The Battle Of Kohima Missed by NCERT Again

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The battle of Kohima

The revised NCERT curriculum does not include the “Battle of Kohima” yet again, leading to an incomplete history of India’s independence. This conflict, voted as Britain’s greatest battle, holds significant importance in India’s freedom struggle. This article explores the reasons behind the British ruling this battle and how it relates to the national army raised by Subhas Chandra Bose.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has revised the curriculum recently. Students enrolled in CBSE, UP, and other state boards who follow the NCERT syllabus will study an updated history book ‘Themes of Indian History.’ Like earlier, this time too, the council has overlooked the topic of “The Battle of Kohima,” yet again. The history of Indian Independence remains incomplete without mentioning the events of March-April 1944.

Verily, the battle of Kohima , of which many Indians are unaware, attained significant eminence in the year 2013, when Britain voted it as Britain’s Greatest Battle. But why did our colonial rulers give such importance to a battle fought way back in the year 1944 and why is it that this battle is of high importance in India’s freedom? With such questions, I start today’s story.

21st March 1944, the world woke up to the roaring voice of Subhas Chandra Bose informing the hoisting of the Indian National flag in Nagaland and Manipur. Those were the times of World War II, and this message evoked a fresh ray of hope across the country. The British administration on the other hand was greatly alarmed by such an aggression.

A retaliating campaign followed soon. But looking at the high moral of INA soldiers, British officers Archibald Wavell, Louis Mountbatten, and W. J. Slim adopted other means to daunt the Fauj. They created a myth that Gorkha soldiers and the Nagas were wholly with them during the offensive. But internally their secret reports stated otherwise….

As published by Dr. Tapan Chattopadhyay in The INA’s Secret Service in Southeast Asia – Its Background, Infrastructure, Resources, and Activities During World War II, Netaji Bose was well aware of the freedom-loving spirit of the Nagas and the Manipuris. Bose had a detailed discussion with the nationalist leader A. Z. Phizo about the future of Nagas, their problems, and aspirations after independence when they met in Burma. Radha Binode Koijam, who became the chief minister of Manipur a couple of decades after independence, was one of his personal staff.

Reports also state that INA volunteers who were trained in the spy schools at Kanbe, Thingangyun (Burma), and Sandycroft (Malaya) crossed to India by land routes and by parachutes to organize support bases among the tribes in Nagaland and Manipur. They infiltrated northeastern India in large numbers in late 1943 and early 1944 and prepared the ground for the INA’s combined offensive with Japan.

‘Nishi Kikan’a frontier intelligence outfit comprising Chins, Kumis, Kukis, etc., was particularly outstanding and helped the INA. Naga villages like Sangnyu, Nyasia, Nyakuyu, Sankhao, Sahpao, Hwekum, villages to the east of Mokokchung, Melauri, Ruzazho, Chesezu, Chazuba, Chakabama, etc. were involved with INA according to the British records. The Ang (chief of Konyak Naga tribe) of Sangnyu was particularly acting against the British and propagating in favor of Indian liberation.

The report also states that, during his visits to the fronts, Bose made it a priority to establish personal connections and friendships with local leaders. He did this regularly, and during one of these visits in April 1944, he spent a few days camping in Ruzazho village, which is now part of the Phek district of Nagaland.

In the book, Discovery of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose – Delhi Chalo Last Camp in Nagaland, the author, Er. Vekho Swuro, a government engineer, states that Bose stayed in the village during this time. Swuro’s claim seems reasonable because Bose had announced in a broadcast on Nankin Radio in China on November 24, 1943, that he would depart for his headquarters in Shonan (Singapore) that day, then proceed to Burma and finally to the Indo-Burmese border.

On the other hand as the INA prepared to take on the British Indian Army on the battlefields, Gandhi launched the Quit India movement in 1942. But, unfortunately, it lasted for just three weeks and, it was all over in a span of a few months. Gandhi indeed did wonders for India, but to say that the Quit India movement led to Independence would be stretching it too far.

So what made the British decide to leave India? A most logical explanation was given by Babasaheb B R Ambedkar referring to the battle of Kohima, in an interview with BBC’s Francis Watson in February 1955,

“I don’t know how Mr. Attlee suddenly agreed to give India Independence,” wondered Ambedkar, recalling then the British prime minister’s decision to agree to the transfer of power in 1947. “That is a secret that he will disclose in his autobiography. None expected that he would do that,” he added.

Ambedkar continued: “The national army that was raised by Subhas Chandra Bose. The British had been ruling the country in the firm belief that whatever may happen in the country or whatever the politicians do, they will never be able to change the loyalty of soldiers. That was one prop on which they were carrying on the administration. And that was completely dashed to pieces. They found that soldiers could be seduced to form a party — a battalion to blow off the British.”

Here is the interview…

A report by Sir Norman Smith, director, of the Intelligence Bureau, of November 1945 states: “The situation in respect of the Indian National Army is one which warrants disquiet. There has seldom been a matter which has attracted so much Indian public interest and, it is safe to say, sympathy… the threat to the security of the Indian Army is one which it would be unwise to ignore.”

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Lt General S K Sinha, former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and Assam, one of the only three Indian officers posted in the Directorate of Military Operations in New Delhi in 1946, made this observation in 1976. “There was considerable sympathy for the INA within the Army… It is true that fears of another 1857 had begun to haunt the British in 1946.”

Agreeing with this contention were a number of British MPs who met Clement Attlee in February 1946. “There are two alternative ways of meeting this common desire (a) that we should arrange to get out, (b) that we should wait to be driven out. In regard to (b), the loyalty of the Indian Army is open to question; the INA have become national heroes…”

The declassified records, testimonies, and secret records applied with commonsense make it quite clear that the aggression in 1944 in The Battle of Kohima by INA under the leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose dealt a body blow that shook the basic foundation of the British Raj and eventually led to the freedom of India.

Jay Hindh


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