TODAY -

Revisiting Netaji's Role in the Freedom Struggle of India, INA and Manipur Perspective
- Part 2 -

Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte *



Indian National Army (INA) museum and a Statue of Netaji Subashchandra Bose at Moirang
Indian National Army (INA) museum at Moirang



It will be interesting to elaborate how Manipur became a Warfield during Second World War. On 10 and 16 May, 1942 Imphal the capital city of Manipur was bombed by the Japanese as their first raid. Thousands of Indian refugees were fleeing from Burma through Manipur. And, Imphal became the forward base of new forces built up by the Allied Forces.

The intelligentsia including the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha – a political organisation had been waiting for impending changes in the emerging political and military scenario of the world. As had been said by Netaji, "The enemy of the British is the friend of India". Germany, Italy and Japan though they were branded as fascist, all the leaders and workers of the Mahasabha regarded them as friends contended by Koireng.

Moreover, the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha had identical ideas and objectives with the Indian National Congress welcomed the appeal made by Netaji. Thirteen members of the Mahasabha, namely, (1) Th. Angou Singh, (2) P. Tomal Singh, (3) S. Ibohal Singh, (4) I. Tombi Singh, (5) L. Bijoy Singh, (6) L. Kanhai Singh, (7) M. Jatra Singh (8) W. Gyaneswar Singh, (9) M. Amuba Singh, (10) L. Irabot Singh, (11) Kh. Jugeswar Singh, (12) Smt. O. Keinya Devi and (13) Smt. K. Randhoni Devi reached Moirang secretly. They joined together with the members of Moirang and worked out their plans which could be seen by their actions.

The INA along with the Japanese forces reached Manipur on 18th March, 1944 by crossing the hill tracts of Indo-Burma border the 15th Japanese Division with one INA regiment marched towards Tamu and Ukhrul in two ways. Ukhrul was captured. They further advanced towards Imphal-Dimapur road. In the meantime another group of the Division reached Pallel but they could not come down to the valley and for that matter the British forces could not stay in the hills but in the valley only. The combined forces of INA and 33rd Japanese Division advanced upto Kohima and Imphal towards Tiddim Road by capturing the British Defence Base at Khuga Valley, Yaiyok (Zezo), Thingkaiphai, Churachandpur.

In this connection, it will be relevant to mention that some 32 (thirty-two) Meetei who earned their livelihood in Burma joined the movement under the leadership of Shri L. Guno Singh of Khurai (Manipur) and operated in the battle-front as an advance party. 13 out of the 32 Meeteis reached Pallel and tried to secure the secrets of enemy and also sought the support of local people. One of them was arrested at Sugnu.

A large number of Manipuri tribals who were the erstwhile members of the British "V" Force also joined the movement and participated in the war front. One Kuki, named Lulngam Lhungdim even brought the message of Netaji from Chamol (INA Advance Base Camp) and handed it over to Dr. Gulapchand Singh, the then Medical officer posted at Sugnu, which rehanded over to Shri Thokchom Angou Singh of Singjamei, Imphal.

Then the British force began to retreat and took defensive measures at Phougwakchao – Ithai, Tronglaobi and Okshangkhong but of no avail. Consequently they were forced retreat and its surrounding areas to Phuballa, Ningthoukhong and then to Bishenpur – Thus the withdrawal of the 17th British Division was completed on April 13, 1944. Before the retreat of the British from Tronglaobi was their strong defence base till April 13, 1944.

In the early morning of April 14, the leaders of the Indo-Japanese advance party had discussions with M. Koireng Singh, (2) L. Sanaba Singh, (3) K. Kanglen Singh and (4) M. Mani Singh and others all of Moirang at Tronglaobi Village. After taking stock of the situation, at about 5 p.m. on the same day Col. Soukat Ali Malik, planted the Tricolour Flag with springing Tiger as emblem at the historic Moirang Kangla where the INA Martyrs' Memorial Complex is, at present taking shape.

It was unfortunate that the Germany's defeat in the war in April and her surrender on 3rd May, 1945 as well as the dropping of atom bombs in Hiroshima (6th August, 1945) and Nagasaki (9th August, 1945), compelled Japan to surrender to the Allied forces in the middle of August 14, 1945, the INA at Rangoon also surrendered. The members from Manipur were also arrested by the Rangoon occupying Allied Forces from their hiding places through a tip for Manipuris and put in Rangoon Central Jail.

It will be relevant to know that Manipuris who took part in the INA at Rangoon were in Guest Houses at Kandogulay, Rangoon. (1) L. Irabot Singh, (2) Kh. Jugeshwar Singh and (3) I. Tombi Singh joined the active services of the INA and (1) Smt. O. Keinya Devi and (2) Smt. M. Randhoni Devi joined Jhansi Rani Regiment. The other members were attached to the Intelligence group of the INA.

However, Subhas did not lose hope, his aspirations to achieve independence was living. On the 25th April 1945, a few days before the Japanese evacuated Rangoon, he flew out of the capital leaving behind a message in which the Government and people of Burma for their help and hospitality, and stated, inter alia:

"I am leaving Burma with a very heavy heart. We have lost only the first round. There are many more rounds to fight… I have always said that the darkest hour precedes the dawn. We are now passing through the darkest hour; there the dawn is not far off; India shall be free".

Whatever said and done, we assure that his foundation of the Indian National Army, its organisation in the foreign land, its programme for complete independence – all speak of his highest degree of capability during the Second World War. The great mission was executed in a grand manner and successes of the INA brought about a great damage to British interests in South-East Asia. Moreover, Rajaram contended that "the Indian Armed Forces began to see themselves as defenders of India rather than of the British Empire. This, more, than anything else, was led to India's freedom".

In this connection, it is pertinent to observe the contention of Chhabra :

"The public enthusiasm shown at the time of the INA trials the demonstrations of the Calcutta students on 19 November, 1945, who despite the police firings and lathi charge, could not be prevented from marching to the Dalhousie Square; the violent Mutiny of 3000 naval ratings on 19 Feb, the spread of this trouble to Karachi, Madras, Calcutta and Delhi and sympathetic hartals in the cities; all this showed that the fire of disaffection had spread from students to labourers, peasants, shopkeepers and now even to the common soldier without whose help the British could not stay on even for a day.

Furthermore, Rajaram justifically maintained : "This is also the reason why the British Empire disappeared from the face of the earth within an astonishingly short space of twenty years. Indian soldiers, who were the main prop of the Empire, were no longer willing to fight for the British. What influences the British decision was mutiny on 18th February, 1946 of the Indian Navy following the INA trials in 1946. While the British wanted to try Subhash Bose's INA as traitor, Indian soldiers saw them as nationalists and patriots. This scared the British. They decided to get out in a hurry".

Knowing the historical fact of facts, Rajaram emphatically asserted and reaffirmed on the subject matter that great historian R.C. Majumdar wrote, Subhas Bose with his INA campaigns probably contributed more to Indian independence than Gandhi, Nehru and their movements. Moreover, the result of Subhas Bose's activities was the rise of the nationalist spirit in the Indian Armed Forces. As a matter of facts the Quit India Movement launched in 1942 were not the last uprising against the British rule in India, it was rather a part of the ongoing politics in India.

Concluded ...


* Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Lecturer, Damdei Christian College, Motbung, Manipur. This article was posted on March 16, 2012



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