By Anurag VajpeyiDwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis (10 October 1910-9 Dec. 1942) was one of five Indian physicians dispatched to China to provide medical assistance during the Second Sino-Japan War in 1938. Besides being known for his dedication and perseverance, he has also been regarded as an example for Sino-Indian friendship and collaboration. Both China and India released stamps in honour of Dr. Kotnis.
In 1937, after the Japanese invasion of China, the communist General requested Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru to send Indian physicians to China. Subhash Chandra Bose, the President of the Indian National Congress, made arrangements to send a team of volunteer doctors and an ambulance by collecting a fund of Rs 22,000 on the All-Indian China Day. The key element of this mission was it was from a nation itself struggling for freedom, to another nation also struggling for its freedom. Group of 5 Indian doctors was dispatched as the Indian Medical Mission Team in September 1938. All, except Dr. Kotnis, returned to India safely.
Dr. Kotnis, who was 28 at arrival, stayed in China for almost 5 years working in mobile clinics to treat wounded soldiers. Dr. Kotnis first arrived in China at the port of Hankou, Wuhan. He was sent to Yan\’an, and was eventually to be posted as director of the Dr.Bethune International Peace Hospital there.In 1939, Kotnis finally joined the Eighth Route Army at the Jin-Cha-Ji border near the Wutai Mountain Area, after his efforts all across the northern China region. The hardships of suppressed military life, stresses that were especially relevant to the front-line doctors who often had to work over 72 hours at a stretch, finally began to tell on him. He died of epilepsy on December 9, 1942 at age 32, and was buried in the Heroes Courtyard, Nanquan Village. It is rumoured that he joined the Communist Party of China just before his death.The story of his life was the subject of a Hindi film Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahani and Chinese film Kē Dì Huá Dài Fū (1982, Dr. D.S. Kotnis).