Lessons to be learned from the trial of the Indian National Army (INA) Officers by the British Raj (1945)
Posted on January 30th, 2016

by Senaka Weeraratna

The 68th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence from British  will be celebrated on 4th February 2016.

Neither Sri Lanka’s mass media nor the ruling polity have given due credit to the contributions of the Axis powers, mainly Japan and the struggle of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his INA in advancing the day of independence from the British.

It is time that we look at this vital question from another angle.

There is no official acknowledgement in Sri Lanka of the significant role that Subhas Chandra Bose played and the threat of mutiny of the entire Indian Army, Navy and Air Force in anger over the indictment and trial of three Officers of the INA ( Indian National Army ) at Red Fort for treason during World War II, which hastened the day of departure of the British from India in 1947 leading to a domino effect in other British colonies in South Asia and South East Asia.

We in Sri Lanka have to learn even at this late stage to look beyond Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian National Congress in attributing credit to the true freedom fighters responsible for the liberation of India and in turn the rest of British Colonies in Asia.
The leading Counsel for the three INA accused was reputed lawyer Bhulabhai Desai ( 1877 – 1946 ). He was an Indian Independence activist.  He was born in Valsad, Gujerat.

This is how the Wikipedia reports:

” When the three captured Indian National Army (INA) officers, Shahnawaz Khan, Prem Kumar Sahgal and Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon were put on trial for treason, the Indian Congress formed a Defence committee composed of 17 advocates including Bhulabhai Desai. The court-martial hearing began in October 1945 at the Red Fort. Bhulabhai was the leading counsel for the defence. Undeterred by poor health, Bhulabhai made an emphatic and passionate argument in defence of the charged soldiers. He worked for three months at a stretch. He cited international law in his arguments, arguing that the accused were entitled to take up arms to gain independence for their country under the order of the Provisional Government which Subhas Bose had established and which had the recognition of a few sovereign governments, and that the Indian Penal Code did not apply to their case. The judge nevertheless pronounced the three officers guilty and sentenced them to deportation for life“.

What were the consequences of the trials?

Wikipedia reports as follows:


” Beyond the concurrent campaigns of noncooperation and nonviolent protest, this spread to include mutinies and wavering support within the British Indian Army. This movement marked the last major campaign in which the forces of the Congress and the Muslim League aligned together; the Congress tricolor and the green flag of the League were flown together at protests. In spite of this aggressive and widespread opposition, the court martial was carried out and all three defendants were sentenced to deportation for life. This sentence, however, was never carried out, as the immense public pressure of the demonstrations forced Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, to release all three defendants.

During the trial, mutiny broke out in the Royal Indian Navy, incorporating ships and shore establishments of the RIN throughout India from Karachi to Bombay and from Vizag to Calcutta. The most significant if disconcerting factor for the Raj was the significant militant public support that it received. At some places, NCOs in the British Indian Army started ignoring orders from British superiors. In Madras and Pune, the British garrisons had to face revolts within the ranks of the British Indian Army.

Another Army mutiny took place at Jabalpur during the last week of February 1946, soon after the Navy mutiny at Bombay. This was suppressed by force, including the use of the bayonet by British troops. It lasted about two weeks. After the mutiny, about 45 persons were tried by court martial. 41 were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment or dismissal. In addition, a large number were discharged on administrative grounds. While the participants of the Naval Mutiny were given the freedom fighters’ pension, the Jabalpur mutineers got nothing. They even lost their service pension.

Reflecting on the factors that guided the British decision to relinquish the Raj in India, Clement Attlee, the then British prime minister, cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the Indian Army – the foundation of the British Empire in India – and the RIN Mutiny that made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the Raj.[3] Although Britain had made, at the time of the Cripps’ mission in 1942, a commitment[4] to grant dominion status[5] to India after the war this suggests that the INA and the revolts, mutinies, and the public resentment they germinated were an important factor in the complete withdrawal of the Raj from India.

Most of the INA soldiers were set free after cashiering and forfeiture of pay and allowance.

Whether as a measure of the pain that the allies suffered in Imphal and Burma or as an act of vengeance, Mountbatten, Head of Southeast Asia Command, ordered the INA memorial to its fallen soldiers destroyed when Singapore was recaptured in 1945.[7] It has been suggested later that Mountbatten’s actions may have been to erase completely the records of INA’s existence, to prevent the seeds of the idea of a revolutionary socialist independence force from spreading into the vestiges of its colonies amidst the spectre of cold-war politics already taking shape at the time, and had haunted the Colonial powers before the war.[8][9] In 1995, the National Heritage Board of Singapore marked the place as a historical site. A Cenotaphhas since been erected at the site where the memorial once stood.

After the war ended, the story of the INA and the Free India Legion was seen as so inflammatory that, fearing mass revolts and uprisings—not just in India, but across its empire—the British Government forbade the BBC from broadcasting their story.[10] However, the stories of the trials at the Red Fort filtered through. Newspapers reported at the time of the trials that some of the INA soldiers held at Red Fort had been executed,[11] which only succeeded in causing further protests.”

The trial of Indian war heroes at Red Fort and the resulting upheaval in the ranks of the Indian armed forces including the threat of mutiny and widespread public agitation forcing the British to quit India despite having won the war against the Axis powers, is a grim foreboding for countries including Sri Lanka that endeavour to put on trial nationally recognised war heroes for alleged war crimes. 

Senaka Weeraratna

See also

Letter to Editor of Japan Times

Senaka Weeraratna5 months ago


Sri Lanka won freedom from the British in 1948 largely because of the blood sacrifices of the Japanese soldiers in World War Two

Time to re – write our history books


Courtesy: Sri Express


Courtesy: Lankaweb


Who won freedom for Sri Lanka?
February 12th, 2014


2 Responses to “Lessons to be learned from the trial of the Indian National Army (INA) Officers by the British Raj (1945)”

  1. Christie Says:

    What an Indian sucker.

    Indian Empire financed, trained, armed, managed the Indian terrorist arm branded by India as the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam. Then they financed the Sinhala terrorists the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna.

    Now the Indian Empire is governing the island nation with Chandrika, Sirisena andRanil.

    The writer who is glorifying the Indian colonial parasites and vermin cannot see it is the German onslaught that destroyed the British power.

    The so called British Empire is in fact a British-Indian Empire. If he wishes he may look at what the most celebrated Indian colonial parasite Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi did in the Boer War and British war against the Zulus. In both the this parasite worked as a Sepoy.

  2. Christie Says:

    But Senaka there is a lesson to learn from this, that is it is time for us to fight against the Indian Empire.

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