INA trials: Trial of Indian National Army in Red Fort

5 Dec 2022  Read 857 Views

Since the first war of independence in 1857, many wars have been fought, be it violent or non-violent, civil or military, etc., all fought with a common objective of making India a ‘free’ nation. So, not least of all, one of the most important freedom struggles was the Indian Independence Movement launched in East Asia by the late Rash Bihari Bose, which led to the formation of INA, together with the Provisional Government of Azad Hind with Cabinet Ministers and Advisers. That is: 

  1. The Indian National Army (INA) or Azad Hind Fauj

  2. The Azad Hind provisional government 

In 1943, Azad Hind government declared war on Britain when Netaji’s INA officers were captured by the Britishers & the Indian National Army trials at the Red Fort took place, which was the British Indian trial by court-martial of numerous officers of the Indian National Army between November 1945 and May 1946, on several charges of treason, murder, torture, etc., during the World War II. Let’s discuss in this article the Indian National Army, the capture of INA officers, their trial and many more in proper sequence.

The Capture of INA officers

  • 1942- This INA was formed by Rash Behari Bose, the Government’s sword arm. 

  • 1943- Netaji, who arrived in Singapore on July 4, 1943, revived the INA on October 21, 1943. On the other hand, the formation of the country's first independent provisional government Azad Hind is celebrated across India on October 21 every year. On October 24, 1943, the Head of the State of this Provisional Government declared war on Britain for setting around 40 crores of Indians free when the members of Subhas Chandra Bose's INA were captured by the British in the eastern theatre of the war, which provoked the public's interest the most. 

  • 1945- By the end of August 1945, the government was expected to make an announcement restricting INA personnel trials (Red Fort trials) for those guilty of brutality or active complicity. But before making such a decision, there had been a delay. 

  • The INA at that time had around forty- three thousand recruits, out of which many died or fled & mixed with the civilians, but sixteen thousand were captured. The captured officers were sent to British India being stuffed into the ships via Rangoon by the Britishers. 

  • Several detention camps had been organised in Jhingergacha & Nilganj near Calcutta, Kirkee near Pune, Attock, Multan & Bahadurgarh near Delhi.

The INA officers were ultimately taken to court martial at the Red Fort from November 1945 to May 1946 & around ten courts-martial were held. 

Let’s check a glimpse of this trial in brief.

Who were in INA trial?

After the Second World War, British India government brought some of the captured INA troops to trial on treason or murder charges. The prisoners would potentially face the death sentence, life detainment or a fine as punishment if found guilty. The first of these trials was the joint trial of Shah Nawaz Khan, Prem Sahgal & Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon, followed by the trials of Abdul Rashid, Shinghara Singh, Fateh Khan & Captain Malik Munawar Khan Awan. The decision was made to hold these as public trials & at the Red Fort.

INA trials of 1945: How was the Azad Hind provisional government formed?

  • The first was the joint trial of Colonel Prem Sahgal, Colonel Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon & Major General Shah Nawaz Khan, who had been taken Prisoner of War in Singapore.

  • They were charged with “Waging War against the King Emperor” along with murder and abetment of murder.

  • The Indian National Congress (INC) and the Muslim League made the release of the 3 defendants, one Hindu, One Muslim and One Sikh!

  • They were sentenced to death, but the Indian political parties built pressure, and Army Chief Claude Auchinleck was forced to commute (reduce) the sentences of the 3 defendants in the first trial.

  • Japan, as well as South East Asia, became the major refuge for Indian nationalists living in exile before the start of WW II. When World War II broke out in South East Asia, 70,000 Indian troops were stationed in Malaya as Japan’s famous Malayan Campaign had brought under their control a good number of Indian prisoners of war (say, as refugees who escaped the war)

  • From these escapees only, the first Indian National Army was formed under Mohan Singh Deb, receiving Japanese aid and support.

  • It was formally proclaimed in September 1942 & declared the subordinate military wing of the Indian Independence League in June. But the unit was dissolved in December 1942.

  • The arrival of Netaji in June 1943 witnessed the revival & reorganisation of the unit as the army of the Azad Hind provisional government that was formed in October 1943.

What was the INA?

  • The Indian National Army was an armed force formed by Indian nationalists & Imperial Japan on 1st September 1942 in Southeast Asia during WW II.

  • Within days of its proclamation in Oct 1943, the Azad Hind government declared war on Britain & America in Oct 1943.

  • In the early days of 1944, INA forces were active with the Japanese forces in Imphal & Kohima area against Commonwealth forces, and afterwards fell back, post the failed campaign.

  • In 1945, the INA’s troops were committed against the successful Allied Burma Campaign. Many INA troops were captured, defected or fell into British hands during the Burma campaign by the time Rangoon fell in May 1945, the INA had more or less ceased to exist as of now.

Consequence of INA trial

The Indian Independence movement was the last major campaign in which the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League came together. The Congress tricolor and the League's green flag were flown together at protests. Despite this aggressive opposition, the court martial was carried out, and all 3 defendants were sentenced to transportation for life (after commutation of sentence). Talking about the factors which directed the Britishers to relinquish the British Raj in India, Clement Attlee, the then-British prime minister, cited many reasons for the same, one of which was the INA activities of Netaji as well.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 137 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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