China, on October 11, commemorated the 110th birth anniversary of Indian Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis, who served in the country during the Chinese revolution headed by Mao Zedong and World War II. Kotnis was one of the five physicians who was dispatched to China for medical assistance during the second Sino-Japanese war in 1938. Born in Sholapur, Maharastra, he is revered by the Chinese and his statues and memorials have been set up in some of the Chinese cities in recognition of his services.
Kotnis was sent to China by the Indian National Congress in 1938. He is known for his dedication and perseverance and also regarded as an example of Sino-Indian friendship and collaboration. Zedong had praised Kotnis’ medical assistance during the difficult days of the Chinese revolution. The Indian physician had joined the Communist Party of China in 1942, however, unfortunately, he died the same year at the age of 32.
Deeply affected by his demise, Zedong even wrote in his eulogy that “the army lost a helping hand, the nation lost a friend. Let us always bear in mind his internationalist spirit”.
Kotnis stayed in China for almost five years and he worked in mobile clinics to treat wounded soldiers. His job as a battlefront doctor was stressful. He even performed operations for up to 72 hours, without getting any sleep. According to reports, Kotnis treated over 800 wounded soldiers during the battle and he was eventually appointed as the Director of the Dr Bethune International Peace Hospital.
The Indian Physician could write and speak Chinese. He got married to a Chinese national, Gun Qinglan, in December 1941 and the couple even had a son in 1942. It was three months after the birth of their son that epilepsy struck Kotnis and a series of epileptic seizures killed him on December 9, 1942. Kotnis was buried in the Heroes Courtyard in Nanquan Village.
There are memorials of Kotnis in both Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, and Tangxian county where he once worked. A school is also named after him as the ‘Shijiazhuang Ke Dihua Medical Science Secondary Specialised School’. Moreover, China also made a movie on Kotnis in 1982, called ‘Dr DS Kotnis’. Back in 1982 and 1992, Beijing also honoured him with stamps. The Chinese government till date continues to honour his relatives in India during every high-level official trip.