On 14th April 1944, the Azad Hind Fauj captured Moirang in Manipur and half of Nagaland from the clutches of the British Empire. It was a fierce battle one of the most difficult ever faced by the British forces in India, as admitted by the British themselves.
Col. Shaukat Ali Malik of the Azad Hind Fauj, marched into Moirang along with his soldiers and hoisted the national flag on 14th April 1944. This was the first victory of India against the British imperialist forces. Shri Mairembam Koireng Singh hosted the Azad Hind Fauj in Moirang, who later on became the first Chief Minister of Manipur. This fact of history is not that well known and textbooks of modern Indian history completely obliterated the saga of the heroic battle of Imphal.
A small function used to be held at Moirang on 14th April every year, but the importance of ‘Moirang Day’ or ‘Victory Day’ was never told. In 2018, first time in independent India the NDA government under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, gave recognition to the real ‘Victory Day’ of India, by giving a befitting tribute to The Azad Hind Fauj, an army of sixty thousand raised on foreign soil consisting of ‘Prisoners of War’ (POW’s) and fellow Indians mainly based in South East Asia, who were willing to fight for the freedom of their motherland. Almost twenty-six thousand soldiers gave up their lives fighting so that India could be free. In the Azad Hind Fauj, there was no distinction of religion, caste or creed. They could establish themselves as Bharatiyas/Indians. The absence of the ideology of the Azad Hind Fauj in present-day India is challenging the very existence of India as a nation.
The formation of the army of the liberation of India began in 1942 with the efforts of iconic figures like Rashbehari Bose and Capt. Mohan Singh. The arrival of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in South East Asia in 1943, gave a new fillip to the Azad Hind Fauj/Indian National Army. The charisma of the new leader of the Azad Hind Fauj, not only gave a new dimension to the army of liberation, but it challenged the might of the British Empire, which had never happened before. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose became the Supreme Commander of the Azad Hind Fauj and the new Commander believed that one has to fight for freedom. Indians throughout South East Asia gave handsome donations to the army enabling and empowering them to fight for their motherland.
The Provisional Government of Azad Hind/Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind was established on 21st October 1943 and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose became the first Head of State of united free India. Netaji was also the first Prime Minister, Minister of War, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Government of united free India. Netaji was the last Prime Minister of united free India.
What makes Netaji and the Azad Hind Government stand apart from the present? It was the refusal to use religious symbols for political purposes which can explain the appeal across all communities. We must re-dedicate ourselves to working towards a society that Netaji had envisaged- a society that is not only free from political, but also social and economic bondage. In doing this, we may recall the words of Netaji:
‘There must be the identification of one’s life with the mainstream of India’s history. The realm of national life and of individual life must be merged completely. Any suffering of any nationality in India must be felt as one’s own suffering, any glory as one’s own glory. All those who have accepted India as their motherland or all those who have made India their permanent home, are my brothers.’ (1926 Mandalay jail, translated from the original Bengali, cited by Amiya Nath Bose).
On the eve of the 77th ‘Victory Day’, on 14th April 2021, let us pause awhile and pay homage to the soldiers of the Azad Hind Fauj, who could capture Moirang and hoist the national flag on Indian soil after defeating the British. It can be said that the Azad Hind Fauj may have lost the battle but won the war for India.
(The author of this article is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grand nephew)