Remembering Subhas Chandra Bose’s role in hastening India’s Independence

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A couple of days ago, 23 January, was Subhas Chandra Bose’s birthday. Contrary to publicly accepted discourses about Gandhi’s peaceful non violent resistance persuading the British to grant India its independence, it was Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) that was instrumental in unraveling the British rule.  Netaji, as he was respectfully called, revived the INA in 1943, an armed force formed by Indian nationalists in 1942 in Southeast Asia during World War II. Bose wanted to take advantage of lack of the political stability of war time Britain to gain Indian independence with the help of Axis powers. The efforts of the INA was to cease in September 1945 with the surrender of Japanese troops; but not without sparking the mutiny in Indian armed forces that caused the British to ultimately realize the untenability of holding India without loyal support from the members of the armed forces.

The sequence of events is pieced together here below quoting from sources of Wikipedia and the British parliament Hansard report.

By 1943 and 1944, courts martial were taking place in India of former personnel of the British Indian Army who were captured fighting in Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) ranks or working in support of the INA’s subversive activities. These did not receive any publicity or political sympathies and support till much later. It was during these trials, mutiny broke out in the Royal Indian Navy (RIN), incorporating ships and shore establishments of the RIN throughout India, from Karachi to Bombay and from Vizag to Calcutta

In addition to the discontent in relation to the INA trials, The Royal Air Force Mutiny of 1946 was another contributing factor that led to the RIN mutiny. This was a mutiny on dozens of Royal Air Force stations in India and South Asia in January 1946 after they were influenced by freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose INA, over conditions of slow demobilization and conditions of service following the end of World War II. The mutiny began at Karachi and later spread to involve nearly 50,000 men over 60 RAF stations in India and Ceylon, including the then largest RAF base at Kanpur and RAF bases as far as Singapore.

The events of the RAF mutiny were ultimately resolved, and some of the mutineers faced courts martial. However, the precedent set by this event was important in instigating subsequent actions by the Royal Indian Air Force (12 days before the Royal Indian Navy mutiny) and later, the Royal Indian Navy in February 1946 in which 78 of a total of 88 ships mutinied. Lord WavellViceroy of India, commented at the time: “I am afraid that example of the Royal Air Force, who got away with what was really a mutiny, has some responsibility for the present situation.

Reflecting on the factors that guided the British decision to relinquish the Raj in India, Clement Attlee, the then British prime minister, cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the Indian Army – the foundation of the British Empire in India- and the RIN Mutiny that made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the Raj.

It’s rather unfortunate that the Indian government and the Indian people at large are ignorant of the critical role that Bose and his INA played in getting India’s independence. Worse still, the navy men who participated in these mutinies were found to be unfit by the Navies of both independent India and Pakistan. For those, whose efforts got recognized, they have to suffer the ignominy of being pushed to fighting for their pensions that they were set aside for freedom fighters under Swathantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme 1980.

P.S: This link has got a good number of pictures documenting the RIN mutiny in Bombay.

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