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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

1. Pivotal Role of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose:

It is difficult to conjecture which way and how much longer the Indian freedom movement might have swayed, had it not been for the pivotal role so conspicuously played by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, one of the greatest freedom fighters ever born on the Indian soil. He virtually pushed 'Complete Independence' almost from nowhere onto the center-stage of the Indian freedom struggle and that too on a fast track. Afterwards, he assumed such a catalytic role to expedite the freedom struggle itself upto a close finish, which even his adversaries admired while his other contemporaries enthralled, and with the future generations still left to cherish, and so gloriously to recall. After a brilliant academic career, followed by his sudden resignation (22-4-1912) from the much-coveted Indian Civil Service, his meteoric rise even in the Congress party did not at all come as a surprise then, as of now.

The historic World War II broke out in September 1939 even as the political situation in India was at a slow boil _ another historic event. For it was exactly in the 52nd Indian National Congress session at Tripuri (Jabalpur) that Netaji predicted, where he announced from the Presidential chair: "The time has come for us to launch a striking movement to get Independence." For attainment of Swaraj, Netaji had suggested various steps. But there was a difference of opinion among the three top leaders: Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Predictably enough, the Gandhian nonviolence path held its sway on the others like almost everything else in the then Indian dominion. At this juncture, two opposite forces seemed to sway _ one was introspecting within India itself and the other looking beyond India. As it were, the former led by Mahatma Gandhi as the architect, while the latter by none other than Netaji himself as the architect and the soul. Yet as Chitta Basu would say "the two are inseparably linked. One grew into another; one consummated into another. One is the cause and the other the effect. Two obvious opposites mingled into one at a historic point of time _ nonviolent Satyagraha and the armed National Liberation struggle knocked the bottom of the British imperialism in the East. This opened up new vistas for the freedom struggles of all the suppressed nations." 1

In his last meeting with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in June 1940, Gandhiji told him that he did not think that the time was opportune for a final struggle: "But if Subhas thought otherwise, he should go ahead." On the other hand, Subhas was the first to call Gandhiji: "Father of our nation." Accordingly, Netaji with the zeal of a tireless patriot with a different via media in his mind formed the Forward Block within the Congress fold itself. But further developments came to such a head that Netaji had to resign from Congress, as he was determined to utilize the war crisis to enhance a mass struggle for freedom. He then organized the Civil Disobedience movement and got himself arrested. Not very surprisingly the Communist Party of India in its then Politbureau meeting (October 1939) resolved to take the same path as the Forward Bloc. Shortly afterwards, the Bombay Congress session (August 8,1942) adopted the historic 'Quit India' resolution and appended the Asian context as a penumbra zone for the freedom struggle: "The Freedom of India must be the symbol of, and prelude to, the freedom of all other Asian nations under foreign domination. Burma, Malaya, Indo-China, Dutch East Indies, Iran and Iraq must also attain their complete freedom." The Indian freedom struggle thus proved unique in more than one way. Besides being nonviolent as per Gandhian patent, it was also destined to metamorphose onto an anti-imperialist struggle _ against Nazism and Fascism and a great contribution to the cause of world freedom as such _ a struggle still going on in some parts of the world. Over to Europe, Britain had been drawn into the vortex of war against Hitler's Germany just across the English Channel. Thereafter finding itself at the helm of the Allied forces, the British dragged India into the World War II by even declaring, without ever consulting the Central Legislature, that India was at war with Germany. Thereupon all the Congress ministers in the seven provinces resigned as a protest in October 1939. The then political situation further gravitated towards a critical juncture when M. A. Jinnah propounded his 'Two Nation Theory."

It came to such a pass that even when Sir Stafford Cripps tried to solve the problem, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru adjudged that the Cripps Plan would make no tangible difference to the ultimate cause and would continue exactly as before with autocratic powers vested to the Viceroy. So the Congress rejected the Cripps Plan. In this juncture Gandhiji wrote in his Harijan: "The presence of the British is an invitation to Japan to invade India." This prophecy was to soon prove true in the wake of repressive measures following 'Quit India' struggle declared by the Congress party. The revolutionary mindset of the Netaji during the initial period of the freedom struggle is reflected by the language and emotions raised in his audience:

"I am confident that if we fight on and if we play our cards well in the international field, we shall win our freedom by the end of this war. But that does not mean that if, by any chance, we fail to do so we should be disheartened or depressed."

"Comrades, I shall now close for the day. But before I conclude I would remind you that a revolutionary is one who believes in the justice of a cause and who believes that that cause is bound to prevail in the long run. He, who gets depressed over failures or setbacks, is no revolutionary. The motto for a revolutionary is 'Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.'" 2

Earlier, in 1940 Netaji decided to leave India in order to put in place the tentacles of the liberation movement from abroad. Initially he wanted to go to USSR and make Central Asia his operational Hqs. Accordingly, he began to make contacts with outstanding Indian Communists like Mian Akbar Shah and Achar Singh Cheera. But due to internal political tension he had to delay his trip till 1941. As already cited, his own Forward Bloc organized Civil Disobedience Movement and he was arrested and lodged in a jail but with great difficulty he could outwit his captor, the Britishers, through a hunger-strike. Later disguised as a Maulavi and again as an insurance agent, he made good his escape to Berlin via Peshawar, Kabul and Moscow. During his perilous journey such veteran Indian leaders like Uttamchand Malhotra and Bhagat Ram Talwar helped him. But the international situation was such that he prioritized to go first to Britain's no. 1 enemy i.e. Hitler, notwithstanding his bias against the Fascists. At the end of 1940, while Netaji was preparing to escape, Gandhiji took one step forward from the position of unconditional cooperation to individual Satyagraha. Netaji welcomed this move although his offer of unconditional cooperation was declined by Gandhiji.

After his escape in January 1941, Netaji started broadcasting from abroad in February 1942. Mahatma Gandhi's draft resolution on war and freedom for the Congress of April 1942 brought him ideologically and strategically close to Netaji. Gandhiji's later call for 'Quit India' coupled with 'Do or Die' in August 1942 was a complete vindication of Netaji's thesis that India was ripe for revolution. After his sensational escape from India on the 16th January 1941 and arrival in Germany on 3rd April 1941 Netaji 'the Indian Adolf Hitler' met his counterpart to discuss the problems facing India and the modus operandi of his own plan to liberate the country by organizing a revolt against the British. Meanwhile (7 December 1941) on the Asian front Japan had captured Pearl Harbour; overran Malaya, Singapore and Burma in quick succession; and the British Army surrendered en masse in Burma. Even Andaman & Nicobar Islands fell into Japanese hands and Japan became an imperial East Asian power controlling both the Pacific and the crucial route of the Indian Ocean.

Thus Calcutta and Madras got the brunt of war. Meanwhile (January 1942) Netaji was busy organizing the Indian Legion in Germany. But in the context of the momentous situation in the Asian war theatre, Netaji again decided to shift back his field of activity from Europe to southeast Asia and the Far East, nearer home, where already certain developments seemed to require his immediate attention and his path-breaking guidance. Accordingly he left Germany in February 1943 in a sleek German U-boat out of Kiel port in the thick of heavy Anglo-German fighting and reached Tokyo after a three-month-long voyage in German and Japanese submarines. And after confabulating with the top Japanese leaders in Tokyo, he reached Singapore on 2 July 1943.

In Singapore Netaji met Rash Behari Bose who had been waiting for the so-long craved 'Destiny of India' by forming the Indian Independence League. Through his intrinsic diplomatic acumen Netaji could arrive at an agreement with the Japanese Government to build up the format of his wherewithal. In 1943 Netaji organized the Indian National Army (INA) and proclaimed the Provisional Government of Free India in the premises of Cathey Cinema in Singapore. On 21 October 1943 when Netaji held the inaugural meeting of the Provisional Government of Free India, he made a historic proclamation in a voice choking with emotion amidst thunderous applauses and cheers from the assembled people _ already transformed into genuine Indians and imitation or surrogate Britishers:

"For the first time in recent history, Indians abroad have also been politically aroused and united in one organization. They are not only thinking and feeling in tune with their countrymen at home but are also marching in step with them along the path to Freedom." 3

So as to immediately expedite his assault plan, Netaji formed four Brigades in the name of Gandhi, Subhas, Nehru and Azad, in addition to a women's brigade called the Jhansi Regiment _ all with Hqs. in Rangoon. His greatness lay in seeing communalism mainly as a 'British creation', and lived upto such an ideal that there should be a paradigm shift in the attitude of the then generation towards the society at large and also towards religion and caste in particular. Much afterwards, his erstwhile close associate, Major Abid Hasan, recalled at a seminar in Calcutta 4 that Netaji had once refused an invitation to visit the temple of Chettiar priests in Singapore since it was open only to the upper caste Hindus. He even spurned the offer by Chettiar priests of a huge donation for his organization. But later in deference to his wishes the temple was finally thrown open to all the Indians irrespective of caste or religion. Then only the secular-minded Netaji entered the temple with Abid Hasan and Col. Habibur Rahman.

Netaji's firm conviction in the prime need for communal unity, for solving all the then problems of 'political un-freedom' and 'economic un-freedom' in the post-freedom Indian continent, became pretty well evident from his very taut reply, "...because here is no British!" This shabby deal he meted out, when he was once quizzed during some briefing on his conceived means of freedom struggle to be organized outside Indian limits and as to how he 'could achieve the miracle of such communal unity outside,' when there was 'no such unity within India itself.' He was right in seeing communalism as a British creation just like many other patriots had diagnosed. Netaji himself wrote during the heyday of Indian freedom struggle: "Under present conditions, it appears well nigh impossible to destroy the canker of communalism and foster all-round nationalism in our public life." 5

Yet the envisioned Netaji was disinclined to regard 'communal harmony' as an 'achievable impossibility' despite the so-called 'canker of communalism' so deliberately kicked up by the British in the then domestic setting which had since polarized sharply along religious lines. Through differential thinking he also had reckoned the way out for such an impossibility. His greatness would lie in his unusual way of circumventing the 'impossible' as achievable by imposing unity on the entire domestic front by internalizing the forged unity of the INA from without, only if his brand of freedom struggle could be achieved. The Japanese Government handed over the Andaman & Nicobar Islands to the Azad Hind Government; and Netaji personally went over to Port Blair to take over the possession. He renamed the two island groups as 'Swaraj' and 'Shaheed'. At the instance of the Japanese Government, Netaji was entrusted with the first and foremost responsibility of Supreme Commandership of the INA then having barely 7,000 regular armed forces (British Indian Army soldiers) with their British artillery, whose strength was raised to about 40,000 after a series of recruitments within a span of four months. And he was finally ready for the long-planned assault on India to fight and drive away the British.

Thus on 21 October 1943 the formation of provisional Government of Azad Hind was declared, while immediately thereafter on the 23 October Netaji declared war against the British and America. But he had not declared war against USSR and China, though they were British allies in the Second World War. This would go to prove beyond any doubt that he, a genuine Scientific Socialist, was not against any socialist country. When the INA advanced with Netaji as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief towards the soil of India by declaring war on British Imperialism, Netaji's since famous slogan had bec ome:"Give me blood! I will get you freedom!!" ; and " Chalo Delhi!! ", which powerfully reinforced Gandhi's Quit India Movement. Still earlier, Subhas Chandra Bose made his historic "Quit India Movement Broadcast" from Azad Hind Radio, Germany, on 31st August 1942:

"Comrades! Destroy war production in India; and paralyze the British administration in the country. With a view to achieving these objects: (1) You should stop paying all taxes; (2) You should, in all industry, launch strike so as to hamper production; (3) Students should organize secret guerilla bands for carrying out sabotage in different parts of the country; women and girl students should do underground works of all kinds."

"And for the general public he suggested: "Boycott British Goods!!" and "Destroy factories which are working for war purposes!! " 6

He assured that as soon as this programme was put into operation the administrative machinery could be brought to a standstill. He also reminded that in a nonviolent guerilla campaign the peasantry always played a decisive part. He earnestly hoped that Swami Sahajananda Sarashwati and other peasant leaders would fulfill their leading role in the last phase of the fight. Addressing the people of the Indian States he said that it was very encouraging for them to participate in this all India struggle. He expressed his happiness to find that the people of Baroda, Mysore, Hyderabad and other States would line up with those of British India and form a common front against the command forces of British imperialism and Indian princes. Meanwhile in India, a revolution was brewing exactly as Netaji expected. Inspired by the message of the historic Congress session (8 August 1942), the firebrands of the Indian Socialist movement virtually waged war against the British Government. Jaya Prakash Narain, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Aruna Ashraf Ali, Achut Patwardhan and a host of other socialists went underground and worked havoc against the British regime. It was practically an all-out war in which Kisans, labour, students and women had their share and participated in the struggle. Notably enough, the Tamluk district people of W. Bengal first declared independence from the British, followed by the Balia district of Eastern U P in their march to freedom.

On a final reckoning of the bloody course of events, one has to appreciate the mainspring role of the INA and its leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in having magnified the scale of World War II operations and also drawing the war theatre nearer home upto Imphal and Kohima besides intensifying the dimension of the mainstream freedom struggle. Based on such a candid appreciation one can certainly reassess that the Britishers did not grant the freedom in 1947 strictly as a gift on a platter. This represents only one side of the coin. On the other side of the coin, no Indian as of then felt, or even now would feel in retrospect, that it was an unearned freedom.


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