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The First Indian National Army, 1941–42

  • Hugh Toye

The impact of the conquering Japanese upon the Indian communities of Southeast Asia and upon the Indian soldiers captured there led, within a few months, to the formation of an Indian National Army intended to fight for the Independence of India alongside the Japanese, and to the establishment of an Indian Independence League embracing the civilian population of the whole area. The Japanese impact was harsh; the requirement from the conquered populations was total quiescence; military operations must not be hampered, Japanese needs for supplies and labour must be met without hesitation. Where this could be secured through an existing colonial administration as in Indochina, by enforcing the collaboration of a national government as in Thailand, or by playing on latent nationalism as in Burma, so much the better. Otherwise the method was terror: massacre, random execution, torture. It is the method of invading armies; it was the German method, the Russian method, the method of Genghiz Khan. That it wasemployed by the Japanese in the countries of Southeast Asia is basic to the history of the period.

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1 The most important references are: Mohan Singh, Soldiers' Contribution to Indian Independence, 4th Ed. (New Delhi, 1975); Iwaichi, Fujiwara, F. Kikan, tr. Akashi, (Hongkong, 1983);Lebra, J. C., Jungle Alliance (Singapore, 1971), relying in the main on Japanese sources and Mohan Singh: useful but marred by numerous errors; Ghosh, K. K., Indian National Army (Meerut, 1969). There is also a bare outline in Toye,The Springing Tiger (London, 1959), pp. 114. This was based on an exhaustive account compiled from original documents in 1946–47, which is also the basis for what follows.

2 three Sikhs were remembered by members of the Sikh community in Bangkok in 1945, and were mentioned by Fujiwara in 1946. For the Ghadr Party see Spellman, John W., “The International Extensions of Political Conspiracy as illustrated by the Ghadr PartyJournal of Indian History, 1959, There is a good general account of Indian revolutionary activity in WWI, including the Ghadrites, inCorr, Gerald H., The War of the Springing Tigers (London, 1975), chap 2.

3 , Hauner, India in Axis Strategy (Stuttgart, 1982), p. 169.

4 , Fujiwara, F. Kikan, pp.1213, 18–19. Fujiwara also had duties towards the Malay and Chinese populations. His dedication to the psychological approach is clear: “my sadness about the situation in China confirmed my belief that when war broke out in the South we ought to develop psychological warfare,… putting forward worthy objectives that could win the sympathy of the nations of the South” (Letter to author 6 May 1982). Fujiwara's men (the F. Kikan) did not carry arms.

5 Tsuji, Masanobu, Singapore — The Japanese Version (London, 1960), pp. 109–11. Tsuji, who bore major responsibility for the massacres of Chinese after the capture of Singapore, disappeared when the war ended; he reappeared in 1950, became a member of the Japanese Diet, and met his death while on a visit to Laos in 1961.

6 See Kirby, Woodburn, The War Against Japan (1957), 1: 204205.

7 The British had fatally under-estimated the Japanese, and in particular their Zero fighter aircraft. Even had they not done so, however, their desperate plight elsewhere at the time would have prevented decisive reinforcement.

8 Mohan Singh, Soldiers' Contribution, and Fujiwara, F. Kikan, have given somewhat different versions. This account relies more on what they and others of their party said in 1945 and 1946. Gerald H. Corr makes a penetrating comment on the Fujiwara-Mohan Singh relationship: “Both men acted on the dangerous assumption that if they believed hard enough and were ‘sincere’ (an expression and attitude beloved by the Japanese) then what they desired would somehow come about.” War of the Springing Tigers, p. 90.

9 Letter from Mohan Singh to Fujiwara dated 1 Jan. 1942 ( , Toye, Springing Tiger, App. I, pp. 186–88) makes this clear: “Considering all these points, we request that the first time the Indian National Army is used in the front line should not be in Malaya but in Burma or better still India.”

10 See, however, , Fujiwara, F. Kikan, p. 110 and following for an entirely different account. Fujiwara claims that from early Jan. 1942 Mohan Singh provided him with agents who infiltrated behind the British front line and subverted Indian soldiers in battle.When news of the INA reached Delhi in 1942 it was thought that something of the sort had indeed happened. The matter was therefore one of those most intensively investigated by Allied Intelligence in 1945-46. The conclusion was that Mohan Singh's men had done no more than round up stragglers or men who were surrendering, and possibly ammunition fatigues for the Japanese. There was no evidence for front-line or infiltration work and much, including that of Mohan Singh and Fujiwara, against it. It would have been inconsistent with Mohan Singh's letter to Fujiwara quoted above and with Fujiwara's own account of his speech to Indian prisoners of war on 17 Feb. 1942, in which he thanked the men for distinguished services “in helping Indians stranded on the battlefield and Indian stragglers”, F. Kikan, p. 181. It would also have led to a War Crimes charge against Fujiwara had it been proven.

11 See Despatch of Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival on Operations in Malaya paras. 239-40 and 418 for policy.

12 Mamoru, Shinozaki, Syonan, My Story (Singapore, 1975), Ch. Ill and pp. 112–13.

13 Fujiwara first heard of the massacres from Goho on 21 Feb. and did his best to stop them. , Fujiwara, F. Kikan, p. 192.

14 Ghosh, K. K., Indian National Army, p. 43, quoting 1964 interview with Raghavan. See alsoRaghavan, N., India and Malaya: a Study (Bombay, 1954), pp. 6970.

15 Prafulla Kumar Sen, a Bengali revolutionary in his youth but “unofficial (Indian) cultural ambassador to Thailand” since 1932; Ghosh, K. K., Indian National Army, p. 14. He seems to have struck all who knew him as a gentle, saintly person, and a strong Congressman politically.

16 See Goodman, Grant K., “Japanese Sources for the Study of the Indian Independence Movement: The Example of World War I”, in Netaji and India's Freedom, ed. Bose, Sisir K. (Calcutta, 1975), pp. 8289.

17 Bose, R. B., On To Battle (Bangkok, 1942), p. 32.

18 There were 12 other delegates besides R. B. Bose, 2 from Hongkong, 2 from Shanghai (including Usman Khan), and 8 from Japan. The proceedings of the Tokyo Conference are in Giani, K. S., Indian Independence Movement in East Asia (Lahore, 1947).

19 See Akashi quoting Nagasaki in Fujiwara, F. Kikan, p. xxv, and Lebra, Jungle Alliance, Chapter five.

20 Hull, Cordell, Memoirs (London, 1948), p. 1003.

21 , Kirby, The War Against Japan, I: 316. The divisional commander. Nishimura, was found responsible and executed in 1951.

22 , Hauner, Axis Strategy, pp. 672–77 (in German), and “India's Independence and the Axis Powers”, inNetaji and India's Freedom, ed. Bose, Sisir K. (Calcutta, 1975), pp. 310–15 (in English). Hauner maintains that the interview took place on 27 May. However, the text of the interview refers to Rommel having gone on to the attack zeit vorgestern, “the day before yesterday” (mistranslated in the English version). Rommel's attack commenced on the night 26/27 May. It seems likely therefore that the later date is correct.

23 , Hauner, Axis Strategy, pp. 390, 415–16, 484–89, 558–62. Throughout 1942 the Japanese hoped to use R. B. Bose and the Indian National Congress in “revolution”. Only after the Council of Action crisis did they agree to receive S. C. Bose.

24 The Bangkok Resolutions are in , Toye, Springing Tiger, pp. 189200.

25 Quoted by , Lebra, Jungle Alliance, p. 80, from Japanese official records.

26 Durrani, M. K., The Sixth Column (London, 1955), has the story of the Muslim “Spy Ring”, which was in fact directed towards escape.

27 Resolutions adopted at a conference of officers called by Mohan Singh in Bidadari Camp on his return from Tokyo in Apr. 1942; Singh, Mohan, Soldiers' Contribution, p. 119.

28 The author visited the “Concentration Camp”, used for disciplinary purposes throughout the war, in 1945. It was overlooked at a distance of a few hundred yards by one of the main Bidadari camps, from which what happened there could have been heard or seen. It was small — a few bamboo huts surrounded by barbed wire capable of accommodating 20 or 30 men. The “Separation Camp”, equally small, was nearby. Both lacked credibility as a site for atrocities.

29 Interview with Lieut. Colonel E. L. Sawyer, MBE, RA, who commanded the 4th Mountain Battery, which supported Mohan Singh's battalion in the battle of Jitra.

30 See, in particular, Ghosh, K. K., Indian National Army, pp. 6467.

31 Dr Ghosh considers that even Fujiwara did not intend an INA of more than token size and that Iwakuro's policy was the same as Fujiwara's: “Iwakuro personally considered the handing over of P. O. Ws. to Mohan Singh at Fairer Park as nothing but a gesture of the 25th Army to win them over.” Ibid., p. 97. , Fujiwara, F. Kikan, pp. 240 and following is in disagreement, accusing Iwakuro's organisation of tactlessness and deception.

32 Ghosh and Mohan Singh have slightly different views of the crisis, which reflect differing views within the Council of Action.

33 Report by Mr Baleshwar Prasad, President of the League in Burma, on a meeting with the Japanese authorities in Rangoon on 12 Oct. 1942; Singh, Mohan, Soldiers' Contribution, pp. 145–53.

34 Letter of 29 Nov. 1942, summarised in Singh, Mohan, Soldiers' Contribution, p. 161.

35 Singh, Mohan, Soldiers' Contribution, p. 152.

36 Raghavan and Goho, as presidents of the Malaya and Singapore branches of the League respectively, were concerned less with the INA than to “ensure the community's safety and interests”. This explains Raghavan's different stance; as worried as his colleagues at the behaviour of the Japanese, he said nothing against the Japanese in his resignation letter or in public explanations afterwards, in order to avoid evil consequences to the community at large.

37 Iwakuro's statement on 29 Dec. 1942 after Mohan Singh's arrest. , Fujiwara, F. Kikan, p. 245, claims that he saw Mohan Singh privately after his arrest and persuaded him to withdraw his order dissolving the INA.Singh, Mohan, Soldiers' Contribution, pp. 213–14, mentions the meeting but does not support this.

38 Raghavan became Finance Minister in the “Provisional Govt” of S. C. Bose in 1944; he sharply disagreed with Bose when the latter departed from the Congress line in his broadcasts in 1945, and served as an ambassador after Indian Independence.

39 , Hauner, Axis Strategy, pp. 558–61.

40 K. P. K. Menon, who founded the Mathrubhumi newspaper, Calicut, in 1921, was Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka 1951-52, and thereafter, despite failing eyesight, returned to his newspaper in which he was still actively involved at the age of 91.

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Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-4634
  • EISSN: 1474-0680
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-southeast-asian-studies
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