Indian Defence

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose & The Rise of Indian National Army

Hello defence lovers! On the event of the Birth Aniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, we will discuss his role in the Indian Independence movement and his contribution to the Indian armed forces. On the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary let us look at his forgotten contribution.

Early Life of Netaji

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Cuttack on 23rd January 1897 in an elite household. From a very early age, he was a meritorious child. However, he was greatly inspired by the revolutionary thoughts of his elder brother Sarat Chandra bose.

After completing his initial studies at Presidency University and Scottish Church College in Kolkata, he went to England to appear for Indian Civil Sevices in 1919. In the preliminary stages, he secured 4th rank. However, during the course of the exam, he changed his mind and withdrew his candidature.

Netaji Returned to India in 1921. Upon his arrival, he immediately met with Mahatma Gandhi. From then onwards he actively joined the Indian freedom struggle. He was elected as the president of the Indian National Congress in 1938. Though there was an internal power struggle and conflict of opinions. let’s not discuss that over here. Later during a mass protest in Kolkata, he was arrested. However, he was later released and kept under house arrest following his 7 days long victorious hunger strike.

Netaji’s Escape To Nazi Germany

In 1941, Netaji slipped out of the surveillance of the British, disguised as a Pathan. His initial destination was Afghanistan. From Afghanistan, he traveled to the Soviet border. He reached Moscow disguised as an Italian Nobleman. He had hoped that the Soviets will help him in his fight against the Imperial British Empire. However, he was disappointed with the cold soviet response and wasted no time and reached Berlin via Rome. In Berlin, Netaji met Adolf Hitler who promised him many favors.

The Indian Legion

Indepedence is not given, it is taken

Netaji Subash Chandra Bose

With Hitler’s support, Netaji started the Azad Hind Radio that broadcasted all over Nazi Germany. IT pleaded with the Indians to fight for the Axis powers to defeat the British Empire. Finally, he established the Indian Legion consisting of 4500 British Indian Prisoners Of War (POWs) who were captured in North Africa. It became the 950th infantry regiment of the Nazi German army. The aim was to invade India through the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. However, when Operation Barbarosa ( the Invasion of Soviet Union ) turned out to be a disaster for the Nazis, the Indian Legion was abandoned by Netaji who traveled to his next destination Japan in search of hope. Later the Indian Legion or “Azad Hind Legion ” was merged with Waffen-SS and it fought with the Axis against the allied powers in various theatres of war including the Atlantic Wall, the Italian front, etc. Hitler believed that Indians were of Aryan descent and hence were a pure race to serve Nazi Germany.

The Rise of Indian National Army

Give me Blood! I will give you Freedom

Netaji Subash Chandra Bose

In 1943, Netaji realised that Nazi Germany was in no condition to help him, as Hitler was preoccupied with the rapid Soviet advance into the areas which the Nazis controlled earlier. Netaji was also aware of the fact that Mohan Singh in Japan had organized the Indian POWs into a fighting force called the Indian National Army. This army was later known as the First INA. The Japanese advance into the Malaya and Thailand was rapid. In that campaign, the Imperial Japanese forces had taken nearly 40,000 Indian POWs. Later the command of the First INA was given to Indian Freedom fighter Rash Bihari Bose. However, due to some conflict of opinion in the leadership, the first INA was on the verge of collapse before seeing any action. The Japanese along with Mohan Singh was of the opinion that Netaji will be the perfect person to lead the Indian Independence movement in East Asia. Thus in January 1943, the Japs invited Netaji to lead INA. He left Germany on 8th February 1943, on a German U boat U180. The U boat traveled around Cape of Good Hope and transferred him to Japanese Submarine I 29 on 26 April 1943 off the coast of Mozambique. Then I 29 completed its journey safely and thus Netaji reached Japan. On 11 May 1943, he met Hideki Tojo and the Japanese High command who promised him every possible assistance. In July he reached Singapore and assumed the command of the Indian National Army. During this ceremony, he gave his famous slogan “Give me blood! I will give you freedom”. Under his command, the fighting force was known as the Second INA.

The Battle of Imphal and Kohima

On 23rd October 1943, INA formally declared war against Britain and the United States. The Japanese offensive on India code-named operation U-Go was launched from Japanese occupied Burma. To ensure the participation of INA, its headquarters was shifted to Rangoon. Netaji’s plan was to break through the British defences at Imphal and cross the hills of North-East into the Gangetic planes. Here INA would fight guerrilla warfare with captured British supplies and ammunition. He expected the Indian soldiers to defect and join the INA.

The initial offensive was quite successful as the INA along with Japanese troops broke the British lines and Imphal. This was a historic moment for INA and Netaji himself as his forces were on Indian soil for the first time. Then INA pushed forward and captured Kohima as well. However, the British brought brute force in form of the Gorkhas and heavy bombing. With complete allied air supremacy, it was very difficult for INA to hold its ground. The situation was made even worse by poor logistics and monsoon. The soldiers started dying out of starvation and diseases rather than enemy bullets. Finally, the INA was ordered to withdraw. The retreating forces were pursued by the Maratha Light Infantry. The battle of Kohima and Imphal turned out to be a disaster as INA lost a substantial number of men and amounts of material.

Soon the allied forces broke into the Japanese territory of Burma, and eventually, Rangoon fell. The remaining INA forces marched on foot to Bangkok. On 18th August 1945, Netaji is believed to have boarded a Japanese bomber that intended to carry him to the Soviet border. However, that plane crashed in Taiwan and Netaji was carried to a nearby hospital with third-degree burns. However, what happened after that is a complete mystery. Some files related to this event are classified even to this day.

Mutiny In The British-Indian Barracks

As Japan surrendered to the Allied forces, the INA also surrendered. The INA officers were tried for treason in the red fort trials (INA trials). In the post-war period, the Indian troops were divided into two factions. One faction sympathized with the ideology of INA and the other one saw them as traitors. However, when the war ended there was no requirement for such a huge Indian army. A significant chunk of the army was disbanded as it was impossible for the war-torn British empire to maintain it. The Indian veterans of the second world war, who deserved rewards for their exemplary courage and devotions were left empty-handed. In that situation, the sense of nationalism shot up among the Indian troops and the support for INA PoWs began to grow. The British officers were very well aware of the courage of Indian soldiers as they had seen them in action during the second world war. Largely outnumbered British troops feared a mutiny due to rising INA sympathy. Indian sailors rebelled and commandeered more than 70 vessels. The British officers were forced to jump off these vessels to save their lives. However, this mutiny was somehow suppressed. But the British leadership was too scared to stay in India. The British left India in haste and the sun of independence rose on 15th august 1947.

The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny

The Battle of Imphal

The Battle of Kohima

Further reading links

Netaji’s Legacy

Netaji is one of the most important freedom fighters. For a long time, Netaji and INA’s contribution to the freedom struggle were buried down in the pages of history. Vested political interests of India’s oldest political party might be the reason. Perhaps that is why some files related to Netaji’s death and the plane crash are even classified today. However, to pay respect to the contribution of INA and Netaji, his birth anniversary on 23rd January will be celebrated as “Parakram Diwas” or “Valour Day”. Without him, our nation would not have been the same place as it is today.



Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant preparing to be an officer in the prestigious Indian armed forces. Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream.

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