9th AUGUST 1942 AZAD HINS FAUJ DECLARED FREE INDIA IN SINGAPORE

My days in the Indian National Army by Lakshmi Sahgal

My days in the Indian National Army by Lakshmi Sahgal

I came from a political family and was interested in the national movement, but I was determined to finish my studies first. I completed studying medicine at the Madras Medical College in 1940. By this time, the Second World War had broken out and there was a move to recruit all doctors into the (British Indian) Army. I did not want to do that and so I went to Singapore where I had close relatives. I started private medical practice there. I had quite a good practice. There were a large number of South Indians in Singapore. I had lots of Chinese and Malay patients as well.

The Japanese forces attacked Singapore on December 8, 1941. Rashbehari Bose, who was a veteran freedom fighter, had come with the Japanese. He started the India Independence League. All Indians were expected to join the League. It was helpful because we got our ration cards, and Indian property was not treated as enemy property, and Indians were not recruited forcibly. I joined the League but could only do welfare work and underground broadcasts.

On February 15, 1942 the Indian National Army (INA) was formed by Captain Mohan Singh. In addition to the INA was the India Independence League which was headed by Rashbehari Bose. Other leaders included Kesava (KPK) Menon who was our political guru and SC Guha. There were military officers in it from the INA. They all went to Tokyo to meet the Japanese government and get assurances from them that the INA would be given the status of an allied army. Unfortunately, the Japanese only verbally agreed to this but never officially ratified them. This led Mohan Singh and Kesava Menon feeling they could not trust the Japanese and Mohan Singh decided to disband the INA. This proposal was not universally popular. Consequently over 80 per cent of the INA officers and men felt that since they had taken oath of allegiance to the INA, they did not want to break it.

In the meantime, news of Subhas Chandra Bose’s arrival in Germany had come, and Rashbehari Bose pressurised the Japanese, through their ambassador in Berlin; to have Netaji sent from Berlin to Southeast Asia. The Japanese must apparently have agreed as Bose arrived in July 1943, after first going to Japan where he convinced prime minister Tojo, to declare that Subhas Chandra Bose was not just a leader of India, but a leader of Asia. After he reached Singapore, Rashbehari Bose handed over the leadership of the India Independence League to Subhas Chandra Bose.

Netaji completely reorganised the whole movement and put it on a revolutionary basis. He first gave a call for total mobilisation of manpower and appealed to all able-bodied youth to volunteer for the INA. The response was very good with the strength of the INA doubling within six weeks from 30,000 to 60,000. The volunteers came from Singapore, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hongkong and Thailand.

At the second mass meeting, Netaji dropped a bombshell by saying that it was his intention to form a women’s infantry regiment, named after the Rani of Jhansi who had fought so heroically against the British in 1857. I already knew of this idea as he had told me earlier during an interview I had sought with him. I told him I was ready to join, and from the next day he gave me a room in his headquarters, and I started recruiting women. The date was July 8, 1943.

I told him I was not very hopeful of getting recruits as most of the educated middle class families had gone back to India, and those who were left were the families of workers in the rubber estates, PWD workers and a very small middle class. He answered me ‘Don’t depend on the middle class in a revolutionary movement. It is the workers and kisans who form the backbone of any revolutionary movement.’ He proved to be right as without much difficulty we were able to raise a regiment of 1500 women, trained as soldiers, and 200 as nursing staff. One group who proved to be remarkable in their enthusiasm and efficiency, were the young women from families settled in those areas for two to three generations. They had little contact with India except for cultural associations.

Training was started for the Rani of Jhansi Regiment in Singapore and Rangoon from October 23, 1943. Two days earlier, on October 21, Netaji had formed the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and, to show his sincerity towards the cause of emancipation of Indian women, he appointed me as a minister in his government. I was given the portfolio of Women’s Problems and Rani of Jhasnsi Regiment.

Our training lasted three months. It was very rigorous. We all had to wear a khaki uniform of pants and bush shirt, and cut our hair short. I had hair below my knees which my mother had never allowed me to cut. So I was really glad to have it cut and never grew it back since.

Regulars from the Indian Army trained the recruits, emphasising on discipline and efficiency. Those instructors took a great interest and a pride in their work. When we responded to their training, they were very happy and felt proud. The only weapons we had were rifles and hand grenades; no automatic weapons. Apart from physical training, there were classes in military tactics, strategy, map reading. There were also Hindi classes for one and half hours every day, with the language taught in the Roman script. Though the recruits were mostly South Indians, within three months they had all learnt Hindi.

We also had political classes, and quite often Netaji himself took these classes.
After three months training, the first batch of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment moved from Singapore to Burma, and in May, 1944, small batches of the regiment moved from Rangoon on the way to Imphal. Moving into action, the regiment took part mostly in guerilla attacks. The behaviour of the men was exemplary, and there was not a single untoward incident. In fact, they would protect us from the Japanese and local population.

The Japanese soldiers proved to be the biggest male chauvinists. They initially objected to the women’s regiment and did not give us land or camp sites. But when they saw us functioning, were sufficiently impressed to change their minds. However, our regiment was able to proceed only upto the middle of Burma as the attack on Imphal by the INA, supported by the Japanese Army, was repulsed by the heavily reinforced British garrison. After suffering heavy casualties, it had to withdraw. In addition, the monsoon set in earlier than usual, making movement practically impossible. The order for withdrawal was reluctantly given by Netaji and the ill- equipped and undernourished INA retreated to central Burma where they regrouped and attacked the British Army, delaying their advance.
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The Rani of Jhansi Regiment however, was disbanded and those who had families in Burma were safely sent back. Netaji himself escorted the Malayan contingent to Thailand, and then to Malaysia. In this connection I would like to mention that, without exception, all the members of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment sent a petition to Netaji, signed in their blood, saying that they were willing to die in the battlefield and did not want to retreat.

At this stage, I volunteered to work in an INA hospital which had been set up for the severely wounded and incapacitated INA personnel. Although the hospital was situated in the thick jungles of the Shan states which had never experienced any fighting or aerial bombardment. The spies of the Allied forces proved nevertheless to be everywhere and this was forcibly brought home to us when, before rearing. Burma, Netaji decided to visit the hospital. The very next day we were heavily bombed. The hospital destroyed and most of the patients killed. We tried to evacuate the few survivors in bullock carts, but were caught on the road to Rangoon by the advancing British forces in the beginning of June 1945.

I was separated from the other INA personnel and sent to Rangoon for interrogation, and kept under house arrest. In March 1946 I was released and taken to India.

Back in India, the INA trials attracted massive public attention. Nehru put on his lawyer’s robes to defend the INA prisoners, but it was Bhulabhai Desai who made the biggest contribution, his defence speech at the INA trial went down as the historic speech of the trial.

After independence I returned to my medical practice. I decided not to join any party. Not wanting to have anything to do with the Congress party, unable join the then undivided CPI because of their attitude to us.

In 1969, my daughter, Subhasini, returned from America and joined the CPI (M) through the trade union movement in Kanpur. In 1971, during the Bangladesh War, I wanted to volunteer my service in relief work, and wrote to Padmaja Naidu, who was then the Governor of West Bengal. However, she could not help me. Then I saw Jyoti Basu’s appeal in People’s Democracy for support for the People’s Relief Committee. I volunteered and worked in the border areas for about six weeks. It so happened that when returning through Calcutta, the Polit Bureau of the CPI (M) was meeting and I decided to go and meet the leaders. It was then I decided to join the Party, and have remained with it ever since.

Story First Published: July 23, 2012 15:07 IST

Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as ‘Council Entry.’…Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

THE INDIAN NATIONAL ARMY – A CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF KEY EVENTS

1941

April-May The Second Bureau of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters (responsible for intelligence service) sends a senior officer Major Fujiwara to visit the southeast countries in disguise, to provide intelligence to the IGHQ on the British army. Fujiwara strikes the idea of subversion of the loyalty of the Indian troops. Starts active involvement with local Indian groups working for India’s freedom struggle. Returns to Tokyo.
October The Second Bureau sends back Fujiwara the responsibility to put together a small group in southeast Asian countries to encourage anti-British movements among local Asian communities against the British, especially the Malays, Chinese and Indians. Fujiwara is asked to assist Col. Tamura, the military attaché at Bangkok with liaison. The 15-member group put together by Fujiwara comes to be known as Fujiwara Kikan
Fujiwara starts working closely with Pritam Singh, a leading figure in the Indian freedom movement in Thailand
28 November – 4 December Fujiwara meets Pritam Singh. Singh refuses to be subservient to Japanese interests. Both work together and reach an agreement on 4 December. The agreement – when war breaks out, Singh’s organisation with move along with the Japanese army, extend its propaganda among Indian soldiers of British Indian army, help build a positive relationship between the Indian soldiers and the Japanese, army, raise a volunteer force from amongst the officers of the British Indian army and other Indians in Malaya. In return, the Japanese army was not to treat Indians in occupied areas or captured Indian soldiers as enemies, would allow the organisation to broadcast using stations in Tokyo and Bangkok, provide necessary resources, and put it in touch with Subhas Chandra Bose.
8 December Emperor of Japan declares war against the United States and Great Britain. Japanese forces land in Thailand
8 December Emperor of Japan declares war against the United States and Great Britain. Japanese forces land in Thailand
9 December Pritam Singh’s associates proclaim the formation of Independent League of India
10 December Singh and Fujiwara moves along with the victorious Japanese army across Thailand, establishing branches of the League. Members of the League and Fujiwara Kikan start visiting the battle fronts to establish contact with Indian soldiers.
14 December Singh and Fujiwara reach Alor Star, receive a message from Mohan Singh, an officer in the British Indian army
15 December Singh and Fujiwara reach Alor Star, receive a message from Mohan Singh, an officer in the British Indian army
16 December Singh and Fujiwara reach Alor Star, receive a message from Mohan Singh, an officer in the British Indian army
26 December Singh and Fujiwara reach Alor Star, receive a message from Mohan Singh, an officer in the British Indian army
30 December Mohan Singh meets Fujiwara and Pritam Singh at Taiping and informs them that he is ready to raise an army from the Indian POWs on certain conditions. These are:

i The Japanese army should give full cooperation for raising a liberation army for India
ii The Independent League of India and the army would run independently
iii The Japanese army should allow the Indian POWs to be controlled by Mohan Singh
iv The Indian POWs who join the liberation army should be freed from concentration camps. Those who would not, would remain as POWs under Mohan Singh
v The Japanese army should give the liberation army the status of an allied army
Fujiwara forwards the terms to the 25th army command (under the overall command of Field Marshall Terauchi). Asks Mohan Singh to take up active propaganda among Indian soldiers in the meantime. Singh agrees.

1942

1 January A committee formed by the POWs responds to a number of issues raised by Fujiwara regarding the formation of a liberation army. In principle it agrees that the army should be raised. Among other things, the committee writes, “We consider it a point of great honour for us to accept the kind, valuable and venerable leadership of Mr. S.C. Bose. We all know that he is an extremist who believes in revolutions and radical changes. People in India are most anxiously waiting for any movement started by Mr. Bose… He is a leader whose name will stir up a great revolution amongst the Indian masses, which would have a strong reaction in the Indian Army. It will cause a split in the Indian National Congress circles and the majority of the Congress will join Mr. Bose. We, the members of the Indian National Army, are prepared to shed every drop of our blood for S. C. Bose. His very name puts new life into us… The day Mr. S. C. Bose’s name comes before us we promise that if it suits our purpose we will openly condemn the Indian National Congress.”
Major Fujiwara suggests ‘Volunteers for Indian Freedom’ as the name of the liberation army. Mohan Singh prefers ‘Indian National Army’.
Mohan Singh and Pritam Singh set up their headquarters at Ipoh. Takes up vigorous targeted campaigning at the battlefronts. Fall of Kuala Lumpur results in an additional 3,500 Indian POWs being handed over the Mohan Singh.
Mohan Singh explains why he has sided with the Japanese. Most prisoners express the desire to join the liberation army.
Meanwhile, the 25th Army and the IGHQ refuse to commit to the terms presented by Mohan Singh. Major General Suzuki, the Chief of Staff of the 25th Army tells Fujiwara that the proposed army cannot be recognised as a separate army. It envisions raising units from the POWs to take part in Japanese campaigns in Sumatra, Burma and Singapore for the purpose of propaganda and collecting enemy information
Fujiwara approaches Lt. Gen. Tanaka and Lt. Gen. Tominaga of the IGHQ when they visit Kuala Lumpur, also with his plans of an expanded liaison agency.
Mohan Singh refuses to help the Japanese in their Sumatra campaigns, but agrees to cooperate in their campaign against the British in Singapore and Burma. Accordingly, two groups of 200 volunteers each, are sent to Burma and Singapore.
26 January Rash Behari Bose sends representatives to Hong Kong and Shanghai to help local Indians set up Indian Independence League.
15 February The Fujiwara Kikan separates the Indian POWs from the British and Australian POWs. Numbering around 45,000, they are formally surrendered by a British Officer to Fujiwara at Farrar Park, who declares that all Indian POWs will be under the control of Mohan Singh. At this meeting, for the first time, Mohan Singh declares to all Indian POWs his intention of raising an Indian National Army. General reaction is that of widespread enthusiasm, but senior officers of the British Indian Army remain sceptical.
Mohan Singh sets up the Prisoners of War Headquarters at Neesoon in Singapore under Lt. Col. NS Gill, with Lt. Col. JK Bhonsle as the Adjutant and Quarter Master General, and Lt. Col. AC Chatterji as the Director of Medical Services. Indian POWs are housed in five camps. Mohan Singh tries to gain support for the Indian National Army among the POWs.
Local Indian leaders agree to the suggestion of Major Fujiwara to organise an Indian Independence League in Singapore. SC Goho elected Chairman and KPK Menon, the Vice Chairman of the League.
16 February Prime Minister Tojo, in a speech in the Imperial Diet, asks Indians to make use of the Greater East Asia War for achieving independence of India.
Rash Behari establishes the headquarters of the Indian Independence League in Tokyo. Publishes a manifesto stating his intention to start a movement in East Asia for India’s independence.
Rash Behari calls for a conference of Indians of the representatives of the Indian communities in Japanese-occupied areas; requests Japanese military authorities to make arrangements for the conference.
March The IGHQ commissions a senior officer of the Imperial Guard Regiment, Col. Iwakuro to reorganise the liaison agency into a larger body..
9 and 10 March Leaders of the Indian communities in Malaya, Singapore and Thailand and those of the INA meet in Singapore to select representatives for the Tokyo conference. The meeting remains non-committal on the issue of use of violence. Decides to take approval of the Indian National Congress on the methods to be used in the struggle. The representatives choose to visit Tokyo in their personal capacity as members of a goodwill mission rather than the representative of their community.
Leaders of the Indian communities of Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong. Shanghai, Japan and those of the Indian POWs join the Tokyo conference to discuss the beginning of an Indian independence movement in East Asia. The two most crucial issues addressed were – the leadership of the Indian independence movement in East Asia and a decision on the question of acceptance of military assistance from Japan. Rash Behari Bose is selected the leader of the movement but divisions in the group emerge. Lt. Col. NS Gill (opposed to the formation of the INA) participates in the conference with the objective of ensuring that Mohan Singh does not assume any responsibility regarding the formation of the INA.
Many leaders from Malaya and Singapore, who meets Rash Behari for the first time, are sceptical about his long association with the Japanese, particularly his Japanese citizenship. The representatives from the Singapore meeting view efforts to concentrate of powers in Rash Behari’s hand as a Japanese plot. Goho, Raghavan and Menon restrict Rash Behari’s gaining too much power by drafting the conference’s resolution and IIL’s constitution.
The constitution of the IIL of East Asia is laid down at the conference. IIL becomes the umbrella organisation in which all existing organisations of Indians are to be merged. ‘Council of Action’ becomes the supreme executive body of the IIL with representation from the civilian Indian communities and the liberation army to be raised. CoA is to have complete control of the army. Although Rash Behari is selected the president of the council, he is to share authority with the four other members of the council.
The conference formally expresses its support for Japan’s East Asia policy and appreciates her sympathetic attitude towards India. It puts up certain “requests” to the Japanese Government and the cooperation of the Indians with Japan is made conditional to the acceptance of these requests by the Japanese Government. These include:

i The Japanese Government is requested to make an independent declaration expressing its readiness to help India attain complete independence.
ii The Japanese Government should guarantee the “full sovereignty of India” in advance.
iii It should undertake to recognise the independence of India on its achievement, and induce other friendly powers to recognise it.
It should also promise that “the framing of the future constitution of India will be left entirely to the representatives of the people of India.”
It should render such financial assistance to the IIL “in the manner and to the extent requested by the Council of Action.” Such help is to be treated as “a loan” to be repaid by India after her achievement of independence.
The Government of Japan should “clarify the position of the Indian troops now under their control in occupied territories”, “recognize and facilitate the use of the present National Flag of India in all territories under the Imperial Government of Japan” and “consult in all matters of administration, affecting the Indian community, the Indian Independence League of the respective places…”
Other salient resolutions include:

i “before taking any military action against India…contrary to the wishes, policy or opinion of the Indian National Congress, the Council of Action shall first get the approval of the Committee of the Representatives and act as directed.”
ii “military action against India should be taken only by the Indian National Army and under the command of Indians, together with such military, naval and air co-operation and assistance as may be requested from the Japanese authorities by the Council of Action.”
April On return from the Tokyo conference, Mohan Singh steps up his efforts to organise the INA. He reorganises the INA headquarters – MZ Kiani becomes AQ, Habibur Rahman is the Adjutant, HM Arshad the Quartermaster, and AC Chatterji the Director of Medhical Services. Senior Indian officers among the POWs decide that the liberation army to be raised will get into action only on the invitation of the Indian National Congress and the Indian people. It is decided that this decision will be passed on to the junior officers and the ranks, and those who wished not to join the proposed army would be segregated.
12 April Iwakuro takes over from Fujiwara.
22, 23 and 25 April The leaders of Malaya and Singapore call for a conference of the Indian representatives of the Malayan States and form the All-Malayan Indian Independence League. N Raghavan is elected Chairman and the other four members of central executive body are KPK Menon, SC Goho, SN Chopra and Dr. Lukshumeyah. Mohan Singh is appointed an ex-officio member of the council in his capacity as the commander of the national army to be raised.
May Of the 55,000 POWs handed over to Mohan Singh, 15,000 decide to stay away from the proposed INA and are consequently separated. 20,000 agree to join the INA. By end of August this number increases to 40,000.
Some of the ICOs (including Lt. Col. NS Gill and Shahnawaz Khan) , who are deeply suspicious of Japanese motives and Mohan Singh’s capability to deal with them, meet and decide to join the INA to sabotage and wreck the INA from within as soon as the Japanese show signs of bad intention. This resistance however is not allowed to gain in strength as Gill and Khan are transferred out of Singapore before the Bangkok conference next month.

The Iwakuro Kikan, consisting of General Affairs Department, Political Department, Military Department, Special Service Department, and Propaganda Department, starts functioning. Its headquarters is located in Bangkok, while the Special Service Department is located in Penang, Military Department in Singapore and the Propaganda Department in Saigon. The agency is to work under the Southern Command. Iwakuro, however, is not given any specific brief on how to deal with the Indian problem. The agency includes support to the IIL and raising the INA in its programme, but attaches more importance to anti-British propaganda.
15-23 June Bangkok Conference: Representatives of the Indian communities in Japan, Manchukuo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, Thailand, Malaya, Burma and the Indian POWs meet at Bangkok. Conference receives endorsement from Japanese, German and Italian governments. All local organisations formally merged into IIL (Structure). The framework constitution of the Tokyo conference is developed into a full one and approved.
Rash Behari elected the first president of the Council of Action. Other members are N Raghavan, KPK Menon, Major Mohan Singh, and Lt. Col. GO Gilani. The conference decides to raise the INA without delay; conditional cooperation clause of the Tokyo conference retained.
The conference demands that the army to be raised should be under the full control of the Indians and it should be “accorded the powers and status of a free National Army of an Independent India” and placed “on a footing of equality with the armies of Japan.” It asks the Japanese government to allow the IIL to manage, control and make use of the incomes from all the properties evacuated by the Indians in Burma in I942.
Prior consent of the Indian National Congress for a military campaign is made an absolute pre-requisite, amending the discretionary power given to the council of action in the Tokyo conference.
Mohan Singh successfully renders ineffective all opposition to his authority from civilian as well as other military officers. In particular, the rift between Singh and Col. Gill (the senior-most officer to have surrendered, and a probable rival to his authority) widens. Singh succeeds in keeping Gill out of the Council of Action. Singh scores a victory in nominating Gilani as the second military representative in the CoA. Gilani is close to Singh (but later accused to have cooperated to ensure for himself an easy-going life), and said to be a favourite of the Japanese officers. Menon, with his deep suspicion for Rash Behari Bose, becomes an ally of Singh by default.
The conference decides to appoint Mohan Singh as GOC of the INA. However, after the conference, Singh starts acting independently and takes unilateral decisions without consulting the civilian leaders.
24 June – 9 July The Council of Action of the IIL holds nine sessions to strengthen the organisation and plan for course of action.
Singh receives a pledge of loyalty from Gill.
August Iwakuro Kikan gives its consent to raise and arm one division of soldiers from the Indian POWs with captured British arms. Consequently, the structure for the division is worked out, a separate Indian National Army Act is drafted and nominal pocket money for the INA soldiers suggested.
1 September The Quit India movement and the Japanese decision to begin a military campaign in North East Assam and Chittagong catalyses the formation of the INA. The First Division of the INA – an armed force of sixteen thousand and three hundred officers and men. – comes into existence.
Subsequently, efforts to organise the INA gather momentum rapidly. Mohan Singh asks permission of the Japanese army to raise the second division from surplus volunteers. Mohan Singh agrees with Iwakuro Kikan to move a part of the division to Burma: an advance party reaches Rangoon. Forward posts are formed near the Indian frontier in Akyab and Imphal areas. Iwakuro, however, is doubtful of Mohan Singh’s (who was a Major in the British Indian army) capability of commanding more than a division of soldiers, and has no intention to expand the INA.
October A new department is set up in Iwakuro Kikan which takes over from Mohan Singh the control of not only all Indian POWs who refused to join the INA, but all the surplus INA volunteers who are waiting to be absorbed in the INA in future.”
The Military Administration in Burma refuses to hand over management and resultant income of evacuee Indian property to the IIL, as had been demanded by the IIL.
November Some Japanese officers of the local Special Service School pick up some students of the Swaraj Institute in Penang and without informing Raghavan or the IIL, send them to India for fifth columnist activities. Raghavan closes down the institute in protest and is kept under house arrest for some time by the Japanese.
29 November The Council of Action issues a memorandum to the Government of Japan: “We have now reached a stage at which we feel that before we take any further forward move, it is necessary to clear matters, to understand our position perfectly….” It raises four issues: (i) The Government of Japan should clarify their attitude towards the resolutions of the Bangkok Conference. (ii) The Council of Action should be recognized as the “Supreme Executive of the Indian Independence Movement in East Asia.” (iii) A “full, formal and solemn declaration” should be made by the Government of Japan regarding their intentions to recognize the absolute independence of India. And (iv) the formation and existence of the Indian National Army should be “formally and publicly recognized.” On receipt of the Memorandum, Iwakuro calls for a joint conference between Iwakuro Kikan and the Council of Action.
1 December In the joint conference, Iwakuro tells the CoA that “the reason for not announcing the existence of the INA, is that…if the INA is to be used for military purposes in India it is better to keep it secret. …The decision is to announce the existence of the INA when military operations start.” He also points out that a declaration of Indian independence should be made only when its political effects would be calculated to be the greatest. “Unless a declaration coincides with some great happening in the future, it would have no political significance,” he says. He assures that he would ask the Tojo Government to make a declaration “on such an important occasion.” All understanding between the Iwakuro Kikan and the CoA breaks down.
December Fujiwara says that all non-volunteer POWs will remain under direct Japanese control.
Instances of maltreatment of Indian POWs along with instances of Japanese army putting them under direct control build up. Col. Gill, in charge of INA in Burma informs Mohan Singh of the Japanese intention to put the INA troops under their direct command. Mohan Singh becomes deeply suspicious of Japanese intentions. Insists on referring the issue of troop movement to the Council of Action before taking any further action. Asks the CoA to call off the movement (implying dissolution of the INA).
4 December Meeting of the CoA: Raghavan tenders his resignation from the membership of the CoA, protesting Mohan Singh’s independent dealings with the Iwakuro Kikan, but does not favour discontinuing the movement. The meeting decides that all questions of troop movement must be addressed to the CoA directly and that all issues regarding the INA should first go to the president of the CoA and be dealt with by the CoA.
5 December Singh, Gilani and Menon confront the CoA with an ultimatum. They forward a set of demands to the CoA and warn that if the CoA fails to get an immediate acceptance of the demands by the Japanese government, they would resign. These demands are: (i) “A written assurance that Col. Iwakuro will forward the letter of 29 November 1942 to the Imperial Government; (ii) An Assurance that a reply will be given on or before 1 January 1943; (iii) No major action would be taken regarding the INA. Routine work of the movement to be carried on in the mean time; (iv) Advance party in Burma should be informed that no further action should be taken until further orders from the GOC.” A deadlock is created as it is well understood by all members of the CoA that meeting the first two demands are impossible within the stipulated time.
7 December Rash Behari Bose, Raghavan, Iwakuro and Fujiwara meet to salvage the situation. Fujiwara and Iwakuro express their suspicion that Mohan Singh has come under the influence of fifth columnists who war working to wreck the movement. Raghavan suggests that (a) a “satisfactory answer to the demand put forward” by the CoA should be given by the Japanese; (b) the League’s “direct control over the army” should be made effective; and (c) in case the Council of Action would break up as a result of resignation of the members, the President should “take control and run the movement pending another conference at which a new Council of Action may be elected.” Immediately after the meeting Rash Behari Bose and Iwakuro take three decisions jointly: (i) The INA should be disarmed and its G.O.C. removed from its command, (ii) The present Council of Action would be dissolved, (iii) Col. Gill and Gen. Mohan Singh would be kept under arrest till the situation is brought under control. These terms were referred to the Headquarters of the Southern Army which endorsed the plan and later helped to carry it out.
8 December Col. Gill is arrested by the Japanese under charges of espionage. Bose informs Singh that demands put forth are not acceptable to the Iwakuro Kikan. Singh, Gilani and Menon resign.
9 December The three members’ resignation as well as that of Raghavan is accepted. Singh unleashes a propaganda campaign against Rash Behari Bose and Raghavan.
10 December Bose announces that he has taken over all powers and duties of the CoA.
Bose attempts to contact senior officers in the Indian army. This is viewed by encroachment by Singh and Gilani. Singh challenges Bose’s authority on the ground that CoA does not exist anymore.
13 December Singh writes to Bose that “(i) The members of the Indian National Army are pledged to me and me alone by name… (ii) This army will only be a part of any movement if it is convinced that the movement is conducted in the interests of India.”91
21 December Mohan Singh meets the senior officers of INA and circulates a sealed order among the unit commanders. The order says, “The Indian National Army will be dissolved shortly…. A confirmatory order will be sent out as soon as arrangement with the Nipponese ate complete. In the event of my being separated from you before such an order is issued the dissolution will take place automatically and immediately. Also at the same time the resignation of all the members of the INA and their release from all obligations and undertakings to me and the INA will be taken for granted.”
29 December Mohan Singh is called to the Iwakuro Kikan office in Singapore and offered terms on which he could continue in his office. Singh refuses to accept the conditions. He is subsequently shown a letter from Bose dismissing him from his command. Bose’s letter raises four charges against Singh: (i) The latter disobeyed the President’s direction to send up certain INA officers to meet the President. (ii) Singh was attempting to create “a private and personal army” of the INA, (iii) Having cut himself off from the Indian independence movement in East Asia, Singh could no longer command the army which belonged to the movement, and (iv) Singh had “wilfully and maliciously attempted to spread discontent and disaffection amongst the members of the Army of the Indian Independence Movement of East Asia.”
Immediately after his removal from the INA command, Mohan Singh is taken into custody by the Japanese Military Police.
INA troops are disarmed and opponents of the INA among the POWs utilise the opportunity to carry on vigorous propaganda to discontinue the INA.
Rash Behari Bose steps in by forming a Committee of Administration – meant for administration of discipline among INA personnel – comprising Lt. Col. JK Bhonsle (chairperson), Lt. Col. MZ Kiani, Lt. Col. Loganadan, and Major Prakash Chand. The committee succeeds in removing a good deal of suspicion against Bose among the INA personnel, by holding separate and joint meetings of NCOs, commissioned officers and others.

1943

26 January Indian Independence Day is observed in all the countries of greater East Asia
4 February Tojo states in the House of Representatives that Japan has no territorial ambitions on India and that she would provide all-out assistance to see India free.
6 February Bose puts forward a proposal to Iwakuro Kikan for ‘reforming’ the INA – to be under the direct control of the IIL, to be organised on a voluntary basis and to be governed by the Indian National Army Act to be framed by the CoA; matters concerning military administration and operations are to be dealt with by a newly created Military Bureau in the IIL; the INA is to have the same status as that of the armies of the allied nations of Japan.
Iwakuro Kikan approves the scheme on the same day
7 February Iwakuro Kikan issues statement endorsing Bose’s points and earlier speech of Tojo but stating at the same time that the agency “cannot agree to the proposal to put the Indian prisoners under the supervision of GOC of the INA.” It also assures the IIL that the Japanese government has implied assent to its Bangkok resolutions but no declaration to that effect could be made as the League was not a State.
Chairperson of the Malayan branch of the IIL resigns
10 February Rash Behari gives a questionnaire to the officers to ascertain their opinion regarding continuing in the INA.
13 February He states that “practically all the officers are prepared to fight and sacrifice for freedom of our motherland” but “not all of them are willing to remain in the INA.”
Iwakuro convenes a meeting of 300 INA officers at the Bidadari Camp in Singapore urging them to join the INA, but to no effect. Later it emerges from a “heart to heart talk” with some officers that a large number of officers and men are willing to continue in the INA on the express condition that Subhas Chandra Bose will come to Singapore, and until that time no troop would be moved out of the island. Iwakura accedes to these demands. Rash Behari too readily accepts it.
The new chief of the Second Bureau of the Imperial General Headquarters, Lt. Gen Arisue visits Singapore. Rash Behari meets him and requests him to make “speedy arrangements” to bring Subhas to East Asia from Germany. Arisue negotiates with the Germans immediately on his return to Tokyo.
With the issue of Subhas Chandra Bose taking up leadership being settled, measures were rapidly taken to put the army in order. The new Military Bureau was set up under Lt. Col. Bhonsle; a skeleton Army Headquarters under Lt. Col. MZ Kiani is also set up.
March Soldiers unwilling to join the INA are separated from the volunteers. About 4,000 men and officers of the first INA division stay away. No pressure is however put upon them to join the INA.
22 March The Military Bureau issues a new directive on “Policy regarding the re-organisation of the INA,” which asks the army commander to go ahead with re-organisation of the army without further delay as it was clear that any more volunteer was unlikely to rejoin their units.
27-30 April Joint Conference of the representatives of Indian communities in East Asia and those of the Army.
New Constitution of the Indian Independence League announced. The President of the League is vested with complete power to control the League and the Army, thus ending the civilian-military conflict.
Col Yamamoto, who the Japanese military attaché in Berlin and had been interacting with Subhas Bose there, joined the conference
Rash Behari announces that he expected Subhas Bose to be in East Asia shortly and that he would be Rash Behari’s successor.
May Yamamoto takes over as the new chief of the Japanese liaison agency and named it Hikari Kikan (Lucky Department). The Kikan is headquartered in Singapore.
6 May Subhas Bose reaches Saban island in a Japanese submarine.
11 May Plane despatched by the Japanese Imperial Headquarters to fly him to Tokyo.
16 May Subhas reaches Tokyo via Penang, Saigon and other places. Meets Lt Gen Arisue (chief of the Second Bureau) and Field Marshal Sugiyama (Chief of the General Staff). To Sugiyama, Subhas proposes his plan to lead an army to India, by taking Chittagong first.
10 June Subhas meets General Tojo, almost a month after his arrival in Tokyo, despite best efforts by Yamamoto to set up the meeting.
12 or 13 June Subhas meets Rash Behari Bose for the first time at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.
15 June Subhas again meets Gen Tojo, now in the presence of Japanese Foreign Minister Shigemitsu. He outlines his plans for the Indian independence movement in East Asia and a military campaign.
16 June In the presence of the Emperor, Gen Tojo reaffirms Japan’s resolve to give all out help to India to achieve independence, in the opening ceremony of the 82nd extraordinary session of the Diet.
Subhas floats the idea of a Provisional Government, which is accepted in principle by the Japanese officials.
18 June Tokyo Radio announces the arrival of Subhas (but does not mention the date of his arrival). Japanese press also publish the story the next day.
19 June Subhas holds his first press conference in Tokyo
2 July Subhas makes his first visit to the IIL headquarters in Singapore.
3 July Meets and assesses the senior officers of the INA
4 July Rash Behari formally hands over the Presidentship of the IIL to Subhas in a meeting of the League representatives from East Asian countries.
5 July Formally reviews the INA and announces its existence to the world
6 July Gen Tojo receives Guard of Honour from the INA
July, Gen Tojo approves the idea of the Provisional Government
8 July The IIL headquarters issues a communiqué on the nature of the new army.
9 July First public meeting in Singapore
13 July The IIL is re-organised. Number of departments increased from the existing five (Finance, Publicity and Propaganda, Intelligence, Recruitment and Supply, and General) to twelve. The key new departments were Department of Recruitment (now a separate department), Department of Training, Department of Supplies, and the Overseas Department.
Subhas meets Field Marshal Count Terauchi, C-in-C of the Southern Expeditionary Forces to discuss the role of INA in the forthcoming Japanese campaign in Imphal. With no great regard for the capability and fighting spirit of the INA, Terauchi offers restricted role to the INA (for collecting information on the enemy) and shows reluctance to let the INA appear on the battle field. Subhas tells Terauchi that the Japanese should only supplement the Indian military effort, and liberation of India won by the Japanese is not worth having. Terauchi gives in to the extent of setting up one INA regiment for the Imphal campaign, as a test case. If the experiment succeeded he assured that the rest of the INA would be put into action.
25 July Subhas leaves Singapore on a seventeen days tour of East Asian countries.
Visits Saigon; meets the prime minister of Thailand Field Marshal Pibulgonggram, who promises full cooperation.
1 August Independence Day of Burma celebrated. Subhas, invited by Ba Maw, visits Rangoon. The Government of Burma declares that it will treat British Indians residing in Burma not as enemy but as friendly third power.
At a party organised by the Rangoon Committee of the IIL, Ba Maw says, “When the Indian National Army starts its march towards Delhi, the Burma Army will extend its utmost cooperation.”
25 August Subhas takes over the command of INA as the Supreme Commander.
Directorate of Military Bureau and the post of the Army Commander are abolished. A Supreme Headquarters is set up with thirteen departments.
No 1 Division to be made up of the three existing Regiments. Other formations remain unchanged.
Due to lack of modern armaments, artillery, air and naval support of its own, it is decided that the No 1 Division would train and operate as guerrilla regiments.
The First Division is quickly sent to Malaya for training by the officers.
Expansion plan for the INA: Subhas put forward a scheme to raise an army of 3 million with an immediate target of 50,000. He wanted to make up majority of the number by recruiting the Indian prisoners of war and the remaining by recruiting Indian civilians. Accordingly he requested the Hikari Kikan to bring back the POWs who were moved out of Singapore in 1942. The Kikan however refused, insisting its right over the control of the POWs. Moreover, based on the arms that the Japanese Government could supply, it suggested that the strength of the INA should not exceed 30,000. Yet, on Subhas’ insistence, 2,000 volunteres from the POWs were added to the existing 12,000 of the INA. The surplus over the First Division being inadequate for raising a Second Division, Subhas focused on civilian recruitments. A number of Volunteer Training Camps were set up in Singapore and Malaya. An overwhelming response created the problem of inadequacy of the training infrastructure. Senior officers of the INA were therefore sent to Bangkok, Hong Kong and Shanghai to facilitate recruitment.
September In accordance with Subhas’ agreement with Count Terauchi, a new guerrilla regiment was set up at Taiping (now Malaysia), consisting of chosen soldiers of the three regiments of the First Division, with Lt Col Shah Nawaz Khan as its commander.
September-2nd week of November The new guerrilla regiment receives training at Taiping.
9 October The Imperial General Headquarters announced, “In case Subhas Chandra Bose will organize the Provisional Government of India, the Imperial Government of Japan will disclose the intention to recognize it for the purpose of strengthening the activities towards India particularly for the aggressive propaganda. In connection with the above disclosure, formal international relationship of course should not be commenced. The recognition by the third party country should not be jeopardized.”9
21 October Provisional Government of Free India (PGFI) is set up with its seat at Singapore. See the structure of the Government. The PGFI was recognised by the Governments of Japan, Burma, Germany, Free Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Croatia, National China and Manchuria.
22 October Subhas formally inaugurates the training camp for Rani of Jhansi Regiment (set up with the primary objective of providing nursing facilities to wounded INA soldiers in the front – the regiment’s maximum strength was 500).
Night of 22-23 October The Government declares war on Britain and the USA.
October Col. AC Chatterji, General Secretary of the IIL submitted a report on the finances of the League, stating that the monthly expenses exceeded 1 million Malayan Dollars, and estimated with the expansion of the INA, the monthly expenses would increase to around 5 million Malayan Dollars. Collections of the League (voluntary donations being the only source) were 1.6 million till July 1943, and 4 million between July and October. While the poorer and middle class Indians were enthusiastic about donating to the League, the richer business class was indifferent.
25 October Bose meets Indian merchants in Malaya to persuade them to donate more, and warns them – “everyone, who refuses to help our cause, is our enemy because we are engaged in a life and death struggle today.” He asserts that the Provisional Government will carry out total mobilisation “voluntarily, if possible, by compulsion, if necessary.”
25-26 October Donations pour in, amounting to 20 million Malayan Dollars.
25 October Bose leaves Singapore for Tokyo.
27 October Tojo announces total support to the Provisional Government at the 83rd extra-ordinary session of the Diet.
31 October Government of Japan announces his arrival in Tokyo.
1 November Tojo meets Bose and agrees to hand over the administration of the evacuee Indian property in Burma to the Provisional Government. Bose insists on Japan transferring the Andaman and the Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government.
5-6 November Bose attends the Assembly of the Greater East Asian Nations as an observer rather than being a participant, as otherwise it would amount committing India to the Greater Co-prosperity Sphere without ascertaining the wish of the Indians.
10 November A liaison meeting between the IGHQ and the Japanese Government decides that the time of the transfer of the islands would be decided later, but the Provisional Government staff would be allowed to stay and participate in the administration of the islands to the extent that it does not jeopardise Japanese military interests. The administrative involvement would be gradually increased. It is however decided that the PGFI would be allowed to publicise that the transfer had already taken place.
13 November Tojo conveys the decision to Bose. Bose renames the islands as Shahid and Swaraj.
Bose also meets Sugiyama, the Chief of Imperial Staff. Sugiyama in principle agrees that the INA would rank as an allied army under the operational command of the Japanese army. He also gives his consent to the raising of the second INA division, planning the third division and to training of cadets for the INA in Japan.
The financial and arms agreement is – the Japanese would pay for the ex-prisoners of war in the INA, and Bose will raise money for the civilian recruits. Equipment would come from the captured British stock.
24 November Bose meets Terauchi in Saigon, on his way back to Singapore. It is agreed that the first division of the INA and Bose’s civil and military headquarters would move to Burma in January 1944.

1944

Netaji Fund Committee set up.
7 January The IGHQ asks the GOC, Southern Army, to “occupy and consolidate the Imphal area and the strategically important regions in NE India.” The key objectives were to take Imphal and Kohima in order to be able to defend Burma with minimum forces, and according to the Japanese Burma Area Army, “exercise political influence over India.” (The plan for Imphal campaign developed between July 1943 and January 1944). The plan was to install the PGFI in Imphal, if it could be captured.
Bose transfers the essential departments of the PGFI to Rangoon.
24 January The Chief of Staff of the Burma Area Army presents the plan of INA involvement in the Imphal Campaign to Bose. The INA was allocated the Haka Falam area, from where it was to move in support of the main forces of the 15th Army of the Japanese. The first regiment of the INA, 3000 strong, is placed under the operational command of the BAA. A unit of the Bahadur Group with 200 soldiers, under the command of Major LS Misra, was attached with the 55 Japanese Division carrying out the Arakan campaign.
25 January Headquarters of the INA Supreme Command set up in Rangoon, after No. 1 Division of the INA moved into Burma from North Malaya early in January.
27 January Commander of the No. 1 INA Regiment gets his orders from Gen. Kawabe – one battalion of the regiment would help the Japanese in checking the advance of the West African Division in Arakan, while its two other battalions would be in charge of Haka Falam.
4 February Arakan campaign: The 55 Division strikes, trapping the 7 Division of the British Indian Army through a surprise attack. The success in the surprise element is made possible due to the reconnaissance and subversion of an Indian outpost by Major Misra.
February INA crosses into Indian soil in the Arakan sector
10 February Imphal campaign: Lieut. Col. Shah Nawaz Khan, commanding the two INA battalions engaged in the Imphal campaign, receives orders from Lt. Gen. Mutaguchi, the Japanese commanding officer of the Imphal campaign to defend Kalewa and to carry out offensive operations on the Haka Falam front.
24 February Shah Nawaz establishes his regimental base at Nauchawng.
25 February Takes charge of defence of Falam
3 April Takes charge of defence of Haka
March The third INA battalion is called upon from Kalewa to take part in action against Tiddim
2 and 3 Guerilla Regiments of the INA reaches Rangoon from Malaya and joins the Yamamoto Detachment (33 Division) ordered to take Tamu and Palel airfield.
19 March INA forces in the Imphal campaign enter Indian soil
22 March Tojo announces in the Diet, “the land of India…will be placed completely under the administration of Free India Provisional Government.”
Azad Hind Dal – a group of civilian administrators also trained in military discipline set up to prepare for establishing administration in the liberated areas. A Chief Administrator of the Liberated Territories is also appointed.
Netaji Fund Committee brought under the newly created Revenue Ministry. N Raghavan becomes Finance Minister. Another new ministry – Ministry of Manpower is also created.
17 April Col. MZ Kiani, commander of No. 1 INA Division sets up his Divisional Headquarters at Chamol.
28 April Regimental Headquarters of INA’s 2 Regiment set up at Khanjol.
30 April A task force of the regiment mounts an attack on Palel
April Commander of the No. 1 Regiment reports to Bose that rations could not be transported to the frontline units due to complete breakdown of the transport system, and that the soldiers at the front were surviving on jungle flowers and grass.
May Part of the second INA battalion raids the British patrol base at Klang, about twenty miles west of Haka
Commander of the BAA, Lt. Gen. Kawabe visits the front and is convinced that the Imphal campaign had failed. On his return, Kawabe visits Bose to apprise him of the poor condition at the front. Bose offers immediately to send the remaining INA forces.
From May, Bose is cut off from the front.
The Japanese 15 Army completely exhausts its provisions for the Imphal campaign
No. 2 Regiment of the INA, which appeared on the front with 10 days’ supply, starts its operations under these circumstances.
With onset of monsoon situation deteriorated. Almost all members of No. 1 Regiment suffering from malara, with 70% hospitalised.
The 3 Regiment of the INA reaches the front towards the end of May and takes a defensive position around Narum
15 May MZ Kiani, the Divisional Commander, reports to the INA Headquarters the serious administrative difficulties the No. 2 Regiment is facing, followed by an urgent telegram requesting lorries, horses and provisions.
5 July BAA announces the order to abandon the Imphal campaign. It is only then that Bose comes to know of this situation.
9 July Kawabe orders a general withdrawalz
September Bose inspects the soldiers returning from the front. Realising the futility of the Japanese liaison agency, he sets up a War Council to look into the requirements of the future military campaign.
29 October Leaves for Tokyo to meet the new prime minister Gen. Kaiso, with two members of the war council – Chatterji and Kiani. A number of agreements were reached, including – (a) the INA would be subject only to the INA Military Code and not to the Japanese military regulations, (b) the strength of the INA would be increased to forty five thousand, (c) the Japanese would advance loan to the PGFI, which would be paid back later, etc.
October-November In his meeting with the Supreme Military Headquarters, Bose finds out that not only would the Japanese be able to supply any more arms and ammunitions to the INA, they in fact want the small arms back from the INA.
21 November A liaison conference between the IGHQ and the Japanese Cabinet decides to send a diplomatic representative to the PGFI.
July, Gen Tojo approves the idea of the Provisional Government
December Bose returns to Malaya from Tokyo in the middle of the month.

1945

February-April The Second Division of the INA puts up an unsuccessful resistance to the Allied Forces towards Meiktila in Burma. The Third INA Division is deployed to defend Malaya.
May A part of the INA surrenders to the Allied Forces in Rangoon
Bose commands a withdrawal of the remaining INA forces and the Jhansi Regiment from Burma.
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