The Formation of The Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army)

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Azad Hind Fauj

Originally founded by Captain Mohan Singh in Singapore in 1942, the Indian National Army (INA), Azad Hind Fauj, was a group of men and women who chose to fight for Independence against British with some help from the Japanese. The INA acted as a catalyst for the Indian Independence movement as it sped up the end of British rule in India. It was officially formed by Rash Behari Bose in 1942 and the responsibility of the leadership of the Indian National Army was given to Subhas Chandra Bose in the year 1943.

Insights of this blog are:-

  • Background Of The Story: How It All Started?
  • The Story of the Japanese and the Formation of the INA
  • The Working of the Indian National Army (INA) and the Aftermath
  • The Downfall of the Indian National Army and the Reasons Behind It
  • The Bottom Line

Background of The Story: How It All Started?

The Independence movement started in India between 1920s and 1930s were the prime reason behind the formation of the Indian National Army (INA) followed by:-

Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement

Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement, 1920-1922, which aimed to reject British rule by non-violent means played a crucial role in bringing thousands of Indians together. This movement also instilled and strengthened a feeling of nationalism amongst the Indian population both in India as well as beyond it. However, Gandhi Ji was arrested and was sent to jail for a period of 2 years, the effects of the movement were far-reaching as it leads to the emergence of newer generations of Indians from the Indian National Congress such as Subhas Chandra Bose who eventually lead the INA.

The Conditions in Singapore and Malaya Prior to 1942

In 1941, with the arrival of Japanese troops to the Malaya peninsula, the British Government started deploying a large number of Indian troops to Malaya Peninsula and Singapore. However, the British Indian troops stationed in Malaya and Singapore started facing various problems such as

  • Anxiety Issues as the troops were young and had very little or no combat training experiences.
  • Lack of Resources as the British forces were spread thinly and they were unable to allocate much of their resources to the forces stationed here.
  • Lack of Loyal Soldiers as the British resorted to indiscriminate recruitment methods to maintain the numbers for its army.

As a result of all these factors, the morale of the Indian troops in the British forces was already low by 1941, which paved the way for many soldiers to switch their loyalty to the Japanese in 1942.

The Story of the Japanese and the Formation of INA

Considering the above-mentioned factors, plans were made by the Japanese in early September 1941, to convince the British Indian soldiers in Malaya and Singapore. Major Iwaichi Fujiwara was assigned by the Japanese government to head to Bangkok to initiate the efforts. As a first step, Fujiwara sought out the highly popular and controversial Indian nationalist Pritam Singh who had fled from India to avoid arrest.

  • After this, Fujiwara and Pritam held a series of secret discussions during October and November 1941, in which Pritam convinced Fujiwara that the British Indian soldiers could be brought to their side only if the Japanese authorities promised the future prisoners of war the sparring of their lives.
  • Pritam also convinced Fujiwara, that in addition, the Japanese forces must help the British Indian troops free their nation from the clutches of the British.
  • Fujiwara duly agreed to all the terms, following which the Japanese troops started their journey from Southern Thailand to Malaya. As the troops moved forward to Northern Malaya, they were able to capture 1/14 of the British Indian soldiers of the Punjab Regiment.
  • Mohan Singh was tasked by Fujiwara to manage the POWs and maintain law and order in the area. Impressed by Mohan Singh’s leadership abilities, he sought Mohan Singh to help Japanese in their efforts. Fujiwara also offered him the opportunity to captain the Indian National Army. Singh accepted Fujiwara’s proposal but also laid down five conditions to which the latter agreed.
  • Consequently, Singh began to convince the British Indian troops to join the newly formed Indian National Army.

The Working of The Indian National Army (INA) and the Aftermath

  • During the Farrer Park Meeting on 17th February 1942, Fujiwara and Singh addressed 45,000 British Indian POWs for the first time. However, Fujiwara started addressing the troops with practicality stating that they would be treated as comrades and would be supported by Japanese troops if they combine with the Japanese forces, it was not until Mohan Singh addressed them, the POWs were convinced. Following Mohan Singh’s urge a large number of POWs started thinking of the proposal to join the INA seriously.
  • Following the event of 17th February 1942, a large number of POWs started joining the INA. The Indian troops who joined the INA were well fed, given less taxing duties, freedom and were also entitled to various forms of entertainment.
  • Apart from nationalistic feelings, many POWs joined simply because of other compelling reasons such as anger against the British, sense of security by the Japanese and the promise of escape from Starvation and Malnutrition.
  • It was a result of all this, that INA fought well against the British. They were involved in various military operations against the British and it’s allied forces and is known for their notable contributions in the battles of Burma, Imphal and Kohima between 1942-1945.

The Downfall Of The Indian National Army And The Reasons Behind It

Although the prevailing economic conditions and the insufficiency of the Japanese forces are considered as a prime reason behind the downfall of the INA, a multitude of factors contributed to the fall of the Azad Hind Fauj.

  • As a result of the Japanese losing their influence and footing in many regions of South East Asia, the socio-economic conditions deteriorated. Due to the Japanese losing occupation, the Indians faced severe food shortages.
  • The poor economic conditions faced by the Indians resulted in low morale in the ranks of the INA.
  • Adding to the woes, was the news of Imphal disaster in 1944, which contributed to the sense of hopelessness. A large number of troops began deserting the INA training camps and the remaining were reluctant to obey the Japanese forces. They themselves began to believe that the Japanese would soon be defeated by the allied forces.
  • Also, the third division of the INA was not allowed to go to Burma to fight for India’s independence, instead were tasked to protect the Japanese bases in Singapore and Malaya which rose their unhappiness.

Seeing all this, Subash Chandra Bose returned to Singapore in mid-June 1945. He tried hard to get INA back on track, but it was too late. By then, the rising dissatisfaction and lowering morale had already turned INA to Salvage. Finally, in August, Subash Chandra Bose was informed about Japanese decision to surrender and this marked the end of the INA and its activities.

The Bottom Line

Despite being dissolved in August 1945, the legacy of the Indian National Army continued ever after. It changed the policies of the British towards the Indian forces. The INA trials in 1945-1946 resulted in the mutiny in the Royal Indian Air Force and Royal Indian Navy and by 1946 it became clear that INA was able to arise nationalistic feelings amongst them.

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