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Indian National Army (INA - Azad Hind Fauj)

Indian National Army (INA - Azad Hind Fauj)The Indian National Army (INA - Azad Hind Fauj) was established as the military arm of the Indian Independence Leagues which the invading Japanese had organized throughout Southeast Asia in 1942. In Subhas Chandra Bose the Japanese found an excellent potential puppet. . He was hailed as Netaji by the Army as well as by the Indian civilian population in East Asia. Boses troops, operating in conjunction with a Japanese drive into India, were intended to engage in military infiltration, espionage, and anti-British propaganda urging the Indians to work for a Japanese victory in the interests of their own future independence. Japanese anti-British propaganda, with its slogan of Asia for the Asiatics, and the policy of singling out the Indian communities for especial1y favorable treatment undoubtedly carried a certain appeal to Indians in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, ever since the Russo-Japanese war of 1904, Japan had enjoyed increasing prestige as the one Asiatic nation able to establish herself as an independent equal of the Western powers.

In the early years of the Pacific War, Japans position in Asia was stronger than ever, and Great Britains defeat in India may have seemed a matter of months. Expediency appeared to many Indians to require co-operation with the Japanese. In Burma the Indian Independence League had been concerned largely with protecting the Indian minority from Burmese hostility until Bose arrived in 1943 to assume its leadership and to organize the Indian National Army.

Burma succeeded Malaya as the suitable headquarters for the Japanese-sponsored Indian Independence movement not only because it was to be the staging area for the military attack on India but also because after Malaya it provided the largest Indian population outside ofIndia upon which to draw for membership. At the time of the Japanese invasion over a half-million Indians remained in Burma. By far the greater part of them belonged to the laboring class, but a large number of Indian merchants also had heavy financial stakes in the country, accumulated through money-lending and rice-selling. Although many of these merchants fled to India in 1942, some left representatives to protect their interests and provided Boses movement with a source of funds.

The Japanese, contrary to Burmese desires, allowed the Indian community to retain control over all Indian-held property in Burma. Indians in Burma had long been conscious of being a minority and were jealous of their status as a separate political group. The Burmese were openly hostile toward the Indians, considering them a menace to Burmasnational and economic life. As early as 1922, Indians had formed a separate electorate which, under British auspices, was incorporated into the constitution in the face of Burman opposition. Most of the educated Indians in Burma sympathized with the aims of the Indian National Congress, and although the imported laborers who formed the bulk of the Indian population were politically inactive before the war, Indian National Congress propaganda may have influenced them to a certain extent before they left India.

During early 1942 the Japanese conducted a campaign to persuade Indian prisoners of war in Hongkong, Shanghai, and Singapore that they should fight along with the Japanese for the liberation of India. In June 1942 the Japanese sponsored a conference in Bangkok at which the INA was formally launched, originally headed by Capt Mohan Singh, and by November 1942 the Japanese claimed that the strength of the force was 16,000 troops. Disagreement between its first leader and Rash Behari Bose ended in the temporary disbandment of the INA.

Until June 1943 the Japanese used another man named Bose, Rash Behari Bose, to spread the idea of winning Indian freedom with Japanese aid. Rash Behari had fled to Japan after having directed terrorist activities in the Punjab during the Great War. In 1931 he organized the first Indian Independence League in Japan, which announced as its objective the attainment of independence of India by all possible means. Until Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in Japan from Germany, the elder Bose was recognized leader of the network of Indian Independence Leagues through-out Southeast Asia. When in June 1943 the younger Bose took over completely, Rash Behari apparently retired to Japan, where he soon died.

In June 1943 Subhas Chandra Bose arrived from Germany. German U-boats generally met with Japanese submarines west of Cape Point, in line with Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and this was how Indian nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose had been smuggled from Germany to South Africa to Japan to lead an uprising against the British in India. The Provisional Government of Free India (Azad Hind) that was recognised by recognized by nine foreign powers - the Axis powers and their Southeast Asian allies - on 21 October 1943. The Provisional Government of Free India exercised physical dominion over the Andaman and Nicober Islands, which are integral part of India.

Besides taking over the Indian Independence Leagues and the new INA as commander in chief, became President, Premier, Foreign Secretary, and Defense Minister of the Provisional Govemment of Free India. His extensive propaganda and recruiting campaign for the INA was at first conducted among Indian prisoners of war, of which about 70,000 were in Japanese hands, and among Indian rubber plantation labor in Malaya. In early 1944 Burma became the headquarters of the whole movement when the INA First Division was moved up from Malaya to aid the Japanese in the Manipur campaign. In February 1944 Bose moved INA headquarters to Rangoon, and continued his recruiting from there.

Several factors aided Bose in his work. At that time British prestige was at its lowest ebb. Enlistment afforded escape from POW camps, where conditions were bad, and a possible opportunity for Indians to return to their homes and families. Boses propaganda spoke of the sacred soil of the motherland and of raising the flag of Free India in every city, town, and village in India. Many Indians doubtless sincerely believed that by joining the INA they would participate in achieving real Indian independence. Furthermore, they were told that they would be welcomed by the British Indian Army, which would refuse to fight them, and that all India would rise to welcome them. Thus the general morale of the INA troops before their first engagement in Arakan was fairly high, and Japanese propaganda was able to aim at the British-Indian Army, urging desertion and telling of comrades-in-arms training outside of India to liberate their native country.

In the military engagements that followed, INA regiments were intended primarily to confuse British-Indian troops in the combat areas by shouting orders in Urdu or English, to encourage deserters, and to take full charge of all British-Indian prisoners in order to persuade themto change loyalties and join the INA cause. They were also used in forward reconnaissance and as screens for Japanese troops. Often regarded with suspicion by the Japanese, INA forces were almost never employed as regular fighting units, and were assigned inferior equipment.

The first encounter between British-Indian and INA troops, a surprise engagement, took place a few miles north of Buthidaung in Arakan. INA units were successful through trickery and civilian disguise in over-powering British-Indian sentries and enabling the Japanese to capture a divisional headquarters. In the next encounter, however, an INA Sikh, who had been encouraged to leave cover shouting slogans and invitations to desert, was riddled with British-Indian bullets.

Optimism aroused among the puppet Indians by initial military successes quickly disappeared. The ineffectiveness of the INA was clearly demonstrated at the time of the farthest Japanese advance into India in the spring of 1944. Japanese expectations had obviously been high and the British themselves had been uncertain how much confusion Boses Indians could cause. But actual encounters proved that British-Indian troops would fight the enemy whether he was Indian or Japanese.

The virtual disintegration of Subhas Chandra Boses Indian National Army (INA) in the general Japanese retreat from Burma marked the failure in Japans attempt to exploit Indian nationalism in her war against the Allies in Southeast Asia. In the early months of 1945, after Germany's surrender in April 1945, large-scale surrenders revealed a radical decline in morale, rapidly reduced INA ranks. Remaining troops presumably retreated with the Japanese into the Shan mountains towards Thailand. Bose, the INA Commander in Chief, reportedly fled to Bangkok, from where he was allegedly reorienting his propaganda to longer range objectives.

Southeast Asia Command Field Security Sections in September 1945 in Singapore seized important documentary evidence of war crimes, including photographs showing captured Indian soldiers being executed for refusing to join with Subhas Chandra Bose, who sought to free India from British imperialism by working with the Japanese to build the Indian National Army.

On August 25, 1945 the Indian newspapers broke the news that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's had died in a freak plane crash in Taipei (then Taihoku) on August 18th. He had been flying to Tokyo to work out the INA's surrender when this happened. The British would believe none of it. Viceroy Wavell noted in his diary on 23 August that "I wonder if the Japanese announcement of Subhas Chandra Bose's death in a air-crash is true. I suspect it very much, it is just what should be given out if he meant to go underground..." There were three inquiries into the disappearance of Subhas Chandra Bose. While the Shah Nawaz Committee of 1956 and the G D Khosla Commission (1970-74) arrived at the conclusion that Bose had indeed died in a plane crash in 1945, the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (JMCI) which investigated the issue from 1999 to 2005, arrived at a diametrically opposite view.

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Page last modified: 20-05-2012 18:59:25 ZULU