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Indian Independence Movement in East Asia: An Excerpt

The foremost of these revolutionaries was Sri Rash Behari Bose, who had escaped to Japan in 1911, after throwing a bomb on Lord Hardinge. The
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‘Indian Independence Movement in East Asia’ was first published a few months before Independence, in January 1947, in Lahore. It had a foreword by Sarat Chandra Bose, brother of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. K S Giani came in contact with Subhash Chandra Bose and moved to Malaysia to serve him . Here is the first chapter titled ‘Indian Revolutionaries In The Far East’; we publish this as a special feature to celebrate the 77th Independence Day of India. All spellings have been retained as in the original printed version. 

Indian Revolutionaries in The Far East

It was in the beginning of this century that some Indians connected with the terrorist movement in India went to Japan, China, Siam and Malaya and started revolutionary activities, with the object of liberating India from foreign yoke. Realizing that there was no scope in India of an armed revolution or secret subversive activities, they shifted the sphere of their work to foreign lands. Their intention was to profit by the rivalries of the Great World Powers and oust the British from India with the help of a foreign country.

The foremost of these revolutionaries was Sri Rash Behari Bose, who had escaped to Japan in 1911, after throwing a bomb on Lord Hardinge. The Government of India had offered a reward of twelve thousand rupees for his arrest. In Japan he organised the struggle for India. Independence. He wielded considerable influence among the higher Japanese political circles and his activities were indirectly supported by the Japanese Government.

The movement was carried on by Mr. R.B. Bose during the First Great War. His main work consisted in doing strong anti-British propaganda and in creating bitter feelings against the British among Indians in these countries. About the same time, another great Indian patriot Raja Mahendra Partap was exiled from India and he also took shelter in Japan. He started a paper named “World Federation” and preached universal love and world peace.

At this time about three million Indians were living in various parts of East Asia. A vast majority of them worked as labourers or watch- men in Malaya and their economic condition was far from being satis- factory. They had played a great part in the development of this country, but the British Malayan Government had not made any attempt to improve their lot. There was no proper provision with regard to health, medical treatment and education of their children. The labourers also demanded standard minimum rates of wages, with provision for full wages during sickness, periodical bonus and gratuity for long ser- vice. There was great resentment among Indians of all classes as these demands were not complied with. They felt that the cause of all their sufferings was their slavery. So in Malaya also an Indian Associa- tion was formed and Mr. Nilkhanda Ayyar and Mr. Raghavan carried on an intensive propaganda for the Independence of India. The visit of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to Malaya in May 1937 and his stirring addresses to his countrymen there, kindled their patriotic fervour and devotion towards India. He infused a new spirit in them. A con- ference of Indian nationalists was held at Tokyo, where in all leading workers participated and decided to intensify propaganda for Indian Independence in Thailand, Malaya and Burma. After the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in Sep. 1939, the activities of the Indian revolu- tionaries took a new turn. They secretly circulated anti-British literature in the British Indian Forces in Malaya and incited them for a revolt. They also sent a party to infiltrate India and do anti-British propaganda.

Subhash Chandra BOse

A gadar (revolutionary) party had been formed in Shanghai under the leadership of Baba Osman Khan. This party published a newspaper called gadar. It was circulated in all the principal towns of China, Japan, Java, Sumatra, Indonesia and even in Burma, Malaya and India. When Shanghai fell into the hands of Japanese, Baba Osman, in collaboration with the Japanese Navy sent some of his men to India via Thailand and some other youngmen to Malaya to do anti-British propaganda in the British Indian Forces.

The members of the Shanghai Revolutionary party used to visit Hongkong. As a result of their secret visits and subversive activities, three granthis (priests) of a Sikh Infantry battalion were arrested and deported to India, on the alleged charge of hatching a conspiracy. This created a good deal of stir in Hongkong.

Reverting to Thailand, we find that it was the centre of Indian revolutionary activities. The most prominent institution of Indians in Bangkok was Thai Baharat Culture Lodge. It had been opened by a great Indian scholar and philosopher named Swami Satya Nanda Puri. Ts gentleman was a disciple of Sri Rabindara Nath Tagore and had intimate connections with some of the arch revolutionaries of India. He was the first to hoist the Indian National tricolour in Thailand, the ceremony being performed by H. R. H, Prince Wan Waithiyakon of Thailand. This institution imparted cultural, physical and spiritual edu- cation to the Indian Youths. Swamiji, was mainly concerned with literary activities. By a comparative study of Indian and Thai culture, he tried to cement the bond of friendship between the Thai and the Indian people. But side by side, he carried on political propaganda for the liberation of India in his institution. He wielded great influence among the Indians of Thailand and just after the outbreak of Japanese War, started an Indian National Council in Bangkok and began to work for the Indian Independence.

Another veteran revolutionary in Bangkok was Baba Amar Singh-a symbol of love, devotion and sacrifice. He had been arrested during the first Great War along with Pandit Sohan Lal and S. Budha Singh. He underwent rigorous imprisonment for 22 years. For some time in 1927 he was kept in Rangoon Jail along with Sri Subhas Chandra Bose. After his release, he managed to escape to Thailand and began his revolu- tionary activities again. He had grown too old for hard work but fortunately he found a-worthy and helpful companion in the person of Giani Pritam Singh-a Sikh missionary of Bangkok. This young patriot had devoted his life for the freedom of his motherland and under the guidance of Baba Amar Singh, he did considerable underground work before the outbreak of war. He used to address letters to the British Indian Army in Malaya and Burma and these letters were secretly circulated in the Indian Forces. A facsimile of one of these letters has been given on opposite page.


These revolutionaries had secret connections with Japanese and German Consulates at Bangkok and looked forward to their moral sympathy and active support at the opportune time.


As Malaya was under the British rule underground work could not be started here to any appreciable extent. But after the Kota Bharu incident (arrest of three revolutionaries) many youngmen volunteered to do anti-British Propaganda in British Indian Forces. Much hatred of British germinate in Indian Civil as well as Military circles of Malaya. The British Officers and the Intelligence Branch was very vigilant, but somehow the printed literature was circulated in the Army. The C.I.D. tried its level best to get hold of the revolutionaries, responsible for circulating anti-British leaflets in Jitra Camp, at the Malaya-Thai border, but to no purpose. In the middle of 1940, Bhai Munsha Singh “Dukhi Editor “Dukhi Dunya” Jullun lur came to Malaya for propaganda work. The police came to know of his arrival beforehand. Warrants for his arrest had been issued and the police was after him but the clever ruse of Shaheed Bh. Mohindar Singh of Hoshiarpur Distt. outwitted the police and he escaped arrest.


Apart from the underground activities, the Malayan Indians were vigorously carrying on their activities for the economic, political and social uplift of Indians. The Central Indian Association of Malaya, Kuala Lampur had Championed the cause of Indian labourer. There were strikes in various Rubber Estates and as most of the big Estates be- longed to the British, there was a great friction between the British, capitalists and Indian labourers. The activities of the Indian Youth League Singapore and the Youngmen Sikh Association Penang were also being watched with suspicion by the Malayan Govt. and The Editor of Tamil Morasu” Kuala Lampur had been deported from Malaya in connection with the Rubber Estates’ strike.

It is clearly manifest from the above-mentioned incidents that emboldened by the continuous defeats of the British in the Western theatres of War, the Indian revolutionaries in East Asia, had become active and begun to defy the mighty British Empire and there was much hatred and ill will against the British in the minds of Indians. An interesting incident happened in Nov. 1941, when early one morning a Tamil youth stole to the Singapore harbour, with the Indian National tricolour under his arm. He crept up to the high pole, on which the Union Jack was flying and tore and stripped it off. But in so doing. the National Flag fell down and he could not accomplish his design of hoisting it on the pole. Rather than get down, he waited there for more than two hours, in the hope, that some Indian might come and hand him over the National flag. At day-break, he was forcibly brought down the pole by the guard and was tried and sentenced.


No doubt, the Japanese Government was secretly at the back of this movement. With its secret intentions of dominating the East Asia, it tried to encourage and win over Indians, who happened to be the subjects of their enemies. For twenty year,” writes Mr. John Goette. Japanese have been grooming every dissident Indian, they could encourage to come into their territory. They openly sponsored annual conventions of Indians elements under some fancy name of Pan-Asiatic solidarity. These were held in Dairen in Japanese- leased Manchuria long before the 1931 occupation.” In their own interest, the Japanese helped the Indian revolutionaries in the Indian Independence Movement, because so long as the British were not ousted from India, they could not dominate East Asia.

The British Officers and the Intelligence Branch was very vigilant, but somehow the printed literature was circulated in the Army. The C.I.D. tried its level best to get hold of the revolutionaries, responsible for circulating anti-British leaflets in Jitra Camp, at the Malaya-Thai border, but to no purpose. In the middle of 1940, Bhai Munsha Singh "Dukhi Editor "Dukhi Dunya" Jullun lur came to Malaya for propaganda work. The police came to know of his arrival beforehand.

The effect of anti-British propaganda in the Indian Army in Malaya had begun to manifest itself. They had begun to realize that they were slaves fighting for the preservation of British Empire. The dis- criminatory treatment meted out to them and difference in pay of British and Indian soldiers was a cause of further discontentment and indignation. Indian Commissioned Officers in particular, bitterly resented the inferiority of status, pay and allowances as compared with the British Officers of the Indian Army in the same ranks. Besides this the Indians Officers were not allowed to become members of a large number of clubs in Malaya and could not travel in the same com- partment as Europeans. This inferior treatment led them to believe that their slavery was the root-cause of all their ills and that they should better fight for the freedom and independence of their motherland.


Thus the reader will understand, that the Indian National Army and the Indian Independence League had not been formed over night or sprung up suddenly at the out-break of the East-Asia war, but long before the war, the Indian revolutionaries were busy in setting the stage and making strenuous efforts for preparing the ground, essential for launching and promoting the Indian Independence Movement at the opportune time. The East Asia war afforded them the real opportunity for which they had waited so long. Much of the credit. therefore, goes to those pioneers of the movement-Sri Rash Behari Bose, Swami Satyananda Puri, Giani Pritam Singh and hundreds of their companions who by their indefatigable work and sacrifices had prepared the ground and every Indian should be grateful to these first martyrs of the movement.


*S. Pritam Singh (born Nov. 1910) came of a noble Sikh family of Nagoke Sarli in the district of Lyallpur (Punjab). After matriculat- ing, he joined the Lyallpur Agricultural College. But he left the college without completing his studies, as he had taken a liking for religious and political studies. He then joined the Shahid Sikh Missionary College Amritsar, where he topped the list of successful candidates in the annual examination. He became one of the active workers in the Sikh political circles. During the Kashmir disturbances of 1928, he was 

despatched there at the head of volunteer corps. Again in 1930, he led a group of 300 Akalis to Peshawar to protest against high-handedness of the Government in suppressing the Red Shirt (or Khudai Khidmetgar) Movement. He was arressted at Gujrat, while still on the way and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a year and half. The contact of many nationalist leaders in jail made him a confirmed nationalist. On the 11th April 1933 he went to Bangkok (Thailand) as a missionary of the Singh Sabha Bangkok. His vast learning, simple living, bold and fearless character, broad mindedness, love and sympathy for the poor and patriotic fervour for his motherland, won for him the respect of all Indians.


He came in contact with the Indian revolutionaries in the Far East like Raja Mahendra Partap and Baba Amar Singh and joined the secret anti-British movement for liberating India. He saw a chance of the freedom of India in the war of East Asia and started the Independence Movement.

Giani Kesar Singh, also known as K. S. Giani was an Indian freedom fighter and writer. He has written 25 novels in Punjabi.

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