhrul in Manipur near Kohima.
He was kept in the prison at Red Fort as a Prisoner of War before he was prosecuted and finally given the death sentence on 25 August 1944. After his arrest, Durga Malla as a prisoner of war. He was prosecuted by the military court under section 41 of the Indian Army Law and section 121 of the Indian Penal Code. He was given death sentence by the Court Martial, the court of trial before which he was tried at Red Fort. Before the death sentence was finally executed, the British authorities tried to coax Major Durga Malla into confessing the wrong and promised him a grant of remission if he could do so. But it was against the wishes of Veer Durga Malla whose only objective was to get the country free. He preferred to embrace the gallows rather than accepting the proposal of the British rulers. All persuasions having failed, Durga Malla’s wife Smt. Sharda Devi was brought before him at the prison cell as the last resort. British authorities were of the opinion that she would persuade her husband to apologize. But Major Malla yielded to no devices of the British authorities. On the contrary, he gave his wife his last words by saying “Sharda, I am sacrificing my life for the freedom of my motherland. You need not be worried and distressed. Crores of Hindustanis will be with you after my death.
The Sacrifice I am offering shall not go in vain. India shall be free. I am confident, this is only a matter of time”. On 15th August 1944, Veer Durga, the great patriot, was taken to Delhi Central Jail from the Red Fort. After ten days, on 25th August 1944, he was sent to the gallows. Thus ended the journey of one nobler son of mother India who laid down his precious life at the altar of Freedom. Durga Malla’s Physical body is no more but he sacrificed himself after leading a meaningful life of only 31 years and became immortal.
In honour of his valour and selfless spirit of sacrifice, the Government of India has installed a statue of Shaheed Durga Malla in Parliament House. His death anniversary 25th August is observed as Balidan Diwas by the Gorkhas across the nation.
Jacob Sundas
Former Vice President
Gorkha Students’ Union Dimapur