The Indian National Army

The Story of Indian National Army (INA)

Subhash Bose met Goebbels and Hitler in Berlin, but did not receive much help from them. He was allowed to start his Azad Hind Radio and was handed over the Indian Prisoners of War captured in North Africa to start an Indian Legion, but nothing beyond that. Particularly, he could not get an Axis declaration in favour of Indian independence, and after German reverses at Stalingrad, that became even more difficult. But in the meanwhile, a new stage of action was being prepared for him in Southeast Asia, where the Japanese were taking real interest in the cause of Indian independence.

India originally did not figure in the Japanese policy of Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, under which the Japanese proposed to help Asians gain independence from Western imperialism. But by 1940, Japan had developed an Indian policy and the following year sent Major Fuziwara to Southeast Asia to contact expatriate Indians who were organising themselves into the Indian Independence Leagues under the leadership of men like Pritam Singh. Then in December, 1941, Captain Mohan Singh, a young officer of the Punjab Regiment of the British Indian Army who had surrendered to the Japanese in the jungles of Malaya, agreed to cooperate with Fuziwara to raise an Indian Army with PoWs to march alongside the Japanese to liberate India.

Photo showing Major Fuziwara with Pritam Singh

In June 1942, a united Indian Independence League, representing all Indians in Southeast Asia, was born as a civilian political body having controlling authority over the army. To chair this body, a veteran Bengali revolutionary, then living in Japan, was flown in. By September, the INA was formally in existence. But its relationship with the Japanese was still far away from satisfactory, as "Japanese duplicity" now became more than apparent. General Tojo, the Japanese Prime Minister, made a declaration in the Diet supporting Indian independence. But beyond that, the Japanese were only prepared to treat INA as a subsidiary force, rather than an allied army. As Mohan Singh insisted on autonomy and allied status, he was removed from command and put under arrest. Rash Behari Bose tried to hold the banner for some time, but he was then too aged for the task. By the beginning of 1943, the first INA experiment virtually collapsed.

Photo showing Rash Behari Bose (left) inspecting a regiment of INA

The entry of Subhash Chandra Bose

As Mohan Singh had often mentioned to the Japanese, the INA movement needed a new leader and outside India only one person could provide that leadership, and that was Subhash Chandra Bose. The Japanese now seriously considered the proposition and negotiated with the Germans to bring him to Asia. At last, after a long and arduous voyage, in May 1943, Bose arrived in southeast Asia and immediately took control of the situation, with Japanese assurance of help and equal treatment. In October, he established a Provisional Government of Free India, which was immediately recognised by Japan and later by eight other governments, including Germany and fascist Italy. Bose became the supreme commander of its army, the Indian National Army or the Azad Hind Fauj, which recruited around forty thousand men by 1945 and had a women's regiment named after the legendary Rani of Jhansi.

The Provisional Government declared war on Great Britain and its chief ambition was to march-as an allied army with the Japanese-through Burma to Imphal and then to Assam, where the Indian people were expected to join them in an open rebellion to liberate their mother country. But the ill-fated Imphal campaign, which was finally launched on 8 March 1944 by Japan's Southern Army accompanied by two INA regiments, ended in a disaster. The reasons were many- lack of air power, breakdown in the chain of command, disruption of the supply line, the strength of Allied offensive, and finally for the INA, lack of cooperation from the Japanese. The retreat was even more devastating, finally ending the dream of liberating India through military campaign. But Bose still remained optimistic, thought of regrouping and after Japanese surrender, contemplated seeking help from Soviet Russia. the Japanese agreed to provide him transport up to Manchuria from where he could travel to Russia. But on his way, on 18th August 1945 at Taihoku airport in Taiwan, he died in an air crash, which many Indians still believe never happened.

Salient points

  • The idea of Indian National Army was first conceived by Mohan Singh in Malaya, an Indian officer of British Indian Army.
  • Indian Prisoners of War were handed over by Japanese to Mohan Singh who then tried to recruit them into an Indian National Army.
  • The fall of Singapore brought 45,000 Indian Prisoners of War into Mohan Singh's influence.
  • It was repeatedly made clear at various meetings of leaders of Indian community and of Indian army officers that INA would go into action only on the invitation of the Congress and the people of India.
  • Indian National Army was organised on 1 September 1942 during the Second World War.
  • The outbreak of Quit India Movement gave a fillip to the Indian National army (INA) as well.
  • Anti-British demonstrations were organised in Malaya.
  • By December 1942, serious differences emerged between Indian army officers led by Mohan Singh and the Japanese over the role that the Indian National Army was to play.
  • Mohan Singh and Niranjan Singh Gill, of the INA were arrested.
  • The second Phase of Indian National Army began when Subhash Chandra Bose was brought to Singapore on 2nd July, 1943 by means of German and Japanese submarines.
  • He went to Tokyo and Prime Minister Tojo declared that Japan had no territorial designs on India.
  • Subhash Chandra Bose returned to Singapore and set-up Provincial Government of Free India. It then declared war on Britain and US, and was recognised by the Axis powers and their satellites.
  • Subhash Chandra Bose set up two Indian National Army Headquarters, at Rangoon and Singapore.
  • A women's regiment Rani Jhansi regiment was formed. The regiment was headed by Lakshmi Sehgal.
  • Subhash Chandra Bose renamed Indian National Army as Azad Hind Fauj.

Photo showing Subhash Chandra Bose inspecting Rani Jhansi regiment with Lakshmi Sehgal

Flag of Azad Hind Fauj


Subhash Chandra Bose

Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe azadi doonga.

(Give me blood, I will give you freedom.)

-Subhash Chandra Bose

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