As India gears up to celebrate 123rd birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on Thursday, Moirang in Manipur continues to exist as a chapter of history unknown to a lot of Indians.
On April 14, 1944, Netaji’s Azad Hind Fauj had captured Moirang from the British Army.
It was the first victory of Azad Hind Fauj, also known as the Indian National Army (INA) against the British Army in India.
Military historians refer to it as one of the fiercest battles in world history.
Colonel Shaukat Ali Malik of the Azad Hind Fauj had marched into Moirang along with his soldiers and had hoisted the national flag on April 14, 1944.
Moirang is a small town in Bishenpur district of Manipur, situated about 45 km south of Imphal.
Mairembam Koireng Singh, who later became the first chief minister of Manipur, had extended hospitality to the INA soldiers in Moirang.
Unfortunately, the important fact of India’s military history remained unknown to most Indians as school textbooks, for decades, deliberately kept the information hidden.
During the battle, people of Moirang had played a pro-active role in guiding the INA soldiers to lay a valiant siege on the British Army in the eastern theatre.
The INA was an army of 60,000 soldiers, raised on foreign soil, consisting of prisoners of war (POWs) and Indians mainly based in Southeast Asia, who were ready to fight for India’s freedom.
Unfortunately, almost 26,000 of the INA soldiers gave up their lives fighting for India’s freedom. The formation had no distinction of religion, caste or creed.
The formation of INA began in 1942 with the efforts of iconic figures like Rashbehari Bose and Captain Mohan Singh.
And the arrival of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in South East Asia in 1943 and took over as the supreme commander of INA. It gave a new fillip to the formation.
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The provisional government of the Azad Hind was established on October 21, 1943. Netaji was the first head of the state and the first PM of the provisional government.
It is a matter of pride for the people of Manipur that Moirang remained under the control of the Azad Hind Government for nearly four months.
And, during that period, currency and stamps of the Azad Hind government were also used.
Unfortunately, the Indian National Congress, the main instrument of Indian nationalism, had always maintained a distance from Subhas Chandra Bose during the World War II.
But, people of Manipur, and especially Moirang, were always with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and were never petrified with the British Army during the Battle of Imphal.
Every year, people assembly at Moirang on April 14, and celebrate it as “Moirang Day” or the “Victory Day’.
After all, people of Manipur recognize that the Azad Hind Fauj may have had lost the battle in Imphal, but had won the war for India.
While Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose continued to remain as the “Forgotten Hero” of India’s freedom struggle, contribution of Moirang also remained “forgotten” by the Indians.