The idea of Netaji, Manipur and the INA
M Asnikumar Singh
I was born and grew up 3 miles from the place where the Indian Flag was hoisted by Colonel Shaukat Malik of the INA on 14 April, 1944.
My late grandfather being contemporaries of our State’s own figures like Koireng Singh (friends with Koireng) and Hemam Nilamani Singh also did no harm to my love, admiration and quest for tales of the INA and its exploits. The Indian National Army, although formed in 1942 under Mohan Singh’s leadership in Singapore with Indian POWs was revived under Netaji’s leadership in 1943.
I grew up idolising the great man, deeply engrossed in the tales surrounding his aura of greatness and of course his vision for a strong, independent India. My admiration went to the extent that I used to argue with my fellow peers in school about how Netaji was perhaps the greatest military commander independent India could have had but like his “disappearance”, this too shall remain a mystery forever. When the MTF (Manipur Thinkers Forum); a platform where young, innovative minds can come together to shape opinions for a better Manipur, a lifelong dream of mine, was ready to be launched, the only place I had in mind to start its journey was the INA hall in Moirang. On the 18th of August, 2019 the MTF commenced its journey from the INA hall in Moirang. This was a simple but heartfelt tribute to Netaji and his ideas.
The tales of INA in Manipur
Following is a short excerpt from narration of the historic events that took place in Moirang during the Second World War.
The Indo Japanese forces advanced very fast with heavy guns and tanks. The 17th British Division could not resist the advancing forces as such they were compelled to retreat leaving completely behind all the southern hill ranges (now Churchandpur and Pherzawl district) and the villages upto Potshangbam under the hands of the advancing Japanese and INA column. The people of Moirang and surrounding villages were jubilant at the sight of Indo Japanese forces. Thus, the withdrawal of the British 17th Division was completed on April 13, 1944.
On the 14th April which happen to be Manipuri New Year Day i.e. Cheiraoba, some leaders of Moirang led by M Koireng Singh, L Sanaba Singh, K Kanglen, Meinam Mani Singh and others went to Tronglaobi village, some 3 miles to the south of Moirang which happened to be British strong defense base before their retreat but now occupied by the Indo Japanese forces. The leaders had discussion with the Indo Japanese forces. After taking stock of the situation, at about 5 pm on the day Col. Soukat Ali Malik, Commander of the Bahadur (Intelligence) Group planted the Tricolour Flag with sprigging Tiger as emblem of the historic Moirang Kangla where the INA Martyrs Memorial complex is, at present, taking shape. Many Japanese officers and soldiers were also assembled. All the arms and ammunition abandoned by British forces collected by local people were handed over to Col. Saukat Ali Malik. Captain Ito of 33rd Mountain Regiment and Col. Malik addressed the gathering. Col. Malik’s version was translated by M Koireng Singh and the gist of the version was “the Provisional Government of the Azad Hind had declared war on England and America with a commitment to complete with the creation of Greater East Asia and bring welfare of the people of India by defeating Anglo American forces.
The Indian National Army with unscented support of the Japanese Govt. has now crossed the Indo Burmese border and in the course of the struggle for the liberation of the people of India from the British yoke, we have now reached Moirang, the ancient citadel of Manipur. Our commitment is the march to Delhi and unfurl the Tricolour Flag then at Lal Quila. Many had died on our way to reach near (Moirang) and many would die on our way to Delhi.
However, the expulsion of the enemy from the sacred soil of India is a compulsion for us. We shall fight and the people of Manipur would provide supplies to us. Nothing about us shall be passed on to the enemy, everything about the enemy should be passed on to us. Freedom of India is very near and near at hand. We shall win it and we shall have progressed and prosperity of the people of India after it. So, give us your hand, our collective efforts should cause India free from slavery."
The assembled crowd welcomed the message and they felt elated that they were the first liberated people of India although many of their family members were evacuated from Moirang and took shelter on the eastern hillocks situated at Loktak Lake.
Local people gladly donated rice, dry fish and vegetable to the Indo Japanese forces. 13 members of Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha namely Th Angou Singh, P Tomal Singh, S Ibohal Singh, I Tombi Singh, L Bijoy Singh, L Kanhai Singh, M Jatra Singh, W Gyaneshwor Singh, M Amuba Singh, L Irabot Singh, Kh Jugeshwor Singh, Keinya Devi and M Randhoni Devi reached Moirang secretly from Imphal and other places.
They joined with the members of Moirang and worked together in carrying out espionage activities. All the surrounding villages upto Ningthoukhong were liberated from the British forces.
(To be contd)