While the Quit India movement was going on, the famous revolutionary Ras Behari Bose of ‘the Hardinge Bomb Case’ fame, who had escaped to Japan and had settled there, and Subhas Bose gave an entirely new turn to India’s struggle for freedom. Subhas Bose, who twice (1938-39) served as the President of the Congress, resigned from the post in early-1940, founded the Forward Bloc, as a political party and on January 17, 1941, secretly escaped from India and reached Berlin.
There he secured German approval for two of his proposals: he would broadcast anti-British propaganda from Berlin, and he would raise ‘Free India’ units from Indian prisoners of war in Germany. The second item received an impetus when Germany declared war against Russia (22 June 1941). ‘Free India’ units were raised not only in Rome, Italy being an ally of Germany, but also in Paris which was then under German occupation. The full strength of the legion was 3, 000.
After Japan’s entry into the War (Decembier 1941) Rash Behari Bose, an old Indian revolutionary who had taken political refuse in Japan and thereafter became a Japanese citizen, organized an Indian Independence League composed of Indians, living in South-East Asian countries which were then controlled by Japan. The Indian Independence League took a definite shape at a conference held at Bangkok in June 1942; Rash Behari Bose was elected its Chairman.
Meanwhile steps had been taken by Captain Mohan Singh, an Indian officer of the British Army in Malaya who had surrendered to the Japanese, to form an Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauz. The nucleus was formed by volunteers from among the Indian prisoners of war who were handed over by the Japanese Government to Captain Mohan Singh. By August 1942 about 40, 000 prisoners signed a pledge to join the I. N. A. under Mohan Singh. On 1 September the I. N. A. was formally established.
At the Bangkok Conference it was decided to invite Subhas Chandra Bose to come to East Asia. He arrived from Germany in Tokyo on 13 June 1943. To him Rash Behari Bose surrendered his power and position. The Japanese Government made an official declaration ‘to extend all means in order to help to expel and eliminate from India the Anglo-Saxon influences and enable India to achieve full independence in the true sense of the term’.
Subhas Chandra Bose came to Singapore (which was then under Japanese occupation) and assumed leadership of the Indian Independence League and the I. N. A. (July 1943). He was acclaimed as Netaji. He established a ‘Provisional Government of Free India’ at Singapore (21 October 1943) which was formally recognized by Germany, Italy and Japan.
Acting in full co-operation with Japanese troops who had occupied Singapore, Malaya and Burma, the I. N. A. began its offensive in March 1944, and advanced through Burma as much as 150 miles into Indian territory. The national tricolour flag was planted at Kohima on the Indian soil on 19 March 1944. But the progress of the I. N. A. was cut short by the British occupation of Rangoon in May
The provisional government established by Bose brought the question of Indian freedom into the field of international politics, India’s independent recognition by Axis powers and six other countries gave a new status to India. China and USA had already shown their anxiety to give the right of self- determination to Indians. USA was in principle opposed to colonialism. Thus the INA experiment helped in influencing the world opinion in favour of India. Last but not the least, it brought home the truth that the non-violent methods do not exhaust the armoury of struggle for independence; Indians were ready to take resort to arms, if a need arises.
Even more significant was the probable link between INA and the wave of disaffection in the British Indian army during the winter of 1945-46 which culminated in the great Ratings Mutiny in Bombay strike in February 1946. In short, though INA did not amount much in sheer military terms but it had deep impact on the patriotic imagination of Indian people.