The first tricolor was hoisted by General Shahnawaz Khan at the Red Fort by taking down the flag of British rule in independent India. The first three Prime Ministers of the country started the address by referring to General Shahnawaz from the Red Fort.
Thousands of patriots and soldiers sacrificed their lives to liberate the country from the shackles of slavery. Among these great devotees, the name of General Shahnawaz Khan is taken with great respect and honor. Major General Shahnawaz Khan of Azad Hind Fauj was a great patriot, true soldier, and one of the very close friends of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Along with being a true and brave soldier, General Khan was also a true social worker and visionary politician. Major General Shahnawaz Khan of Azad Hind Fauj was born in British India on 24 January 1914 in village Mataur, District Rawalpindi (now Pakistan) in the house of Jhanjhua Rajput Captain Sardar Tika Khan. Born in a military family, Shahnawaz decided to follow the path of his elders. Shahnawaz’s early education was initiated in Pakistan. He completed his further education at the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, Dehradun. In 1940, he joined the British Indian Army as an officer.
When General Shahnawaz joined the British Army, the world war was going on and his deployment was in Singapore. The Japanese army had imprisoned hundreds of soldiers of the British Indian Army and put them in jails. In 1943, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose came to Singapore and with the help of Azad Hind Fauj, he got these captive soldiers released. Influenced by Netaji’s eloquent voice and the passionate slogan ‘You give me blood, I will give you freedom’, hundreds of soldiers joined the Azad Hind Fauj along with Shahnawaz and started fighting the British for the liberation of Mother India. Impressed by Shahnawaz Khan’s patriotism and leadership ability, Netaji included him in the cabinet of RG Hukumat-e-Azad Hind. In December 1944, General Shahnawaz was appointed by Netaji as the number 1 commander of the army contingent stationed at Mandalay. In September 1945, Netaji selected the soldiers of Azad Hind Fauj and formed Subhash Brigade. Whose command was handed over by Netaji to General Shahnawaz? This brigade took a front against the British rule in Kohima. Made the Commander of the Combined Army Second Division and sent it to the Burma front.
General Shahnawaz Khan and his team were taken prisoner by the British Army in 1945 in Burma during a fight with the British Army. In November 1946, the British government tried a sedition case against Major General Shahnawaz Khan, Colonel Prem Sehgal, and Colonel Gurbaksh Singh at the Red Fort in Delhi. But due to heavy public pressure and support, General Aknilek of the British Army was forced to leave the officers of the Azad Hind Fauj by imposing a fine, despite not wanting it.
General Shahnawaz Khan and other officers were advocated by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Asaf Ali, Bulabhai Desai, and Kailash Nath Katju. After the end of the Azad Hind Fauj in 1946, General Shahnawaz Khan joined the Indian National Congress under the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1947, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru entrusted General Shahnawaz Khan with the important responsibility of teaching the members of the Congress Seva Dal, training and discipline like soldiers. General Khan was given the post of Sevapati of the Congress Seva Dal, which he held from 1947 to 1951, and in the last days of his life, he remained in charge of the Congress Seva Dal from 1977 to 1983.
The British government also had to kneel before them.
In the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, he won the election from Meerut on a Congress ticket. After this, he won the Lok Sabha elections from Meerut in the years 1957, 1962, and 1971. General Shahnawaz Khan, representing the Meerut Lok Sabha seat, was a minister in the central government for 23 years. After winning the election in 1952, he became the Parliamentary Secretary and Deputy Railway Minister. From 1957-1964, he served as the Union Minister of Food and Agriculture. Took the responsibility of the Agriculture Minister in 1965 and the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Rehabilitation in 1966. From 1971 to 1975, he held the reins of the Ministries of Petroleum and Chemicals and Agriculture and Irrigation. From 1975 to 1977, he also held the responsibility of the chairman of FCI along with the Union Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation. A sensitive city like Meerut was represented by General Khan for more than two decades and due to his efficient leadership and the policy of taking everyone along, there was never any riot in the city, Which is an example. In 1956, the Government of India set up a commission for the disclosure of the causes and circumstances of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s death, headed by General Shahnawaz Khan.
General Shahnawaz Khan was initially influenced by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and later stayed with Gandhiji. Pandit Nehru bestowed him with the title of ‘Khan’. Martin, who was the PA of General Shahnawaz, says that when Mohsina Ji was given a ticket from Meerut instead of him in the sixth Lok Sabha election, he went with Mohsina Ji and got his nomination. He was involved in everyone’s happiness and sorrow. Adil Shahnawaz, the grandson of General Shahnawaz, says ‘When a railway employee went home without leave, he was suspended. General Sahib then told the cabinet minister Lal Shastri. He didn’t take it seriously. On this, he sent his resignation the next day. When Shastri ji asked the reason, he said that ‘If I am not fit to work for the people, then I do not have the right to sit on this chair.
General Shahnawaz was the only one to hoist the tricolor by taking down the flag of British rule at the Red Fort in independent India. The first three Prime Ministers of the country started the address by referring to General Shahnawaz from the Red Fort. Even today, in the program of Light and Sound which is held every day at 6 pm in the Red Fort, there is the voice of General Shahnawaz along with Netaji. Retired Judge Markandey Katju, President of the Press Council of India, had demanded the Government of India to give Bharat Ratna to General Khan in view of General Khan’s loyalty to the country and his leading role in nation building. The postal department has issued postage stamps on the great freedom fighters General Shahnawaz Khan, Colonel Prem Chand and Colonel Gurbakhsh.
The great freedom fighter, patriot, and skilled politician General Shahnawaz Khan were snatched from us on 9 December 1983 by the cruel hands of the times. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had termed General Khan’s death as an irreparable loss to the country and called his family and urged them to bury General Khan’s body from Meerut to Delhi. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had led the funeral procession of General Khan in Mohan Nagar, Ghaziabad at the behest of Indira Ji. Indira Ji had said at that time that Netaji had raised the slogan of ‘Delhi Chalo’ during the Azad Hind Fauj, and General Khan also wanted him to be buried near the Red Fort. General Khan was buried with full honors, near the Jama Masjid located near the Red Fort.
General Khan is survived by his three sons Mehmood Nawaz, Akbar Nawaz, and Ajmal Nawaz, and three daughters Mumtaz, Fahmida, and Latif Fatima. He adopted Latif Fatima. Latif Fatima is the mother of famous Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan. General Khan’s grandson Adil Shahnawaz runs the General Shahnawaz Khan Foundation in the name of his grandfather