In southeast Asia, during the Second World War, the Japanese troops had occupied the British colonies of Singapore, Malaya, and Myanmar. As a result, a large number of Indians fell into their hands as prisoners of war. These soldiers wanted to free India from British rule. Thus, the Indian Independence League was formed under the guidance of Rash Behari Bose. The main aim of the League was to mobilize the Indian soldiers and community for securing independence. The main events that led to the formation of the Indian National Army areas follow.
Formation of the Indian National Army
Rash Behari Bose, an Indian revolutionary and an organizer of the Indian Independence League planned the Tokyo Conference. The aim of holding the Conference was to meet the military officers of Japan. The main programs of the Conference were to expand and strengthen the Indian Independence League, to form an Indian National Army, and to hold a Conference of the representatives of Indians in Bangkok in June 1942.
- The Bangkok Conference held from 15 to 23 June 1942 was attended by more than 150 Indian delegates from Malaya, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Hong Kong, Manila, and Java.
- The Indian National Army or the Azad Hind Fauj was established on 1 September 1942 and Captain Mohan Singh was declared as its Commander-in-Chief.
- The delegates to the Conference invited Subhas Chandra Bose for leading the movement to free India from British rule.
- Bose accepted the invitation and reached Singapore in June 1943 and took over the leadership of the INA.
- The INA consisted of a large number of soldiers who were captured by the Japanese forces in Myanmar, Malaya, and Singapore. Some of his famous battle cries were “Give me blood, and I will give you freedom” and “Delhi Chalo”.
- A women’s wing of the INA was also set up. It was named after Rani Laxmi Bai. This wing was led by Dr. Laxmi Swaminathan.
- Subhas Chandra Bose also founded the Provisional Government of Free India in Singapore on 21 October 1943. This government was recognized by nine governments including Germany, Italy, Japan, and Myanmar.
- The Provisional Government of Free India acquired its first territories when Japan handed over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to it.
Also, Read The Rise of Assertive Nationalism
Objectives of the Indian National Army
- To fight the British army with modern arms and weapons.
- To organize Indians living abroad and plan an armed revolution against the British Government.
- To organize the Provisional Government of Free India
- To mobilize manpower and money for the war against the British
- The motto of the INA was “Unity, faith, and sacrifice”.
Victories of INA in Southeast Asia and Subsequent Retreats
- The INA along with the Japanese army overran many territories in South Asia. It captured Mowdok, a place near Chittagong. It then captured Kohima and reached Imphal.
- However, when the INA was just near Imphal, the Japanese troops had to withdraw their forces from the border because of their confrontation with the Americans in the Pacific Ocean.
- The onset of heavy rainfall also prevented the INA from capturing Imphal.
- The INA withdrew to Burma and continued to hold it for almost a year. A year later in May 1945, Burma was recaptured by the British forces.
- The defeat of the Japanese forces in the Second World War also marked the defeat of the INA in India.
- Subhas Chandra Bose was killed in an airplane crash while flying to Tokyo.
Significance of the Struggles of Indian National Army
The INA gave tough fights to the British. It not only advanced up to the frontiers of India but also captured the strong military post of Klang Klang. It also captured Ukhral and Kohima. Although the INA did not succeed in its mission to liberate India, its contribution to the Indian independence movement was immense. The INA inspired uprisings in the armed forces of the country. The Indian Naval ratings in Mumbai rose in revolt against the British.
Similar uprisings took place at Kolkata, Chennai, and Karachi. These uprisings shook the foundation of British rule in India. The heroic deeds and sacrifices of the soldiers of the INA led to the awakening of political consciousness among the Indians. The British now realized that they cannot continue to rule India for long.