Thursday 27 January 2022

Habeeb Saheb should be honoured properly in Gujarat for his magnanimity


Netaji Bose appointed Memon Abdul Habeeb Yusuf

Marfani as the Director General of Azad Hind Bank

Calling Spade a Spade: Dr.Hari Desai

·         Donationa of Dhoraji-born Habeeb Marfani to INA was of Rs.500 crore at the present value

·         President Dr.Shankar dayal Sharma inaugurated a Bronze Statue of Subhas near PMO in 1997

·         Habeeb Saheb should be honoured properly in Gujarat for his magnanimity, says Sugata Bose

It may be mere coincidence or calculated move that when  the statues or portrait of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose were inaugurated at the Parliament House or at India Gate, it was done by mostly  non-Congress Governments at the Centre. On 23 January, 1978 the President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy inaugurated the portrait of Netaji in the Central Hall of the Parliament. It was donated by Samar Guha, M.P. on behalf of the people of India. In January 1978 it was Morarji Desai’s Janata  Government of which Jan Sangh,  earlier Avatar of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was the partner. On 23 January, 1997 when the President  Dr.Shankardayal Sharma inaugurated the Bronze statue of Subhas Chandra Bose near Prime Minister’s office at the Parliament House, the coalition Union Government was headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee of BJP. Now when the granite statue of Netaji is being installed not very far off from the Parliament House it is the coalition Union Government headed by Narendra Modi of BJP.

Replacing Gandhi and Nehru

When there is already a bronze statue of “Desh Nayak” Bose near Prime Minister’s Office at the Parliament House, why the   hurry to install a granite statue nearby?  Tushar Gandhi, a great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and a well-known researcher, throws light on a new dimension: there was a proposal to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi to replace the statue of King George V at India Gate but somehow it got delayed and was shelved. Apart from Tushar’s contention, we could lay hands on  yet another proposal initiated by I.K. Gujaral as an MP way back in 1964. He had suggested that a statue of Pandit Nehru be erected to replace the statue of King George V. Nehru’s statue  at India Gate would have provided the right setting for the Republic Day parades, the main venue of which is Rajpath, according to Gujaral. PM Modi must have grabbed the opportunity to install a granite statue of Netaji so as to avoid the original proposal of late Prime Minister.

Sought only two pairs of Uniform

After reading the first installment of our article on Dhoraji-born Memon Abdul Habeeb Yusuf Marfati, the great grandson of Netaji Bose, a celebrated Historian and Professor of History at Harvard University Sugata Bose  writes to us on 26 January, 2022: “Dear Dr. Desai, I agree that Abdul Habeeb Saheb should be honored properly in Gujarat for his magnanimity. We remembered him at Netaji Research Bureau (Kolkata) in the presence of one of his descendants a few years ago.”  Abdul Habeeb Yusuf Marfani’s son Noor Mohmmad Habeeb describes how his father gave away everything of his to Indian National Army(INA). Habeeb Saheb hailed from Dhoraji in Gujarat state.  He migrated to Rangoon, the capital of Burma (now Myanmar) and became one of the rich business magnates of Rangoon.  In 1943 Netaji Bose formed Azad Hind Government and Azad Hind Bank.  Later on in a huge meeting on 9 July, 1944 Netaji made an appeal to the public for ‘total mobilisation’. Abdul Habeeb responded to the call of Netaji in a full measure by sacrificing all that he had and made thus acquiring for himself a prominent place in the chapter of ‘total mobilisation’ in the history of Indian National Army. Abdul Habeeb  magnanimously handed over a plateful of gold jewellery and cash along with a bundle of title deeds of his total property, all about the worth Rs. one crore and 3 lakh (estimated to be worth Rs.500 Crore at the present value) to Netaji.  Habeeb Marfani requested Netaji to provide him with two pairs of Indian National Army uniform and allow him to serve as full-time volunteer in Indian National Army.  Delighted and moulded with the ‘total sacrifice’ of Abdul Habeeb, Netaji said, “Brother, I am very happy today that people have stated realising their duties,… people are ready to sacrifice everything.  What Habeeb Seth has done is commendable, and those emulate him to serve the motherland are praise worthy”.  Without seeking his prior approval,  Netaji Bose had asked Habeeb Saheb to be the Director General of the Azad Hind Bank. He became his devotee in the struggle for the freedom of the motherland.

Family of Abdul Habeeb Marfani

A relative of the Marfani family and a Historian Younus Chitalwala says, “we have almost lost track with the Myanmar based family of Habeeb Saheb. When I was at Kolkata, the family members used to visit us there. Some 8 years  back, his grand son had come to Delhi for Netaji’s birth anniversary celebration.” Of course, Habeeb Saheb’s son Noor Mohmmad had written one article which gave the background of the family. It was published in Memon Welfare Magazine issue of November 2006. Abdul Habeeb and his wife Hajarabai Ali Mohmmad had one son and three daughters. Habeebbhai had never returned to Dhoraji after he left his native before the first world war. His son  Noor Mohmmad did visit in 1960s after his father must have passed away around 1950. One of the three daughters of Habeeb Saheb Fatimabai had shifted to New York with her husband. Other two daughters Ayesha and Mariam died earlier. Of course, even after losing track with Marfani family, the people of Dhoraji feel proud of Habeebbhai’s contribution and the role he played in the freedom movement. The least they demand is the road in Dhoraji be named after the great man. But the present rulers who claim to be the lovers of Netaji have not bothered to consider the request since last two years. Now since this writer has tagged the entire issue to the Prime Minister and Home Minister of India to the Chief Minister and the Collector of Rajkot, the authorities are expected to be in action.

(The writer is the former Editor of Indian Express Group Daily from Mumbai. E-mail:


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