AZAD HIND FAUJ, or Indian National Army (I.N.A.for short) as it was known to the English speaking world, was a force raised from Indian prisoners of war during World War II (1939-45) to fight against the British. The hostilities had started with the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. The United Kingdom declared war against Germany, and India, then ruled by the British, automatically joined in under the governorgeneral`s proclamation of 3 September 1939. While the smaller Indian political parties such as the Muslim League, Hindu Maha Sabha and the Shiromani Akali Dal were prepared to support government`s war effort, Indian National Congress refused to cooperate.

A resolution passed by its Working Committee on 15 September 1939, and subsequently endorsed by the All India Congress Committee and the plenary session of the Congress, declared: “India`s sympathy is entirely on the side of democracy and freedom, but India cannot associate herself with a war said to be for democratic freedom when that very freedom is denied to her…” The resolution demanded that the British government pronounce in unequivocal terms their war aims and “in particular how those aims are going to apply to India and to be given effect to in the present.” Congressled ministeries in eight of the provinces resigned and the party planned a programme of individual satyagraha or protest.In fact a group of left wingers in the Congress had already formed a separate party, the Forward Block, under the leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose.This group wanted to take advantage of the situation and to intensify their struggle for independence.

Subhas Chandra tes was arrested on 2 July 1940. He went on an indefinite hunger strike on 29 November and was released on 5 December, but was kept under police surveillance in his ancestral house in Calcutta. Giving the police the slip OB Qua after IW B^g^f, W Chandra Bose reached Berlin on 28 March 1941 after a hazardous journey through north India., Kabul and Mosc.cwi TKexe. Ke. w&Aa. o. ments had refused to wear steel helmets.

Subhas Chandra`s call to Indian prisoners of war was well received and 1,200 men, mostly Sikhs, were recruited during the first six months for a training camp set up at Frankenburg.This camp was the precursor of the Azad Hind Fauj. It was initially named Lashkar-iHind or Indian Legion and its strength in the West rose in due course to 4,500. The name of the political organization corresponding to the Indian Independence League in the East was the Free India Centre.

Japan`s entry into the War on 8 December 1941 and her rapid conquest of Malaya and Singapore, with Thailand`s capitulation into neutrality, radically changed the situation so far as India was concerned.Certain Indian nationalist sections such as the Socialist Party and Forward Bloc entertained hopes of liberating the country with Japan`s help. Indians, mainly Sikhs, living in Malaya, Singapore and other countries of the region had set up two secret anti British groups, led by Giani Pritam Singh and Swami Satyananda Puri, respectively. A Japanese officer.

Major Fujiwara, head of the field intelligence section in the region` had, even before the declaration of war by Japan, contacted Giani Pritam Singh and reached an agreement of collaboration with him at Bangkok on 4 December 1941.Following the Japanese advance in North Malaya, Fujiwara and Pritam Singh reached Alorstar on 14 December 1941. It was here that Captain Mohan Singh, a straggler from the 14 Punjab Regiment overrun by the in order in the town. All Indian prisoners of war and stragglers were put under his charge.

Kuala Lumpur fell on 11 January 1942 with 3,500 Indian prisoners of war and Singapore on 15 February 1942 with 85,000 troops of whom 45,000 were Indians.Mohan Singh asked for volunteers who would form the Azad Hind Fauj to fight for freeing India from the British yoke.A large number, again mostly Sikhs, came forward. Mohan Singh established his headquarters at Neeson in Singapore with Lt Col.

Niranjan Singh Gill as Chief of Staff, LtCol. J.K. Bhonsle as Adjutant and Quarter master General and LtCol. A.C. Chatterjee as Director of Medical Services. The Azad Hind Fauj, however, was formally established on 1 September 1942 by which date 40,000 prisoners of war had signed a pledge to join it.Meanwhile another organization, Indian Independence League, had materialized under the leadership of Rash Behari Bose, veteran Indian revolutionary, who had escaped to Japan in June 1915 and become a Japanese citizen.

He arranged two conferences of Indians in the East to discuss political issues. The Tokyo Conference, 2830 March 1942, besides establishing the Indian Independence League, resolved to form an Indian National Army. The Bangkok Conference, 1523 June 1942, formally inaugurated the Indian Independence League adopting the Congress tricolour as its flag.One of the 35 resolutions passed by it invited Subhas Chandra Bose to East Asia.

Through another resolution Captain Mohan Singh was appointed commander in chief of the Army of Liberation for India, i.e. the Indian National Army.The Indian Independence League, which undertook to supply men, materials and money to the Army, established a Council of Action, with Rash Behari Bose as president and Mohan Singh as one of the four members with charge of the military department. News of the Quit India movement launched by the Congress Party in India in August 1942 afforded further encouragement, and the Azad Hind Fauj was formally inaugurated on 1 September 1942.Difficulties, however, arose soon after.

Mohan Singh (now General) was disillusioned regarding the intentions of the Japanese, who wanted to use the Indian National Army only as a pawn and a propaganda tool.He was also dissatisfied with the functioning of the Council of Action and the Indian Independence League, who failed to secure Japanese recognition and official proclamation regarding the existence of the Fauj. The other members of the Council of Action, on the other hand, were unhappy with Mohan Singh for his arbitrariness in military matters.The crisis came on 8 December 1942 when the Japanese arrested Colonel Niranjan Singh Gill branding him to be a British agent, without informing General Mohan Singh, whose protest was ignored and who was not even allowed to see Colonel Gill.

On the same day the three civilian members of the Council of Action resigned.On 29 December 1942, General Mohan Singh was removed from his command and was taken into custody by the Japanese military police. The Indian National Army was disarmed.Efforts to revive it were made by Rash Behari Bose who appointed a committee of administration to manage its affairs.

Subhas Chandra Bose, popularly called Netaji (lit. respected leader), left Europe on 8 February 1943 and arrived at Tokyo on 13 June 1943. After discussing matters with the Japanese prime minister, General Tojo, he came to Singapore on 2 July 1943. Two days later Rash Behari Bose handed over the leadership of the Indian Independence League to him.On 5 July 1943 Netaji revived the Azad Hind Fauj, giving it the battlecry “Chalo Delhi” (“March to Delhi”) and the salutation “Jai Hind” (“Victory to India”).

On 23 October 1943 he proclaimed the setting up of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, which was recognized within a few days by nine countries, including Japan, Italy and Germany. On 6 November 1943, the Japanese premier announced the handing over of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government. Netaji organized the Fauj into three brigades for taking part in Japan`s offensive campaign on India`s eastern borders.After initial hesitation of the Japanese field commander, Field Marshal Terauchi, to associate Indians with actual fighting, it was agreed to employ one brigade, as a trial, attaching smaller Indian detachments to different units of the Japanese army as irregulars.

Accordingly, a new brigade of three battalions was raised by selecting the best soldiers out of the other three. Commanded by General Shah Nawaz Khan, its 1st Battalion operated on the Arakan front and had its first notable success in May 1944 when it captured the British post of Mowdok in the Indian territory, about 80 km to the east of Cox Bazar, and holding it till September 1944 in the face of repeated counterattacks by British forces. The other two battalions also gave a good account of themselves in Falam and Haka area.Meanwhile, Subhas Chandra Bose had brought forward his headquarters to Rangoon.

The Japanese commanders, satisfied with the fighting skill and courage of the Azad Hind Fauj soldiers, associated another Indian brigade in their operations in Imphal and Kohima sectors. The British forces, however, not only withstood the offensive during the winter of 1944-45 but also launched a counterattack. The Japanese and the Azad Hind armies retreated fast.Rangoon was occupied by the British early in May 1945.

On 16 May, Shah Nawaz, Gurbakhsh Singh Dhillon and many other officers and men of the Azad Hind Fauj surrendered at Pegu in Lower Burma where after the Azad Hind Fauj ceased to exist. The War ended with Japan`s surrender on 14 August 1945.Subhas Chandra Bose died in an air crash on 18 August 1945.Officers and men of the Indian National Army were brought back to India and were interrogated and divided into three categories: white or loyal in their allegiance to the British throughout; grey or those whose loyalty was doubtful; and black or those who admitted that they had joined the Azad Hind Fauj.

The white were reinstated with benefits of seniority and arrears of pay; the grey were kept under observation and were later graded into either white or black. The black were summarily dismissed and their arrears of pay and allowances were confiscated. Mohan Singh and Niranjan Singh Gill were set free.Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurbakhsh Singh Dhillon and Prem K. Sehgal were, as a test case, put on trial in open court in the Red Fort at Delhi.

They were charged with treason and with waging war against the King. This aroused India wide sympathy for them. The trial began on 5 November 1945.Eminent lawyers and public men such as Tej Bahadur Sapru, Bhulabhai Desai and Jawaharlal Nehru defended the accused in court.

There were riots in their favour in several places between 21 and 24 November. The court on 31 December 1945 sentenced all the three to transportation for life. The government, however, yielded to the outburst of popular sympathy and the British commander in chief, Sir Claude Auchinleck, quashed the sentence on review.

References :

1. Mohan Singh, General, Soldiers` Contribution to Indian Independence. Delhi, 1974
2. Bhattacharya, Vivek, Awakened India. Delhi, 1986
3. Durlabh Singh, Formation and Growth of the I.N.A. Lahore, 1946