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21 October 1943: Netaji Subhash had formed the Azad Hind Government, India’s ‘declaration of independence’

The existence of the Azad Hind Government had given India's independence struggle a greater legitimacy. The brave actions of Subash Chandra Bose and his decision to set up the country's first government had directly or indirectly triggered a chain of events that eventually forced the British government to leave India in August 1947.

Today, Oct the 77th anniversary of the formation of the first Indian government. In 1943, on October 21, one of India’s greatest sons – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose announced the formation of the ‘Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind’ or the provincial government of free India in Singapore and declared war on the British Empire.

Subash Chandra Bose had launched a struggle to free India from British rule by forming the provisional government-in-exile during the latter part of the Second World War. Bose was convinced that it was armed struggle that would help the countrymen to achieve independence. 

The leadership of Bose pulled Indians, who united with thousands of soldiers, along with former-prisoners and other expatriates who were living in Malayasia and Burma.

Under the provisional Government, Bose was the Head of State, Prime Minister and Minister of War. Captain Lakshmi headed the women’s organisation while SA Ayer headed the publicity wing in the newly-formed government. Revolutionary leader Ras Behari Bose was designated as the supreme adviser by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The government was supported by the Axis powers of Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, the Italian Social Republic, and their allies.

How was it set up?

The struggle for independence was carried on by Subhash Chandra Bose from abroad. The outbreak of the Second World War provided a good opportunity to Bose to strike a blow against the British imperialists. Bose, who was put on house arrest in 1940 managed to escape to Berlin on March 28, 1941.

The Indian community in German helped Bose to set up the Indian Independence League in 1942. The league took a decision to form the Indian National Army (INA) for the liberation of India.

On June 13, 1943, Bose arrived in Singapore on the invitation of Ras Bihari Bose. Netaji Bose was appointed as the head of the Indian Independence League and was also designated as the leader of the INA or ‘Azad Hind Fauj’. Bose gave his famous battle cry ‘Chalo Dilli’ and promised independence to Indians saying, “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe Azadi dunga’ (You give me blood, I will give you freedom).

Significance of the Azad Hind government

Soon after the formation of the government, the Azad Hind government proclaimed authority over Indian civilian and military personnel in Southeast Asian British colonial territory and prospective authority over Indian territory to fall to the Japanese forces and the Indian National Army during the Second World War.

The provisional government not only enabled Bose to negotiate with the Japanese on an equal footing but also allowed him to the mobilise Indians living in East Asia to join and support the Indian National Army (INA). The Azad Hind Fauj or the Indian National Army (INA) played an extremely important role during the national movement by providing a much-needed impetus to India’s struggle for Independence.

The Azad Hind government under Bose had in fact started its own bank, currency, civil code and stamps. Bose had even formed the first women regiment of the INA – Rani Jhansi Regiment, thus laying down the foundation for equal opportunity for women in armed forces.

Immediately after the formation of the government-in-exile, Azad Hind declared war against the Britishers and allied forces on the Indo-Burma Front. The Azad Hind Fauj also fought against the British Indian Army and the allied forces as part of the Imperial Japanese Army in the Imphal-Kohima sector.

The existence of the Azad Hind Government had given India’s independence struggle against the British a greater legitimacy. The brave actions of Subash Chandra Bose and his decision to set up the country’s first government had directly or indirectly triggered a chain of events that eventually forced the British government to leave India in August 1947.

The actions of INA, Azad Hind Govt had triggered events that resulted in India’s independence

The historical accounts especially noted down by the governors of the various provinces, the Intelligence Bureau, as mentioned in teb book Netaji: India’s Independence and British Archives, written by Kalyan Kumar De, points out that by the mid-1940s, the British had already gone into panic and were threatened because of the tremendous popularity of Subhas Chandra Bose and the nationwide appreciation.

As mentioned in the article by The New India Express, the sympathy for the INA that Subhash Chandra Bose had established to militarily oust the colonial power had created a havoc in the minds of the British, who understood that it was impossible for them to rule India anymore. The heroic actions of Bose and had triggered a naval mutiny in Bombay and several other stations, along with rebellions in some army camps, including Madras and Poona.

The subsequent actions of the British to court-martial officers and men of the INA led to nationwide anger over these trials. An IB report of November 1945 had warned the British government that there was enormous sympathy for the soldiers of the INA and mentioned that if the government did not take cognisance of this sentiment, the consequence would be a mass agitation and bloodshed.

The sentiments of Indians towards INA was such that several governors, out of the fear and anxiety had written letters to Viceroy Lord Wavell, warning him that the government would be playing with fire if it targeted the INA because they were seen as brave freedom fighters. They warned that this could result in a mutiny in the Indian Army.

The mutiny by Indian officers employed in the Royal Indian Navy in 1946 and the rebellion against the British in various cities convinced the British that they could no longer rely on the Indian armed forces to keep fighting their wars. The Indian soldiers working in the RIN were witness to the developments around the world and had supported the INA.

As they realised they could not continue to rule the sub-continent, the British government took a swift action to end their rule in India.

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