Lucknow, Feb. 6: Colonel Nizamuddin, who took three bullets to save Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the forests of Burma, passed away this morning - still waiting for a token recognition as a freedom fighter.
He was 117.
The end came in Nizamuddin's native village, Dhakwan, in Mubarakpur, Azamgarh district, 300km east of Lucknow.
His wife Ajbun Nisha, 107, and the youngest of his three sons, Sheikh Mohammad Akram, were by his side when Nizamuddin - Netaji's driver and bodyguard - breathed his last at 4am.
He leaves behind two other sons and two daughters.
Nizamuddin had returned to India from Rangoon, now Yangon, in June 1969 and had since then been trying in vain to convince authorities in both Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre that he was a freedom fighter and needed some recognition.
" Koi pension jo freedom fighters ko milta hai, ya phir ek tamga hi sahi (a pension that is given to a freedom fighter, or even a medal would make me happy)," he had told The Telegraph in June last year.
Neither a pension nor a medal came his way - even two-and-a-half years after Narendra Modi had touched his feet when the soon-to-be Prime Minister visited Varanasi for a rally in May 2014.
Nizamuddin had fought alongside Netaji against the British Army in the forests of Burma, now Myanmar, between 1943 and 1944. "We were in the forests when suddenly I saw the barrel of a gun peeping from between the bushes and jumped in front of him (Netaji). I fell unconscious after taking three bullets. I saw Netajistanding beside me after I regained consciousness. Captain Lakshmi Sahgal had removed the bullets from my body. That was in 1943," he had told this correspondent last year.
It was after that day, he had said, that Netajistarted calling him "Colonel".
As a child, Nizamuddin, whose name was then Saifuddin, lived in Dhakwan with his mother. His father Imam Ali had a canteen in Rangoon. One day, his mother gave him some money to keep in a box, but he ran away from home and reached Rangoon via Calcutta by ship.
There, he joined the British Army in early 1943. Then, one day, he shot a British army officer, whom he had overheard asking white soldiers to let the Indians die but save the donkeys to carry food for the force.
Saifuddin then ran away to Singapore, changed his name to Nizamuddin and joined Bose's army, the Azad Hind Fauj, in Netaji's presence.
His sons and daughters were born in Rangoon. Nizamuddin later worked in Rangoon as a driver for a bank before returning to India.
Nizamuddin always greeted people with the words "Jai Hind". He named his village home "Hind Bhawan" and had even put a Tricolour on top.
On May 9, 2014, Modi invited him to Varanasi at a rally and touched his feet. But Akram said Modi didn't remember his father after taking over as Prime Minister later that month.
"However, the Election Commission of India recently engaged him to appeal to people to exercise their votes," Akram said.
District magistrate Suhas L.Y. and Azamgarh senior superintendent of police Anand Kulkarni attended Nizamuddin's last rites on behalf of the state government.