From a simple greeting to a rallying cry, the words ‘Jai Hind!’ have come to mean many things in the Indian consciousness over time. But did you know how the rousing phrase came into existence?
‘Jai Hind!’ is the brainchild of Abid Hasan Safrani, a man from Hyderabad who joined Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA). How did he come up with it? Simply because Netaji was looking for a uniform way to greet the soldiers.
Born Zain-al-Abdin Hasan in 1911, he preferred to be known as Abid Hasan. His mother being anti-British, Abid went to Germany instead of the UK to study engineering.
He became acquainted with Bose when the latter was addressing a meeting of Indian prisoners of war in Germany, Narendra Luther wrote for The Hindu. Bose’s inspiring speech compelled Abid to propose that he would join the INA after finishing his studies. But when Bose taunted him saying that being caught up in such smaller considerations (his studies) would stop him from achieving anything, Abid simply quit his course to become Bose’s secretary and interpreter in 1941.
Coining ‘Jai Hind!’
Abid became Bose’s close aide and was given the title of a Major in the INA. He was given the task of coming up with a common phrase to greet the soldiers, who had traditionally been divided into regiments based on their ethnicities and religion.
Anvar Alikhan, Abid’s grand-nephew, wrote for Scroll.in that even in prisoners of war camps, the soldiers would cluster into these identities and not really mingle. For instance, while some greeted each other with a ‘Ram, Ram ji’, others did with ‘Salaam Alaikum’ or ‘Sat Sri Akal’. Bose wanted the soldiers to stand together and fight for an integrated India, and for starters, he wanted a common greeting which would unify them.
Abid initially came up with a simple ‘hello’. When that was rejected, he coined ‘Jai Hindustan ki’, which ultimately became the shorter ‘Jai Hind’.
This was liked by Bose and he adopted it as the salutation for greeting revolutionaries and other members of the INA. But as we know, ‘Jai Hind!’ became much more than that. It became a rousing cry and was even used by Jawaharlal Nehru in his iconic Independence Day speech, ‘Tryst with Destiny’.
Abid included ‘Safrani’ into his name as a symbol of communal harmony, when the design of the national flag was being discussed.
According to reports, Hindus and Muslims were in conflict about the colour of the flag. While the former preferred saffron, the latter were in favour of green. Later, Hindus gave up their demand, which impressed Abid, and compelled him to add ‘saffron’ to his own name.
Since then, he adopted the name Abid Hasan Safrani.
Life after the war, and Bose
In August 1945, Abid was among the few people who were to accompany Bose on his final flight from Singapore to Tokyo. However, when they stopped in Saigon, Vietnam en route to Tokyo, Bose asked Abid to stay back for some work and meet him in Tokyo.
Bose himself took off in the Japanese Mitsubishi Ki21 bomber, which is reported to have crashed and ultimately led to Bose’s death from third-degree burns.
Abid was also among the INA officials questioned and tried by the British in 1945. However, he refused to divulge any information about Bose and his plans, and was released with a few others in 1946.
Abid then returned to Hyderabad and joined Congress. But unhappy with the factionalism there, he left and joined the Bengal Lamp Company next, and was posted in Karachi. He returned to his home city after the partition in 1947 and joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1948.
He retired as the Ambassador to Denmark in 1969 and lived in Hyderabad. He passed away in 1984, aged 73.
A preliminary search online reveals that there is little known about Abid’s personal life itself.
From a few accounts, however, it is clear that the man was full of life and did not like to speak about his days in the INA very much, save a few stories he told children.
An account in The Hindu by Geeta Doctor, who refers to Abid simply as ‘Uncle Safrani’, describes him as ‘a man of the world’. She and her parents met him aboard a ship in 1948 which was also their first voyage out of India.
He was also quite the storyteller and a man whose etiquette would transform according to the social setting.
“Safrani was one of those men who could make friends with all kinds of people. He was all over the ship. When it docked he would be the first to get off and go straight to the bazaars and return by evening with all manner of beautiful things,” Geeta remembers her mother saying.
It is also known that Abid’s niece Suraiya Hasan married Bose’s nephew, Aurobindo. Saraswati Mukherjee spoke to Suraiya for YourStory in 2015, when Suraiya was engaged in the revival of four textile forms in Aurangabad. The octogenarian continues to be a known name in the world of Indian weaves.