Netaji and Col. Saukat Hayat Malik remembered on INA’s 69th flag hoisting day in Manipur

By Dr. Syed Ahmed for,

Imphal: Indian National Army (INA)’s 69th flag hoisting day was observed at Moirang INA martyrs memorial complex on 14th April, 2012. Observing the historic day people gathered in large number and paid floral tributes to the statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at the complex.

Support TwoCircles

The day was observed to commemorate the hoisting of the Indian tri-colour flag for the first time on Indian soil at Moirang, on the banks of the Loktak lake, by Colonel Saukat Hayat Malik, the commander of the Bahadur Group (Special Task Brigade) of the INA, on 14th April 1944. He designated Moirang as the headquarters of their operations in Manipur and Naga Hills during the World War II. INA and Japanese forces chalked out battle strategies against allied forces from this place.

Statue of Netaji at INA complex in Moirang

The flag hoisting function, organised by the Department of Art and Culture, Government of Manipur and INA Advisory Committee, was marked by the unfurling of the Indian flag, a public rally and a cultural programme. The function was attended by MLA of Moirang Constituency Mairembam Prithiviraj, Art and Culture Director K Sobita Devi, Vice-President of Akhil Bharatiya Poorva Sainik Seva Parishad (ABPSSP) Major General (Retd) N.N. Gupta and National Secretary of ABPSSP Dr. Om Prakash. Nearly 200 members of ABPSSP, which constitutes of ex-servicemen from all over India, attended the function.

Speakers at the function remembered Colonel Saukat Hayat Malik and the events that led to the liberation of Moirang from the British forces. In his speech, MLA M Prithiviraj stated that Ministry of Tourism has approved the sanction of Rs 27 crore for renovation and development of INA Memorial Complex and its surrounding areas. Out of the total approved amount, Rs 12.7 crore has been deposited to the State’s Tourism department, he added.

INA complex at Moirang

Manipur in World War II
Manipur had witnessed pitched battles during the World War II. Moirang, which lies 45 km from Imphal on the banks of the beautiful Loktak lake, was the first territory on Indian soil to be liberated from the British rule by INA, thereby establishing the short-lived Provincial Government of Free India. Malik was awarded the Sardar-e-Jung medal for the capture of Moirang. The Sardar-e-Jung was the second highest military decoration awarded by the Provincial government of INA. Prior to joining the INA, Malik fought in the Burma theatre as an officer in the Bahawalpur State Forces of the princely state of Bahawalpur in Punjab (presently in Pakistan).

Dr. Priyadarshni M Gangte (“Revisiting Netaji’s Role in the Freedom Struggle of India, INA and Manipur Perspective,” narrates the events that led to the capture of Moirang by the INA during the World War II, thus: “Manipur became a warfield during 2nd World War. On 10 and 16 May, 1942 Imphal the capital city of Manipur was bombed by the Japanese as their first raid. Thousands of Indian refugees were fleeing from Burma through Manipur. And, Imphal became the forward base of new forces built up by the Allied Forces…INA along with the Japanese forces reached Manipur on 18th March, 1944 by crossing the hill tracts of Indo-Burma border… the 15th Japanese Division with one INA regiment marched towards Tamu and Ukhrul in two ways. Ukhrul was captured. They further advanced towards Imphal-Dimapur road. In the meantime another group of the Division reached Pallel…The combined forces of INA and 33rd Japanese Division captured the British Defence Base at Khuga Valley, Yaiyok (Zezo), Thingkaiphai and Churachandpur…Then the British force began to retreat and took defensive measures at Phabakchao, Ithai, Tronglaobi and Okshangkhong, but of no avail. Consequently they were further forced to retreat…thus the withdrawal of the 17th British Division was completed on April 13, 1944…In the early morning of April 14, the leaders of the INA and Japanese advance party had discussions with M. Koireng Singh, L. Sanaba Singh, K. Kanglen Singh and M. Mani Singh (local INA members) at Tronglaobi Village. After taking stock of the situation, at about 5 p.m. on the same day Colonel Saukat Hayat Malik planted the tri-colour flag with springing Tiger as emblem at the historic Moirang Kangla where the INA Martyrs’ Memorial complex is at present taking shape… It was unfortunate that the Germany’s defeat in the war in April and her surrender on 3rd May, 1945 as well as the dropping of atom bombs in Hiroshima (6th August, 1945) and Nagasaki (9th August, 1945) compelled Japan to surrender to the Allied forces in August 14, 1945, the INA at Rangoon also surrendered…”

Plaque at INA complex

Moirang continued to be the head-quarter of the INA till mid-July 1944. INA is said to have liberated over 1500 square miles of land in Manipur from the British rule.

After the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission set up cemeteries in Imphal and Kohima to commemorate the memories of the British and their Indian soldiers who died during the World War II. One such cemetery named the Indian Army War Cemetery at Hafiz Hatta in Imphal honors the Indian Muslim soldiers who died fighting in the region. The names of the Muslim soldiers and their ranks are engraved in bronze plaques.

Name of a Muslim soldier inscribed on a plaque at Indian Army War Cemetery at Hafiz Hatta

INA Memorial Complex
INA Martyrs Memorial complex at Moirang was established in 1985. The complex has a museum and a library. The complex has a statue of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and a museum which exhibits letters, photographs, badges of ranks and other articles associated with the INA movement. Tourists, particularly from Japan, regularly visit the memorial complex to pay homage to their forefathers who had lost their lives in Manipur during World War II. The Japanese government has decided to construct a hospital in the memory of their forefather who died in Manipur during the war. Since its inception, the office of the Memorial has been organizing annually the Birthday of Netaji (23rd January), Flag Hoisting Day (14th April), and the Azad Hind Hukumat Day.