Azad Hind Fauj: Background, Founder, Decline

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Azad Hind Fauj

During India’s struggle for independence, numerous battles were fought and different groups were formed. Amidst these efforts to liberate the mother country from the cruel clutches of British forces, the Azad Hind Fauj, also known as the Indian National Army (INA) emerges as an epitome of courage. Led by revolutionary Subhash Chandra Bose, this charismatic force forged a path towards liberation. In this blog, we will explore the intricacies of Azad Hind Fauj. From its inception to its pivotal role in the freedom struggle, get ready to explore the legacy of this force that left a mark on India’s quest for independence. 

Background of the Azad Hind Fauj

During India’s struggle for independence, numerous revolutionaries were fighting for justice throughout the country. Additionally, people like Rashbehari Bose have been living as a fugitive from the British since 1915 in Japan. During World War II, he organized troops for an armed struggle against the British forces. As a result, a huge number of Indian soldiers fought for their country’s freedom.

Also Read: Indian National Movement: Timeline for UPSC, PDF

After defeating the British in Southeast Asia, the Japanese persuaded Mohan Singh to collaborate and work together for India’s independence. Accordingly, in 1942, a conference was held in Tokyo where the Indian Independence League, or Azad Hind Fauj was formed. Additionally, this was followed by a conference in Bangkok in June 1942. It was during this conference that Rashbehari Bose was elected as the President of the league. Similarly, Captain Mohan Singh was appointed as the commander of this team of over forty thousand Indian soldiers. 

It is known to a few that Bose had escaped from India in 1941 and sought refuge in Berlin. He came to Tokyo in June 1943 and then joined the INA in Singapore. After some time, Rashbehari Bose transferred his leadership role and duties to Subhas Bose. This led to the formation of an Azad Hind Government. 

After a few years in November 1943, Japan announced the transfer of the administration of Andamans and Nicobar Islands to the Indian National Army. This is how the heroic struggle of INA for India’s independence started altogether.

During the outbreak of World War II, Japan invaded the South East Asian region. It fought numerous campaigns and wars that resulted in the fall of the Malayan peninsula and Singapore in the year 1942. It was during this time that thousands of Indian prisoners were captured. Japan decided to create a massive auxiliary army that would ultimately fight against the British forces. 

Contrary to popular belief, the first INA, or Azad Hind Fauj was formed under the leadership of Mohan Singh, a popular British Indian officer. He was among the others who were captured during the Mayal campaigns. The common resentment against the injustice of British forces was enough to ignite the fire among these prisoners of war to join the Indian National Army and seek justice. 

As expected, this revolutionary initiative received massive support from the Japanese army as well as from the Indian population of South-East Asia. Nonetheless, disagreements regarding the INA’s autonomous status arose between Mohan Singh and the Japanese Army Command. This led to INA’s disbandment in December 1942. 

Also Read: 20+ Greatest Indian Freedom Fighters and their Sacrifices

Formation of the Second INA

Although the disbandment of INA was an unfortunate event, the Japanese Army Command still wanted to form the second Indian National Army. Subash Chandra Bose’s reputation as a nationalist was renowned nationwide. Therefore, the Japanese forces were more open to the idea of him leading the new army. Mohan Singh himself recommended Subash Chandra Bose as the new leader of the second Indian National Army.   

Subash Chandra Bose was one of the most popular and active freedom fighters in India. The British forces made numerous attempts to capture him but failed to do so. During one such revolt, Subash Chandra Bose fled to Berlin in 1941. Nonetheless, German leaders were reluctant to support his cause. This lack of support along with other issues caused disruption in forming an alliance against the British. Regardless of that, the Japanese were ready to extend their aid and support which eventually led to the formation of the Second Indian National Army, also known as Azad Hind Fauj. 

Structure and Composition of INA

  • The second INA had multiple centres of authority which were under Bose’s leadership.
  • It continued the popular practice of naming regiments after nationalist leaders to foster a sense of nationality and unity.
  • The new Indian National Army was structured into brigades under Gandhi, Nehru, and Azad. 
  • At one moment, the INA had over 60,000 troops including revolutionaries like Lakshmi Swaminathan. 
  • Interestingly, the Indian Nationalist Army had its own currency, postage stamps, and symbols.
  • Subhas Chandra Bose and his first INA introduced Indian citizens to a national flag and national anthem Jan Gan Man, written by Rabindranath Tagore.

INA Defence Committee

  • The Indian National Army Defence Committee was established by the Indian National Congress in 1945. 
  • The aim was to provide the necessary legal defense to the accused INA officers. 
  • The committee also made relief efforts for INA troops who were held captive by the forces.
  • Numerous prestigious lawyers of that time such as Sharat Chandra Bose, Bhulabhai Desai, Kailash Nath Katju, and Asaf Ali were a part of this committee. 

Also Read: India’s Journey to Independence from 1857 to 1947

The End of the Indian National Army

With the end of World War II in 1945 and the defeat of the Axis powers, the British forces emerged as the ultimate winner. 

  • Between November 1945 and May 1946, they conducted a series of court-martial proceedings, known as the INA trials or Red Fort trials. 
  • These gruesome trials involved charging prestigious officers of the Indian National Army with different offenses and torturing and killing them mercilessly. 
  • The primary charge against such nationalists was Waging war against the King.
  • The first prominent trial involved INA officers such as Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, and Prem Sahgal. 

Impact of INA

Azad Hind Fauj’s impact on India’s freedom struggle was not military. Although it was an unsuccessful endeavour, the INA left an indelible mark on the nation’s history. It filled the hearts of people with extreme gratitude and compassion for those who lost their lives. Owing to those countless cruel trials at the Red Fort, the INA somehow managed to get massive support from the country and its citizens and thus, gave momentum to the freedom struggle. 

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