SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE-THE ENIGMA -

Rani of Jhansi Regiment's march to the battle front
- Capt. L.C. Malik recounts his time spent in the INA




















Captain Lakshmi Sehgal-THEN AND 2012
leader of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment.
She was the Captain of INA during her
imprisonment in Burma. She mostly helped
the injured troops during the war by
forming a medical clinic

Puan Sri Janaky Athi Nahappan
founder of the Malaysian Indian Congress,
was one of the first women to take part in
the INA's Rani of Jhansi Regiment.

 

I was a junior officer in the administrative branch of Headquarters Supreme Command of the Azad Hind Fauj at Singapore when I was selected as one of the three officers to escort a detachment of Rani Jhansi Regiment from Singapore to the battlefront in North Burma.
It was a hazardous journey across three countries, Malaya, Thailand and Burma. Chances of bombardment from the air, due to the air supremacy of the British were high.
The journey, ardous and under trying conditions, took 40 days with the train (goods wagons) moving at snails speed at night with complete halts during the day.
During the halts utmost care was taken to camouflage the wagons as a precaution against air raids. The wagons would be dispersed and positioned at a distance from each other.
What was most remarkable and praiseworthy was the zeal and spirit of sacrifice of the girls. Though thousands of miles away from their home and hearth, kith and kin and facing an uncertain future fraught with risks, their enthusiasm did not wane.
Their voice had thunder and when in unison they shouted" Netaji Zindabad", the thunder resounded miles away.
No less was the enthusiastiac participation of the local population of Indian origin who thronged the various halting places in hundreds to congratulate and encourge the girls going to the battle front, fighting for the freedom of their Motherland. We were all through carrying a wagon load of food, fruit and other gifts given so lovingly by the local Indian populace.
Before moving to the actual battlefront, we came to be stationed at a place called Mamyo in central Burma about 60-70 miles in rear to the fighting lines.
I, in the advance headquarters of the supreme command of the Azad Hind Fauj and the detachment of Rani Jhansi Regiment in hutments close by.

The Imphal retreat
- Shali Ittaman

No battleground ever tested the INA steel more than Imphal of 1944. Forced against their will to retreat, the men braved worsening weather, disease and starvation to try and stay alive for the battle they hoped would win freedom for their homeland.
The fields of Kohima, especially stands witness to the bravery of these men, who even as they lay dying, had Jai Hind on their lips.
The retreat from Kohima was perhaps one of the most difficult retreats that any army in the world had made. Heavy rain had washed away all tracks. The kutcha tracks had become muddy, in which many of the men got stuck and died.

At that time there was no transport of any kind. Almost every man was suffering from dysentery or malaria. No one had any strength left in him to help anyone else. In that retreat, men ate horses which had been dead for four days. There were hundreds of bodies of soldiers who had died of exhaustion, starvation or disease, and some who faced with the prospect of falling into the hands of the British, had taken their own lives.
Amid all these miseries, the fortitude and the courage of the men lent an epic character to the tragedy. A former INA soldier recalls the incident of a man who, as he lay dying in his brother's arm, bid his brother to carry his message to Netaji that he died without yielding in spirit.
Another soldier who survived the cross, also recalls an incident when a Garhwali soldier who was no longer able to walk, broke down in tears. To lighten the weight of his haversack, when his ammunition was thrown away and "as a final insult" his gun was taken from him, his commander, a burly Sikh shouted: "This man would have died with his rifle in his hand and not as like a rat you have now turned him into. Who ordered this retreat."
For the survivors and many others who followed the history of the war, the experiences of the retreat range from dealing with death in the midst of indescribable suffering to coming face-to-face with awe-inspiring sacrifice and nobility of spirit.
There is a war report which helps to summarize the events and the spirit which guided them, most befittingly. "A man was seen crouching on the ground in the posture of one trying to defecate, with his body supported by a tree trunk. When he continued to stay like that, other approached him to find that he was already dead - victim of a type of dysentery. The soldier was a well-known Punjabi businessman, Khanna, who had donated his entire property and business worth several lakhs of rupees to the Azad Hind fund. After having donated everything, he joined the Subhas Brigade, his young wife volunteered for the Rani Jhansi Brigade and their son joined Netaji's Bal Sena."
This was a family, like many others, which had responded when Netaji asked for their blood.
 Leading from the front
 Never say die…
 Capturing Sita Hills
 Tracking the enemy
 March to Rangoon
 INA Women Brigade
 The Submarine Cross
 Missing INA Treasure
 The Great Escape


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Legion Freies Indien
known commonly as Azad Hind Fauj,
the stepping stone of the INA. It was
originally formed alongwith the German
army, and attacked the British army through
Baluchistan in 1941. Subhas Chandra Bose
was its co-founder. The force was also active
in Europe, particularly in Netherlands and France.
When the Third Reich surrendered in 1945, the troops
were captured in Switzerland, and were sent back to
India and were imposed charges of treason. 



1000 Indian Rupees of Indian National Army
Major General Mohammad Zaman Kiyani
Commander of the 1st division of the INA.
Later, he took the position of Chief of General Staff,
which was earlier occupied by Col. JK Bhonsle.
Kiyani surrendered to the British on 25th August 1945
and after the partition of India, he settled in Pakistan

Colonel Prem Kumar Sehgal (3rd from left)
with wife Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal (6th from left)
Col. Sehgal was appointed as the Commander of the 2nd Infantry 
Regiment under the 2nd Division and fought in the Burma campaign.
He was among the 3 soldiers who were tried for treason against the
British Empire, but were released later


Datuk Rasammah Naomi Navarednam
was involved in the Malaysian independence.
She was also part of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment.
At present, she is the chairperson of the National
Council of Women's Organisations and Human Rights
Commission in Malaysia

 
Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon
Commander of the 4th Guerrilla Regiment
or Nehru Brigade. He was put to trial on
5th August 1945, for waging war against
the Emperor
  Major General Shah Nawaz Khan
Commander of the 1st Guerrilla Regiment
or Subhas Brigade. The troops under his
command, fought mostly in Burma and north
east India. He was appointed as the Commander
at the Mandalay division in 1944

Raja Habib Ur Rahman Khan, Indian National Army
One of the prominent leaders of the INA.
He was appointed the Deputy Quartermaster
General of INA. He was appointed as the
in-charge of the technical branch. Later,
he was appointed as the Second-in-Command

















Statue of Netaji at INA complex in Moirang

Statue of Netaji at INA complex in Moirang



INA complex at Moirang

INA complex at Moirang

Netaji and Col. Saukat Hayat Malik remembered on INA's 69th flag hoisting day...



Plaque at INA complex

Plaque at INA complex

Netaji and Col. Saukat Hayat Malik remembered on INA's 69th flag hoisting day...




Recently, U.K.’s National Army Museum conducted a poll on Britain’s greatest battle fought over the last 400 years. Waterloo, Aliwal, D-Day/Normandy, Rorke’s Drift and the twin battles of Imphal and Kohima were selected as the top five battles but in the last round, it threw up a name that came as a surprise to many. It voted outright Britain’s twin battles against Japan-INA (Indian National Army) fought in Kohima and Imphal in India during the Second World War as the greatest ever.
It is interesting news considering most Indians are themselves not aware of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II fought on their soil, which if Japan had succeeded in winning, would have changed the fate of the Allied forces and may be Indian history. During my reportage in the North East, I came across some of the eyewitnesses of this battle. One of the affected villages was Maibam Lotpaching, just outside Imphal. I cannot exactly recollect the year but when I met Taoram Gourmohan Singh he was 74. He couldn’t remember the exact date but he recalled the time. It was a little past midnight when hundreds of Japanese soldiers arrived on foot. Gourmohan had gone into hiding when the entire village was evacuated and trenches were dug along his courtyard. The same courtyard where I met him.
He was a young boy when the Japanese army fell upon the main Allied advance base in Imphal. That was April 1944. The war was right at his doorstep — on the Red Hill where the British forces clashed with the advancing Japanese army.
“I was 12 then… there were about 300 Japanese soldiers on the hill … they reached at midnight on May 20 … they first fought in Moreh but couldn’t come to Imphal … so they took this route,” he said. Gourmohan Singh’s story came to me in bits and pieces. Age had blurred his memory but he recounted carrying water for some of the Japanese soldiers. Also, carefully tucked away in a loft in his outhouse was war memorabilia, rusted, but held very dear. “I love these articles. Japan had come for India’s independence, was fighting against the British, so I keep them with me. I treasure them,” he told me. He laid them out for me in the courtyard. Bullet shells, helmets and water flasks.
It’s believed that Imphal was as bad for the Japanese as Flanders was for the Germans in WWI, for there on the bloody plain, 50,000 of the best of the Japanese army were killed. It was from the Red Hill — its supply lines cut off by a heavy monsoon — that the INA began its retreat just 10 kms short of Imphal, whose capture could have altered the course of Indian history. At least that is the claim many historians make today though there are doubts on how they might have been used by the Japanese except for generating rebellion among the Indians behind the British lines.
But the defeat of Red Hill didn’t send back the Japanese. They came close to the railhead in Assam after they took over Kohima. Without the bases in Assam they wouldn’t have been able to access a northern Burma supply route.
An eyewitness to this war in Kohima, Kuosa Kere, could still speak a smattering of Japanese when I met him. It was at Kigwema village near Kohima where General Saito, the famed Japanese commander, had stationed himself during the decisive siege of the hill town in World War II. From here, the Japanese opened attack and timed the assault at exactly 4 p.m. on ‘4.04.44’ (April 4, 1944). It lasted for two months. “It was a long war, we were warned by the Brits and were very apprehensive about the Japanese, but they were friendly. They lived with the families, paid for everything and unlike the British, they had no relationships with local women. They never misbehaved. General Saito was a very nice man. For us teenagers, the war was an adventure,” recalled Kuose Kere.
It was in June when the dangerous Japanese advance into the plains of India was finally halted by the British and the Indian forces. But what went down in history as Britain’s fiercest battles of World War II was fought on a tennis court adjoining the Deputy Commissioner’s bungalow in Kohima. As many as 1200 Indian and British soldiers who died fighting the Japanese have been laid to rest there with the famous lines engraved on a tombstone: “When you go home tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, we gave our today.”
The tennis court battle was also called the Battle under the Cherry Tree. The cherry tree was a Japanese sniper post. The tree is no more but a branch of the historic tree has taken its place.
Reminiscing about the battle, once a war veteran standing in the middle of the Kohima War Cemetery, told me: “After several months, it was virtually over. We were repatriated home; we were on our way to Bombay when the atom bomb was dropped. It was all over. We don’t want it but we do need it sometimes … look at this. It’s the sad part, but anyway we came out victorious.” Tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks.
Then there was Lily, a war-time nurse. Sitting on a tombstone, she broke down: “Sixty years ago, I was a nurse at the army-combined hospitals. So many young people had died, too many lives wasted, they died in my arms. And we still have wars.”
Fought between March 7 and July 18, 1944, the Battles of Imphal and Kohima came back to hit the headlines recently. And also to remind the eyewitnesses the times that were.
(The author’s book “Che in Paona Bazaar: Tales of Exile and Belonging from India’s North-East” (Pan Macmillan India) has a section with a detailed account of this little-known battle.)