The soldier who composed the inspiring tune of the national anthem doesn't even have a memorial in his native village, Khaniyara, about 7 km from Dharamsala town in Himachal Pradesh.
Capt Ram Singh Thakur (1914-2002), whose birth anniversary falls on Independence Day, won the King George VI Medal for bravery during the 1937-39 Khyber-Phaktunwala war. Except for a football tournament started by the Gorkha community in his name seven years ago, there is nothing to keep Thakur's memory alive.
"We want future generations to know who he was," said Shive Raj Thapa, who is associated with the Capt Ram Singh memorial football tournament. Thapa rued that political leaders and government officials came to the village to inaugurate the event, but had never done anything noteworthy in recognition of Thakur's service to the nation.
Thakur, who joined 2nd Gorkha Rifles in the Dharamsala cantonment in 1927 as a band member, was taken prisoner of war (PoW) by the Japanese forces after the fall of Singapore in 1942 during World War 2. Later, he joined Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army (INA) and composed the tune of "Kadam kadam badhaye ja", the INA's theme song. Bose also inspired him to compose the Quami Tarana tune, which was later adopted for the national anthem.
Thakur and other members of his orchestra band were invited to play the anthem on the occasion of the first Prime Minister's inaugural address to the nation at the Red Fort. After Independence, he served on various ranks in the 3rd Battalion (Provincial Armed Constabulary) in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) and retired in 1974. He suffered an epilepsy attack in 2001 and died on April 15, 2002.
"Thakur's contribution has been acknowledged by states such as Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim, but he is yet to get a befitting honour in his home state," said Thapa.
Another villager, Naveen, said they had submitted countless memoranda to the administration and local leaders for building a memorial in Thakur's name, but to no avail. "We have been demanding that the Dharamsala-Khaniyara road should be named after him or a memorial be raised in his honour," Naveen added.
Ramesh, a social activist, said Thakur had also been forgotten at the national level. "We don't even get much funds for the tournament. Last year, we received just Rs 5,000, and that too with great difficulty," he lamented. "A postage stamp should be released in Singh's name," said Mastana, another villager. Incidentally, the Himachal industries minister, Kishan Kapoor, hails from this village.