This is a path breaking book by a former General that seeks to evaluate Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as a military leader and indeed, the First Supreme Commander of India. Netaji was instrumental in India getting her freedom. It is the first professional attempt to evaluate the military performance of the Indian National Army (INA) in World War-II and its significant impact on the Freedom Struggle. The book has gone into great details about each and every engagement fought by the INA. The INA was the primary catalyst that inspired the military revolts of 1946 that ultimately forced the British to quit. For the first time, the author has examined the events of 1946 - especially the revolts in the Royal Indian Navy and the British Indian Army in great detail. He has cited British sources to prove that these revolts were primarily instrumental in forcing the British to leave in such a tearing hurry merely two years after they won the Second World War. This meticulously researched book seeks to reopen a significant historical debate about how India got her freedom. A succession of court historians have tried to craft a narrative that India had obtained her freedom entirely by the soft power of Ahimsa/non-violence and Satyagraha; and that hard power had no role to play whatsoever. This is a huge sacrilege. As per the INA's official history, the force had a total strength of 60,000. Of these, 26,000 were killed in action. Was that non-violence? The pity is that the Nehruvian dispensation
treated these men as traitors. There is no memorial for these martyrs. The INA veterans were not taken back into the Army (on Mountbatten's advice) and denied their war time pensions. Any nation that seeks to gloss over the martyrdom of 26,000 of its soldiers erodes the very basis of its nationhood. The problem arose from the Nehruvian dispensation's quest for political legitimacy. It claimed that its non-violent struggle alone had liberated India from the colonial yoke and as such, that gave it the right to rule. This was a deliberate distortion of history to downplay the role of violence and completely bury the role of Bose and the INA. In denying this obvious legacy of force and violence, the Nehruvian dispensation went to inordinate lengths to underline the relevance of its ideology of pacifism and non-violence. This denial of the use of force was thus pushed to inordinate lengths. Nehru claimed that India needed no armed forces and deliberately starved them of resources. He laid most exaggerated emphasis on pacifism even at the cost of national interests. India had to pay a major price for Nehru's quest for political legitimacy. The toll this exaggerated pacifism took, was seen by the whole world in the military disaster of 1962. Fortunately that served as a major wake up call for the onset of realism in India. The problem is that India's pre and post-independence histories form a seamless whole. They cannot be seen in isolation. Where a nation state is going depends a lot on where it came from. That is why this seminal debate on how India gained independence is vital for our future. The deeply ingrained ideology of Nehruvian pacifism keeps reasserting itself via the entrenched attitudes and habits of thought of our bureaucracy and political class. India's pathetic inability to deal with Pakistan's asymmetric adventurism over the past 30 years is a case in point. There is also the dark secret about what finally happened to Bose. The author is pessimistic about the unearthing of the real truth as many critical Indian files have been destroyed. To get at the whole truth, we need access to Russian, Japanese and British archives. The author has analysed a wealth of data. It leaves us with some most disconcerting and horrible speculations about what happened to the man who in truth, got us our freedom. His legacy was buried and marginalised by a set of non-violent pretenders who expended inordinate amounts of energy in fighting the ghosts of the INA. Today, India as a nation needs to squarely face up to the truth. Bose, indeed was the icon of Indian nationalism. Today, we need to revive his legacy in the backdrop of an ugly debate that seeks to splinter the nation state in India under the pretext of free speech. Treason and treachery continue to flourish in India. That is why we need to revive the ardent nationalism of Bose - an Indian Samurai par excellence.
This is a path breaking book in many respects. To the best of my knowledge and belief, it is the first book by a former general that seeks to carry out a professional appraisal of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as a military leader and India's first "Supreme Commander". It also seeks to objectively evaluate the military performance of the Indian National Army (INA) to validate the success of the military motivational model it was premised on.
The INA was based on the motivational power of "militant nationalism". In that it resembled the German Whermacht and the Imperial Japanese Army, far more than the British Indian Army. Though the bulk of its soldiers were former prisoners of war from the colonial British Indian Army - it had done away entirely with its ethnicity based Regimental model of motivation and shifted to an All-India All-Class model of organization. The emotive fuel for fighting in the INA came entirely from militant nationalism.
So, did this model work in actual combat?
The author has done pain- staking research and marshalled an array of combat records, memoirs and data to prove that despite the highly adverse circumstances, the INA units and formations put in stellar combat performances. In the Imphal-Kohima campaigns - the INA units kept pace with the hard marching Imperial Japanese Army in its infiltration and envelopment manoeuvres. They retained their combat cohesion even when units were decimated to the extent of 60-80 percent. The best tribute came from the enemy. Peter W. Fay records a conversation between Maj Gen Gracy (the then GOC 20 Indian Division) with Col Prem Sahgal of the INA.
An irate Gen Gracy asked Prem, "What did you mean, you people by going on fighting? We had armour, artillery, you chaps had nothing. But instead of surrendering, you fought. It was madness. Why did you do it? Why didn't you come over?"
"Of course it was madness", Col Prem Sahgal of the INA had replied calmly. "A revolutionary Army lives on the spirit of madness."
This is the best tribute the INA could get about its fighting spirit and it came from the enemy himself.
However, in my view, the greatest contribution of this book is to reopen the seminal debate about how India won its freedom from the British rule. For decades, we have been fed a contrived national narrative about how we got our freedom. The Nehruvian narrative, fashioned by court historians, stated that India got its freedom due to the use of purely the soft power of Ahimsa, non-violence and Satyagraha or soul force. Violence had absolutely no role to play in India getting its independence. This contrived narrative went to inordinate lengths to downplay the role of Netaji and his INA. It tried to hide the fact that out of some 60,000 men of the INA, some 26,000 (as per its official history) had been killed. This was hardly a non-violent struggle. Any nation that seeks to gloss over the martyrdom of 26,000 of its soldiers hardly does justice to its own history.
The author, through this eminently researched book, has attempted to restore balance to the narrative of how India obtained its independence from British rule. Britain had been victorious in the Second World War. Both Germany and Japan had been vanquished and there was no plausible reason which could explain why Britain which thrived economically on her colonies (particularly India), would de colonise in such a hurry and give up her jewel in the crown to pacifist forces led by the Gandhi-Nehru combine .This issue becomes particularly intriguing when one knows that the two world wars were extremely debilitating for Britain and she required her colonies to recuperate her economic prowess. The author through his research and analysis offers a plausible explanation for this stranger than fiction phenomenon as it pertains to India.
In India, the pacifists to whom the British transferred power, attributed India's independence not to pacifism, but to the huge moral force generated by pacifism. This was claimed as India's unique contribution to world affairs-a route away from the brute geopolitics practiced by Europe, US and Japan. This moral articulation soon found its way to the formation of the Non- Aligned- Movement (NAM) by many global ,aspiring light weights . Hard power was to be chastened by Pacifist soft power armed with debate as it main instrument to drive sense into errant nations. NAM as history shows, remained an effete debating society throughout, since it lacked economic/ financial and military clout, essential ingredients to any power play.
The seeds of India's pacifism, therefore lie elsewhere. They lie in India's immediate history and in the minds of those who were negotiating India's independence and events that led to India's final freedom. It lies in the two competing approaches within the Congress Party itself-one led by Gandhi -Nehru combine who felt that recourse lay in appealing to the sensibilities of the British and in civil disobedience in order to gain independence. Any attempt to exploit British difficulties during the war was unethical. Sending over 2.5 million soldiers to fight for the British was part of this strategy of appealing to British sensibilities .There, however was another very powerful contra view-one that believed that the British would never leave on their own and that the War presented a unique opportunity to Indians to garner support from Britain's enemies i.e. Germany & Japan and fight ones way to independence. Martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and later, none other than the president of the Congress itself, Subhash Chandra Bose openly espoused such a course . This led to the removal of Bose from the Congress and this constituted the final breach between the pacifists and militant elements within Congress, India's only pan- Indian political party before independence.
Subhash Chandra Bose's tenacious belief in the righteousness of the militant approach led him to Germany; from there on to Japan where he was to raise the Indian National Army (INA) largely from Indian soldiers held prisoners in Japanese prisoner of war camps. The INA fought against British formations in Burma and acquitted itself with distinction; approximately 26,000 laid down their lives in pursuit of their dream of seeing India free of foreign yolk. In its construct, the INA was a Secular Nationalist force in the true sense .It comprised of all communities which formed India's prosaic panorama and above all, was officered entirely by Indian officers ---something that the British never permitted.
The 1946 Military Revolt
What the Nehruvian narrative of court historians glosses over most unfairly, is the major impact of the INA trials, which led to widespread revolts and mutinies in the Royal Indian Navy, the Royal Indian Air Force and finally, the British Indian Army units in Jabalpur that took place in February 1946. These revolts so completely panicked the British Higher Command that in one year flat, they decided to quit India in the most unseemly haste in August 1947. The impact of the First Military Revolt of 1857 is well known and well documented. The Nehruvian court historians documented this in detail, simply because it had failed. The underlying motive was perhaps to highlight the failure of military methods to overthrow the empire and by sheer contrast, glorify the soft power approach of Ahimsa / non-violence. The bitter truth is that non- violence had failed entirely to drive out the British. They had quelled the 1942 Quit India Movement with brute military force - employing some Five divisions worth of white troops. What the court historians gloss over is the role of the INA's violence and the mutinies it inspired in the British Indian Armed Forces in 1946. In the deliberate failure to acknowledge the catalysing role of the 1946 military revolts - lie the seeds of deliberate distortions of Indian History.
Defanging a Rising Power through Pacifism This simple historical fact is that by the end of the Second World War - India had fielded a record All-Volunteer Army of some 2.5 million men. It had fought against the Germans and Italians; and had done the bulk of the heavy lifting against the Japanese in Burma. By the end of 1943, British military commanders clearly preferred having Indian units and formations under them, rather than the British Army units. The British troops were showing clear signs of war weariness and fatigue and just wanted to return home the earliest. It was the Indian Divisions, who were proving tenacious and steadfast on both sides. Even the fledgling INA had covered itself with glory. The British clearly saw the potential of the military power of a united India. At the end of the war, they disbanded 11 of its 16 Indian Divisions. The 2.5 million man Army was rapidly downsized to just 350,000 or so. India was partitioned and even this rump Army was divided between the two states. Above all, the British exploited Indian pacifism to defang and disable the mighty power a united India could have become at the world stage. The power potential of India was neutered by a pacifist regime whose first Prime Minister felt that India had no need for an Army - Police forces alone would suffice. For decades, Indian students in colleges were fed the dogma, that all expenditure on defense was a sunk cost and total waste of economic resources. Military units were asked to build their own cantonments to do something productive. This pacific mindset led to the complete marginalization of the military and a total slowdown on its modernization and expansion. This led to a most rude jolt into realism. India suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese. Pacifism was its first casualty and led to the onset of realism and realpolitik under Prime Ministers Shastri and Indira Gandhi.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Art & Culture (700)
Emperor & Queen (477)
Mahatma Gandhi (264)
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