Struggle for our freedom had many participants – some extraordinarily brave, some good, some opportunists and some bad. And then there was one extraordinary man who became a legend, who shook the world’s largest empire to its core & changed history so profoundly that it took decades of deceit & skulduggery by the “pretenders” to write him out of history. This is his story, this is also our story.


Ideas will work out their destiny and we who are but clods of clay encasing the Divine Fire have only to consecrate ourselves to these ideas. Subhash Chandra Bose, Insein Jail, May 6, 1927

January 23, 1897, his was a difficult birth but after a long night, he came into the world as the ninth child of Jankinath Bose and Prabhavati. Like all great men, he too was born at a time that was unique. It was a time of the confluence of two epochal events – the empire was celebrating the diamond jubilee year of Queen Victoria’s reign and her assumption of the formal title of Empress of India AND it was also the time of a great famine in Hindustan. In this time of celebration and mourning, of opulence and poverty, he came into this world. Jankinath named him SUBHASH CHANDRA BOSE.

He spent a privileged childhood in Cuttak, Orissa. Like so many children of that time he grew up in two worlds – learning latin and bible in the Protestant European School (PE) and imbibing Sanatan teachings at home. The curriculum was designed to make the students English in their mental makeup. His time in Cuttak kept him insulated from the anti-colonial movements like the Swadeshi movement. Even the partition of Bengal and the consequent turmoil of resistance was far away from his insulated upbringing in the European island that was the PE. By now Subhash had started feeling a sense of alienation to the sequestered atmosphere of his childhood. He then moved to Ravenshaw Collegiate School. Here he was first introduced to Bengali literature and language. Once again his dogged determination put him at the top of his class


His first guru was Beni Madhav Das, his headmaster. He instilled in him a deep sense moral values. His next guru was Swami Vivekanand. Subhash was 15 years old when he first “met” this great Hindu saint. Subhash knew him through Swami ji’s letters and speeches. It was the immortal words “Atmano Mokshartham Jagaddhitaya” of Swami Vivekananda that formed the basis of Subhash’s life – his life’s goal. The hita (good) of mankind was rendered achievable through seva (service). His young mind added “service to one’s country” to the above maxim. Subhash found this simple yet profound philosophy more attractive than the “modern utilitarianism” of Bentham & Mill. His third guru was Ramkrishna Paramhansa. Subhash internalized his guru’s dictum that “only through renunciation was realization possible” Swami Aurobindo & Rabindranath Tagore influenced Subhash’s “Calcutta Phase” of life. Swami Aurobindo’s words “I should like to some of you become great; great not for your own sake but to make India great, so that she may stand up with head erect amongst the free nations of the world” showed him the path that would see him give his all to the greatness of his Matrubhumi.


The Indian National Army was formed as a result of the efforts of three men:
Major Iwaichi Fujiwara of the Imperial Japanese Army, Captain Mohan Singh of the British Indian Army and Pritam Singh of the Indian Independence League (IIL).

The IIL was led by the illustrious “sensei” Rash Behari Bose who had the overall command of INA. The INA was the military wing of the league. After its defeat in 1942 and near disbanding (by Mohan Singh – 29th December,1942), the INA was finally forged into a weapon – a SWORD, by Subhash Chandra Bose. He rechristened it the Azad Hind Fauj. His creation, this fauj would strike the British Indian empire at it heart and force the sun to finally set on an “empire where the sun never set”

The INA existed in two distinct incarnations.

THE FIRST INCARNATION – After the British surrender at Singapore in February 1942, Mohan Singh recruited Indian troops of the British-Army from Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) camps with a view to eventually fighting the British in India. After Mohan Singh led INA failed in it’s initial excursions, Mohan Singh & the Japanese had differences over INA’s future….Mohan Singh was removed and INA became defunct, ending INA’s first incarnation.

THE SECOND INCARNATION – On 5 July 1943 which he called “the proudest day of his life”, Netaji reviewed as its Supreme Commander, the forces of Azad Hind Fauj drawn up in battle formation on the spacious grounds facing the Town Hall in Singapore. Addressing his army, he said:

” …. With the force of arms and at the cost of your blood you will have to win liberty. Then, when India is free, you will have to organize a permanent army of free India whose task it will be to preserve our liberty for all time. We must build up our national defense on such unshakable foundations that never again in our history shall we lose our freedom …. “

On 21 October 1943, he proclaimed the Provisional Government of Azad Hind at a historic assembly in Singapore. The Provisional Government was recognized by nine states including the then three world powers – Japan, Germany and Italy.


The independence movement in Hindustan was moving along slowly. The British & the elites of congress leadership were in a “slow dance” where every once in a while MKG would give out calls for resisting the British and the British would arrest this leadership and moved to comfortable jails or private residences. Here they’d spend a few days/months reading or writing. In the meantime the average Hindustani who had placed his trust in the elite leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi duo was fooled every time. The masses would put their lives on line and fight but when ever things would become too hot for the British MKG would step in with his brand Ahimsa and dissuade the protesters. Like many others, Subhash Bose tried to speed up things. Unable to do much in India, he fled captivity & through a long arduous journey through Afghanistan, Germany, Russia, Malaysia to Japan (18th June, 1943) & finally to Singapore where he took overall command of the INA. He used his Azad Hind Fauj to open another front against the British and attack the Eastern borders of the British Empire.


Translated by himself from the Japanese version
“Delhi, Delhi, to Delhi !”
The war-cry replies to a storm of cannon-balls,
And praises the might of powder and smoke.
Leap over the terror that trenches command.
And entrust your bones to a hill of the motherland
In a blazing sand that your palm grasps,
You will find all the rewards that Death bestows,
And the hunger you suffered from the hundreds of years, Can’t be filled till an Independence feast is spread.

This iconic poem of Azad Hind Fauj was ironically penned by a Japanese Yone Noguchi. It was with this clarion call of Dilli Chalo that Subhash Bose “Netaji” unleashed his fauj onto the British Empire.


15th August 1943, Subhash Chandra Bose, Public Meeting at Farrer Park, Singapore – “If 5 lakh Indians had gone to India (from Burma) with stones and brickbats, they could have killed 1 lakh Britishers”

FORMATION OF THE AZAD HIND PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT – On 21st October, 1943 in Singapore, Netaji and the leaders of Indian Independence League formed the Azad Hind Provisional Government. With it’s swearing in the final bugle for freeing Hindustan from the British was blown – full blast. The resonance of this momentous declaration sent shudders down the spine of the “empire”. Hindustan now had an army and had its own free government both headed by a legend – Netaji. In his speech, Netaji Subhash rededicated the clarion call of “Chalo Dilli”.


The British had always expected and prepared for an invasion from the North Western Border – the traditional ingress point of all invaders. But with 3 million Indians in its eastern empire, attack from the north eastern front was only a matter of time. By 1941-42, the Imperial Japanese Army had defeated the British and freed lands (Singapore, Burma etc) from British occupation. This let loose these 3 million Indians to join the INA and invade the empire.

The INA was full of pride and high spirits but it was poorly armed. They relied of IJA for heavy weapon (tank & artillery), logistics & air support. The plan was for both INA (led by Netaji) & Burma Area Army (led by IJL’s Lieutenant General Masakasu Kawabe) to act on a common strategy & operate out of Burma in close co-ordination with the 15th Army of the IJL (under Lieutenant General Renya Mutaguchi)

ARAKAN OFFENSIVE – March 1944, the Japanese forces accompanied by the Azad Hind Fauj (INA) began its offensive into India’s eastern frontier. Kawabe’s Burma Area Army & INA were tasked to initiate a diversionary attack on the Arakan province (Modern day Rakhaine – home state of Rohingya). In doing so they were to cover the southern coast and prevent sea based landing of allied troops as the INA moved into India. In the center, three divisions from Mutaguchi’s 15th army were push into Manipur to capture Imphal. The INA’s Special Services Group (aka Subhash Brigade), redesignated as the Bahadur Group worked with the advanced Japanese units and pathfinders in the opening stages of the Japanese offensive in the upper Burma region and into Manipur. These were tasked to infiltrate through British lines and approach units identified as consisting of significant Indian troops, and encourage them to defect. In early April a unit of the Bahadur Group, led by Col. Shaukat Malik, broke through the British defenses on 14 April 1944 to capture Moirang in Manipur (First Indian territory that got independence from British & saw the hoisting of the Indian Flag). The Azad Hind government took control of this independent Indian territory.

Meanwhile, the lightly armed 1st battalion of the INA’s 1st Guerrilla regiment was directed to towards the south to participate in another diversionary attack The unit left Rangoon in early February at reach Prome. From Prome, the unit marched across the Chin Hills to reach Taungup and then up the coast to reach Akyab in early March. Even though Kawabe’s forces couldn’t defeat the British forces under Messervy (17th Indian Division), INA’s 1st Battalion reached Mayu peninsula and there they defeated the British Commonwealth African units. From there INA entered India and occupied Mowdok near Chittagong


“The axiomatic superiority of the European over the Asiatic sustained a sever blow. The balance of prestige, always so important in the East, changed forever.” Clement Atlee, Ex PM Britain & Labor Party MP

This is the most brutal battle in INA’s history. It is often called the Thermopylae of India.

As the battle progressed IJL’s 31st Division engaged the British commonwealth forces at Kohima and the 15th Division moved to North-west of Imphal. The INA’s four guerrilla regiments (except for No.1 Battalion) were directed to push into India as soon as Imphal fell.

The 2nd and 3rd battalions, led by Col Shah Nawaz Khan reached the edge of Chin Hills. From this position, the 2nd battalion was divided into 2 units – One unit moved to relieve Japanese forces at Falam while the other unit moved to Hakha to attack the British. The 3rd battalion moved to Fort White in Tonzang area. From here they were to push into India past Masservy’s forces.

On the front lines the INA played a crucial role in providing protecting the southern flank of Mutaguchi’s forces. INA patrols raided and ambushed the British commonwealth forces as well as Chin irregulars (guerrilla forces). The INA proved its mettle in jungle warfare and guerrilla tactics by taking a number of prisoners & protecting the Japanese southern flank. By mid May, a unit of INA under Bobbie Ahmed attacked and successfully captured the strategic Klang Klang fort.

PREJUDICE OR BETRAYAL – Mutaguchi’s forces were defeated by Masservy and were forced to retreat. This was in sharp contrast to the success of INA which had redeemed itself with crucial victories. It is unknown but for some reason, Mutaguchi asked the INA forces to repair roads for the retreating IJL. Enraged and offended, the INA refused to be “pack mules” for the Japanese and returned to its base.

By mid May the IJL was forced to retreat form various fronts. This time they, again requested INA for help. Netaji ordered Shahnawaz Khan’s forces to attack Kohima. Khan moved INA’s 3rd & portion of the 2nd Battalion to wards Kohima but bythe time he reached there the IJL’s 31st was in full retreat. INA decided to attack Imphal and leave Kohima. INA’s 2nd Guerrilla Regiment, (Gandhi Regiment), consisted of two battalions. INA moved to attack the 15th Army’s offensive. By mid April the INA high command was informed of the Yamamoto force’s impending assault on the airfield at Palel. As the INA units were still far away, a force of 300 under Maj. Pritam Singh were tasked to move away & reach the destination under forced march. As Yamamoto’s men engaged the eastern flank of the airfield, the INA under Maj Pritam Singh attacked from the south.

Pritam’s unit was without machine guns or explosives. When they reached the airfield they were ambushed. Undeterred, by the end of the night, Pritam’s unit had made a number of counter-attacks. Inspite of this they were unable to break out of the ambush. Just as they were loosing hope, rest of the INA men arrived. As the skirmish turned into bloody fight as the INA men refused to give quarter & the British forces were forced to call for air and artillery support. The INA fought bravely but they were getting short of ammunition and the number of casualties was increasing under incessant attacks. Lack of sleep and hunger was ignored and the INA men of 2nd & 3rd fought on for 2 more days. But with over 200 dead and scores wounded, the INA was forced to withdraw. The 2nd Guerrilla was completely decimated and their role in further action ended. However they were not yet done with the fighting. They provided protective cover to the retreating Japanese. Through June, the unit maintained aggressive patrols south of Palel-Tamu road, mounting raids and laying ambushes against the by now advancing British forces. It started withdrawing with the Japanese in late June.

The 3rd Guerrilla, or the Azad regiment, was under the command of Col. Gulzara Singh. The unit was tasked to cover the right flank of the Yamamoto force. The unit stayed with the Yamamoto force, covering its right flank, and began retreating with it when it began withdrawing in mid-July.

The 4th Guerrilla, or the Nehru regiment, left Malaya and was the last among INA’s 1st division but they never made it to Chindwin.


After doing everything in their power to undermine Netaji and his Azad Hind Government, Congress misappropriated Netaji’s legacy and the treasury of the left over INA. During the Red Fort trial of INA soldiers, Nehru did an about turn and stood up to defend Shah Nawaz Khan from punishment. MKG always called Netaji misguided and yet he had no problem is using the fruits of his legacy to buttress his own politics. The Congress elites had rejected or even ignored INA,Netaji and his Azad Hind government in exile. They did not support any endeavor of INA even upto the months leading up to liberation of India. Nehru even went as far as disbanding the INA even when they had requested to be assimilated into the army of the newly independent India. Many were even denied respectable pensions or rehabilitation. And yet the congress had no problem in appropriating Netaji’s legacy and benefiting from the nationalist upsurge that INA created.


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