The Gorkha community for long has been associated with the military history of our country. The story of Major Durga Malla stands out, as he sacrificed his life for our nation at the young age of 31. Born on 01 July 1913 in a small village called Doiwala in Dehradun (Uttarakhand), to Ganga Ram Malla who was a jamadar (present-day naib subedar) in the Gorkha Rifles in the military, Durga Malla was a laborious, dedicated, and bright student in his childhood.
He was deeply impacted by the poems he read that made him concerned about the pathetic conditions under British subjugation. He was inspired by the prominent Gandhian freedom fighters of Dehradun and Satyagraha, so much so that when Gandhi gave the clarion call for violation of the ‘salt rule’ and set off on the Dandi March in 1930, Malla participated in the local anti-British activities of his region. He would often enter the Gorkha battalion area at night with his friends to stick posters of the freedom struggle and also took part in processions of the freedom fighters. Gandhi’s vision infused in him patriotic sentiments and he began to envision a free India.
In 1931, when he was only 18, he joined the 2/1 battalion of the Gorkha Rifles. Seeing his excellent performance in the training, he was quickly promoted to the post of Signal Hawaldar. In 1941, during World War II, when the Japanese aggression had intensified, the 2/1 battalion of Gorkha Rifles were ordered to advance towards the war field. However, the Allied forces were routed by the Japanese army in South East Asia and it was then that a group of Indian soldiers became convinced that they served no purpose fighting for the British. In 1942, they decided to break away and form the Indian National Army (INA) under the leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Durga Malla was one of the key figures responsible for the formation of the INA, and his presence was largely responsible for encouraging his fellow men of the Gorkha Battalion to join the INA. His vigour and dedication for the cause of India’s freedom earned him the position of Major. Posted in the Intelligence Branch he often had to go on secret missions to gather information about areas of strategic importance in the hilly tracts across the Burma border. On 27 March 1944, while he was out on such a mission to collect information about the enemy camps, he was caught in action and arrested at Ukhrul in Manipur. He was kept in the prison at Red Fort as a Prisoner of War before he was prosecuted and finally given the death sentence on 25 August 1944.
At a time when the British Government was brutally repressing all forms of dissent, Major Durga Malla was coerced by the authorities to confess to sedition with the assurance that he would be granted remission. However, being resolute in his determination to free India he did not succumb to the pressures but said he would rather embrace the gallows. His last few words before his execution were, “The sacrifice I am offering shall not go in vain. India will be free...” In honour of his valour and selfless spirit of sacrifice, the Government of India has installed a statue of Shaheed Durga Malla in Parliament House. His death anniversary is observed as Balidan Diwas by Gorkhas across the nation.