The idea of Netaji, Manipur and the INA
M Asnikumar Singh
Contd from previous issue
The southern part of Manipur from Churchandpur and Pherzawl district to Ningthoukhong covering an area of 15000 sq. km was under the control of the INA with its Headquarters at Moirang for 3 months till July 15, 1944. The building of the Head Quarter belonged to H Nilamani Singh INA freedom fighter and now stands at Konjengbam Leikai.
The surrounding areas of the Head Quarter was declared enemy zone by the British. Manipuri freedom fighters like K Gopal Singh, L Sanaba Singh, M Koireng Singh and H Nilamani Singh of Moirang were declared traitors by the British Political Agents and “Shoot at Sight” order was passed on them. All the 17 members of the Mahasabha (13 from Imphal and 4 from Moirang) were black listed. Scorched earth policy was extended from Torbung to Ningthoukhong. The area was heavily bombarded and many civilians were killed and injured. In Moirang alone, more than one thousand homes were set ablaze with the exception of five or six.
Figures like Hemam Nilamani Singh and M Koireng Singh feature in the State’s folklore even today. Both of them went to play crucial roles in shaping Manipur’s graph after independence, with their monumental social contributions in the State’s development. The idea that INA meant contributing to the society lives on in the great work they did in their times as colossal political figures in the State post independence.
What excites me even today is the emotional anecdotes I heard from my late grandparents about how the members of Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha; M Koireng Singh (in Thanga Moirangthem), H Nilamani Singh( Sendra Hill) and their loyal lieutenants lived in hiding for a few weeks in our clan’s numerous households in Thanga before they made their escape to Burma. During that period, our clan’s elders formed a close bond with these brave men, due to shared ideals, respect and admiration for the INA’s struggle in the face of the might of the British authorities.In 1945, they were arrested and endured a 7 month long rigorous imprisonment in Rangoon central jail.
After their release, they reached Imphal on the 8th of May,1946. My grandfather would narrate me deeply intriguing tales about their valour, tales which have been passed on through generations in our clan and the tradition continues even today.
Women on the forefront
The INA was a great liberating and inspirational force for the section of Indian youth who had become disillusioned with over reliance on ideals and lesser focus on actual action. This section was growing rapidly in the early 1940s. The idea of women being given space within the Indian armed forces can also be traced back to the INA’s Rani Of Jhansi regiment, which even today remains a source of inspiration for young girls aspiring to join the armed forces someday.
Netaji- the man, the myth, the legend
The aura of Netaji transcended borders in his heydays. During the early days of WWII, the Japanese Intelligence services noted from speaking to captured Indian soldiers that Bose was held in extremely high regard as a Nationalist and was considered by Indian soldiers as the only person who could lead an army fighting for India’s independence.
Bose’s objection to Gandhi’s pacifism is well documented. This objection perhaps stemmed from the fact that Netaji, as long as there was blood flowing in his veins could not tolerate Indians being perceived as being weak by anyone.
Ignominy to the idea of Netaji
The Congress with its all inclusive agenda; on paper was the perfect umbrella organisation to lead the freedom struggle but its flaws were many.
The constant disagreements between radicals, moderates, various other interest groups within the INC in the lead up to independence is well known. The Muslim League and the Congress’s love-hate relationship ultimately concluded with partition. Gandhi and Ambedkar’s constant and intense disagreements over various issues regarding minorities is another example. In this context, the British authorities saw Indians as a disunited bunch who were indecisive at crucial moments. The irony is that this indecisiveness glows brightly in the INC even today.
The Congress party stayed in power for almost 6 decades since independence. What is a disgrace to Netaji’s indomitable legacy is the fact that it has been tampered with; to hide the flaws/blunders of the the INC and its leaders in both pre and post independence years. Incidents like the debacle of 1962 could have been averted if realistic rather than idealistic policies were guiding Nehru and his commanders.
Talking about commanders, highly respected young INA commanders like Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon and his colleagues were convicted in the infamous Red Fort Trials but were later released on orders of the then Commander In Chief, Claude Auchinlek after considering the rousing public support for their release. Dhillon was given his due recognition after more than 4 decades in 1998, with the Padma Bhushan when the BJP was in power under Bajpayee Ji’s leadership.
Love and oblation for the Nation
The INA was not just an army of rebels but it was much more than we were led to believe. It was an idea, a movement; that, the love for the Nation came above everything else.
For the bravehearts of the INA, spilling their own blood for India was a small sacrifice, about which they didn’t have the slightest of second thoughts.
The fact that the Congress downplayed the heroics of the INA and its bravehearts for 6 decades is a travesty and an insult to Netaji’s vision of a strong, resolute India.
These are ideas today’s youth ought to live by.
A long overdue course of action : Reviving the idea of INA in Manipur
The State of Manipur despite the trials and tribulations it faced in the 20th century, unequivocally made contributions in Indian Nationalism, with its association with INA.
The unfortunate part is that due to some reason or another, the heroism and contributions of Manipur in the freedom struggle have not been highlighted.
The need of the hour is the establishment of a dedicated autonomous agency under the purview of Ministry of Tourism and Culture for redevelopment and management of INA associated landmarks in Manipur. The composition of such an agency could be of concerned stakeholders as well as Central and State Government functionaries.
To be contd)