Dr. Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis is an only Indian still revered by the Chinese even after 7 decade of his death. Dr Kotnis was chosen as one of the “top 10 foreigners” in a 2009 internet poll “China’s foreign friends of the century”. Each time a Chinese leader visits India, they almost always never failed meeting Dr kotni’s family who died while treating wounded Chinese soldiers in the conflict with Japan. He served on the frontline saving lives of many Chinese soldiers.
Dwarkanath Kotnis was born in a middle class Maharashtrian fambily in Solapur on 10 October 1910. He graduated from Seth G S Medical College, Bombay and was preparing for post-graduation when he was asked to volunteer for service abroad.
Dr Kotnis landed in China as part of Indian Medical Mission Team on September 1938. The young Indian doctor treated more than 800 soldiers in the front line suffering with plaque.
Dr Kotnis, known by his Chinese name Ke Dihua, won million hearts in the province by providing constant medical attention to the Chinese army.
Dwarkanath S Kotnis was sent to China in 1938 as a team mrmber of the Indian medical mission after China was invaded by Japan. In 1938, after the Japanese invasion of China, the communist General Zhu De requested Jawaharlal Nehru to send some physicians to China. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the President of the Indian National Congress, made an appeal to the people through a press statement on 30 June 1938. He arranged to send a team of volunteer doctors and an ambulance by collecting a fund of Rs 22,000.
A medical team of five doctors namely Dr M. Atal from Allahabad (team leader of the mission), M.Cholkar from Nagpur, D.Kotnis from Sholapur, B.K. Basu and Debesh Mukherjee from Calcutta were recruited as the Indian Medical Mission Team members in September 1938.
The Indian team of doctors were the first to arrive in China at the port of Hankou, Wuhan. They were then sent to Yan’an where they were warmly welcomed by Mao Zedong, Zhu De and other top leaders of the Communist Party.
The 28-year-old Doctor came as a part of the five member team and stayed in China for almost 5 years working in mobile clinics to treat the wounded soldiers. All except Dr. Kotnis, returned back to India as Kotnis fell in love and married, Quo Quinglan, a Chinese nurse who worked with him. They had a son who was named Yinhua – meaning India (Yin) and China (Hua). Three months after the birth of Yinhua, epilepsy struck Dr.Kotnis. A series of epileptic seizures killed him on 9 December 1942 at a young age of 32.
The story of his life was the subject of a Hindi film with the title Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946 and was also the subject of a Chinese film Kē Dì Huá Dài Fū (1982).
Dr. Kotnis was buried in the Heroes Courtyard in Nanquan Village. Mao Zedong (founding father of the People’s Republic of China) mourned his death by saying “The army has lost a helping hand, the nation has lost a friend. Let us always bear in mind his internationalist spirit.”
Following a long tradition, Premier Li Keqiang visited the doctor’s family in Mumbai in 2013 where his 92-year-old sister received him. “We are overwhelmed that even after so many years, my brother is remembered and loved by the Chinese and that the premier is taking pains to meet us,” Manorama Kotnis, who has met three Chinese leaders, told the Indian Express on march 2013..