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Shah Nawaz Khan (24 January 1914 – 9 December 1983) was an Indian soldier who is remembered as an officer who served in the Second Indian National Army during World War II and later came to be one of the three defendants in the first of the INA trials in 1946. He adopted Lateef Fatima who was the mother of Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan.[1]

Personal life

One son of Shah Nawaz Khan moved to India with him at the time of independence, while another, Mahmood Nawaz, stayed on in Pakistan and became a full colonel. In fact, Mahmood Nawaz went and met his father only after retirement as he could not travel to India while he was in service. ISI chief Lieutenant-General Zaheerul Islam is a nephew of Shah Nawaz Khan, who was also the adoptive maternal grandfather of Bollywood film actor Shahrukh Khan.[2][3]

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Azad Hind Fauj

After Khan was captured by the Japanese and interned in Singapore, Subhas Chandra Bose arrived and extolled the men (POWs) to be prepared to face thirst, hunger and in the end death, to attain liberation of India from the British. Bose's speeches and personality profoundly influenced Khan's entire outlook on India.[4] He later stated:[4]

"It will not be wrong to say that I was hypnotized by his personality and his speeches. He placed the true picture of India before us and for the first time in my life I saw India, through the eyes of an Indian."

Shah Nawaz was impressed by Netaji’s great patriotic speeches. Nawaz volunteered to join the INA in 1943, under the command of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. He was included in the Cabinet of Arzi Hukumat-e- Azad Hind formed by Netaji. In September 1945 Netaji decided to select a regiment consisting of the cream of INA and send it to action to spearhead the advance into India. It was known as "Subhash Brigade" and Shah Nawaz was selected by Netaji to command it. The Brigade took part in fighting in the Arakan, Haka, Falam and in the vicinity of Kohima. In December 1944 Shah Nawaz was appointed as no. 1 Commander Division at Mandalay. The first tricolor was hoisted at Moirang in April 1944 at the liberated land.

INA Trials

During these operations, Shah Nawaz led his army over three thousand miles. In 1945 he was captured by the British forces and brought to Red fort at Delhi for court-martial. When the war ended, General Shah Nawaz Khan, Colonel Prem Sehgal and Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon were put to trial at the Red Fort in Delhi for "waging war against the King Emperor", i.e. the British sovereign. They were defended by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Asaf Ali, Bhulabhai Desai, Kailash Nath Katju and others based on the defence that they should be treated as prisoners of war as they were not paid mercenaries but bona fide soldiers of a legal government, the Provisional Government of Free India, or the Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, "however misinformed or otherwise they had been in their notion of patriotic duty towards their country" and as such they recognized the free Indian state as their sovereign and not the British sovereign.[5]

Political career

Shahnawaz Khan joined the Congress party after dissolution of the I.N.A. and was invited by Jawaharlal Nehru. Having successfully contested the first Lok Sabha in 1952 from Meerut, Khan had an illustrious parliamentary career becoming:

  • The Parliamentary Secretary and Deputy Minister of Railway and Transport for 11 years (1952–1956) & (1957–1964 (second term))
  • Minister of Food & Agriculture (1965)
  • Minister of Labour, Employment & Rehabilitation (1966)
  • Minister of Steel & Mines and Minister of Petroleum & Chemical Industries (1971–1973)
  • Minister of Agriculture & Irrigation(1974–1975)
  • Minister of Agriculture & Irrigation (1975–1977)
  • Chairman of National Seeds Corporation Ltd.
  • Chairman, Food Corporation of India.

He was elected four times to the Lok Sabha from Meerut constituency in 1951, 1957, 1962 and 1971. He lost in the 1967 and 1977 Lok Sabha election from Meerut. During the 1965 war, his son Mahmud was a Pakistani Army Officer and the opposition demanded he be removed from the government. But Lal Bahadur Shastri, as Prime Minister, refused to accede and reminded them of his selfless service to India as an Officer of the INA.

Khan's political views were leftist, supporting land reforms and public distribution. But his support for permanent separate personal laws for religious communities led to his defeat in the 1967 elections against Jan Sangh. In 1969, the Indian National Congress split, leading him to side with Indira Gandhi. The 1971 "Gareebi Hatao" campaign brought him again as MP from Meerut. In 1977, the Janata Party led to his defeat and ended his career in Parliament. He remained as head of Congress Sewa Dal till his death.

Shahnawaz Committee

In 1956, the government constituted a committee to look into the circumstances around Subhas Chandra Bose's death. Major General Shah Nawaz Khan headed the committee, whose members included Bose's elder brother Suresh Chandra Bose. The Committee began its work in April 1956 and concluded four months later when two out of the three members (excluding Suresh Chandra Bose) of the Committee signed a paper that stated that Netaji indeed died in the airplane crash at Taihoku (Japanese for Taipei) in Formosa (now Taiwan), on 18 August 1945. They stated that his ashes were kept in Japan's Renkoji Temple and should be reinstated to India.

In Popular Culture

In the 2005 movie Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero, Khan was portrayed by actor Sonu Sood.


  1. Kidwai, Rasheed (31 May 2004). "Badshah at durbar and dinner". The Telegraph. Kolkota, India. Retrieved 12 March 2007. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 The INA Trial and The Raj (2003), Harkirat Singh, Atlantic Publishers & Dist, ISBN 9788126903160, p. 26
  5. A Hundred Horizons, Sugata Bose, 2006 USA, p136

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