A banker by profession, Salim Ansar has a passion for history and historic books. His personal library already boasts a treasure trove of over 7,000 rare and unique books.
Every week, we shall take a leaf from one such book and treat you to a little taste of history.
BOOK NAME: My Adventures With the I.N.A.
AUTHOR: K R Palta
PUBLISHER: Lion Press,
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 1945
The following excerpt has been taken from Pages: 143 – 147
“To explain the crisis we must first describe the events that led to the formation of the I.N.A. and the Japanese policy in those days. The Japanese declared war on Britain and the United States on the 8th of December 1941 and almost simultaneously Jap armies started their advance in all directions. First capturing Hong Kong and Shanghai and then encircling Singapore and bombing Rangoon, they created panic among the whole of the East Asiatic civilian and military population. British propaganda had already succeeded in convincing the people that the brutal Japs would not spare the life of anybody and as the armies would advance ‘they would rape and molest women and Indian business houses would be occupied by Japanese business men.’ But the facts proved contrary to British propaganda. After the capture of Hong Kong, though the Japanese took the Indians and the British army men as prisoners of war, the civilian employees and the business houses were least interfered with by them. So it is no wonder that the Indians in Hong Kong had to revise their opinion about the so-called ‘Asiatic barbarians, the Japs.’ Hongkong fell like a house of cards, and the British, who had declared that they would fight to the last man for the honour of King and country were the first to run and hide in the houses of their Chinese girlfriends.
“Now both the Indian civilian and the Indian military were receiving good treatment at the hands of the Japanese and for the first time they felt proud of their country because of which they were respected by the Japanese. Indians in East Asia were the best treated men and many of the Chinese girls started marrying Indians to get financial and political security. Meanwhile, Major Fujiwara contacted the Indian civilian leaders and explained to them that Japan was ready to help the Indians in organizing an I.N.A. to fight against British rule in India and to support the cause of independence. They were willing to give help in arms and ammunition and other essential materials. Still a majority of the Indians followed the policy of ‘wait and watch.’ By the first week of March, Malayan Indian civilian representatives met in Singapore to consider the feasibility of forming the Indian Independence League. After the Malaya meeting Mr. Rash Behari Bose called for an official Indian delegation to go from East Asiatic countries to Tokyo to decide matters regarding the formation of I.N.A. etc. But instead only a goodwill mission went to Tokyo. Along with many civilians, Captain Mohan Singh and Lt-Col Gill went to Tokyo to attend the conference on behalf of the Indian military prisoners of war. It was decided at this conference to start the Indian Independence League with the object ‘to secure independence complete and free from domination, interference and control of whatever nature.’ One of the most important decisions was to raise an Azad Hind Fauj and also to call a meeting of all Indians in East Asia at Bangkok in June, 1942.
“The Bangkok conference was one of the historic conferences of Indians in East Asia and was attended by 110 delegates from all over East Asia and was purely a conference of Indians, with no direct or indirect interference from the Japanese. All the speakers freely spoke their minds regarding the doubtful motives of the Japanese. Many vehemently criticized Japanese imperialism. Sixty to seventy resolutions were passed and serious and heated discussions took place on each of the resolutions. The Army shared about 50 per cent of the seats in the conference. The Indian Independence League was now officially launched with its motto, ‘Unity, Faith, Sacrifice’.
“On the 15th February, 1943, the I.N.A. was reorganized, with Lt-Col. Bhonsle as Director of Military Bureau, Lt-Col. Shah Nawaz Khan as Chief of the General Staff, Major P. K. Sehgal as Military Secretary, Major Habib ul-Rehman as Commandant Officers’ Training School, Major Mata-ul-Mulk (brother of Lt-Col. Burhanud Din) as Reinforcement Commandant, Major A. D. Jahangir, in charge of Enlightenment and Culture, and several others.
“The previous Army badges and ranks were returned to the I.N.A. personnel and a regular army was formed. To begin with, though it did not possess the same zeal and gusto as the first I.N.A. it was fully conscious of its national duty.
“The Indian Independence League was reorganized into 12 departments, of which the Recruiting Department played a major and important role under the wise and wideawake secretaryship of Lt-Col, Ehsan Qadir, who had already earned wide popularity in East Asia by putting up extremely intelligent, thrilling and patriotic programmes from Saigon Radio, especially in Punjabi.
“Lt-Col Ehsan Qadir worked day and night to recruit the maximum number of civilians from East Asia and his appeals proved very effective. Volunteers came forward in their thousands His stirring words fell on willing and patriotic ears and the rush of civilians at the recruiting windows in Malaya was much more than expected or required. Even those who had never handled arms joined the I.N.A. in large numbers.
COL. MALIK AND THE BISHANPUR SECTOR
“Lt-Col. Malik was fighting in the Bishanpur sector. His reports to Netaji were extremely hopeful about the situation on the front. Men of the Indian Army in the Bishanpur area were deserting their British Indian Army units and were coming over to join the I.N.A. With the exception of a few of them, the rest were all sent back by Col. Malik, as there were no rations with the I.N.A. to feed them. They were asked to go back to their units, do propaganda to raise the ranks of the rebels in the Indian Army and to come over to the I.N.A. side after the fall of Imphal.
“The flag of Independent India was flying for the first time on the Naga and Manipur hills and the India’s Army of Liberation was standing on its own soil. The local population was coming to the Indian commanders with fruits and milk to pay their respects to the chiefs of the Free India Government. They gave their fullest co-operation to the I.N.A. Lt. Hari Singh who was working under Col. Malik, was awarded the Sher-e-Hind for his exceptional bravery in blowing up a bridge and leading a platoon of the I.N.A. against three companies of the enemy.
“There are many stories of justice done by the Indian commanders on the Imphal front. Col. Inayat Kiani, like Col. Malik, was approached by the border Kuki tribe and requested to decide their land disputes. Many cases of land litigation were decided by Col. Inayat Kiani and the judgments were gladly accepted by the litigants.
“Pretty, English-speaking Kuki girls were forced by the British military authorities to work as spies for them against the I.N.A. But these girls occasionally approached our commanders with all the British military secrets.
“The local population on the borders of India wholeheartedly welcomed and helped the I.N.A. At times when our men on patrol were entrapped by the enemy, the civilians gave them refuge in their houses even at the risk of their own lives. The I.N.A. had nothing material to give to these brave civilians except a word of thanks, wishing them ‘Jai Hind’. But the patriotic Indians always said: ‘We are not helping the I.N.A. to receive any favour or charity in return. We only wanted the freedom of our country in return for our services.’ The I.N.A. received letters on behalf of some underground revolutionary parties, who welcomed them and promised all-out aid after the fall of Imphal.
“In the Bishanpur sector where Col. Malik’s armies were advancing on Imphal the I.N.A. was about 10 miles from Imphal. Col. Inayat Kiani was, at that time, chasing the retreating Allied army at a distance of only five miles from Imphal. Col. Shah Nawaz and his army had penetrated 100 miles into India. Kohima was once captured and then lost to the enemy. The strategically important Assam-Bengal Railway was about to be cut off.
“In a special communique issued by His Excellency Netaji in Rangoon, Col. A. C. Chatterjee was appointed Governor of the liberated territory. Through an official declaration, the happy news of the I.N.A.’s victories were made known to the public. The Azad Hind Government headquarters was shifted from Rangoon to Maymyo, where Governor A. C. Chatterjee and His Excellency Netaji were staying with their respective staff.
“The Rani of Jhansi Regiment and the Azad Hind Dal personnel waited with the rest of the Governmental staff at Maymyo. Advance guards of this staff, comprising about 300 men, had already been dispatched to the liberated zone to help the I.N.A. in their administrative work. On March 19, the British forces had left the Chindwin and, after giving a two-day battle in Tammu and Moreh, had fallen back in the hills of Pallel and Imphal. Chamol and Pallel were captured by the I.N.A. Dimapur, Kohima, Bishanpur and many other small villages of strategic importance had fallen in our, hands and now the operations centred on Imphal.
“It was open talk in Burma that, after the fall of Imphal, the British would fall back to their defences on the opposite bank of the Brahamputra. The fall of Imphal had to be hurried through before the monsoon broke. A speedy victory must be won at any cost. Everybody expected to reach Calcutta by December, 1944. The Christians in the I.N.A. talked of celebrating Christmas in Calcutta.
“The Japs had already given an assurance to Netaji that Imphal would be taken by the end of March. The I.N.A., they said, need not carry much rations as all supplies, including clothes, food, medicines ammunition etc. would be available in Imphal in plenty.
“According to the offensive plan, the British were to be given no time to ‘scorch’ the Imphal supplies, before their retreat and our commanders calculated that thousands of the enemy forces would be encircled, and taken prisoner in the Imphal sector. Plans made were to receive the enemy prisoners. A large number of Indian soldiers were to be enlisted in the I.N.A. if they so wished, after they had fallen into our hands at Imphal. Even the sick in hospitals, who were waiting for major operations, talked of getting operated in Calcutta after its fall and they gladly waited for it.
“Young I.N.A. commanders were victoriously marching forward and had completely encircled the famous town of Imphal. The Raja of Imphal had fled and a number of Manipuri Brahmins had come over to our side. The British divisions at Imphal were about to flee and were only waiting for the orders of retreat from their commanders. Our soldiers, stationed on a high hill near Imphal, were getting full reports of the utter confusion within the enemy lines.
“When Imphal was crumbling before the mighty onslaught of the I.N.A, a state bank was opened in Rangoon to solve the currency problem in liberated zones. The bank had four directors under the chairmanship of the Finance Minister, Mr. Raghavan. Its branches were opened at Kamayut and Thingyungin. In October, 1944, a new branch of the bank was set up in Taungyi.
“The Burma Government, which in the beginning showed some reluctance in giving permission for the opening of a state bank, finally allowed a limited bank to be opened through the efforts of the late Mr. Yellappa, Minister of the P.G.A.H., who later died in Taungyi while on active duty.
“The Azad Hind Bank had much more money than the Burma State Bank. On the very day of its opening, about 600 accounts were opened by rich merchants and financiers of Burma and the deposits amounted to over Rs.30 lakhs. The Government now found a regular source of income through taxes realized from its Indian subjects.