TODAY -

Moirang and Port Blair in the freedom struggle of India
- Part 1 -

Y Modhu Singh *

 Indian National Army (INA) museum at Moirang :: June 2011
Indian National Army (INA) museum at Moirang :: June 2011



In the struggle for India's freedom unfurling of the Tri-Colour is the rarest of the rare events. Among them hoisting of the Tri-Colour by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Port Blair on 30th December, 1943 and plantation of the Tri-Colour by Col Saukat Ali Malik, Commander of the Bahadur Group (Intelligence Wing of the INA) at Moirang on 14th April, 1944 are historic events which Modern Indian Historians ought to introspect with care and caution.

Except for difference in the interpretation of circumstances, nature of events and impacts there is no duplication or contradiction of facts about the historicity of the two events. Chronology or historicity does not dispute the facts either relating to the two events at all. A Historic Destiny of India Netaji did not conform with Gandhiji at all on the means to be adopted for the independence of India. Ever since the Tripuri Session, March, 1939 Netaji was pleading for all out struggle for the liberation of India.

However, Gandhiji was equally self-confident in the means of moral weapons he was adopting for the freedom of India. This acute and uncompromising difference led to the formation of the Forward Bloc. Rigorous campaign of Netaji against British imperialism in many forums including Anti-compromise campaign at Ramgarh in March, 1940 and his involvement in the demolition of Holwell Monument provided the British Government an opportunity to arrest him on July 2, 1940 and later keep him under house arrest.

However, he exercised a perfectly thought out plan and managed to escape from India. He reached Berlin and met Hitler to secure support from Germany to let loose the fetters of 380 million Indians from the British colonial yoke but in vain. At that time 3 million Indians in East Asia (EA) and South East Asia (SEA) had already organised among themselves under the umbrella of Indian Independence League (IIL) led by Rash Bihari Bose for the cause of political independence of India.

Circumstances demanded a charismatic leadership with which the set gear of freedom movement in EA and SEA could be shaped and steered. The Bangkok Conference held in June, 1942 endorsed Netaji to be invited to assume leadership of the movement in EA and SEA. Protracted negotiations were held between Germany and Japan and it was agreed that Netaji should reach SEA by any transit modality.

It prompted for a 90-day perilous under water journey of Netaji and reached Sabang (Sumatra) on May 6, 1943. All the activities of Netaji in the succeeding months as the President of IIL, proclamation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, assuming Head of the State, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Indian National Army, declaration of war on England and America, total mobilisation in EA and SEA for a National liberation movement and securing support from Imperial Japanese Government etc. are the chronicles that became a historic destiny of India.

Hoisting of the Tri-Colour Flag at Port Blair The Nazi campaign in Europe put heavy pressure on England and as a result, there was a power vacumn in SEA. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 and subsequent overrun of the entire SEA including Andaman and Nicobar Islands in about two and half months brought about Japanese legitimacy to exercise military hegemony in her zones of defacto occupations in SEA. The fall of Singapore on February 15, 1942 in the hands of Japan was a turning point in which a large number of British Indian soldiers surrendered as `POWs' and later volunteered themselves to be recruits of the INA.

A situation happened when the Axis powers held a meeting on January 18,1942 and reached an understanding that German and Italian military operations from the west and Japanese advance from the east were to end at 70 0 E which runs at the extreme west of Gujarat (Kutch). As such, demarcation so made over, a large part of undivided India fell into the zone of Japanese military activities. Soon after Netaji reached SEA he met Japanese political and military leaders and secured support of a liberation war - man, money, morale, ammunition and diplomatic support etc. `quite commensurate' with the potential requirement of waging a war of liberation for 38 crore Indians.

The Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo announced in the concluding session of East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere Conference held at Tokyo on November 5 and 6, 1943 that "Japan is ready to transfer the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Provisional Government of Free India in near future." Accordingly, Netaji visited the Andaman Island to officially take over the area as sovereign territory of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and hoisted the Tri-Colour at Port Blair on December 30, 1943. Lt. Col. AD Loganathan was made the Chief Commissioner of Anadaman and Nicobar Islands which were rechristened as Shahid and Swaraj.

Thus, Andaman and Nicobar Islands became the first soil of India to have been 'liberated' from British colonial rule. Plantation of the Tri-colour at Moirang and After Preparations for the operation of 'Battle of Imphal' were planned. Three Divisions of Imperial Japanese Army and one Division of the INA were to be engaged.

Formations of the Imperial Japanese Army were 33rd Division, 15th Division and 31st Division and their Head Quarters were located at Kalimyo, Thaungdut and Homalin-Tomanthi all in the northern Burma lying in vertical position facing westward respectively 17th British Division located at Tiddim, 20th Division at Kabaw Valley and 15th Division at Imphal. Each of the three Nippon Divisions came with a regiment of the INA and they were engaged in the Arrakan, Manipur and Nagaland. Field Marshall Slim of the British Army planned how to face the Japanese offensive including airlifting of a division (Division No. 5) from Arrakan to Imphal.

The people of Manipur believed that a 'Japanese War' was imminent ever since the influx of about 2 lakh refugees from Burma to Manipur and dropping of two powerful bombs at Imphal by Japan in May, 1942 as their first ever air raid. Many innocent people including women and children were killed.

All prisoners from Imphal Jail escaped; treasury and banks were looted; business at Khwairamband Bazar paralysed;; prices of essential commodities shot up; educational institutions were closed for six months; most people left their homes and hearths and took shelters in far flung villages; Imphal became a ghost city and even State Darbar, the highest administrative seat had to be shifted to the house of Khomdram Angangjao Singh at Kwakeithel.

After a lull of two years Subhas Brigade in the front backed by 33rd Division of the Imperial Japanese Army crossed over to Indian territory (Manipur) on 18th March, 1944. Repulsing the British Division 17 they completely liberated the southern hill ranges of Manipur (now Churachandpur & Pherzawl District). People in the valley of Manipur were alerted when Thokchom Angou Singh of Singamei got secretly a handbill brought by an officer from the INA base camp at Molai located near Indo-Burma border.

Shri Angou with 12 other co-workers of his party Praja Sanmelani of which he was the president secretly sneaked into Moirang and worked together with local leaders of Moirang in the war efforts.At the behest of village chowkidars the people of Moirang left their homes and took shelters at the hill islands of Loktak Lake. The Manipuris (Meiteis) celebrated Cheiraoba Festival (New Year) on 14th April, 1944.

To be continued....


* Y Modhu Singh, Associate Professor (Retd.) Moirang , wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 13 2023 .



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