In 1940, the famous freedom fighter and political leader Subhas Chandra Bose was under close surveillance by the colonial government. To continue his struggle for Indian freedom, he decided to escape to Afghanistan. During his “Great Escape”, he stopped at Amritsar in Punjab, where he received considerable help from the local population. On 18thJanuray 1941, Netaji escaped from his house arrest disguised as a life insurance agent and planned to travel to Russia through Kabul. He halted at Amritsar where Dr. Saifudin Kitchlew, one of the foremost national leaders of the city, gave him insights about the Afghan culture which proved invaluable in concealing his identity and to continue his journey forward. He stayed in Bara Makan, in the Islamabad locality of Amritsar. His very presence inspired patriotism in the hearts of the local residents. Mian Akbar Shah, another prominent freedom fighter from the North West Frontier Province, was in charge of organizing Netaji’s onward journey. Netaji was not familiar with the language of Afghanistan, Pashto. On Mian Akbar Shah’s advice, he disguised himself as a hearing and speech impaired tribesman, and let his beard grow long for the role. With the help of political organisations in Punjab, he was able to cross into Afghanistan, and then to Russia, to seek their support in India’s freedom struggle against the British Raj. Netaji’s close connection with the Punjab was solidified even further, when many Punjabis enlisted in his Azad Hind Fauj.
Amritsar and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's "Great Escape" from the British