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The Synthesizing Role of The I.N.A. Martyrs' Memorial: Moirang & The Indo-Japanese Peace Cenotaph: Lotpaching (Red Hill)

Manindra Singh Mairembam

6. Netaji's Own Assessment of 'The Imphal Campaign':

Quite satisfied with the progress of the war and the I. N. A .on Indian soil the Netaji initially averred while addressing his soldiers:

"The first phase of our campaign is over, our victorious troops, fighting side by side with Nipponese troops have pushed back the enemy and are now fighting bravely on the sacred soil of our dear motherland."

Netaji added, "We should have but one desire today, the desire today so that India may live, the desire to face a martyr's death so that the path to freedom may be paved with the martyrs' blood."

Netaji further said: "The monsoon was disadvantageous to us. Our roads were submerged. The river traffic had to be against the current, against this the enemy had 1st class roads. Our only chance was to take Imphal before the rains started and we would have succeeded if we had more air support and if the enemy forces in Imphal had not special orders to make a stand to the last man. If we started in January we would have succeeded…….. in Tiddim we advanced. In Pallel and Kohima also we advanced …. When the rains came we had to postpone general assault on Imphal. The enemy was able to send mechanized divisions and thus was able to re-take the Kohima-Imphal road………… There were two questions open: either to hold on to the Bishnupur-Pallel line and not allow the enemy to advance; or to fall back and hold a more advantageous position. It may be recalled that when the Japanese and I.N.A. forces were closing in at the bottleneck of the Lotpaching (a hillock) with a bid to capture the outer ring of the State Capital Imphal, 8 or 9 kilometers away via Tiddim Road, there were indiscriminate and heavy bombings on the Lotpaching front by the allied air forces with the result that more than one hundred Japanese and I.N.A. men were believed to have been killed." 23

As cited, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose organized those surrendered lot of the British army, mostly desperate Indians, including Manipuris, and war refugees into the Indian National Army, (Azad Hind Fouz) in Singapore just to be able to build up a core fighting force to throw the British out of India. The Japanese army and the INA attempted to march to Delhi through Burma, Manipur, the Naga Hills and Assam, where they got stuck with, distraught of their ambition when forced into great battlefields of Imphal, Kohima, Bishnupur, Kakching, Pallel, Moreh, Tamu etc. in which thousands got killed, while many others perished through hunger and diseases in the jungles, villages and roadsides. Japan had already conquered almost all countries in east Asia and southeast Asia except Siam (Thailand) which almost came to the Japanese fold without even a fight. Thus the Japanese empire extended towards the west at least upto, if not, beyond Burma at the zenith of its successes during the World War II.

But since July 1944 the Allies began to drive the Japanese from the Naga Hills, Manipur and Burma and regained the territories earlier lost to Nipponese army, while the American onslaught, prior to use of atom bombing, was equally successful in driving out the Japanese occupants of the Pacific Islands, Philippines, Okinawa etc.; and as equally successfully Russians invaded Manchuria.

His philosophical attachment to the Soviet Union was such that even after the defeat of the INA in the battlefields of Manipur and Nagaland, for some time he holed himself with the INA top brass in Burma and even by 14 August 1945 he issued his last order hoping to fight for the freedom of his motherland, perhaps with Russian help. And eventually he decided to go to USSR via Manchuria. However almost immediately thereafter i.e. on 23 August 1945 Tokyo Radio announced the confusing report of his death in an aircrash at Taihoku (later called Formosa/Taipeh) on 18 August 1945.

Netaji might have lost the war but won his countrymen's hearts. His heart-rending 'Jai Hind' _ the INA logo _ has become the accepted form of greeting in the Indian Army, the political gentry and the even the rural populace in post-1947 India. INA's theme-song Kadam Kadam Barhaye Ja became another martial rendition of the Indian Army Band so movingly recited as its own classic creation Saarey Jahan Se Achcha!. Both INA and Netaji became enshrined in the living memory of the country would remain so for ever. Yet the Netaji mystery was allowed to drift by the nationhood and he did in fact come 'back from dead' as a living issue before the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (1999). If not in Taipeh (reported site of aircrash), could he have escaped to Russia (one of the three victors besides U.K. and USA)? As somebody very rightly said: "History will not forgive our generation if we squander this golden opportunity to investigate the fate of such a sterling patriot, who crisscrossed half the globe like a colossus during the Second World War, so that we can breathe the air of a free India today."

His versatile differential thinking rightly discerned the golden opportunity to herald the Imphal Campaign for the ultimate freedom struggle, in clear recognition of the Mahatma Gandhi-led upheaval inside the country, buoyed by Japanese military machine despite Hitler's apparent reluctance. All thinking heads agree that no other person, howsoever patriotic and brave, could have earned the halo since endowed on him. His was certainly the best, while the chivalry instilled in his men so well grooves in Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997)'s definition of all time greats: "To call someone a great man is to claim that he has intentionally taken a large step, one far beyond the normal capacities of men, in satisfying or materially affecting, central human interest...... permanently and radically altering the outlook and values of a significant number of human beings..... one of the distinguished characteristics of a great man is that his active intervention makes what looks highly improbable in fact happen."

The golden Netaji chapter in the reassessed Indian history was perhaps destined to have a curious beginning right from the word 'go'; when a nonconformist Subhas Chandra Bose denied himself an opportunity to study in the elite Presidency College, Calcutta; later in 1912 when the same nonconformist (now an ICS probationer on the fast track of a rebel) shot off a letter to the Secretary of State resigning from the coveted ICS and offering to refund those £100 he drew as soon as his resignation was accepted; when after a diacritical career in the then mushrooming independence movement he delved headlong into a revolutionary mode by parting his ways with the nonviolent Gandhian adherents; when much later in 1941 he made his dramatic escape from house arrest in Calcutta only to show up in Berlin; when (1943) he made his dangerous submarine journey to join the War theater in southeast Asia bound for Tokyo via Cape of Good Hope; when on 14 April 1944 (5 P M.) the INA flag was hoisted at Moirang after trouncing the Allied forces; but soon later he had to retreat, because of the Japanese surrender consequent on the second atomic bombing (9 August 1944) of Nagasaki; and finally on 18 August 1945 he made his fateful air journey, whereafter everything about him became a grey area to a few; but curiouser turn of events to many others.

However a PTI-release date-lined 19 Sept. 2005 has quoted a US intelligence report corroborating the evidence of Taiwan Government that no air crash as such occurred on 18 Aug 1945 in which Netaji (or Ichiro Okuda, a pseudonym given by the Japanese Government) was supposedly killed. This evidence was filed before the Justice M. K. Mukherjee Commission in response to a questionnaire issued by the Commission. This one-man Commission, on a ten-day visit (commencing on 20th Sept 2005) to Moscow, hoped to investigate within its extended tenure of six months till 14 November 2005 whether Netaji was ever transported to Manchuria, accompanied by four Japanese officials on that eventful aircraft for onward journey to the then Soviet Union.

It would also scan reports in the erstwhile KGB and Russian President's archives, as also research articles claiming that Netaji "was actually in the Soviet Union in 1946." It might also authenticate archival materials if Netaji was ever imprisoned in two Siberian towns of Irkutsk and Omsk. The probe panel's Russia visit assumes added significance in view of the demands, placed by eight deponents before the panel including Netaji's family members, that Netaji was in fact not killed in the crash and that Netaji was in Soviet Union in the last part of his life. The ultimate panel report should thus settle once for all if Netaji was ever in Manchuria, or imprisoned in Siberian jails in the towns of Omsk and Irkutsk.

The Netaji death mystery has since been officially resolved according to a news item under the caption: Anita Pfaff expresses relief: She believes Netaji died in the Plane Crash:

"Kolkata: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's daughter Anita Pfaff has reportedly expressed relief on learning that the Government disagrees with the Justice M. K. Mukherjee Commission's contention that Netaji had not died in a plane crash over Taiwan in August 1945."

"Krishna Bose, relative of Netaji, stated this. She said she informed Netaji's daughter of the Government's stand on the Commission's report over telephone from here the day the report and the Government's Action Taken report (ATR) were tabled in the Parliament."

"Ms Bose who is also chairperson of the Netaji Research Bureau, felt that the "Government had taken a sensible view" in rejecting the report."

"I will be speaking to Anita soon to discuss our request made earlier to the Government to do something to see that Netaji's remains are finally brought back to the family with honour and dignity. She believes that her father died in a plane crash..." 24


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