When Subhas Chandra Bose sent the “Indian Medical Mission” to China against Japan

Did you know that on June 12, 1938, All India China day was observed in an effort to collect funds to aid the Chinese people against the Japanese invasion?

The year 1937 – 1938 witnessed Japan’s hostility towards China that was at its peak. Their brutality increased to such an extent that the world spoke out against years of oppression and mistreatment by the Japanese authority towards the Chinese citizens. The International China aid committee was formed in New York.

In India, with the graceful unanimity, members of the Indian National Congress showed their sense of solidarity with China. They boycotted and imposed a ban on all Japanese goods.

An American journalist, Agnes Smedly along with the Chinese communist general, Zhu de, made an urgent petition to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for sending a medical help to China. Their plea was accepted and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the President of the Indian National Congress devised the “Indian Medical Mission”. He 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 Indian Rupees 22,000.

From Left to Right : Five members Indian medical mission to China (1938-43)
A team of 5 doctors were formed with Dr Bejoy Kumar Basu (Kolkata), Dr MR Cholker (Nagpur), Dr Madan Mohanlal Atal (Allahabad, leader), Dr Debesh Mukherjee (Kolkata) & Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis (Maharashtra).

Subhash Chandra Bose, in a statement said “I have been informed by the Chinese Consulate in India that the Chinese Government have accepted the offer of the Congress Working Committee to send an ambulance unit to China. It now behoves us to push on with our arrangements and send out the medical mission as early as possible. All India China Day was successfully observed throughout the country on the 12th June, I am grateful to the public for their splendid response on that say.

I heartily approve of the idea and fix the 7th, 8th and 9th July as China Fund Days. I request Congress organisations all over the country to make an intensive drive on these days for collecting funds. I do hope that our collections will be enough to keep our medical mission at work for at least on year.

In conclusion should like to inform the public that orders have already been placed with Ford’s for a fully equipped ambulance which will be sent by them straight to Hong Kong. The ambulance together with the medical staff will be living emblem of India’s sympathy and good will for the great Chinese people in the darkest hour in their history. I earnestly hope and trust that the response of the public will be worthy of the4 Congress and of the Indian nation.”

On September 1938, under the presidency of Subhash Chandra Bose, Congress approved a medical team of five doctors. The squad included Dr Madan Mohanlal Atal from Allahabad (deputy leader of the Indian medical mission), M. Cholkar from Nagpur, Dawarkanath Kotnis from Sholapur, Bejoy Kumar Basu and Debesh Mukherjee from Kolkata.

Send-off to Congress Medical Mission to China, August 1938

Dr Ranen Sen was initiallly selected for this mission but later he was not allowed by the British government to go to China as he was a communist. So Dr Sen suggested Subhas Chandra Bose to select Dr Bejoy Kumar Basu and sent him to Bombay from where the members of the medical mission left for China.

The Indian Medical mission team was 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. These doctors spent next four years treating the wounded and the sick Chinese in different areas of China.

Dr Mukheerjee, Dr Cholekar and Dr Atal came back to India due to health factors and other reasons.
Dr Kotnis was 28-year-old when he first arrived 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.

Dr. Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis – A REAL (& REEL) LIFE HERO

Upon returning, Dr Bejoy Kumar Basu occupies himself with different community services. Later in 1958, he travelled back to China to master the art of acupuncture which he introduced in Kolkata, India in 1959.

Dr Bejor Kumar Basu (1912 – 1986)

In 1973 China invited Dr Basu to gain an understanding and acquire the skill of acupuncture anaesthesia. His visits further strengthened the relationship between India and China. In 1973, Dr Basu instituted Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis Memorial Committee (DKMC) disseminating the values of Medical Mission through services to people.

In 1988 Indian Medical Mission Memorial Museum was built where thousands of youths are enlightened about the Indian Medical Mission and how they had come to their rescue. Dwarkanath Kotnis’ legacy continues to live on in the hearts of Indian and Chinese people.

The ‘flowering relations’ between India and China in the early 1950s were based on peaceful co-existence. But their strong bond is slowly withering and fading away leading to a chapter break in the relationship among the two.


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