Moirang and Port Blair in the freedom struggle of India
- Part 2 -

Y Modhu Singh *

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

The 17th British Division could not resist the fast advancing 33rd Division of the Japanese Army and after fighting at Torbung, Phougak-Chao-Ikhai, Tronglaobi and lastly Okshongbung (Moirang) the previous day they completely withdrew (late evening) towards Phubala and Ningthoukhong leaving behind armoured vehicles and ammunition half-burnt. In the morning (of 14th April, 1944) it was reported secretly that some Indo-Japanese forces had reached Tronglaobi, a village 5 km away to the south of Moirang.

Local leaders led by Shri M. Koireng Singh (Ex- Chief Minister, Manipur) went to Tronglaobi and held discussion whole day with them. In the evening at about 5 pm a column of Bahadur Group (Intelligence Wing of the INA) led by its Commander, Col. Saukat Ali Malik accompanying Japanese soldiers under Capt. Ito arrived at Moirang.

Before the gathering of about 50/ 60 local people Col. Saukat Ali Malik planted the Tri-Colour in a ceremonial manner at the historic Moirang Kangla, an ancient citadel where the coronation of successive kings of Moirang was held. Moirang was declared to have been privileged as the sacred soil of India liberated for the first time after sacrifice and martyrdom by the INA from the British colonial rule. Col. Saukat Ali Malik addressed the gathering and Shri M. Koireng Singh translated the address into Manipuri language.

Gist of the version is " . . . .The Provisional Government of Azad Hind had declared war on England and America. The Indian National Army with the unstinted support of the Japanese Government had crossed the Indo-Burmese border and in the course of struggle for the liberation of the people of India from the British colonial yoke we have now reached Moirang. Our commitment is the March to Delhi and unfurl the Tri-Colour at Lal-Killa. Many had died on our way to reach here (Moirang) and many more would die on our way to Delhi. However, expulsion of the enemy from the sacred soil of India is a compulsion for us . . . . ."

The jubilant crowd felt thrilled and were ready to extend fullest support and co-operation to Indo-Japanese forces. On that day the Advanced INA Head Quarters was established at Moirang in the residential building of Shri H. Nilamani Singh (Ex-Deputy Education Minister, Manipur). It was from this Head Quarters that ran a war time office for about three months to conduct forward military operations and administer the liberated areas of which AC Chatterjee was designated Chief Administrator.

Participation of the local people in the war efforts was so active that they voluntarily donated rice, dry fishes, vegetables and other food grains to be distributed to the liberation army numbering about ten thousand for long three months. Shri H Nilamani Singh handed over Rs 21,000/- to Col Saukat Ali Malik which was of great help in the conduct of war. In return, Col SA Malik affectionately called him `sethy. With the monsoon accompanied by torrential rains the Indo-Japanese forces suffered reverses.

Adjoining areas of the Advanced INA Head Quarters located at Moirang were declared enemy zone; a large number of the Manipuris who worked for the INA were blacklisted; shoot-at-sight orders was passed on them including five local leaders of Moirang. The Manipuris who were involved in the battle front and extended support to the INA were compelled to retreat to Rangoon against heavy odds. Rangoon was no longer a safe zone for them.

It was reoccupied by the British and the Indian troops numbering about 17,000 strong were captured as prisoners. Those 'prisoners of war' who put up tough fight as soldiers of an organised army (INA) and waged a legitimate war for the National liberation of India under a legitimate Government were forced to be treated as felons, mercenaries, traitors and deserters and were subjected to the Indian Army Act and were brought to be Court martialled.

Impact of the War on India winning freedom The historic Red Fort Trial began its proceedings on 5th November, 1945. The best convincing argument of the chief defence counsel, Bhulabhai Desai with classic examples from British history had no merit in the eye of the British due to chauvinistic colonial interest. It sparked revolt in Royal Indian Navy in Bombay and later spread to Karachi, Delhi, Calcutta and Madras.

The police swung into action and in firing killed 217 and wounded over 2000. More than thousands of Royal Indian Air Force camped at Bombay demonstrated in sympathy of the navy. The mutineers equally retaliated when police and military personnel opened fire at Bombay and Karachi. Ultimately after the trial, field Marshall Auchinlec, the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army who remitted the sentence of transportation passed on the three INA officers 'for waging war against the king was over weighed by the consideration of prudence than of clemency.'

He wrote in a minute, " I have no doubt at all that to have confirmed the imprisonment solely on the charge of waging war against the king would have probably precipitated a violent outbreak throughout the country." The British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee alluded on March 25, 1946 ". . . . to the spread of National idea, not least perhaps among those soldiers who have done such wonderful service in the war as being responsible for the subsequent decision to quit India on August 15, 1947."

Analysis of the two historic events A mere analysis tells the truth that hoisting of the Tri-Colour Flag at Port Blair by Netaji on December 30, 1943 is a historical truth. No one can dispute it. Before this historic event there was no territory of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind. Consequent upon the announcement of the Japanese Prime Minister that Andaman and Nicobar islands were ceded to the Provisional Government of Azad Hind Netaji went there and hoisted the Tri-Colour Flag on December 30, 1943 and became the sovereign territory of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind.

The historic event had a large number of merits at that point of time. Rather, it was extremely exigent in National interest though it was without fire of a single bullet from the barrels of the INA soldiers. But plantation of the Tri-Colour Flag at Moirang by Col Saukat Ali Malik on April 14, 1944 happened on the territories liberated from the hands of the British colonial rule by the INA heroes after sacrifice and martyrdom.

Besides, the people of Manipur paid the price for the freedom of India. Loss of civilian lives including women and children was enormous, not to speak of live stocks and properties. Altogether 509 villages in the hills and valley of Manipur were devastated; approximately 6,000 houses were reduced to ashes and Moirang alone accounted the biggest number at 600 (but local account figured at 1000); and over 70 battles and pitched battles were fought according to HS Katoch.

Viscount Slim can be quoted that very close to the figure of Japanese casualties estimated at 65,000 against 1,15,000 soldiers before Imphal-Kohima Battle. It is believed that more or less equal number of British soldiers too suffered deaths against 1,50,000 at the beginning of Imphal Front. Number of INA soldiers who martyred in the battles was figured out at 'many thousands'.

Topography itself was a formidable challenge to war engineers; Forests were very treacherous; communication was extremely bad; subtopical insects were at large; giant leeches alone which were very common in the hills of Manipur claimed thousands of lives. Number of deaths inflicted on Nippon army and INA soldiers in certain battle fronts was so high due to starvation, privation, diseases like typhoid, diahorrea, dysentery, malaria, scrub typhus, and other forms of unprotected weather conditions.

In short, the United Kingdom's National Army Museum described in April, 2013 that the Battle of Imphal was `the Britain's Greatest Battle' in the history of warfare. Now, a true Indian may exercise his moral conscience on these two historic events at Moirang and Port Blair. For Netaji he stood for National freedom to be won from the hands of the British colonial rule by offering blood, not the kind of freedom to be begged for.

Postscript The INA soldiers fought heroic battles in the Arrakan, Manipur and Kohima and fell fighting for the sake of motherland. However, freedom lovers or, any family members of those noble souls cannot find a war cemetery where rich tributes can be paid.

On the other hand, there are war cemeteries at Imphal and Kohima proudly dedicating to those soldiers who laid down their lives while fighting resisting against the army of National liberation so that India does not win freedom. Is it not a failure of our duty to the Nation !


* Y Modhu Singh, Associate Professor (Retd.) Moirang , wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 18 2023 .

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