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DR. DWARKANATH SHANTARAM KOTNIS

06 February 2021

Remembering Dr. DS Kotnis (1910-1942), an eminent surgeon, outstanding internationalist fighter against fascism, and an enduring symbol of India- China friendship, when people entered the New Year with hopes of peace, and relief from the disease (covid-19), we recall an event of December 30, 1942. Given here is a copy of an elegy hung in a memorial meeting hall in China on that day. It was held to pay tributes to Dr. Kotnis who had died on 9th December 1942.The banner was in Mao Zedong’s own handwriting specially sent for the event.....

 ”Dr. Kotnis, our Indian friend, came to China from afar to assist us in our War of Resistance. He worked for five years in Yan’an and North China, giving medical treatment to our wounded soldiers and died of illness owing to constant overwork. The army has lost a helping hand, and the nation lost a friend. Let us always bear in mind his international spirit.” More than two crore Chinese people, including thousands of military leaders, died in the anti-fascist war. Kotnis was not a big leader either but Mao had specially sent that warm note of tribute  to the “Indian friend” for his “international spirit.”

China then, as also now, greatly valued Kotnis and friendship with India, as seen below: Zhou en-lai, who was to become China’s Premier later, had said: “ Dr. Kotnis is a symbol of friendship between the great Chinese and Indian nations and a shining example of the Indian people, who are taking an active part in our common struggles against Japanese militarism and world fascism. His name will live forever in the hearts of the two great nations to whom he dedicated his life.”  Another prominent Chinese leader, Madame Sun Yat-sen, paid her respects to the revered doctor by saying, “His memory belongs not only to your people and ours but to the noble roll-call of fighters for the freedom and progress of all mankind. The future will honour him even more than the present because it was for the future that he struggled.”

A bronze statue of  Kotnis was formally unveiled in China in Sep 2020, even while the LAC stand-off was the staple news in India.  China on 2020 October 11 commemorated the 110th birth anniversary of Kotnis, who served in China during the Chinese revolution headed by Mao Zedong and the World War II, and saved hundreds of lives. The events were largely ignored by the India media. Remembering  physician  Kotnis acquires importance in India at a time when the medical profession is being gripped by commerce and corporates  fleecing people as well as younger doctors, when jingoism dominates the India media, and when the  present dispensation in Delhi is out to dump this anti-fascist legacy in favor of an alliance with world imperialism,  reaction and fascism, as against China.

 It was exactly three years ago, in a rare gesture, China restored the handwritten calligraphic condolence message that was sent by Mao Zedong to the family of Kotnis. The restored message was handed over to the Solapur museum in 2017 January, Times of India reported.  The document, which has been penned in traditional Mandarin using a special ink, is about 3-ft long and has been made from traditional rice paper. The restoration work by Chinese experts took nearly two weeks.  Explaining the importance of the document, Zheng Xiyuan, consul-general of China in Mumbai said: “The calligraphy artefact sent by Chairman Mao is priceless and shows the historical friendship between the two countries and the regard for Dr Kotnis. (TNN , Jan 8, 2017). Ke Dihua, the Chinese name of kotnis, is a “household name in China”, reported Xinhua 2020-08-24, more than six decades after his death.

70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India: It may be recalled  that Modi and Xi in their Chennai summit had agreed to celebrate the occasion with year-long events. PM Modi had said, that the  Mahabalipuram  summit (Oct 11-12, 2019) had begun “a New Era of Cooperation between the two countries”. Modi  had famously said, about his summit with Xi Jinping: “We have decided that we would prudently manage our differences without letting them turn into disputes, that we would be sensitive to each other’s’ concerns, and that our relations strive towards world peace and stability.” “The  two sides decided to designate 2020 as year of India-China Cultural and People-to-people Exchanges” and to deepen all-sided relations, Modi had said. 

But it was all forgotten and instead replaced by a hate-China campaign in the Indian media, aided and abetted by Trump and US agencies including its media, and fueled by India’s own hawks.  It is of course only one type of hate campaign the Sangh parivar indulges in, and the Modi regime winks at. Is this the Indian culture and civilization they seek to project? They, including BJP Ministers, rather represent the fascist Hindutva mindset, did not hesitate to call agitating farmers Khalistanis and bracketed them with Left wing extremists. When it boomeranged, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, as part of double talk, said it was not proper to call them that way.

(Dr Bapuji M, January 9, Countercurrents)

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