Time to embrace Netaji’s Azad Hind Fauj
by Jaibans Singh on 30 Oct 2012 10 Comments

October is a festive month, with Dusshera quickly succeeded by Bakr Id. Both festivals epitomise the victory of all that is just and righteous. Dusshera has a military significance as it denotes the victory of the righteous Lord Ramachandra over Ravana, the haughty king of Lanka. Bakrid denotes the willingness of Prophet Abraham to obey the command of God to the extent of sacrificing his only son Ismail, and the strength of Ismail who offers himself for sacrifice at the hands of his own father as it has been so decreed by God.


October also holds great significance in the military history of the nation. China declared an unjust war against India on October 20, 1962; Netaji Subash Chandra Bose laid the foundation of the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) on October 21, 1943 at Singapore; and Pakistan launched war on India on October 27, 1947.


This year marks five decades since the Chinese aggression, a historic occasion which should have been marked with a number of appropriate ceremonies. The media has put in some effort, but due to lack of support from the government and the Army, this effort has been restricted to some articles and half hearted coverage by television channels on the day the war was declared by Beijing. 


That China wishes to forget the whole sordid affair can be understood; unilateral aggression exposed the country and its leadership as hegemonic, intolerant, unwilling and incapable of resolving issues through diplomacy and dialogue. China’s image received a severe beating in the international arena for this act, something it has not been able to offset to this day. But it is inexplicable why the Indian government wishes to remain silent. A probable reason is a need to avoid agitating the Chinese as our leaders wish to shun a conflict of interests with the powerful neighbour and make a show of convergence of interests.


The argument is partially sound from a diplomatic perspective, but from the larger perspective there is no merit in forgetting or bypassing such an important historical event altogether. What about the honour of those brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war? Don’t their families need to be given due respect in view of the supreme sacrifice of their kin under insurmountable odds? Is this not an achievement that the nation should be proud of and also be seen to be proud of?


It is unfortunate that the modern Indian Army developed no association with Netaji’s INA. This is because even six decades after independence the Indian army has made no efforts to shed the trappings of its British legacy and to stop viewing the Azad Hind Fauj as anti-national. An uncorrected interpretation of history still prevails somewhere and so the INA is still being seen as an enemy as it joined the Japanese to attack the British Army in World War II. And so, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is kept in a collective amnesia mode and Field Marshal Slim, the British general in charge of the Burma campaign, is regarded fondly as a hero whose leadership skills form part of the military history teaching of the Indian army.


It behooves the Indian Army to draw inspiration from the brave patriots of the INA; it is this army which should provide the ideological foundation for the Indian soldier. A lot can be done in this regard: the history of the INA should form part of the curriculum of military training; a museum could be created in one of the iconic training centre’s of the army like the Indian Military Academy or the College of Combat. As things now stand, one can say with a reasonable amount of confidence that our modern Indian soldiers do not even know that on the midnight of October 22, 1943, the Azad Hind government declared war on Britain and America and put in a volunteer force of about 56,000 patriotic Indians of all castes and creeds to fight for the cause of national independence. 


Fortunately, there is some forward movement regarding the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947, the third major event in Indian military history in the month of October. The Indian Army has designated the day that the war was declared as Infantry Day. The occasion is marked with functions like wreath laying and holding of lectures. On this day every year the senior most Infantry officer, in the present context the Chief of Army Staff, lays a wreath at India Gate.


India Gate, being a memorial of the British era, bears the names of only those Indian soldiers who fought for the British as a part of the British Indian army. It is an ugly reminder of the exploitation of the Indian soldier by the British. Hence, the wreath laying at this site is by itself a travesty of the nation’s military history and a mockery of all those brave solders who sacrificed their lives in the said war and all other wars fought by modern free India.


India Gate should have been reduced to the ground on the very first day of independence, but the leaders who inherited the Raj with their warped sense of history maintain it and do not permit the construction of a war memorial in the same place dedicated to those brave Indian soldiers who have laid down their lives while fighting for the cause of free India. This is absolutely incredible.


If we wish to inspire our future generations towards the noble pursuit soldiering to defend national sovereignty and integrity, we need to get our history and our priorities right. This is one area in which we must draw lessons from our old British rulers. Such was their level of motivation and indoctrination that even after sixty years of independence we are not ready to come out of the shadow of their teachings and culture. The British Army has moved on, but we stand where they left us.


We need to look at things in an objective and contemporary manner. We should be more concerned about soldiers of our own army rather than those who fought for foreign masters. To our own soldiers, both living and dead, we need to bestow all possible honour and dignity. By caring for them and looking after their families, the nation can send out a clear message that each and every soldier, especially those who sacrifice his life for the nation, holds a special place in the national consciousness. Mere words are not enough, they have to be translated into appropriate deeds that give the right message.


The author is editor, Defence Info.com 

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