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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Colonial Warfare, pt 12

INA soldiers surrendering

The Indian National Army was formed, like its counterparts in Indonesia, to undermine the British and trigger a revolution in India.

It came at a time when Ghandi and Congress used the war to force the British to agree to leave India, meanwhile, the British Army was fighting for it's life in the Burmese Jungles.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 between Britain and Germany, India was also declared to be at war with Germany as it constituted part of the British empire. The Congress took the view that while it opposed fascism, it could render no support to the British either: there was little to choose between the totalitarianism of the Nazis and the colonialism of the British. It was not with the consent of the Indian people that India was dragged into the war, nor was this India's war; moreover, the Congress expected, but could not procure, an unconditional offer of British withdrawal from India as a condition of its support. Consequently, neutrality was the official policy of the Congress. In an effort to bring the British to the negotiating table, Gandhi launched his 'Quit India' movement in August 1942, and issued from a large meeting ground in Bombay (since re-named August Kranti [revolution] Maidan) the famous call to 'do or die': Indians were to wage one last struggle to achieve independence, or die in that attempt. Elaborate plans were made to offer non-violent resistance; however, almost the entire Congress leadership, and not merely at the national level, was put into confinement less than twenty-four hours after Gandhi's speech, and the greater number of the Congress leaders were to spend the rest of the war in jail.

Subhas Chandra Bose was a rightist politician who had embraced fascism and had worked with both the Nazis and the Japanese.

Indian National Army was formed under the initiative of leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose..., being imbued with the spirit of national independence, sided with the Axis Powers during the Second World war (1939-1945). The Indian National Army (INA) is also called 'Azad Hind Fauz'.

In December 1941 the Japanese defeated the British at Malaya and Captain Mohan Singh together with an Indian and a British officer capitulated to them. Indians residing in southeast Asia were much inspired at the victory of Japan at the initial stage of the war. A number of associations were formed aiming at the independence of India. Pritam Singh was a leader of such an organisation. He and Major Fujihara, a Japanese officer, requested Mohan Sing to form an Indian Army comprising the captured Indian soldiers. Mohan Singh hesitated but ultimately agreed. Fujihara handed over about 40,000 Indian soldiers, who had surrendered to him, to Mohan Singh. It was actually the first step towards the formation of the INA.

....... On 21 October 1943 Subhas, popularly called Netaji, declared the formation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and on the 23rd declared war on Britain and America.

The INA was being organised in such a way so that they could also take part in the invasion of India together with the soldiers of Japan. But Terauchi, the Japanese commander, gave objection to the plan on three grounds. He considered that the Indians (as war-prisoners) were demoralised, they were not painstaking like the Japanese and they were mainly mercenary soldiers. So he opined that the Japanese would take part in the invasion and the INA would stay in Singapore. Subhas could not accede to the proposal. Ultimately, after much discussion, it was decided that only a regiment of the Indian soldiers would take part in the fight with the Japanese as a detached unit. If they could prove themselves equal to the Japanese, more Indians would be permitted to march to the border. A new brigade named Subhas Brigade was formed with select soldiers from the erstwhile Gandhi, Azad and Nehru Brigades.

The INA Headquarters was shifted to Rangoon in January 1944 and sensation was created with the war cry Chalo Delhi (March on Delhi). The Subhas Brigade reached Rangoon towards the beginning of January 1944. In the mean time it was decided that the Indian detachment would not be smaller than a battalion, its commander would be an Indian, the war would continue under Joint plan of Action and Indians would fight as a separate unit on selected spots. It was also decided that battles would occur at the Kaladan valley of Arakan and Kalam and Haka centre of China hills to the east of Lusai hills.

The Subhas Brigade was divided into three battalions. The first contingent advanced across both the banks of Kaladan and captured Paletoa and Doletmai. It captured Maudak, a British border out-post at a distance of 64 km from Doletmai a few days after. It was very difficult to get supply of arms and ammunitions and foodstuff, so the Japanese wanted to fall back, but the Indians refused. So only one company was left behind under the command of Surajmal and the rest went back. The Japanese commander also left behind a platoon of his contingents under the disposal of Surajmal.

In the mean time the other two detachments of the Subhas Brigade took the responsibility of Haka-Kalan borderline. At the fall of Imphal at Manipur it was decided that INA would take position at Kohima, so that it could enter Bengal across the Brahmaputra. Gandhi and Azad Brigades also advanced towards Imphal. On the 21 March the Japanese PM declared that the Indian territories freed from the British would be brought under the administration of a provisional independent government formed under Netaji. In spite of various hazards and want of food and war materials the INA advanced up to 241 km inside India.

A few days after the declaration of the Japanese PM the Americans and the British reinforced their power in the Pacific and took steps to invade Japan. At such a critical juncture the Japan forces had to give up the plan of invading India. Consequently the INA also had to retreat and was forced to surrender when the allied powers recaptured Burma.

The Government of India gave strenuous punishment to quite a good number of INA officers like Capt. Shah Nawaz, Capt. Rashid and others. But the government was forced to lift the order when it caused widespread commotion among the member of the public. The cause of India's independence was greatly advanced by the spirit of nationalism aroused by the INA. [Md Muktadir Arif Mozammel]

At the end of the war, the British tried three INA officers, a Sikh, a Hindu and a Muslim, for treason. However, the planned trial didn't go as expected.

The end of World War II marked a dramatic change. The end of the war was greeted in India with a vast sigh of relief. However, the issue which most caught the popular imagination was the fate of the members of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army (INA), who were captured by the British in the eastern theater of the war. An announcement by the Government, limiting trials of the INA personals to those guilty of brutality or active complicity, was due to be made by the end of August 1945. However, before this statement could be issued. Nehru raised the demand for leniency at a meeting in Srinagar on 16th August 1945. The defence of the INA prisoners was taken up by the Congress and Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, K.N. Katju, Nehru and Asaf Ali appeared in court at the historic Red Fort trials. The Congress organized an INA relief and enquiry committee, which provided small sums of money and food to the men on their release, and attempted to secure employment for them.

The INA agitation was a landmark on many counts: Firstly, the high pitch or intensity at which the campaign for the release of INA prisoners was conducted was unprecedented. This was evident from the press coverage and other publicity it got, from the threats of revenge that were publicly made and also fiom the large number of meetings held.

Initially, the appeals in the press were for clemency to 'misguided' men, but by November 1945, when the first Red Fort trials began, there were daily editorials hailing the INA men as the most heroic patriots and criticizing the Government stand. Priority coverage was given to the INA trials and to the INA campaign, eclipsing international news. Pamphlets, the most popular one being 'Patriots Not Traitors,' were widely circulated, 'Jai Hind' and 'Quit India' were scrawled on walls of buildings in Ajmer. Posters threatening death to '20 English dogs for every INA man sentenced', were pasted all over Delhi. In Benaras, it was declared at a public gathering that 'if INA men were not saved, revenge would be taken on European children.' One hundred and sixty political meetings were held in the Central Provinces and Berar alone in the first fortnight of October 1945 where the demand for clemency for INA prisoners was raised. INA Day was observed on 12 November and INA Week from 5 to 11 November 1945. While 50,000 people would turn out for the larger meetings, the largest meeting was the one held in Deshapriya Park Calcutta. Organized by the INA Relief Committee, it was addressed by Sarat Bose, Nehru and Patel. Estimates of attendance ranged from to two to three lakhs to Nehru's five to seven lakhs.

The second significant feature of the INA campaign was its wide geographical reach and the participation of diverse social groups and political parties. This had two aspects. One was the generally extensive nature of the agitation, the other was the spread of pro-INA sentiment to social groups hitherto outside the nationalist pale. The Director of the Intelligence Bureau coceded: 'There has seldom been a matter which has attracted so much Indian public interest, and it is safe to say, sympathy.' Municipal Committees, Indians abroad and Gurudwara Committees subscribed liberally to the INA funds. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee, Amritsar donated Rs. 7,000 and set aide another Rs. 10,000 for relief. Diwali was not celebrated in some areas of Punjab in sympathy with the INA men. Calcutta Gurudwaras became the campaign center for the INA cause. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh League supported the INA cause

Now, thousands of Indians had died in North Africa, Italy, and Burma. But the resentment towards the British was so deep that jailing these men had little support.

Why would the Indians turn on the British?

Despite the romantic versions of Indian life by Paul Scott and E.M. Forester, dealing with the British was a series of humiliations and insults for Indians.

The British created exclusive "hill stations" for Europeans, where Indians were not allowed to buy land

As the hill stations grew, there was an expansion in trade, and it was often the much-detested banias from the plains who rushed in to avail themselves of new opportunities. The emergence of a class of Indian professionals, who were inclined to take their holidays with their families in the hill stations, posed yet another problem. These were what the British called the 'seditious' types, not manly, honest, or loyal like the yeoman farmer, and to thwart them was to invite allegations of racism. The 'lower' class of Indians had been kept at bay by simpler subterfuges, such as the argument that their presence posed acute problems of sanitation and hygiene, thereby paving the way for disease, but could recourse be had to other exclusionary strategies for keeping out the wealthier class of Indians? In many cases, Indians were prevented, often on the orders of the Viceroy himself, from purchasing property in hill stations. Adverting to an attempt made by the Nizam of Hyderabad to purchase property in Simla, the Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, made it known that "the presence of these Chiefs at hill stations is distinctly undesirable, and that we ought to discourage it in every way" (p. 199). On another occasion, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab took the view that "there is a wide distinction between the European and the native. A Hill Station is a necessary health resort for the former or for his family. It is not so for the latter" (p. 200). Indian visitors to Simla were stopped enroute and subjected to a humiliating physical examination on the grounds that the plague of 1899 necessitated such measures, but the 'inspection post' remained open until 1926, then closed as a consequence of vigorous protests, only to be reopened in 1930 at the height of the nationalist movement (p. 195).

The hill station, then, was seen as an exclusive British preserve: here it was possible to render the Indian into an outsider, and here the Indian was to live in something like exile, without family or friends, and so taste something of the experience of the Britisher. Admission to this sacred enclave was possible, but only in accordance with a hierarchy of spatial differentiations. There was nothing extraordinarily subtle in how the British understood the symbolic significance of altitude: they were to be placed above, and the Indians below them. "Nothing is more likely to maintain British prestige", noted one military officer, "than the occupation of commanding ground by the British race", while a sanitary engineer came to the conclusion that "the natural separateness of the European from the Native part of the town . . . is of supreme importance from a sanitary point of view. Above, the air is fresh and pure, and cannot be contaminated by that below. . . . So distinct are the two localities, that they bear but slight relationship [to one another]" (pp. 196-97). In Simla, accordingly, senior British officials were given fine houses on the ridge, English and Anglo-Indian clerks found themselves housed on the slopes, and Indian clerks received dormitory housing further below (p. 197). The presence of Indians (except as coolies) on the Mall in Simla was not tolerated for a very long time, and when Gandhi was ferried on the Mall in an automobile to enable him to meet with the Viceroy, this action became the subject of an indignant inquiry in the House of Commons. This incident, curiously, receives no mention in Kennedy's book.

This treatment is why, despite the rapid promotion of Indian officers in the Army, and other progress, there was such resentment towards the British among average Indians. And the more Indians saw of the British, the less they liked them.

But the end of India would be a human disaster on a scale unnimagined during the years of empire.

posted by Steve @ 8:49:00 AM

8:49:00 AM

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