Dr. Avnish Jolly, 11thNovember, 2008 :Master composer of the National Anthem Captain Ram Singh Thakur’s tune continues to infuse a spirit of patriotism among millions of Indians. Captain Ram Singh Thakur (15 August 1914-15 April 2002) was an Indian freedom fighter, musician and the composer of the music of the current version of the Indian National Anthem. He also composed, while serving in the Indian National Army a number of patriotic songs including "Kadam Kadam Badaye Ja…" and "Subh Sukh Chain". Later in life, Captain Singh worked for the Provincial Arms Constabulary band Uttar Pradesh (PAC).
Ram was born in Village of Khanyara, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh on August 15, 1914. As the son of a serviceman, Ram was encouraged to enroll in the army. After completing school in 1922, Ram joined the 1st Gorkha Rifles as a recruit in the band at Dharamsala cantonment as a recruit boy in the band. From early childhood, he also had an interest in music, which was encouraged by his grandfather. His grandfather Mr. Jamni Chand was migrated from Munakot village in Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand in 1890. Later on, he got training from renowned British musician Hadson and Danish in brass band, string band and dance band in Army and also learnt the violin from Capt Rose.
Capt Ram Singh Thakur did not look back and continued to attain new horizons in the field of music. Apart from classical and western music, he was fond of ballad, football, sports and wrestling. Captain Ram Singh was promoted in 1941 as company Havaldar Major and was sent to Singapore and Malaya with his unit during World War II. In December 1941, the Japanese forces attacked the Malaya-Thailand border and forced the British army to make a retreat. As many as 200 Indian soldiers were arrested by the Japanese. Later these soldiers joined the INA to carry out the struggle against Britishers to free India.
After the Fall of Singapore, the Japanese forces took a large number of PoWs. Of these, a large number volunteered to join the Indian National Army. Ram, who had initially not volunteered, was sent to Japan, where he met Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Ram later joined the Indian National Army as it was reorganised under the leadership of Bose.
Subhas Chandra Bose was instrumental in tapping the talent of Captain Ram Singh as a dedicated music director. On his personal request, Ram composed the tunes for Kadam Kadam Badaye Ja, the INA’s marching song and now one of the most famous patriotic songs from India, it should stir the soul of not only the soldiers but millions of Indians also, and as such we kept on practising the Qaumi Tarana at Deedadri camp in Singapore. He also composed the tune for Subh Sukh Chain ke (or Qaumi Taran as it was known) the day Indian National Army takes shape in the Cathay Building of Singapore the song Subh Sukh Chain Ki Barkha Barse would be played. The song should have such an indelible impact and force that the Cathay Building should ‘break’ into two parts and the sky should become visible. The gods and goddesses will shower flowers straight on the Tricolor of India.’ On October 31, 1943, the INA came into power and my orchestra played the Qaumi Tarana. The Cathay Building reverberated thunderously. It was a humble step towards liberating India from the British rule. The National Anthem adopted by Azad Hind. In 1944, Capt. Ram Singh was decorated by Subhas Chandra Bose for his contributions. Ram also received a violin and a saxophone as gifts from Bose. After the end of the war, as the INA surrendered in Rangoon, Ram was shipped back to India with his fellow soldiers. Captain Ram Singh had an opportunity to play the National Anthem of the INA in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi, when he was imprisoned at Kabul line cantonment in Delhi. India attained Independence on August 15, 1947, and the next morning Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the Tricolour on the ramparts of the Red Fort and addressed the Nation. It was on this occasion that Capt Ram Singh was especially invited to play the tune of Qaumi Tarana of the INA along with the members of his orchestra group. Later the duration of the tune was shortened with changes in the original script. However, the musical composition was adopted in its original form.
In 1948, Captain Ram Singh Thakur along with his orchestra group was recruited in the Provincial Arms Constabulary band of Uttar Pradesh. He retired in 1974. Upon retirement, in view of his rich contribution and valuable services he was given the honour of retaining the rank of DSP even after his superannuation. He was honoured by the Central Government and the Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim.
Captain Ram’s final years were difficult and controversial, for which the Government drew much criticism. He was initially denied the status of a freedom fighter by the government, while the State government of Uttar Pradesh later faced contempt proceedings for withholding the corresponding payment although the amount in question was meagre. A controversial court petition at one point also sought to establish that he was not the composer of the National Anthem. Captain Ram suffered an epilepsy attack in 2001, and after suffering ill health for nearly a year, passed away on 15 April 2002. He was cremated with State honours at Bhaisakund. However the State Government of Uttar Pradesh was again criticised for the absence of notable or prominent Government officials save a few police officers.
During the British Indian Army period Ram earned the King George VI medal while serving in the NWFP between 1937 and 1939. In 1944, Capt Ram Singh was decorated by Subhas Chandra Bose with a Netaji Gold Medal (Azad Hind), 1943. The gold medal was sent to Rangoon after his departure from Singapore to Rangoon. Netaji wanted that the gold medal should be presented to Ram by the Indian Government on some historic day. But this could not happen. Later on, General Lokanand presented this gold medal to him at Rangoon in the presence of all INA officers on January 23, 1944." Netaji had sent a citation which was read out at the function: "Today we are presenting the gold medal to Captain Ram Singh for his musical creation on behalf of the supreme command of the INA." This Qaumi Tarana of the INA was sung by 30 lakh Hindustanis settled in East Asia and Ram Singh earned a number of other awards. These included:
• Uttar Pradesh 1st Governor Gold Medal, 1956.
• President Police Medal, 1972. UP
• Sangeet Natak Akademi (UP Music and Drama Academy) Award, 1979.
• Sikkim Government Mitrasen Award, 1993 and
• The First Azad Hind Fauj Award by the West Bengal Government in 1996.