Indian National Army

From Academic Kids

The Indian National Army was an auxiliary force to the Imperial Japanese Army in its southern mainland campaign during the Second World War. It was created primarily by the recruitment of Indian prisoners of war who, in the course of service in the armed forces of the British Indian Empire, had been captured by Japanese forces.

The Japanese fostered the I.N.A. at least as much for its propaganda value in the portrayal of their war aims as anti-colonial, as for the military value of I.N.A. forces in the field.

The Indian prisoners recruited to the I.N.A. regarded themselves as freedom fighters attempting to liberate their country from imperial rule. The I.N.A. was initially founded under, and commanded by Rash Behari Bose (founder of the Indian Independence League) and Captain Mohan Singh, but control later passed to Subhash Chandra Bose once he had made the journey from Germany to Japan via the Indian Ocean in German and Japanese submarines.

The recruitment slogan for the INA was "Jai Hind" (meaning Victory to India) and "Give me blood and I will give you freedom".

The troops eventually reached India and the Tricolour was hoisted for the first time on Indian soil in Moirang, Manipur. The Provisional Government of Azad Hind was established at Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Kohima, even if for a few months, during the course of Japan's conquest of Burma but made no progress after Japan's retreat started in full, following the decision to surrender in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the conclusion of World War II, the government of British India brought to trial on treason charges some of the captured INA soldiers. The prisoners of the I.N.A. were categorized as extremists, moderates and turncoats thereby eligible for death penalty, life imprisonment or a fine as penalty. After the war, three officers of the I.N.A., General Shah Nawaz Khan, a Muslim, Colonel Prem Sehgal, a Hindu and Colonel Gurbux Singh Dhillon, a Sikh were put to trial by the British for "waging war against the King Emperor", i.e., the British sovereign. The three defendants were defended by Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai and others on the logic that they should be treated as prisoners of war as they were not paid merceneraries but bona fide soldiers of a legal government, the Provisional Government of Free India, or the Arzi Hukumate Azad Hind, "however misinformed or otherwise they had been in their notion of patriotic duty towards their country" and as such they recognized the free Indian state as their sovereign and not the British sovereign.

When the people of India realised that all the major communities of India were put to trial they participated in massive public demonstrations imploring the British to free the prisoners. In Calcutta, and Madras the British resorted to firing on unarmed demonstrators thereby killing cripples, women and children taking part in the protestations. All over the Indian subcontinent, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, divided by ideology, joined hands in demanding freedom of the I.N.A. prisoners of war. The I.N.A had for them, so visibly elucidated by Mahatma Gandhi, achieved what individually the Congress, the League and Gandhiji could not: putting the cause of the Indian nation state above communal, sectarian and divisive ideologues and thereby joining hands to expel the British. The greeting of Jai Hind had transcended all other religious and communal oriented greetings.

The initial trials collapsed in the pre-independence political climate, after which the British Government and the Congress Party leadership tacitly agreed that the existence of the I.N.A. was a shared embarrassment which should be forgotten as soon as possible. The I.N.A. soldiers were set free after cashiering and forfeiture of pay and allowance. On the recommendations of Lord Mountbatten, followed in toto by Nehru, the I.N.A. soldiers were not reinducted into the Indian Army.

Independent India's attitude to the I.N.A. was somewhat confused: on the one hand, following the recommendations of Lord Mountbatten, the I.N.A. soldiers were not permitted to re-enroll in the Indian Army; on the other, members of the I.N.A. received an Indian state pension as freedom fighters which Indian volunteers for the British Indian Army during World War II did not.

Consequences of the I.N.A. Trials

Soon after the I.N.A. trials there were outbreaks of mutiny in the Royal Indian Navy; some officers and men began calling themselves the Indian National Navy and gave left handed salutes to British officers. At some places, NCOs in the British Indian Army started ignoring orders from British superiors. The British Indian Army, the primary tool of conquest had till date been apolitical and distanced from the population of India. But the wide publicity created by the I.N.A. trials created something the most efficient British blackout of politically sensitive information could not: creation of a new political awareness among Indian soldiers. For them, now they had a choice other than the British sovereign - the free sovereign Indian state.

Reading List

  • Japanese-trained armies in Southeast Asia : independence and volunteer forces in World War II / Joyce C. Lebra, New York : Columbia University Press, 1977
  • Jungle alliance, Japan and the Indian National Army / Joyce C. Lebra, Singapore, Donald Moore for Asia Pacific Press,1971
  • Brothers Against the Raj --- A biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose / Leonard A. Gordon, Princeton University Press, 1990
  • Lost hero : a biography of Subhas Bose / Mihir Bose, Quartet Books, London ; 1982
  • Democracy Indian style : Subhas Chandra Bose and the creation of India's political culture / Anton Pelinka ; translated by Rene Schell, New Brunswick, NJ : Transaction Publishers (Rutgers University Press), 2003
  • Subhas Chandra Bose : a biography / Marshall J. Getz, Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., USA, 2002
  • Netaji and India's freedom : proceedings of the International Netaji Seminar, 1973 / edited by Sisir K. Bose. International Netaji Seminar (1973 : Calcutta, India), Netaji Research Bureau, Calcutta, India, 1973
  • Japan's Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere in World War II : selected readings and documents / edited and introduced by Joyce C. Lebra, Kuala Lumpur ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1975
  • A Concise History of India / Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf
  • A History of India / Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund

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