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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Indian Independence ~ some history at Lal Qila (Red Fort)

In his first address to the nation from Red Fort after this year's Lok Sabha elections and the sixth consecutive one on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modiji  today spoke about issues like Article 370, Article 35A, criminalising triple talaq, welfare schemes for the farmers and announced the launch of a new Jal Jeevan Mission to provide potable water.  On the economic front, PM Modiji  expressed confidence that India will become a $5 trillion economy in the next five years. "From 2014 to 2019, we became a $3 trillion economy. Before that, in the last 70 years, the country was a $2 trillion economy. We added $1 trillion to the economy in just five years. Now we are looking forward to making the nation a $5 trillion economy," said Narendra Modi in his speech. He also stood up in support of industrialists, saying that wealth creators should not be eyed with suspicion and that they are country's wealth and should be respected.

Every Independence Day, Prime Minsiter delivers address from the ramparts of Red Fort.  Here is some history that the Nation should be knowing !

·         Heard  of drama film – Raag Desh ?
·         Heard of Gurbaksh Singh Dillon and his connection with LaL Qila ?
·         Were the British merciful and did India benefit because it was subjugated to foreign rule ??

                     Red Fort [Lal Qila]  has Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate.  Images of the fort have  featured prominently on postage stamps. It is associated with history. The vandalism carried out in 1857 after the suppression of the rebellion makes it a site remembered for national resistance.  In Nov  1945, the Red Fort was selected as the venue for the court martial of Shah Nawaz Khan, PremSahgal and Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. These were three token individuals, selected from the many thousands of Indian officers and troops who had joined the Indian National Army and fought against the British during the Second World War. But in our History books, we did not read of Indian freedom struggle but more of mercy of Cawning, kindness of Atlee, administrative skills of Dalhouse, coronation of King George, Delhi Durbar and more .. .. not on INA and other freedom fighters. 

Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (1914 –2006) was an officer in the Indian National Army (INA) who was charged with "waging war against His Majesty the King Emperor". Along with Shah Nawaz Khan and Prem Kumar Sahgal, he was tried at the end of World War II in the INA trials that began on 5 November 1945 at Red Fort.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Singapore on the early morning of 7 Dec 1941, the United States declared war on Japan. The Japanese forces completely destroyed the squadrons of the Royal Air Force at Sungei, Alor Star, and Kota Bharu airfields. On 11 Dec 1941, 1/14th Punjab Regiment fought a pitched battle at Changlun near the Thai frontier. Dhillon commanded the Headquarters Company with his C.O. Colonel Fitzpatrick. The Battle of Changlun went on for eight hours, before ending in defeat. The town of Alor Star had also fallen. But in Dec 1941, Dhillon fell ill afflicted by Malaria and hospitalised at Singapore.  The Battle of Singapore concluded on 15 Feb 1942 resulting in the British Forces in Singapore surrendering unconditionally to the Japanese Army under General Yamashita.

The Indian National Army trials (INA trials), which are also called the Red Fort trials, were the British Indian trial by courts-martial of a number of officers of the Indian National Army (INA) between Nov 1945 and May 1946, for charges variously for treason, torture, murder and abetment to murder during World War II. The first, and most famous, of the approximately ten trials held in the Red Fort in Delhi. In total, approximately ten courts-martial were held. The first of these, and the most celebrated one, was the joint court-martial of Colonel Prem Sahgal, Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, and Major General Shah Nawaz Khan. The three had been officers in the British Indian Army and were taken as prisoners of war in Malaya, Singapore and Burma. They had, like a large number of other troops and officers of the British Indian Army, joined the Indian National Army and later fought in Imphal and Burma alongside the Japanese forces in allegiance to Azad Hind. These three came to be the only defendants in the INA trials who were charged with "waging war against the King-Emperor" as well as murder and abetment of murder. Those charged later only faced trial for torture and murder or abetment of murder. These trials attracted much publicity, and public sympathy for the defendants who were considered patriots of India and fought for the freedom of India from the British Empire. Outcry over the grounds of the trial, as well as a general emerging unease and unrest within the troops of the Raj, ultimately forced the then Army Chief Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck to commute the sentences of the three defendants in the first trial.

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 Feb 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.

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  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.

Today on 73rd Independence Day of the Nation, we remember all those martyrs whose blood, bravery, patriotism and sacrifice only ensured that we got freedom and live in a freeland.  Jai Hind !!

                                   RaagDesh (Love thy country) is a 2017 Indian historical action drama film directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and produced by Gurdeep Singh Sappal and Rajya Sabha TV.  The film is based on Indian National Army trials, the joint court martial of Indian National Army officers. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
15th Aug 2019.

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