Subash Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army

In his book History of Freedom Movement in India, eminent historian, R.C.Majumdar writes that it was due to the role of Subash Chandra Bose and the activities of the Indian National Army that made the British to leave India. According to him this fact was mentioned by Clement Atlee (the Prime Minister of Britain when India gained Independence) to P.B.Chakravarthi, the ex Chief Justice who was acting as Governor of West Bengal when Atlee visited India and stayed in the Raj Bhavan, Calcutta for two days in 1956.

Born in 1897, Subash Chandra Bose was one of those who believed that the future of India lay with those radical and militant forces that will be able to undergo the sacrifice and suffering necessary for winning freedom. During the Non-Cooperation Movement, he had resigned his post in the Indian Civil Services and joined the freedom movement under the tutelage of C. R.Das. His popularity had earned him the Presidentship of the Congress in 1938. Though Subash Chandra Bose was reelected the next year defeating Pattabhi Sitaramayya, the candidate supported by Gandhiji, his differences with Gandhiji led him to leave the Congress party and form a new party called Forward Bloc in 1939.

The Great Escape: When the Second World War broke out, Bose wanted to secure the aid of Britain’s enemies to fight for India’s independence. But in vain did he try to convince his logic to Gandhiji and other Congress leaders. In March 1939, he convened a gathering of his followers and it was resolved to start a countrywide satyagraha against the war effort in the month of April. Though the movement was not a big affair, Bose was arrested. In November he declared from jail that he would undertake a fast unto death as a protest against his arrest, which he contended was illegal and unwarranted. The fast made Bose very weak and acting on the medical advice that his life was at risk, the government released him in December, however police guards were posted at his house.

Bose spent most of his time in studying scriptures and caused an impression to go round that he had become a recluse. He discussed religion and not politics. One 17th January 1941, dodging the guards and with the help of his close confidents, Bose slipped out of his house in the disguise of a Muslim divine and reached Kabul. At Kabul, he stayed in a serai posing as a deaf and dumb Pathan on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Bose wanted to go to Moscow, but he was shocked to the lack of Russian response in Kabul to help him. Probably Russia was apprehensive about a German attack and if this happened Britain would become Moscow’s ally and therefore they would not afford to displease London by harbouring a well know anti-British Indian rebel. The Russians even were reluctant to grant a transit visa to Bose even though there was joint request for it from Germany, Italy and Japan. Eventually the Russians granted a transit visa for ‘Orlando Mazzotta’ an Italian diplomatic courier. Bose left Kabul on 18th March 1941 accompanied by a German engineer, Wenger to Moscow and on 28th March flew from Moscow to Berlin.

Bose in Germany: Ribbentrop, the right hand man of Hitler, received Bose at Berlin. Bose proposed that 1. He would broadcast anti-British propaganda from Berlin. 2.Raise free India units from Indian prisoners of war in Germany and 3. The three axis powers would jointly make a declaration of India’s independence. The third proposal was not accepted probably due to the fact that in the secret negotiation between Germany and Russia, India was included in the Russian sphere of influence when the British power was to collapse.

When Germany declared war against Russia on 22nd June 1941, Subash Chandra Bose proposed to raise an Indian legion of three infantry battalions and a company of irregulars, which would form a part of Germany’s fifth column organization. Bose was confident of Germany’s victory and progress of Germany’s army across Russia to central Asia when his own legions accompanying it would invade India. He hoped that the Indian soldiers of the British government would fraternize with them and turn against their own master. Hence he asked for all Indian Prisoners of War in North Africa to be brought to Germany at once. But Indian soldiers showed marked hostility to Bose when he visited their camp and his speech was interrupted. Later he privately interviewed individual prisoners and made a good impression upon them and they joined him. By January 1942 two units were formed and Bose was addressed ‘Netaji’ and greeted with ‘Jai Hind’. Bose also founded ‘Free India Centers’ at Rome and Paris.

Independence League of India: On the day Japan declared war on the Allies (comprising of Britain, America and France), Indians in Tokyo met and formed a committee to work for India’s independence under the leadership of Rash Behari Bose, a revolutionary patriot who had settled in Japan. In Bangkok, Amar Singh, an old revolutionary, who had served a term of 22 years in Indian jails, had formed the Independence League of India in December 1941. The Thai-Bharath Cultural League established by Swamy Satyananda Puri some time ago was converted into Indian National Council. All these bodies decided to carry out their plans in collaboration with the Japanese who had told them that they had no design on India.

In December 1941 when Japan invaded Northern Malaya and defeated a British force, Captain Mohan Singh of the first battalion, 14th Punjab Regiment and others escaped, but latter surrendered to the Japanese. He was brought back to Bangkok by Giani Pritam Singh, a holy man who along with Major Fuzihara, a Japanese military officer induced Capt. Mohan Singh to work for India’s independence. After the fall of Singapore on 15th February 1942, Colonel Hunt on behalf of British government handed over 40,000 Indian Prisoner of War to Major Fuzihara who in turn handed them over to Capt. Mohan Singh.

Formation of Indian National Army: Meanwhile the Indian civilian representatives met in Singapore and formed the Indian Independence League. The League decided to raise an Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) and to call a meeting of all Indians in East Asia at Bangkok in June 1942. The Bangkok meeting, presided over by Rash Behari Bose was attended by 110 delegates from all over East Asia. The Tricolour Flag of India was hoisted by Rash Behari Bose and the conference passed 35 resolution including inviting Subash Chandra Bose to East Asia to lead the INA. The meeting decided to organize an army of 1,50,000 under the direct control of the Council of Action of the Indian Independence League. Capt. Mohan Singh, who was elected General Officer in Command of the INA, opened his headquarters at Mount Pleasant in Singapore. About 25,000 Indian POWs joined the INA and also a number of young men without military training, for whom a camp was opened to train them.

Subash Chandra Bose take charge of INA: On 8th February 1943, Subash Chandra Bose accompanied by Abid Hasan and M.R.Vyas traveled in a German submarine and reached the coast of Madagascar and from there, in the mid sea the three of them were shifted to a Japanese submarine. Bose traveled under the name of Matsuda as a Japanese government V.I.P. and reached Japan in May 1943. There was jubilation among the Indians in East Asia for they had now a leader amongst them. Rash Behari Bose announced at a conference of delegates from different parts of East Asia held at Singapore that Subash Chandra Bose would take over from him the leadership of the Indian movement. In the beginning of July 1943, Subash Chandra Bose went to Singapore where Rash Behari Bose handed over the President ship of the Indian Independence League to him. He proceeded to organize the Provincial Government of Free India as well as the Indian National Army. On 2nd October 1943, in a broadcast from Bangkok, he said ” When Mahatma Gandhi announced the commencement of the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920, he (Gandhiji) had said that if India had the sword, she would have drawn the sword, but since armed revolution was out of question the only alternative before the country was that of non-cooperation or Sathyagraha. Since then times have changed and it is now possible for the Indian people to draw the sword. We are happy and proud that India’s army of liberation has already come into existence. The final struggle for liberty will be long and hard and we must go on fighting till the last Britisher is either cast in prison or thrown out of the country”.

The I.N.A. campaign: On October 21, 1943, Subash Chandra Bose formed the Provincial Government of Free India and assumed the command of the Indian National Army and gave a call ‘Chalo Delhi’. Within a few days nine countries including Japan, Germany, Italy, Burma, Thailand and Nationalist China accorded their recognition to the provincial government of free India. The I.N.A. Brigade assisted by the Japanese army, advanced up to the Indian border. In March 1944, the Indian flag was hoisted in Kohima. But with the change of fortunes in the war, the launching of a counter-offensive by the British in the winter of 1944 and the final defeat of Japan, the I.N.A. movement collapsed. On 18-8-1945, Subash Chandra Bose died in an air crash at Taipei. The surrendered I.N.A. men were tried for treason in the Red Fort at Delhi. The Congress took up their cause and set up a panel of lawyers including Jawaharlal Nehru and Bhulabhai Desai to defend them in their trial. With public sympathy overwhelmingly towards them, the British were forced to set them free. The intense patriotism of Bose and the heroism and idealism of the Indian National Army inspired the people in an unprecedented manner. The I.N.A. campaign followed by the revolt of the Ratings of the Royal Indian Navy in February 1946 in fact made the British to think twice on continuing their rule over India.

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