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Indian National Army - Mohan Singh Or Subhas?

Oct 15, 2006
Khalsa ji,

This topics has been floating in my mind from some time. I am relieving my mind of some load by sharing it with you by writing this article.....

Who organised Indian National Army?

Captain Mohan Singh or Subhash Chandra Bose?

(Akashdeep Singh Aulakh)


I remember reading from one of the books written by Hugh Toye that the Indian National Army was started by Captain Mohan Singh. Contrary to this fact every where in the history text books this fact is never mentioned and name of Captian Mohan Singh has been erased from the minds of the general public. I have grown up reading that INA (Indian National Army) was started by Subhas Chandra Bose, so are other people back in India and other places. The book by Hugh Toye is very well written and he has put quotes from the diaries of Captain Mohan Singh and Subash Chandra Bose as well. With these quotes one can clearly understand what the situation was at that time. There is no doubt that Subash Chandra Bose was a great leader, but should we forget the person who initiated the idea of INA?

Captain Mohan Singh was POW (Prisoner of War) along with his battalion and British officers in Japan. Mohan Singh was a man of great statesmanship and was instrumental in convincing the Japanese that if the Japanese themselves attacked British India, Indians will fight shoulder to shoulder with the Britishers against the Japanese. The reason he told the Japanese was that - the Indians have won some minor right from the Britishers after long struggle and they do not want to see a new ruler again as they will again have to struggle to win some rights. Mohan Singh convinced the Japanese that if they (Mohan Singh and other Indian POWs) formed an army and attacked British India, their Indian brothers will not fight them with much of enthusiasm. He totally convinced the Japanese for this and they agreed to form an army under Captain Mohan Singh. Mohan Singh had very good leadership qualities and he could encourage all the POWs to join the army simply by encouragement, even though he made it clear that no one should be forced to join this army. The name of this army was not initially kept as Indian National Army, they used some other name.

Captain Mohan Singh was very well aware of the nature of the Japanese, so he was very cautious in dealing with them. Before the new formed army could start their endeavors Mohan Singh convinced the Japanese that his army will not be a puppet army but an independent army which will take its own decisions and all the territory won back from the British will not be subjugated by the Japanese. Such was the situation and convincing power of Mohan Singh that the Japanese agree to this contract. Mohan Singh embarked this campaign by a set of speeches which infused pride and bravery in the new formed army from the POWs in Japan.

As the army formed by Mohan Singh jumped into the war and won back some areas from the British, the Japanese started showing their original colors, they started taking away the property won by Mohan Singh’s army. Mohan Singh was not happy about this violation of the contract. He shot back a letter to the Japanese telling them that his army was not a puppet of the Japanese and they did not like the violation of the contract. In reply the Japanese wrote,

“Puppets? What puppets? You are paupers, you should be proud to be puppets of the Japanese?”

This letter enraged Captain Mohan Singh, but he knew very well that Japanese will not like to fight on their own now as they have seen the idea of POWs fighting for them. He cleverly disbanded the army telling clearly to the Japanese that they will not fight as Japanese puppets and all the property that his army will free from British will not be part of Japanese subjugation, rather will be set free. His army officers knew very well that disbanding the army was not for ever, they knew what was in the head of their leader and so they never threw away their badges and uniforms but kept them preciously. As time passed, Mohan Singh and army came out strong willed and the Japanese were reconsidering their thoughts and were planning to listen to the demands of Mohan Singh. Right at that time Ras Bihari Bose came to the scene and started convincing the army to listen to the Japanese and assemble again, he also started telling the Japanese that he will do the task that Mohan Singh was doing. He played the spoilsport and was interested in leading the army. The Japanese got what they wanted, they were already looking for a person who could break apart from Mohan Singh’s army – Ras Bihari Bose played that role. Right after Ras Bihari starting negotiating with the Japanese, the Japanese put Captain Mohan Singh in jail and asked Ras Bihari Bose to lead the army.

Ras Bihari Bose did not have the personality and convincing power of Mohan Singh. He kept addressing the army for some time but nobody was looking convinced to accept him as a leader. Having failed multiple times with his attempts to lead the army, Ras Bihari Bose finally gave up and then ran to Subash Chandra Bose for help. Subhash Chandra Bose was in Germany at that time hoping to get assistance from Adolf Hitler. When Ras Bihari Bose told Subhas the idea of the army in Japan formed from POWs, Subhash was not convinced and he sent Ras Bihari Bose back were he again kept trying to make fruitless efforts to lead the army. It was only when Adolf Hitler did not give any response to Subhas Chandra Bose, that Subhas thought to try the idea of having a look at the army in Japan. When he saw the army and its confidence, he started to see the potential in these men who were filled up with hope and bravery by Mohan Singh. Therefore, the hard work and idea of Captain Mohan Singh was passed over to Subhas Chandra Bose readymade.

Captain Mohan Singh deserve getting lost in the history like this? Why this fact is not told in the history books that the formation of Indian National Army was the idea of Captain Mohan Singh and he was the one who infused courage in the POWs and organised the army? The electric bulb was the idea of the brain of Thomas Alva Edison, whom do we remember and respect more? – Edison or the companies who got ready made idea and just produced more bulbs?

Formation of Indian National Army [2]

At the stage on Farrer Park Capt. Mohan Singh addressed the POWs and decided to form an organized and disciplined power in the form of Indian National Army. The erstwhile POWs were to become now the soldiers of India’s Army of Liberation, the army that was to fight under its own leadership, with a real and just cause to wage war.
Mohan Singh was from the same unit from which was Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. He was a close friend of Dhillon. On 17 February 1942, Dhillon decided to join the Indian National Army and took the vow not to drink till India became free. Next morning Capt. Mohan Singh issued orders to march off all the units of various camps on the island where the units were to occupy their allotted accommodation. Dhillon’s unit was to proceed to Neesoon Camp.
After the conclusion of the historic meeting at Farrer Park, 45,000 Indian prisoners of war, moved to different camps, each commanded by the senior-most officer who was designated as Station Commander. Capt. Mohan Singh set up his own headquarters, generally known as Supreme Headquarters, at Mount Pleasant, a European residential area in Singapore where mostly the British police officials lived before the capitulation of Singapore.
Gen. Mohan Singh called meetings of senior officers from time to time to discuss the problems of raising the Indian National Army. He had made it absolutely clear that membership of INA would be strictly on a voluntary basis. He advocated freedom of political thought so far unknown in the Indian Army under the British. The senior officers did the imparting of political education. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon took up this work in Neesoon Camp. Neesoon village was situated 13 miles away from main town of Singapore. This camp was the Regimental Centre of the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery.
The Japanese Headquarters had asked the Supreme Headquarters to provide 200 officers to guard the British and Australian prisoners of war at Changi Camp. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon took the risk and volunteered his services for this unpleasant task.
Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon’s health improved at Seletar Camp. He along with over thirty important senior officers from among the Indian Prisoners of war attended the Bidadari conference called by Captain Mohan Singh at Bidadari Camp in Singapore on 24 April 1942. The resolutions of this Conference, came to be known as the “Bidadari Resolutions”, formed the backbone of formation of INA. As resolved at the Tokyo Conference, a representative conference of the Indians who lived in East Asian countries was held at Bangkok on 15 June 1942, which continued for 10 days. 30 INA volunteers nominated by Mohan Singh among the Indian prisoners of war attended it. A resolution was passed at this conference known as “Bangkok Resolution”.
Armed with Bangkok Resolution, General Mohan Singh went around all the POW Camps. He addressed all the officers and men and appealed to them to volunteer themselves for the INA. The response was so good that some 42000 POWs volunteered their services. Immediately enough of volunteers were available to raise three divisions. Looking to readily available weapons it was decided to go ahead with the raising of 1st Division of the INA. Mohan Singh appointed Lt. Col. Mohammad Zaman Kiani as Chief of the General staff of the INA. Along with chosen team of capable officers, Zaman Kiani took his job in right earnest with his headquarters at the Bidadari Camp. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon got his National Commission on 1 September 1942 and was posted as major on the 10th September 1942. He was still ill so he was attached to the Reinforcement Group. The first review of INA was held at Singapore Padaung in front of the Municipal Buildings on 2nd October 1942, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon attended this function as an observer. The progress in recuperating Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon’s health was slow. He was recommended a month’s leave and sent to Penang. He returned to Singapore in the middle of November 1942. The Japanese had not yet ratified the Bangkok resolutions not recognized the INA as an independent army. General Mohan Singh had lost confidence in the Japanese. In the beginning of December 1942, the Japanese asked the INA Headquarters to dispatch an advance party to move to Burma so as to prepare camps and accommodation for the main body of INA. Meanwhile differences developed between Mohan Singh and the Japanese. The Japanese arrested General Mohan Singh on 29 December 1942. There was a period of crisis due to suspense and indecision. On the advice of Rash Behari Bose Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon continued in INA. They went all over the Island and up-country to urge men to remain in the INA.
Meanwhile Subhas Chandra Bose (Netaji) was trying to come to the East. In anticipation of Netaji’s arrival, the revived INA was reorganized under its new headquarters known as Directorate of Military Bureau (DMB) with Col. J.K.Bhonsle as the Director. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was appointed as Deputy Quartermaster General (DQMG) in the “Q” Branch at the Army Headquarters. He was to look after the Technical Branch and was responsible for the accommodation also. The Army Headquarter was organized by the middle of March 1943 and was duly gazetted on 17 April 1943. On appointment Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon took up the task of collection of kit and clothing of those personnel who decided to leave the INA. When Netaji arrived on 2 July 1943 in Singapore and the Army was enlarged in December 1943, Dhillon was transferred to be the 2nd-in-Command of the 5th Guerilla Regiment.

References: -
  1. Toye, Hugh, “Springing Tiger – A study of a revolutionary”
  2. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. General Mohan Singh INA
  4. An interview of the son of INA official KPK Menon

Think again, .........Captain Mohan Singh was the Thomas Alva Edison of INA(Indian National Army) and all other people who have been associated with INA were mere users of his idea but not the inventors. Is the inventor getting due respect and attention in history???....I leave it to you discover more and think...

Sat Shri Akaal,

Apji da sewak,


Nov 17, 2006
Very refreshing article. Thanks for enriching my mind with this information.
I am thankful for the time you have investing in compiling this article.
Excellent sewa !!
Oct 15, 2006
Very refreshing article. Thanks for enriching my mind with this information.
I am thankful for the time you have investing in compiling this article.
Excellent sewa !!
Vikramjeet ji,

I am very delighted to see that you are taking interest in history and the truth. The same interest, curiosity and the feeling - that I have to do sewa for the panth have brought me here and produced this article. Your truly often thinks - I'm a proud Sikh today,why? - because our Gurus and other great Sikhs in the history have given great sacrifices for the upliftment of the society and its freedom. They have brought glory to the Sikh philosophy by following the path of our gurus from their hearts. What will we give the next generation? What will we give our faith back? .....and I keep thinking.

You are welcome to the brigade!

Sat Shri Akaal,
Nov 21, 2006
Great thought, reasoning and excellent research. It makes sense to reason how could Subash Chanda Bose who spent most of his time on Indian soil raise an Indian army this big in number. Capt. Mohan Singh was a part of the army, someone who knew the brave men closely and could ignite the fire in their shaken beliefs.

Good job Akashdeep.
Aug 7, 2006
this great thought and great historical facts needs to be brought to the knowledge of common indian man so that the entire india will knowabout the real founder of INA and all the due respect will be given to Mohan Singh ji.
Oct 15, 2006
this great thought and great historical facts needs to be brought to the knowledge of common indian man so that the entire india will knowabout the real founder of INA and all the due respect will be given to Mohan Singh ji.
Khalsa ji,

I'm still thinking to make this article more formal and gathering more information.

Also, I'm thinking of the ways such facts can reach maximum people back home: Suggestions are welcome.



Jan 26, 2007
Very nice posts. As you may know, INA 'veterans' received a pension after WWII, but regular Indian British Army did not! What a joke. Typical desi Bull.
You think subashi sumashi a) could have ever done anything militarily b) done it without support of Sikh troops who were prisoners? While he kept flying here and there among axis powers, Indian soldiers were fighting and dying in Burma, North Africa and Italy.

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