Solution: Daily Problem Practice [Modern India: Week 26]- 10 April
Q. “Congress opposed the INA trial without going into the debate of the right or wrong of the INA men’s action, but the most notable feature of the INA agitation was the effect it had on the traditional bulwarks of the Raj.” Comment. [10 Marks]
The Indian National Army trials (INA trials) were the British Indian trial by courts-martial of a number of officers of the Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) between November 1945 and May 1946, for charges variously for treason, torture, murder and abatement to murder during World War II.
Unsurprisingly, Congress had opposed the INA trial:
- Nehru raised the demand for leniency. Hailing them as patriots, albeit misguided, Nehru called for their judicious treatment by the authorities in view of the British promise that ‘big changes’ are impending in India.
- Other Congress leaders soon took up the issue and the AICC at its first post-War session held in Bombay in September 1945, adopted a strong resolution declaring its support for the cause.
- The defence of the INA prisoners was taken up by the Congress and Bhulabhaj Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, K.N. Katju, Nehru and Asaf All appeared in court at the historic Red Fort trials.
- The Congress organised an INA Relief and Inquiry Committee, which provided small sums of money and food to the men on their release, and attempted, though with marginal success, to secure employment for these men.
Interestingly, the question of the right or wrong of the INA men’s action was never debated. What was in question was the right of Britain to decide a matter concerning Indians. As Nehru often stressed, if the British were sincere in their declaration that Indo-British relations were to be transformed; they should demonstrate their good faith by leaving it to Indians to decide the INA issue. Even the appeals by liberal Indians were made in the interest of good future relations between India and Britain.
But the most notable feature of the INA agitation was the effect it had on the traditional supporters of the Raj.
- Significant sections of Government employees, loyalist sections and even men of the armed forces were submerged in the tide of pro-INA sentiment. Many officials saw in this a most disquieting trend.
- The Governor of Northwest Frontier Province warned that ‘every day that passes now brings over more and more well- disposed Indians to the anti-British camp’.
- The Director of the Intelligence Bureau observed that ‘sympathy for the INA is not the monopoly of those who are ordinarily against Government,’ and that it was ‘usually the case that INA men belonged to families which had traditions of loyalty.’
- In Punjab (to which almost half of the INA men released till February 1946 belonged) the return of the released men to their villages’ stimulated interest among groups which had hitherto remained politically unaffected. Local interest was further fuelled by virtue of many of the INA officers belonging to influential families in the region. P.K. Sehgal, one of the trios tried in the first Red Fort trial, was the son of Dewan Achhru Rain, an ex-Judge of the Punjab High Court.
- There were some instances, as in the Central Provinces and Berar, where railway officials collected finds.
- The response of the armed forces was unexpectedly sympathetic, belying the official perception that loyal soldiers were very hostile to the INA ‘traitors’. Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) men in Kohat attended Shah Nawaz’s meetings and army men in UP and Punjab attended INA meetings, often in uniform. RIAF men in Calcutta, Kohat, Allahabad, Bamrauli and Kanpur contributed money for the INA defence, as did other service personnel in U.P.
- Apart from these instances of overt support, a ‘growing feeling of sympathy for the INA’ pervaded the Indian army. The Commander-in-Chief concluded that the ‘general opinion in the Army is in favour of leniency’ and recommended to Whitehall that leniency be shown by the Government.
The British realised this political significance of the INA issue. The Governor of North-West Frontier Province advocated that the trials be abandoned, on the ground that with each day the issue became ‘more and more purely Indian versus British.’
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