93-year-old Naga man recalls his time with Netaji

93-year-old Vezo Swuro from Nagaland recalled his times with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Chesechu village in Phek district, situated 65 kms away from Kohima, the capital of the state.

During the World War II also known as the Battle of Kohima, Vezo Swuro served him when he camped for two months near the village even though he was not part of Bose’s Indian National Army (INA).

Swuro flaunting his INA cap that he received by the INA members said that he was only 16 years old when he first met Netaji. He used to bring meat, fruits, rice and other edibles for the freedom fighter.

Swuro said that, “With neither group understanding the language of the other Bose had made it known to us that he wanted to eat chicken meat by making the sound of a hen. Everything else was communicated through sign language”.

“I served him as a guide and used to take him around the village and sometimes to the top of Suthoka Peak from where Bose used to survey the surrounding villages through his binoculars,” he said.

The Suthoka Peak was given the name Netaji Peak.

“Netaji sometimes climbed atop a tree for better view. He also witnessed the fighting between the Japanese and British troops in the Great Battle of Kohima,” Swuro said.

He recalled that Subhash Chandra Bose had arrived there with his INA followers by the Jessami, Phek, Runguzu route and selected Chesezu as their camp.

Netaji used to give the first bite of his meal to his Burmese cook before eating it, said Swuro.

Netaji used to stay at his camp known as Shophi Dzukhu now known as Netaji camp, while other who accompanied Netaji stayed at the Inspection Bungalow.

Netaji came on a horse along with a large number of guards, Swuro said.

“Netaji was carrying a sword, two hand grenades and a pistol when he first entered our village a day after the Japanese troops arrived on April 4, 1944,” he added.

Swuro also remembered the last day when Netaji disappeared from the place.

British aircraft bombers flew low, twice when he and his friends were asked to dig a pit with little equipment. It did not scare Bose however.

“I felt so scared that I decided to return home to my village a few days later. That day the British troops came to the village and prepared to attack the camp,” said Swuro.

“The attack lasted for several hours at the camp. The next day when a few elders and I went to the camp it was empty,” he said.

Two bodies of Bengali persons were discovered at the Inspection Bungalow. They were buried later.

The camp was burnt, probably bombed as blood stains were there. Swuro said that the whereabouts of his Sahab was not known.

There were bodies of soldiers near a pond located beside the camp, but the villagers did not had the courage to go near because of  some bomb like object was spotted on top of the bodies. The villagers abandoned the pond and the bodies were washed away. The remnants were burnt later.

It was reported that Netaji used another pond nearby.

Swuro said, “Once when I was a bit older I went to Kohima and found a poster of Netaji being sold in a shop. I bought the poster and told the shopkeeper casually that I had met this man (Sahab) who had resided near them for a couple of months”.

Swuro attended a function which was organized by tour operator Kejaroko Pieru to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji on January 23.

Pieru said, “We are planning to preserve the ponds, camp site and the Netaji Peak and promote them as tourist spots”.